Hi. I'm home, as of Tuesday night. Dorothy nailed it: there is no place like home. My bed, my shower. My husband, my boys. Hal's cooking. He made me soup Tuesday night. I hadn't had anything to eat with that much color or flavor in three weeks.
Three weeks, two of it in ICU. ICU. ICU is for old sick people. I'm only 54, I take good care of myself. How did someone so healthy get so sick? Nobody really knows. I have my theories, naturally, and, don't worry, I'll share them. But, for now, here's what I know for sure:
1. I knew I was never alone. If you prayed and sent any flavor of healing energy, I felt it. There were times I literally had the sense of being lifted, like floating along. (And there was no morphine involved.) Thank you. I am grateful. Never doubt the effect you are having. It landed over here big time.
2. My husband and my boys are heroes, along with our new friend Sam. Sam, 22yo, and I met through mutual friends and I'm sort of her Costa Rica mom. We love Sam, she's part of our family, just fits right in around here. And Sam and my boys stepped right up. They took and are taking such good care of me.
When I got out of ICU and into the salon, the regular ward in Costa Rica's public system, I was still helpless. I couldn't stand up, could not pull myself into a sitting position, had sat in a chair only once with the help of two guys, I was swollen the size of two of me, the elephant girl. So, if it wasn't in arm's reach, I couldn't get it.
There are six people in each room in the salon, all in varying states of helplessness. It became immediately clear that one needs an advocate: someone to help you to the bathroom, to bring you plenty of water (the running water in the hospital is heavily chlorinated), then make sure you can reach it (your stuff gets moved around frequently). To help you change position, to sit you up and down. The bed controls – cranks – are at the foot of the bed, unlike in ICU where the buttons are right next to you. At mealtime, the kitchen staff puts your food on your little table and walks away. If you can't reach it, you have to wait until someone comes and moves it to you, which they do eventually.
Too many details. There simply aren't enough nurses to be attending to the various needs, water, and sitting positions of six people. I needed help; two of my roommates had steady family help as well. The nurses must really appreciate this: they can stick to nursing rather than bed-raising. So my family came in shifts: 7am to noon, noon to 4, 4-7 and 7-10. For a week, they did this. Cheerfully. I'm in awe.
3. If you are going to look into your own abyss, take at least two people with you, both of whom will be bored in short order and want to go do something more interesting. With you.
4. When you reach A Certain Age, your muscles go on the decline. You are only as strong today as you needed to be yesterday. My only exercise lately has been walking up my hill four days a week. Good for my heart, pretty good for my legs… but not enough. After three weeks laying on my back, I am ridiculously weak. My recovery is moving right along because I am so young and healthy. But I am going to be strong from now on, too. There is no reason not to be.
5. "Hail of bullets." This is Hal's answer when you ask him how he wants to die. I used to be appalled. Now I'm thinking Butch, Sundance, Bonnie and Clyde had it right. I sure don't want to die in a hospital bed. No way, no how.
6. Hospital Clinica Biblica, a private hospital, saved my life. I was wheeled into the emergency room and immediately had 3 doctors working on me. After four days in their ICU, I went to the Caja, the public system: first ICU, then the salon. They kept me alive, I thought my doctors were really good and I have no complaints about the care. But if I had walked into the emergency room at the Caja, I might not be here. It is always jammed, we didn't know what I had… I just might have had to wait a smidge too long.
We belong to the Caja and can use that freely. But we are buying insurance so that the private system is always available to us, as well. If I can get this sick, anything can happen. Besides, financially, we would not survive another hit like this. As expats, for less than $2,500, we can insure our whole family. Sounds so reasonable now.
7. I had strep pneumonia, the most common kind, according to my doctor. I don't think I had a particularly virulent strain, which they thought at first. I just waited too long to go to the doctor. I thought I had dengue – I looked at the symptoms this morning and I'd probably think that again. But after four or five days letting the pneumonia go to town, I was really, really sick by the time I got to Biblica. You are supposed to process at least 93% of the O2 you inhale. I was at 75% then, at 90% now.
8. Recovery is getting my strength back, basically by walking around the house. No stairs yet. I walk like an old woman who just got off a horse. Pitiful. And improving my O2 process. I have an O2 tank on the lowest setting and I can go for a couple of hours without it. I think I'm doing pretty good. I feel great being home, on the mend.
9. We threw away the acetaminophen. For two days, I took 12K mg/day, because acetaminophen is the preferred pain reliever for dengue. Max dosage is, I think, 7K. My liver was swollen, but no lasting damage. (All my organs are perfect now, even the lung is doing good.) The thing is, acetaminophen doesn't kill you right away, unless you continue with ridiculous dosages. It destroys your liver slowly till it's past mending. Why would we have something like that in the house?
10. Some people will do anything for attention.
That's all I know for sure. And it's almost lunchtime, so gotta run. Er, hobble. Recovery from pneumonia is one to two months. I'm aiming for one, but I will take it slowly, no relapse, no getting sick again. One day at a time. Life is very good, I'm happy to still be here.
I haven't read all the comments on my blog, I'm still a bit of a basket case. I'll be back to Facebook in a week or so, I guess. Thank you again for your prayers, healing energy and those virtual cards and letters. I got them, every one.