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Our Awful End To 2022: COVID, Two Hospital Stays, and Near Death By Saline

Y’all! I can’t believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve been here, and it’s even harder for me to believe that we’ve already arrived at 2023. To say that these last two weeks didn’t go as planned would be the understatement of 2022.

It all started the Tuesday after I posted our final master bathroom before and after on Monday, December 19th. I had planned to spend Tuesday gathering all of the expenses and sources for our bathroom so that I could post that info for you on Wednesday. Then Friday, I planned to wrap up 2022 with my standard year-in-review post. And then I’d spend the next week relaxing, watching cheesy Christmas rom-com movies, eating, napping, and gearing up for the new year.

Well, obviously, that’s not what happened at all.

Things started to veer off course when I woke up on Tuesday the 20th with my head pounding, and my entire face, neck, and shoulders aching like I had been in a car accident. I didn’t think anything of it, really. I thought I had just slept wrong, so I took some Advil, waited a while for that to kick in and some of the pain to go away, and then tried to go about my day.

But things really took a turn when Matt started feeling unwell. When I get sick, that’s one thing. But when Matt (my husband who has M.S. and deals with overall muscle weakness and fatigue as a normal part of life) gets sick, that’s a whole different ball game. And as the day went on, he got worse and worse, until around 4:30pm, when he was so weak that he couldn’t lift his arms, couldn’t open his eyes, couldn’t keep his jaw closed, and therefore, couldn’t speak.

I ended up calling the ambulance to come get him and take him to the emergency room around 5:00pm on Tuesday, and they treated him in the emergency room until 2:00am. I stayed with him the whole time, while also starting to feel really sick myself — more aches and pains, chills, etc.

They finally admitted him at 2:00am, and after about 30 minutes of “lots of paperwork and questions” (as the nurse put it), I was finally able to go home, take care of our dog Cooper, grab a blanket and pillow, take a ton of supplements, vitamins, and Tylenol, and head back to the hospital. I returned about 3:30am, and was able to sleep until about 7:00am when the doctor came in. By that time, I was feeling fine, with the exception of a stuffy nose and a minor dry cough.

They had run all kinds of tests on Matt, but couldn’t find what was causing him to be so weak. He had scary high blood pressure, but Matt’s blood pressure skyrockets as a result of sickness, not as a cause of it. But still, all tests came back negative. No COVID. No UTI. No nothing. They said that he had just gotten really dehydrated, so after a few more hours, and Matt seemingly doing much better, they discharged him and we went home.

After we got home on Wednesday evening, Matt seemed to be pretty okay. But on Wednesday night before we went to bed, he was scared and did not want to go to sleep. He said he was scared of getting sick and having to go back to the hospital. I thought he was just overly tired (hospitals aren’t great places to get rest, after all), and needed sleep. So after sitting by his bedside, praying with him, trying to be encouraging and calming, until about 2:00am, he finally decided he was ready to try to sleep.

Thursday morning, we both woke up early, and things seemed normal. But once again, as they day went on, Matt got really weak. Then he got better. Then he got weak again.

This roller coaster went on for the next three days, and by Saturday afternoon, he was almost back to the point where he was on Tuesday when I called the ambulance the first time. He was still saying that he didn’t want to go back to the hospital, so knowing how much IV saline helps him when he gets like that, I decided to call and make an appointment with a local mobile IV therapy place.

The nurse got here at 4:30pm (within 90 minutes — impressive for Christmas Eve!), but when she took Matt’s blood pressure, it was too high for her to give him an IV. (They have certain parameters for blood pressure numbers that have to be met before they can give an IV.) Matt was feeling even worse by that time, so he was incredibly disappointed that he wasn’t going to be able to get the IV saline.

By 6:00pm, he was right back to where he was on Tuesday, so I called the ambulance again. And once again, they came and got him, and took him to the hospital. We were in the ER room for several hours while they were giving him IV saline and trying to bring his heart rate and blood pressure down, while also running other tests.

Just before 11:00pm, the doctor came in and said that Matt had tested positive for COVID, so that’s probably what was causing all of the weakness and brain fog. They were going to admit him, but they needed to get his blood pressure to a certain point before they could do that.

So they gave him a different blood pressure medication, and almost immediately, he had a reaction to it. His face and arms got beet red, his blood pressure and heart rate increased to scary levels, and his skin felt fiery hot. I sat there watching, feeling completely helpless and freaked out, while watching him have this scary reaction to medication, and while the nurses seemed completely unfazed by it at all. Matt was scared and miserable.

They finally admitted him, made a note of the allergic reaction to that medication in his records, and gave him more saline. It took about an hour for the reaction to that medication to wear off. After that, Matt seemed to settle down a bit and start feeling better. I stayed in his room the whole time, and by the time we went to sleep, he was feeling much better.

When we woke up on Sunday morning, Matt seemed fine. The doctor came in and told us about his treatment plan. He was going to switch Matt from normal saline to something called lactated ringers. He was going to continue the blood pressure meds (not the one he had the reaction to, obviously). He was going to start him on a course of steroids to help him breathe better. He was going to give him Tylenol for his slight fever. It all seemed pretty standard, and all day Sunday, Matt seemed like he was almost back to his normal self. He ate every bite of food that they brought him, and while he was still feeling a bit weak (meaning that I had to feed him and help him drink water), he was talking, laughing, joking around, etc.

