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My Turn - In the hospital!

Feather Publishing
10/26/2011

Humbling as it was, I consider myself very fortunate to have had the experience of spending nine days in Plumas District Hospital in late August and early September, preceded by three consecutive visits to PDH’s emergency room.

Now, before you write me off as a complete whacko, wondering who in their right mind would consider it special to spend any amount of time in a hospital, I can explain. Oh, I’m also a newly ordained poster-child for following the doctor’s orders, but we’ll get to that.

Although I felt my initial problem developing during the day on a Sunday, the series of events I am about to share began bright and early on a Monday morning with a gnawing lower back ache causing excruciating pain down my left leg from an inflamed sciatic nerve.

By Tuesday morning it became obvious to my wife, Keri, that I needed to visit the emergency room for relief. It wasn’t until after my third time back in as many days — which included an MRI on my lower back — that we agreed on a new course of action, which meant admitting me to the hospital. Actually, truth be known, I was simply in too much pain to argue and wanted some sustaining relief and the hospital stay sounded just like the ticket to recovery.

While I was in PDH’s exceptional care, and I do mean exceptional in every respect, our family physician began his extensive evaluation of my condition that included ordering a series of tests, a blood panel and a blood culture. I had developed a slight fever so he explained that the culture would help eliminate (or confirm, as it were) any other possibilities or infections as the possible source of my back problems.

Three days later, my back pain was finally under control, thanks, in part, to some strong pain pills and muscle relaxants. However, a day after being released from the hospital I got a call from my doctor with some rather alarming news.

The blood culture came back positive indicating I had contracted an alpha-strep (mouth-borne) bacteria that rapidly spreads to various parts of your body through your bloodstream. This widespread infection, known as bacterial sepsis, could potentially have developed into yet another malady called endocarditis, a serious infection that aggressively attacks the inner lining of your heart, compromising the heart valves.

So back to the hospital I went for another five days to treat the bacterial sepsis, requiring heavy doses of penicillin dispensed intravenously around the clock. The 24/7 IVs continued at home for another 10 days via a portable IV machine followed by four penicillin capsules daily for yet another 14 days. Just as expected, the penicillin killed the bacteria.

Fortunate, you bet!

Let me start with kudos to the folks working PDH’s emergency room. A tough job by anyone’s standards, but in my opinion these professional and caring individuals have it down.

And, thinking back, how fortunate was I to have a local doctor who looked beyond the MRI-exposed bulging disc problem to find a very serious blood infection that could have been easily — and understandably — initially overlooked?

Consider just how fortunate we are to live in Plumas County where we have three outstanding local hospitals with their related clinics, each staffed with exceptionally well-qualified, compassionate and friendly doctors, nurses, pharmacists and X-ray and lab technicians. Until you actually live the experience, it might just be too easy to take it all for granted. It became very apparent to my wife and me: These folks are here because they want to be here. No doubt they could find much greener pastures elsewhere.

I couldn’t have asked for better care from anyone at any level, from my first visit to the emergency room to my last bowl of late night chocolate ice cream brought to my room by my nurse.

We (I’m including Keri since she too had to live every minute of this adventure and then some) simply can’t express enough the heartfelt gratitude we have for each and every one of you. In our book you’re all the greatest!

And the part about my being the new poster-child for following doctor’s orders? Here is the most important thing I learned during this ordeal:

Again, this was a mouth-borne bacterial infection that you can get a variety of ways. However, and this could be nothing more than coincidental, I had a root canal done just a few weeks prior to all this. My dentist prescribed precautionary antibiotics following the procedure and “explicitly” told me to take them until they “were all gone.”

Well, I took them for a couple of days, felt fine and saved the rest for “when I really might need them.” I bet this sounds awfully familiar to a lot of readers right now, doesn’t it?

Trust me, I will never make that mistake again. I hereby promise to follow my doctor’s orders — explicitly.

 


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