So in prior blog posts, and apologies for telling my story so out of order – I hate it when books even do that – anyways, so in prior blog posts I’ve briefly touched on how I got sick and glazed over my time at UTMB. Today I’m going to go into more detail at why my stubbornness basically almost killed me. Also I’m spending the afternoon illustrating my next post on the hilarity of gastric nose tubes so illustration by InkPug! (whom I adore) and when I think of stubborn I think of Pugs. And yes, gastric nose tubes are absolutely hilarious when it comes down to it
So here we go….
So before I was admitted to the hospital in September my brain was quite elsewhere. The three months prior I had my Qualification Exams which for anyone that knows about the PhD process are pretty damn important. The stress over it was incredible. I passed my written exams and then come early August I had to orally defend my answers. By this time I already was pretty sick. My mentor had noticed something was wrong, but I kept trying to push it aside that it wasn’t a big deal. At this point I wasn’t noticeably jaundice but the ascites (accumulation of fluid from your liver not working properly causes abdominal swelling) was definitely making me noticeably bigger…I had signs of hepatic encephalopathy (when I liver doesn’t remove toxins from the brain your brain gets pissed and starts to forget things, confuses you – even mid speech) and I had sores everywhere that bled. So I looked pretty great…oh and I also was having major trouble breathing. So imagine someone like doing an oral exam for their committee in PhD-land and passing.
Fast forward a few weeks to the end of August/first of September…Fall courses had begun. I was enrolled in one that was particularly early and now lived in Houston. Since it was only a day or two a week I decided to stay in a hotel on the island the night before to prepare for class and to make sure I wasn’t late. When I left Houston I wasn’t jaundice, but all the other symptoms had gotten worse. I felt so bad in the hotel, I woke up 4 hours early for class, throwing up every 20 minutes…I got myself showered and dressed and struggled to even drive half a mile to class but I was determined to go and show everyone I wasn’t sick. I sat through the class at the back of the room and when class was over I ultimately decided to go to the ER on campus. I walked in and the nurses in triage just looked at me and go, “are you normally that yellow?” It was at that time I realized I hadn’t even bothered to look in the mirror today. So I ended up admitted for a week, then they released me (for which reason I still don’t understand). I had to follow up in a week. I remember coming home to Houston and telling Sean over the phone before I got there that I didn’t look like I did when I left but the UTMB doctors insisted the symptoms would go away. I was officially highlighter yellow and my legs were 4 times too big. He was baffled too why UTMB released me, but at that point I think both of us were in denial.
It was during this week that my mentor made an appointment for she and I to meet with Student Affairs because I my absences and hospital stays had become noticeable to everyone so they needed to make sure my absences were covered by sick days etc. At this meeting I was for some reason terrified I was going to get placed on medical leave of absence and I was adamant about that. The night before the meeting I stayed on the island at a hotel again so I wasn’t late. The day before Sean and I went and even bought a new outfit for me to wear because at this point I was so large nothing I had fit. We were trying anything to make me look “well”. So long story short, I went to the meeting convinced them not to place me on medical leave and walked straight back over to the ER on campus and was admitted. I was there for a week before they transferred me to Methodist for a liver transplant because my organs failed, lung had collapsed at this point and they could do nothing else for me.