Wednesday, October 23, 2013

On the Brink of Death: The Terrifying True Story of This Past Month

(Note: I haven't blogged in one whole month, which has never, ever happened before. This blog post will tell you why.)

On the morning of October 10th, 2013, I woke up at 7:45 a.m. with big plans. It was the second day of the Frankfurt Book Fair and I would have lunch with a friend from Berlin and hang out with a fellow author who was in town for the week. I also had a few changes to make to my final draft of CHASING BEFORE, based on feedback my editor had sent on the revisions I'd been working on for weeks and just turned in on October 8th (another reason for my blog silence).

But, I just hadn't been able to shake the low grade fever I'd had the past four days and now I had slight pain in my lower right torso. "Where's your appendix scar?" I asked my husband.  Same place I had the pain. Was I about to have appendicitis possibly? But if that were the case, wouldn't it hurt more?

I'd been to several doctors over the past three weeks complaining about stomach/intestinal issues, but none thought what I had was very serious. They prescribed some medicine to alleviate stomach cramps, lesson the amount of air in my system and to protect the lining of the stomach, told me to eat bland foods, and to get lots of rest. One went as far as to do an ultrasound that showed nothing out of the ordinary. The most pain I was in at any time during this time was the caffeine withdrawal headaches I got when I couldn't drink coffee anymore (they were unbearable, so I started drinking black tea.)

Coincidentally, I thought I had an appointment with my GP that day for my 6 month thyroid check-up, so even though I was feeling under the weather, I decided to keep my appointment. I walked with Daniel to the subway and headed to the doctor. At her office, I found out that I had mixed up my appointments and that I wasn't due in for another week. Fortunately, my doctor made time for me anyway. She looked at the results of my lab tests and noticed that I had a bacterial infection. She couldn't say where, and considered prescribing me antibiotics and sending me home, but decided to send me to the emergency room to get more tests. This saved my life.

I took a taxi to the Buerger Hospital and reluctantly cancelled my book fair appointments. In the emergency room, they asked about my pain level (low/tolerable) and were concerned by my continued fever. I had another ultrasound. The technician saw nothing terribly suspicious, but recommended a CT scan.  The CT scan showed that I had an abscess right around my appendix. I was admitted to the hospital and prepped for surgery. The doctors suspected that either my appendix had burst or a cyst on my right ovary had, but they couldn't be sure without going in via laparoscopy. It would be a small procedure, they said, through my belly button. It wouldn't leave a scar and I'd be out of the hospital within a few days.  Scary enough! I signed all the papers, including ones that said it could possibly be a more serious procedure (though I was assured this was unlikely).

They wheeled me into surgery and put me under.

Six hours later I woke up in the ICU. I was informed that the surgery had turned out to be major, open surgery to repair a hole in my colon, clean out the abscess and remove my appendix. Parts of my colon had been eaten away by bacteria. I would be at the hospital for at least two weeks. In short, I was a mess.

Once I finally got out of the ICU (two days of drugged out bliss and two days of wide awake torture) and into my quiet single room, the doctors explained that I had been hours away from death. If the abscess had ruptured, and it surely would have sometime on Thursday (at the book fair?), I would have gone septic. What they couldn't understand is how this all could have happened to someone so young and someone who walked into the ER with so little pain. According to their textbooks, someone in my advanced condition of infection should have been crawling and screaming in pain. The pathology report is still not in, so we still have no idea what the cause of the rupture was, and we may never, ever know.

I steadily improved over the next nine days in the hospital, and finally was released today. I will have many follow-up appointments over the next months, including a surgery planned for early January to continue to repair my colon. The doctors are hopeful of a complete recovery by February.

In the meantime, I'll be taking it easy. No heavy lifting. No sit-ups. No hard-to-digest food. Just lots of cat cuddles, walks in the park, and hopefully getting back into reading and writing soon. Oh, and I do have some upcoming concerts I'm excited about too (Passenger, Ms Mr, Bastille, The National), and the venues have been accommodating with handicapped seating (I can't stand for long periods of time).

