For me, the very worst aspect of this disease is the loss of mental acuity. I doubt there’s much wrong with my mind, but my brain has clearly experienced damage. When I finally get an MRI, I know beyond doubt that the lesions on my brain will be clearly visible. I try really hard to make no assumptions not based on irrefutable evidence, but for now, experiential clues must suffice.
But there is a time-line I’m trying to follow. I can’t say that I have complete accuracy, so I’ll submit this to my family and for their recollections.
There are records somewhere, but I can’t tell you the date I was hospitalized with pneumonia. My poor 16-year-old daughter was stuck with an incompetent, nearly delirious mom with a temperature of 105 Fahrenheit. Her innate heroism got me to the hospital and admitted. Throughout her life she’s given me many opportunities to stand agape at her amazing agápē, and there’s no doubt that without this particular example, those opportunities would have ended within a matter of hours.
I am guessing it was about 8pm when I was admitted to Sacred Heart hospital in Eugene, Oregon, in January of 1990. But I wasn’t tucked into a nice, warm bed and treatment started for what brought me there. I don’t know whether a doctor ordered it, or whether it was the nurses’ inspiration; I doubt it was standard practice to take the patient’s clothes away and throw her into a cold shower as was done to me. Begging to be allowed out was fruitless, until I could no longer suppress a scream of pain.
Then I was allowed to cover myself and get into a bed. And left alone in the dark
After some short time I began to recognize that I no longer retained even a smidgen of bowel control and was able to frantically signal until a nurse arrived whom I could alert to the fact that I was going to need a diaper.
I have no memory of anything over the next three days except a fleeting impression of my daughter washing my feet. She later told me that it was excrement she washed away, in the Intensive Care Unit. Forgive me, but I can’t help wonder how intensive care can be that leaves excrement on a patients feet? It seems less than basic to me.
If there is any question, the freezing shower sent me into shock and I lost consciousness. I wonder if I would have survived if I hadn’t been able to signal the nurse? Seems fairly likely that they’d have found a corpse the next time they were scheduled to check on the patient in Room 206.
I spent another 7 days in that hospital, learning during that time that I had “triple” pneumonia, of which I’d never heard. I guess it’s bacterial with 2 kinds of virus? (I’ve since learned that there is such a thing as fungal pneumonia, which has to have been the 3rd component, since the house I was living in at the time had to have been full of mold. [Edited 07/15/2018.])
At any rate, the treatment was intravenous antibiotics and antivirals (I believe) and respiratory therapy. That therapy consisted of a practitioner applying a device to my back that pounded mercilessly, with the aim, I’m sure, of breaking up the mucous in my lungs so I could breathe. I was ungrateful, though, because having that pounding applied to the area of my shoulder that hurt so much I could barely use my arm was like intentional torture to me. But I didn’t complain then, and I’m not complaining now. This is a report. I’m presenting an explanation with no emotional component: just the facts, folks.
I was able to start taking walks around the hospital corridors, to re-tone my muscles, two days before I was released. No one suggested that, but I’d been a runner until a knee injury precluded that especial joy, and I’d been walking to work for the 5 years I’d held my final job, and of course hiking, backpacking, and climbing had always been my favorite recreation(s).
And within a few days of my return home, I was able to start walking my daughter to school; perfect training for the birth that was to come in a matter of weeks.