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My trip to the ER

The

The “after” picture. We were relieved at the diagnosis!

I spent this summer taking two courses and working at my graduate assistant position. Due to the nature of summer classes, I had homework almost every night, and I spent several days at work out in the 100-degree Louisiana heat talking to incoming freshmen. Needless to say, by the end of July, I was ready for my much-needed three-week semester break. I had big plans to travel to North Carolina to serve as godmother at my niece’s baptism and spend some quality time with family. Although I did get to do so, my semester break turned out much more differently than I could have imagined.

It all started the first Sunday of my break. I had just finished my online final and I was done with summer classes! I considered eating out to celebrate, but instead decided to stay in and eat eggs for dinner. The eggs in my fridge may or may not have been expired…I didn’t check the date. But I was convinced they were when I woke up the next morning with nausea, headache, vomiting, etc.. Thankfully this all passed after a few hours and I went about my day as usual.

The next day my only plans were to laze around my house–and it’s a good thing, because midday I started running fever. I spent the whole day in bed. The same thing happened the next day: I developed a fever and headache as the day went on, and I also had a weak appetite. Convinced I had salmonella poisoning, I made an appointment with the school nurse the next morning.

I was hoping the nurse practitioner would prescribe me an antibiotic to clear this up before I left for North Carolina. Instead, she checked my vitals and told me there was nothing she could do. She proceeded to advise me to not take anything for the fever unless it was over 105. At that point I just stopped listening.

I left school and headed to meet my parents. We spent a couple of days in Baton Rouge with family, and then a few days at the homestead in Alexandria. We then made the 3-day drive to my brother’s house in North Carolina. My aunt and grandpa flew in to meet us, and we all witnessed little Sophie get baptized. Unfortunately, the whole time I had been running fever on-and-off, and experiencing headaches, no appetite, and no energy. Even taking short walks drained me to the point where I had to take a nap. This had been going on for two weeks when my sister-in-law, Dr. Wendy, finally did a checkup on me. She saw an infection in my throat and started me on an antibiotic.

The next day I woke up throwing up, so my mom took me to an urgent care clinic. Still convinced this all started from food poisoning, I described the situation to the physician assistant. She prescribed me two heavy-duty antibiotics: one for salmonella, one for the throat infection. Unfortunately, these made me even more nauseous; I woke up the next morning throwing up bile (I had eaten so little over the last few days, my stomach was completely empty). I couldn’t eat or drink anything, my stomach hurt, and I was extremely dehydrated. I was also upset at the situation and scared, not knowing what was wrong with me.

My brother insisted we go to the emergency room at Duke Med to get tests done, and my mom could tell by looking at me that I needed help right away. So my mom and Dr. Wendy took me to the Duke Med ER. The wait time was only 15 minutes; I first had to explain my symptoms to two different nurses, two doctors, and a PA student. After all that talking and an initial checkup, they took about 5 vials of blood, a throat swab, and a urine sample. Then finally, just when I felt I was about to die, they hooked me up to an IV and treated me for dehydration and nausea (my nurse was very good, so I barely felt a thing!).

A long hour later, my IV ran dry–they had put a whole liter of fluid in me. I perked up a bit. We waited and waited and waited, and finally the doctor came in. He told us I tested positive for mono. My reaction was “Mono? As in mononucleosis?!” My mom, Dr. Wendy, and I were shocked and relieved.

The good news is that my mystery illness wasn’t due to cancer, peritonitis, or some other serious condition. The bad news is that there’s no cure for mono, so I have to wait this thing out. Also, because mono affects the liver and the spleen, I have to take it easy for several months while my body sheds the virus. That means no 5Ks, no triathlons, no lifting heavy objects, and no standing on my feet a lot. In fact, for the rest of this year, I will have to entertain myself with a lot of video games, movies, art, and music.

I’m not upset about it though. If there’s one thing I realized from being sick for 3 weeks straight, it’s that any day you spend in good health is a good day. One of the most miserable feelings is having your family around you, laughing and enjoying good food, and not being able to join in because the mere thought of eating is repulsive, and laughing takes too much energy. I’m only upset that I didn’t get to enjoy my semester break. I made memories though!

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