I want to thank you for all your support throughout my hospital visit. I could only read messages on my phone, but I was inundated with well wishes from all corners of the globe. Your comments, tweets, cards, flowers (from my agency and from Lissa Price, author of Starters), etc kept me positive even through the pain, frustration, nightmares, severe nausea, and sleeplessness. One doctor told me he'd rarely ever seen a patient with such a serious diagnosis have such a radiant and positive attitude.

I'm not sure what the takeaway of this is, other than, listen to your body and get thee to a hospital post haste if you have a fever for over a few days. The doctors told me there was nothing I really could have done differently, that no one would have suspected the infection that lurked within me. I had a close brush with death, but I am alive and ever so thankful for it.

Here I am today:



PS: my few changes to CHASING BEFORE can be done in conjunction with copyedits.




63 comments:

Christina said...

*hugs you*

I still cannot believe this is even possible. I mean, you are young and healthy and WERE NOT IN PAIN. You saw multiple doctors. HOW CAN THEY NOT NOTICE ANYTHING?

Bodies are scary. Doctors are scary. Surgery is scary.

Get well and stop trying to die on me. Got it?

Also, enjoy the kitty snuggles! Since it's cold, Percy's snuggly again.

P.S. Don't die.

P.P.S. I mean it.

Ana @ things mean a lot said...

*hugs* I'm so glad you're okay!

And hooray for seating so you don't have to miss out on those exciting upcoming gigs.

cat said...

Good heavens, Lenore! Reminds me of when my appendix had a tear it in but no one could figure it out for months until it accidentally burst during a test and even then they didn't notice until I was in the ER days later. Ugh. All my pain was in my stomach though, nowhere near the appendix AND I didn't have the right symptoms. Oh how our bodies can be crazy dangerous and keep it all a secret from everyone.

Very happy you're on the mend (sorry that there's more surgery though) and try to keep your exciting life a little less exciting. xoxoxo

Melissa Ward said...

*many many hugs - gently*

I'm so glad you're OK!

K. M. Walton said...

What a harrowing experience, Lenore. I am so happy you are out of the woods and healing. You will remain in my prayers!!

Kelly Fiore said...

Sweet Jesus! Lenore, I'm so happy you're still with us and I know all the Lucky 13s feel the same way. XO to you -- keep taking care of yourself!

Meredith @ Pandora*s Books said...

That sounds absolutely terrifying, and I'm so glad you are alive and well. It's amazing what our bodies do and don't tell us. It's also mind-boggling how, according to a textbook, certain illnesses should affect us in certain ways - yet, there's always an exception to the rule.

Be well and take it easy the next few months! Glad you're doing okay!! Focus on the kitten cuddles - animals are the best cure to every illness! <33

Memory said...

Wow. That's terrifying. I'm so glad you got to the hospital in time and are going to be okay!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

WOW, Lenore. I'm so, so glad you accidentally went to the doctor on the wrong day (that's providential in my book). I've kept up with your FB posts but didn't know the whole story. So glad you're safe and sound and healing. xo

Andi said...

This is a sobering and humbling story, Lenore. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I'm so grateful you're ok!!!

Elisabeth Dahl said...

Yikes, yikes, yikes. So glad you're home again. xx

J Benedetto-Wilcox said...

Hello Lenore - back from the brink! I have followed your story and updates via Facebook since becoming "re-connected". All I can say is - unfortunately (or fortunately) I have been where you are! I went through something very similar when my LAD exploded (at just 26) - Just getting the prompt care I needed was difficult. In part, being so young and healthy, it was impossible for anyone to know how sick I truly was until I was in a critical and life-threatened state. Consequently, part of my recovery entailed waiting on the transplant list for a while and then having my left ventricle rebuilt. I have felt everything you have experienced, hence my following your story so closely. I am SO glad you have shared - and very much appreciate your openness, strength, resilience, and positive attitude. I definitely agree that a wonderful support system - large or small - can lift us up and put smiles on our faces, even whilst enduring the worst.
I have kept you in my thoughts and prayers for continued health, strength, and recovery: and will continue to do so. Please know that I continue to wish the best for you - and I truly appreciate your gratitude for and articulation of the precious, delicate nature of life!
Best regards *and hugs*
Julie Benedetto-Wilcox

Kimberly Sabatini said...

