Since I acquired “Arthur”, my parasitic brotha’ from another mutha’, people have been asking me a lot of detailed questions about my journey, how long will this journey take, and will I ever be the same again.
Early on, when I started getting sick, I vowed to chronicle the entire journey using Facebook’s new timeline format; however, as cool as I think am, reality is that people do not follow every move I make on Facebook, so they’ve been getting bits and pieces here and there, but never really knew the whole story.
This is the whole story:
In early March I experienced a week of terrible GI issues. TERRIBLE! but I chocked it up to some bad wings and continued on in life. After all, I’m training for a 3:05 at Boston – no time to dilly-dally.
A week or so later I began to get left-side shoulder and chest pains coupled with shortness of breath, headaches and low-grade fevers. You know what means, right? According to WebMD, possible heart attack. This threw me for a loop because a week prior I had my heart checked at Piedmont Hospital and came out with a perfect zero score. WTF?
I went to the ER on Monday, March 26th, and long-story-short, was told I had “the heart of a lion” . They decided to check for a blood clot in the lungs, but after a few tests, decided there were no indications of any pulmonary issues, either. The ER docs settled on a diagnosis of Pleurisy which is inflammation of the sack around your heart and lungs, usually caused by an infection somewhere else in the body.
They sent me home with an RX of 800mg of Motrin and one Pepcid AC to be taken each day and I should be fine.
I laid out of work all that next week, and my fevers began to climb. This is about the time I wrote the post titled “sick of sick.”
Funny looking back now, ‘cuz I was just about to find out what “sick” really was all about.
By Friday of that same week, I could no longer stand it. Every night I would have fevers as high as 104+ and I would soak all the bed linens, complain about worsening shoulder pain, and wake up Babette every couple of hours for Advil and sympathy.
At 4:00 a.m., Friday, March 30th, I was back in the ER and they decided I needed to be admitted into the hospital.
A team of doctors was organized that included a couple of internal medicine doctors, infectious disease doctors, a surgeon and pain management folks (called PCAs). Shout out to Dr. Blass, the infectious disease doc, as he quickly became my favorite. A straight shooter with a quirky sense of humor. Loved him. Bedside manner matters.
I was in the hospital for 13 days. Friday March 30th until Thursday, April 12th and was tested for a million and one possible viral and bacterial infections. A CT scan and MRI uncovered a 8.8 cm abscess on my liver. 8.8 cm, y’all!!! that’s huge. About the size of the lid on a jar of Duke’s mayo.
Lovely CT Scan
The grey matter? yea, that’s my abscess. Nice, huh?
(click image for a larger view)
Finally, after Dr. Blass consulted with another physician from Central and South America, they settled on a hypothesis of Entamoeba Histolytica Amebiases. In people language, this means a nasty parasite, an amoeba, had gotten hold of me and was trying to kill me.
The belief was that I somehow got infected by contaminated water in Nicaragua, or contracted by someone who was preparing food with the amoeba on his/her hands. Being that I spent quite awhile in Nicaragua, I could not pin down one specific situation as there were a multitude of ways I could have gotten it.
On April Fools Day my white blood cell count peaked at 24,000. Normal range is 7-10,000. My body was using the whole army + reserves.
The doctors attacked the parasite with a high powered, broad range of antibiotics while providing a schedule of powerful pain relief via oxycodone, oxycontin, morphine and a dilaudid pump. They expected to see my fevers begin to diminish in about 2-3 days as the antibiotics ripped through my system like the Roman Army.
2-3 days later, fevers are still strong. Pain is still strong. I began to get scared and didn’t mind telling people about it. I had a problem, that no one could diagnose with any certainty (yet), and the drugs weren’t working. I read that less than 1% die from this infectious disease, but I began to fear I was going to fall inside that small percentile.
But I stayed true to updating Facebook as often as possible both for friends and family, but also as my timeline journal.
A week later, still no drop in fevers. The only thing that brought me any happiness at all was the many visitors that would come and hang out with me in the hospital. Some saw me in good spirits (i.e. drugged up), while others saw the crying, sweating, angry Christian who was scared and shivering and suffering tremendously.
After consulting a friend at the CDC, Dr. Blass, weighing all the options, decided we needed to drain it and it need to be done “tomorrow”. Yes, there were risks of further infection, especially when no one was sure exactly what I had contracted, but a second MRI showed no reduction in size of the abscess, and instead showed it filling with more “liquid”. Something had to be done. We couldn’t just continue waiting.
They wasted no time and before I could blink, I had a tube in my gut, inside the abscess on my liver. They had drained an incredible amount of fluid manually, but also kept it inside me for a few days, allowing it to “drip” drain.
After they removed the drain tube from my gut (video below), my fever spikes began to drop to 100 degrees or less.
This was encouraging.
I still felt like complete shit and still had tremendous pain, but my blood was showing improvement. Enough so, that it made more sense for me to continue recovery at home to prevent getting even more sick in the hospital.
Today, April 16th (Boston Marathon day, sniff, sniff) is the fifth day I have been home. It’s been tough, but my wife has been a saint. She has been taking care of me like a nurse and her love for me has never been more evident than through this ordeal. I owe her my life.
Friends, too. People have been so kind to me, including some people who I have not been very kind to in the past. I found myself apologizing and opening up to people I never expected to. You really know where you stand with people during times like this and I learned a lot through this experience. It’s safe to say that this has changed me, all for the better.
So, while I am not out of the woods yet, I’m fighting like a madman, and I will be back. I have lost 15 pounds or more, and yea, I look pretty emaciated with a frail-looking physique and sunken, black eyes, but I don’t care. I have more inner strength now than I’ve ever had. I see this as a wake-up call …a second chance, and I’m not going to waste it.
Thanks to everyone who followed along on facebook and wrote me notes, messages and sent cards. Thank you to those who visited me in the hospital. You truly were part of the reason I am making it through this. I found out just how much people mean to me – more than anything else – and that in itself is a gift. I plan to use it wisely. I plan to follow the lead of those who are so very giving and put my skin in the game, too.
So there. Long as usual, but as brief as I could be. I left out lots and lots, but if you read this far, I’m happy.
Cheers! …from the couch of Christian Griffith