The most awful feeling settled into the deepest recesses of my bones the moment it happened. The dialysis nurse held open his hand to show me the broken pieces. The connecting end of the catheter was broken. It was a Friday in December, a few weeks after the stem cell treatment in Florida.
I had finally fully recovered. My little wounds had healed. Light pink scars remained. I was looking forward to the unfolding results over the next few months.
Now I found myself freaking out inside. I had a bad intuitive feeling. A very bad feeling. I called the radiology center to schedule to have the catheter replaced immediately. The soonest I could get in was Monday.
As if declaring a prediction, the doctor said to me as I lie on the operating table, “everyone gets an infection when these are replaced”. More dread crept into my mind.
A few days later, and I wasn’t feeling well. I wasn’t feeling well at all. I knew I was going to end up in the hospital. I knew I would be in for a while. It wasn’t going to be a quick trip, or a pleasant one.
My mother was on her way. On Sunday morning I couldn’t stand because the pain in my feet was beyond excruciating. My neck was swollen on one side. The pain in my upper back was unbearable. Almost a 104 degree temperature made me delirious. My mother gathered some of my things, as I dialed 9-1-1. I needed help getting down the stairs and to the hospital.
Knock, knock. Death was at my door again. This time it was serious. This time I saw grave concern (yes, pun intended) on the faces of those around me. This time my family was worried. I had septicemia, and blood clots had closed off my jugular vein. SERIOUS!!
That broken catheter connector normally served as a barrier to bacteria. They’d gotten in. Exchanging the catheter pulled them further into my body, and straight into my heart. Straight into my bloodstream. Cultures were brewing at the hospital lab. Fingers were crossed that it wasn’t MRSA. Antibiotics coursed through my body non-stop through an I.V. line. It would take days to determine the exact bacterial strain.
Heparin pumped constantly through another I.V. line to dissolve the clots. While in the ICU, I watched my right arm swell to three times normal size. The clots were in that arm as well. Any one of them could travel to my lungs or brain, and my life would be over in an instant.
“Are you in pain? Would you like any pain medicine? You can have whatever you like for pain.” Nurses repeated these phrases and questions often. I thought to myself, “WOW, they’re being so nice to me.” I learned much later that no one thought I would make it. They were making me as comfortable as possible for my final days.
I knew it wasn’t my time to go. I knew I would survive. Not for one moment did I feel or think otherwise. I knew it would be hard, and take time. Even as day three passed, and the cultures indicated that the antibiotics weren’t working. The bacteria were multiplying even faster.
My mom’s eyes were always red-rimmed, as she faced the alarming possibility of losing her first-born and only daughter. My brother’s techie tendencies distracted me, while he donned a blue sterile suit and examined the backside of the digital screen hanging in the ICU. We waited, and I continued to breathe. My heart continued to beat. My body battled.