Just WOW! So grateful you're still here. <3 And your light is one of my favorite things about you--shine on.

Liviania said...

Oh wow. I'm so happy you got the medical care you needed despite everything.

Allison L said...

Oh my goodness, Lenore!

I had no idea about any of this! I'm SO glad you're okay, and that you're recovering!

Sending major hugs your way...

<3

Michelle said...

I am so glad you're ok!!! I wish you all the best for a FULL recovery.
Thank you so much for sharing your ordeal with everyone, so we can all be alert of any similar symptoms.
Best,
Michelle

Peggy Eddleman said...

Oh my goodness. I was scared for you as soon as I heard what was wrong days ago, but after reading this, HOLY FRIJOLES! That's terrifying! So glad that doctor told you to go to the emergency room, and so glad they kept checking until they found the problem. Hugs! I hope you get back to feeling good again soon.

bermudaonion said...

I've been following this on FB and Twitter and I am so glad you went to your doctor when you did! It sounds like you are one tough nut! Take it easy and keep healing!

GinaRosati said...

This is chilling, Lenore ... I'm so glad you listened to your intuition (I would have said gut, but the pun was too much) and got to the hospital in time. Hugs to you, Daniel, and the kitties <3

Alyce said...

That is such a scary situation! It is just freaky how fast things went from okay to life-threatening for you.

I'm so glad that you are okay and that they were able to fix things! I hope you continue to heal quickly!

hilarygraham said...

crazy. so glad you're on the mend. Hilary

Jen Robinson said...

Wow! Scary stuff. So glad that you are doing ok!

readingdate said...

Thank goodness your doctor listened and escalated the tests. So glad you're doing okay. What a scary experience! *hugs*

Petra Poet said...

I'm so glad to hear you're OK and that everything worked out :-)

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's pretty scary. But so glad you're doing okay and lots of friends were there giving you support. Take care of yourself and get lots of rest.

Aarti said...

So glad that you are on the mend, Lenore. And thank goodness for thorough doctors!

taralazar.com said...

So glad you're well and resting at home now! Thank goodness that doctor recommended the ER. You must have a high tolerance for pain. Rest and take it easy. I hope Daniel is pampering you, too!

Belle Wong said...

So glad you are home now and everything's getting better! What an ordeal - and so wonderful that you did get to the ER in time!

Beth F said...

OMG! I knew some of this before but the whole story is so scary. I am so glad you messed up on your appointment and that the doctor had the sense to send you to the ER. It will be a quiet winter for you, you'll get lots of kitty love and tons of support from all of us.

Chelsy said...

I am so glad you are home and recuperating. Please continue to feel better!

Kirsten Carlson said...

Wow & hallelujah. Thank you for sharing what happened, I knew it was serious and unexpected from the posts. I am so glad you chose to do what you did, I know you have LOTS more stories to write. Sending hugs and healthy vibes from Hawaii. :) k

Kirsten Carlson said...

Wow & hallelujah. Thank you for sharing what happened, I knew it was serious and unexpected from the posts. I am so glad you chose to do what you did, I know you have LOTS more stories to write. Sending hugs and healthy vibes from Hawaii. :) k

Bookfool said...

Wow, so glad you found a doctor who had the foresight to send you to the ER!! Hope the rest of your recovery is quick and easy. Kitties make everything better. :)

Sandy Nawrot said...

OMG Lenore!!! I had no idea. You know, I had a friend whose sister died of something like that, and she wasn't a day over 30. It was a horrible tragedy and shock to the entire family. So you have a guardian angel, and thank goodness for that. Holy crap. I am so thankful so are OK!

Elana Johnson said...

Wow, what a terrifying story. I'm glad you went to the hospital even if you weren't feeling terribly bad. *hugs*

Jeanne said...

You are lucky! Glad the story has ended happily.

Jill the OWL said...

So glad to hear that everything is going better!! What a scare.

