First off, I want to say how much Mark and I have appreciated everyone's prayers, calls, texts, emails, etc. We have most definitely had a rough ordeal and appreciate the continued thoughts as Mark is (hopefully!) on the road to recovery. Now for the story...
On Monday July 20, Mark had a microdiscectomy for a herniated disc. It was an outpatient surgery and he was home within 4 hours. He instantly felt relief for the back pain he'd suffered for the last year and a half. He seemed to be recovering as the neurosurgeon had told us he would, so I didn't feel too bad when I left that Friday for a trip to Utah.
On Sunday July 26, the disc reherniated. Mark had to turn just the slightest bit to reach something, and he heard it pop and was instantly in debilitating pain. He called the doctor's office for the next 3 days, but was continually told (by the nurse) that the pain was normal and it wasn't reherniated. He asked to speak with the doctor but never heard from him. He explained to the nurse that the pain was NOT normal and he was sure it was reherniated. Finally, she set him up for another MRI (over a week later, when I was back in town).
When the doctor finally saw him, on Thursday August 6, he confirmed that it was indeed reherniated and told us to check into the hospital that night to prepare for surgery the next day. The second surgery was another success (or so said the doctor) and we went home Friday night. Over the weekend, Mark started getting high fevers (in the 101s and 102s) and chills. The fevers would go up/down within minutes and the chills would be accompanied by horrible painful muscle spasms that could last for hours on end. I called the on call doctor and was told each time that we didn't need to come in; that the doctor would see us on Monday and it was too early to develop an infection. Mark also was unable to walk without my help; Monday morning he collapsed at our apartment and it was horrible. We went back to the doctor on Monday afternoon; we were told that the wound looked great and was showing no signs of infection; that the temperatures were normal after anesthesia and we shouldn't be concerned. The doctor did ask us to call if the fevers got worse, but that was about it.
PICC line number 2. They inserted one on Tuesday, took it out on Friday (they thought it was infected) and put another one in on Monday.
On Tuesday his fever went up about a degree but I thought the doctor would be annoyed if we called again so I waited til Wednesday when it reached 104. The nurse told us to head to the ER and they'd meet us there. Here's where the sh*t hits the fan...
We arrived at the ER at about 3 in the afternoon. Mark's temperature was 97 so they weren't concerned with that. When I told the nurse that it was been 104 earlier in the day she said, "Wow, that's high. Did you know 106 is brain dead?" Very sensitive, that one. Anyway, since his fever was low at the moment, they were mainly concerned that his blood oxygen levels were very low (only 88 when it should have been 95 to 100). The doctor was called in and they immediately did X-Rays and a CAT scan to look for signs of pneumonia or blood clots in his lungs. During this time, his temp went up to 104.6 and stayed there for nearly 2 hours. In this time, the ER nurse did not even come in to check on him. She refused to bring in ice or anything to help him. The tests turned out negative and they moved Mark to a hospital room at around 9:00pm.
At around 10:30pm, Mark started to feel the chills coming on. He'd been dealing with them since Saturday so he could tell when they were coming and was starting to figure out how to deal with them. He asked the nurse to bring him in some blankets and she refused since he still had a fever above 102. He explained to her that he needed them to help with the chills and she flat out said she wouldn't help until his fever was below 100. She was completely unhelpful and Mark was getting really upset at this point. He started having the chills, which caused horrible muscle spasms and pain and I couldn't get anyone to help us. Finally, a different nurse looked in the room and saw him writhing in pain. She yelled for help and 2 other nurses came running in with tons of blankets and piled them on him. They kept telling him to calm down and it would be ok. His heart rate was nearly 200 at this point (something around 70 is normal). Of course he was still furious because we knew that this was going to happen. After about 20 minutes of the chills/spasms, he started looking very strange. The nurse asked him if he knew where he was and he started babbling nonsense. He had a very strange, wide-eyed expression; he was hallucinating and he couldn't speak coherently. One of the nurses took his temp at it was 105.8; she ran out and called for help. About 10-15 doctors and nurses rushed in. They took me out of the room and had the chaplain come be with me (since I was clearly hysterical). Let me tell you having the chaplain come did NOT make me feel better, since I clearly thought Mark was almost dead. I could hear Mark screaming in his room and the nurses yelling that they needed to restrain him. Once they had him restrained, they came out and said he wanted to see me. I went in the room and he looked at me and said, "Hi Wife...Bye." He later told me that during this time, he thought he'd been in a terrible accident and had blood everywhere. He was in tons of pain and knew he was going to die, so he wanted to say bye to me before he died. Did I mention that this was all taking place on our anniversary?!
After he said goodbye, they rushed him to ICU. Once Mark was in the ICU, they had him on a huge ice bed with tons of ice around him. His temperature started going down over the next 5 hours or so until he was stable. The next day (Aug 13) the doctor did a 3rd back surgery to see if the disc was infected. Clearly it was and he removed the infected portion. We later found out that Mark got 2 bacterias from the hospital - pseudomonas and serratia. Both are very serious and also very rare. Over the next week, Mark was under the care of the Infectious Disease doctor, who was trying to figure out how to treat these infections. He underwent more MRIs, blood work, even an echocardiogram. When the doctor finally decided there wasn't anymore she could do for him, he was released, 13 days after checking in.
Finally at home, getting some meds
At this point, we're really unsure how this whole ordeal will pan out. Mark is on numerous pain medications for his back. He isn't able to stand up straight. He has to use a walker and can't go very far. The doctor doesn't know how these 3 surgeries will affect him in the long run. He could have continuing back pain, could need more surgeries, or his back could "self fuse"...whatever the hell that means. We'll just have to hope for the best. He is also on 2 serious antibiotics - one oral and one IV. He has a PICC line in his arm and has to give himself IV meds 3 times a day for the next 2 months. Mark has checkups scheduled with both doctors (the neurosurgeon and the infectious disease doctor) over the next few weeks and we'll see how he's recovering. Hopefully, for the first time, things will actually turn out ok. Keep your fingers crossed for that...and that the bills won't bankrupt us - cause I still don't have a job and he's had to put work on hold with all this insanity.
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