It’s been four months since my last blog post & i don’t know why it’s taken me this long to sit down and try & write this.
I had the most wonderful Christmas this year.. the best one yet. I had sat all ofmy exams & had two weeks off to do whatever I pleased before the next college semester began. I spent quality time with my family (and the dog), caught up with friends & had plenty of chilled out down time. I was more than ready to say goodbye to 2016 (like so many) and walked into 2017 with a healthy mindset full of positivity & optimism for the year ahead.
I’ll always put my hand on my heart & admit to being a very stubborn person when it comes to slowing down or admitting when I need to rest. But I had been ignoring an overwhelming feeling for weeks , that finally unfortunately got the better of me. For many weeks, maybe months, I had been waking up in the middle of the night shaking uncontrollably and so thirsty I would end up downing a whole pint of water in the one go. I brushed it off as being the cold of the winter nights or that I just wasn’t getting enough H20 during the day. Then, these violent episodes of the shakes started happening during the day. I would feel absolutely freezing & my whole body would start to feel like it was convulsing. I’m a cold creature & always complain of being frozen but this was different. I just couldn’t shake it off (no pun intended)
This semester in college is our first real clinical placement which I have so say I am LOVING. It has reminded me why I chose to do medicine in the first place. One evening in the hospital library, this shaking started again but this time it was different. I felt so weak and dizzy even though I was sitting at my desk. It frightened me & I knew something wasn’t right. I got up out of my desk, bypassed all of my friends sitting in the library & walked straight down to the A & E. I was thankfully seen straight away, I couldn’t believe it when the nurse took my temperature and it was 39.3. That explained why I was feeling utterly miserable.
My bloods were taken & sent away, when the results came back they were quite alarming. I was septic. Up & in went the drips of antibiotics, fluids & paracetamol & in no time at all I was feeling human again. The next 13 days were a blur of being poked & prodded, being brought for different tests & constantly being hooked up to a bag of something or other. I was under 4 diffident specialities & none of us could figure out where the infection was coming from, but I was still Septic & not getting any better. Eventually after much deliberation I had a CT scan which was our only option left to try & figure out what was going on (I’ve already had about 15 of these CT scans for oncology purposes, they are high in radiation which can be really dangerous to young women). The CT showed both my kidneys were enlarged. There were a few theories thrown on the table to what this could be infection? Autoimmune? Drug reaction? Or the scariest of all..the lymphoma was back.
My oncologist came down to see me & although this may seem strange considering the speciality, I always love to see him. A very sensible man who always puts my mind at ease regardless of the situation. A renal biopsy was the next step to get to the bottom of this. For anybody that has had a kidney biopsy.. My goodness they are not pleasant are they. The biopsy results came back to show that I had “bilateral pyelonephritis”. There was 60 percent scar tissue, perfuse swelling & my kidneys were quite damaged. Not Ideal really? After 11 days on one of the IV antibiotics, I started to improve & the fever went away. I was discharged & let home just in time for my 24th birthday.
I thought my experience in hospital in October with the UC was challenging, but nothing on earth could have prepared me for those 13 days. I experienced every emotion under the sun. I felt angry, frightened (at one point when I was really sick during the night I asked the doctor was I going to die) upset, frustrated & completely hard done by. Like a hormonal teenage girl x 1000.
I had a repeat kidney biopsy one week ago, & the results were positive thankfully. My kidneys showed signs of healing & improvement. We are finally on the way up!
I’ve always believed things to happen in 3’s. Good & bad. Maybe this is my third. I went from being a student doctor.. taking patient’s histories, performing exams, shadowing teams.. to the next day being an in-patient in a hospital bed feeling vulnerable, fragile,scared. Through every challenging experience I’ve had in my 24 years on this earth, I always find that there is a blessing , a lesson in everything that I’m faced with. This year, with all it’s health obstacles, has fully cemented for me my passion & drive to pursue a career in medicine. I want to be the type of doctor that I would like to meet. I hope to never underestimate or take for granted the power of a smile or kind word, because I ,as a patient, have been on the receiving end of this. It breaks my heart when I read & hear of all in the injustices & inequality in our health care system. There is so many cracks & flaws in the HSE, but what we do have to focus on us the thousands of nurses & doctors who work themselves to the bone for the betterment of their patients. I met junior doctors in the middle of the night who had bags under their eyes, coffee stained clothes, their bleeps going off constantly but still managed to treat me with the utmost humanity & dignity. A nurse on my ward who soothed a distressed elderly woman & rubbed her head until she fell back asleep. A member of the catering staff who remembered what yogurt I liked & brought me one every morning. These are the unsung heroes of our society. The women & men working behind the scenes holding our healthcare system together at the seams despite all the daily walls they encounter.
I am going to sign off by leaving these words here that a dear friend sent me when I needed them the most.
“We are all broken & damaged, & we aren’t quite fixed yet. A lot of us have gone through hell. And do you know what? We came back. We came back stronger. And do you know why? Because we are warriors. And warriors fight.”