Continue to take it easy. Trust me - bodies that have gone through this much need lots of TLC for awhile!

Frankie Diane Mallis said...

So many hugs! I had no idea, but I'm so glad you're on the road to recovery and are here! XOXOX

stacybuckeye said...

Sending healing prayers your way. Lenore. A scary thing to live through but a glorious thing to survive!

Beth Kephart said...

I have been SOOOOO worried about you. And I am so glad you are okay, that the worst didn't happen, that you are with us.

Lots of love,

Beth

Charlotte said...

Oh goodness, I'm so glad that,in as much as it was happening at all, it played out the way it did! And I hope the rest of your recovery goes well and peacefully and with lots of nice reading and cooperative kitties.

Steph Su said...

*shivers* That was a terrifying read. Lenore, I'm so glad it all turned out well. That is such a scary thing to have happened to you. Thank you for letting us know what's been going on (I was reading your Facebook updates and wondering what the heck was going on!!!) and continue to keep up that brilliant attitude!

Lissa Price said...

Welcome home.

You look radiant.

Linda said...

you are such a strong, young woman and I am so happy you are home and healthy. Continuing prayers for peaceful rest and rehabilitation before your 2014 surgery. Love you! And we will miss having you home for the holidays!

Emily Hainsworth said...

*Gentle Hugs* from me, Baby Nova, and our kitty, Dagny. So, so glad you're home healing. Lissa's right, you DO look radiant. Frankfurt will be there for you next year. Snuggle in for kitty hugs and rest up! <3

Melinda Jane Harrison said...

What a horrible story and at the same time, what a miracle! You could have died. All I can say is bless you and I am so happy to read that you are well again. Sending hugs. And take care of yourself!

Jeane said...

I'm a lurker on your blog but just want to say: I'm so glad you're going to be okay. What a scary incident. I had my appendix out about ten years ago, and unlike you it was agony- I was literally crawling on the floor to the door until someone helped me walk. So strange that all the doctors missed it. Have a speedy recovery!

Bidisha said...

That is so scary!

I'm glad you're okay. Hugs. And good wishes. And take good care of yourself.

Kate Tilton said...

I am so so so glad you are okay Lenore!

Feel better soon and enjoy the kitty snuggles.

LinWash said...

Wow. So glad you got the medical help you needed! I hope you continue feeling better. Thoughts and prayers are with you.

Kelsi Rose said...

I am glad you are okay. Continue to heel and I will pray for you.

Claire Merle said...

Wow, that was close! So glad you're doing well now.
Good luck with your out of hospital recovery (and the writing; stress free I hope.) xx

Meghan said...

I'm so glad you're okay! What a terrifying experience. I hope you have a smooth road to recovery going forward.

Jennifer McGowan said...

Good heavens! I read your story with increasing horror and shock... I can't believe how close you were to tragedy and the incredible blessings you received to get to a hospital and heal. I'm so hopeful that you rest, relax, and have every good thing to happen to you henceforth!

Tara said...

I'm so happy to hear you are on the mend! That had to have been a terrifying experience and it doesn't surprise me your docs said you had such a positive attitude :)

*lots of hugs*

Nicole McInnes said...

Holy smokes, Lenore! I am just now reading this, and SO glad that you're okay.

Cecelia said...

OH MY GOODNESS, Lenore! I am so glad you're alive and recovering!

I'm sending happy, safe, restful wishes your way. Hoping all continues as it should. HUGS!!!

prettybooks said...

This post was so uncomfortable to read that I cannot even imagine what it was like to actually go through it. I'm glad they caught it just in time and happy you're feeling much better!

Sarah Laurence said...

Oh, Lenore, what a terrifying experience! I'm relieved to hear that you came through it okay, but take it easy. Give your body time to heal.

corine said...

Awful. I'm so glad you're safe now

Ron Smith said...

Wow. That is some story. So glad you got yourself to a hospital.

Take care of yourself.

alice-jane said...

Lenore! That's a heck of an experience and I'm so happy that you're on the road to recovery. I hope everything goes smoother for you, here on out!

Amy Jo Wagner said...

God is so good. Love you dear friend.