Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sick and tired

I didn't understand what this meant until recently.

I've been tired before. I've had some times where I've been exhausted. Seventy-two hours on the job will do that. Insane tactical medicine evolutions will tax you as well.

I've always measured how tired I was by my ability to keep going, should I absolutely have to. Sure, I've been sick. I've been tired, but push comes to shove, I can still get my butt in gear.

A couple of weeks ago, I just got sick. It started out pretty subtle, no big deal. A little abdominal pain and some GI symptoms. Then it accelerated like a bullet, and just chopped my legs out from under me.

I was exhausted, and sore. Muscle and body aches plagued me in waves, as did this incredible lethargy. People who know me, know that I'm typically pretty gung-ho, and type A. I'm always doing something. Hell, when I'm not feeling well, I typically get involved with a project to keep my mind off of things.

Not this time. It was an effort just to sit up, and at times I'd just collapse in on myself, I was so tired.

It did give me new understanding though. I can better appreciate when a patient tells me they're so tired that it's an effort just to get water.

Hydration and eating were a constant issue for me. I just couldn't get the energy to keep going to the fridge, and I had no desire to eat (To the tune of 15lbs of weight loss).

All this, and we really didn't know what was going on. Sure, we had the symptoms pinned down pretty well (I really like my doc and her medical team, they cut right to the chase), but the differential diagnoses were legion.

This was really bizarre to me. Sure I knew the process in the back of my head, but I've never personally experienced that. When I've been sick before, it's been a sore throat, or the flu, or pneumonia (all of which were child's play compared to this). This time, I was just sick, really bad, and I had no idea what the real cause was.

I had occasional fevers that seemed to only underline that I was sick. I went whole days without them (I think). I actually got work done with the fevers. I wrote several hundred lines of code to get the basis of one of my projects done. Probably at the cost of a day's rest

A couple of weeks into it, I had a mini-freak out. What if this was forever? What if I'd gotten some bizarre chronic condition that wasn't going to go away? Holy crap! I still didn't know what was wrong with me! Three weeks?!

Wiser heads prevailed, and I was talked down from my lethargic hysterics. I'm really thankful for my family, and especially my girlfriend, Angel. She was incredibly helpful in keeping me fed and watered. Pretty much like one of the animals, actually. At least I felt that way at times. It was pretty depressing at times, but mostly incredibly comforting.

Thankfully, my panic only lasted about two days. At that point I went the whole day without having one of those bouts of exhaustion. The next day, I felt practically energetic. My joints weren't really hurting, and I felt like I could do things.

I wanted to get back to work. Bad. Real bad.
Three weeks was a really long time to be away from the department, and three weeks of cabin fever had jumped on me like a rabid elephant.

Turns out it takes more to get back to work than to call in sick. I spent three days on the phone trying to arrange a return to work. Drove me crazy. A week later, and I'm still making phone calls. GRRRR

But I am thankful now for the increased understanding. I never really contemplated being that exhausted, that lethargic, that out of it. I get it now.

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