I figured he was out of the woods, and was in good hands, so since it was Christmas Day, I felt comfortable leaving for a couple of hours to have Christmas brunch with my family. When I got back, Matt was still feeling good. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. He ate every bite of every meal they brought him. We both napped a bit. After dinner, I got us a snack out of the vending machine, and we watched Frasier until we went to sleep that night. I figured he was doing so well that they’d probably send him home the next day.

Then on Monday morning, everything changed. I woke up to the nurse coming in to check Matt’s vitals. I heard her asking him questions, but he wasn’t responding. That seemed strange to me, so I sat up and looked at him, and he was almost completely out of it. I mean, in a near catatonic state. He couldn’t move, couldn’t keep his eyes open, couldn’t keep his jaw shut, couldn’t move his tongue at all (and therefore, couldn’t speak at all), was having labored breathing on the exhale. His face and whole head were beet red and fiery hot to the touch.

I was freaking out. How could he have gone to bed the night before feeling just fine, only to wake up feeling and looking like this???

My mind immediately went to the reaction he had to the blood pressure medication. I knew this wasn’t COVID. This was a reaction to something they had given him.

But when the doctor came in, he brushed it off completely. He wrote the whole thing off to “this is just what happens with COVID.” That was completely unsatisfactory to me. I knew it was a reaction to something, and I was so furious that no one seemed the least bit fazed by his sudden overnight change.

I asked the nurse about all of his medications, and she went over everything they had given him. I told her to stop the blood pressure medication and see if that would make a change once it worked its way out of his system. After a few hours, nothing had changed. He was still the same near-catatonic state.

Matt kept trying to speak to me throughout the day, but because he couldn’t move his jaw or move his tongue, I couldn’t understand anything he was trying to say. On three occasions throughout the day, I did manage to make out what he was saying. And each time, he said, “Will I die?” Talk about ripping my heart out! Because quite honestly, I didn’t know.

He stayed in that near-catatonic state all day long, with me quizzing the nurse about this medication and that medication. Around 5:00pm, I found that they had put a medication patch on his arm. I called the nurse and asked about that. It was another blood pressure medication, so I ripped that off and told her no more blood pressure medication!!!!

No matter what I did, I couldn’t seem to get them to understand that what they were seeing in him — this sudden change overnight — was a reaction to something, and they needed to get to the bottom of it. But no matter what I did or said, they all seemed completely unfazed by his condition and his sudden change.

This went on all day and throughout the evening, as I was racking my brain trying to figure out what the heck had gone wrong, and what he was reacting to. By that point on Monday evening (after I ripped the medication patch off of his arm), I had made them stop all medications, and the only thing left was the saline.

That’s when it dawned on me that the doctor had told us he was switching Matt from regular saline (which Matt always responds well to) to something called lactated ringers. Matt had never had lactated ringers before. And as I was sitting by his bedside, praying and hoping that I could figure out the problem, that’s when it finally dawned on me that not only was his whole head beet red and fiery hot to the touch, but so was his left arm. His entire left arm…where the IV was going into his arm!!

I called the nurse on duty and had him turn off the IV immediately, and then asked him to give Matt some regular saline. He turned it off at 10:45pm, and then came back 30 minutes later with regular saline.

Within 30 minutes of starting the regular saline, the redness in Matt’s face and arm started to go away, and the temperature of his skin began to return to normal. Within an hour of getting normal saline, Matt was speaking in full sentences that I could actually understand him (for the first time that entire day).

And by 1:00am, he was laughing and joking around with me. And he also cried. He cried a lot, as he told me that he was sure he was going to die that day. He knew he was having a reaction to something, but he couldn’t speak and couldn’t communicate at all, so he was convinced that it was going to kill him.

After we both cried and rejoiced in the fact that we figured out the problem, we were both exhausted and ready to get some sleep. On Tuesday morning, Matt was perfectly fine (other than his blood oxygen being a tad bit low and needing supplemental oxygen for a couple of days as his body recovered and got stronger), and he was perfectly fine the rest of his hospital stay.

Matt was finally discharged on Thursday, and ever since then, we have been relaxing and trying to recuperate from the whole hellish ordeal of these last two weeks.

Matt has still had some residual weakness, but each day, he gets a little stronger. He’ll get there. Every day is a little bit better than the previous one.

So suffice it to say that the end of the year didn’t quite go as we had planned. And I feel so NOT ready for 2023. I don’t feel relaxed. I don’t feel ready. I don’t feel excited and ready to get things started.

I feel exhausted, and I want to hibernate for a week. I feel emotionally and mentally drained. This isn’t quite how I wanted to start the new year. But I am thankful. I’m so thankful that Matt is doing better now, and he’s almost back to his normal self. I’m thankful that we figured out what was causing the problem at the hospital. (The nurse literally told me that if I hadn’t been there, and if I hadn’t figured it out, Matt would probably still be in that same catatonic state, and they would have just thought it was a really bad case of COVID.) I’m thankful that we’re back at home where we can rest from our two-week ordeal.

But I might need another week before I can feel excited about 2023 and jumping back into home-related projects. 🙂 I’m not quite there yet.

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