I’m coming off of THE WORST health drama (of my life..)
It’s a long-ass story, but to recap: last year I had my tonsils out, and when I was almost done recovering from that, a pre-existing cyst that was located behind my tonsils got infected. It swelled up and landed me in the hospital, and I had to have another surgery to open it up (but not remove it entirely).
Over the last year, that cyst has continued to get infected every few weeks or months, draining infected pus-y fluid into my mouth, and so my doctor and I decided it was time to remove it.
We had avoided doing so previously because it was going to be a pretty unpleasant surgery for them. This thing was located deep in my neck, nestled between my spine and carotid artery. How do you open up someone’s neck and just scoop a nebulous object out? My doctor decided to involve another surgeon and the two hour procedure was scheduled on the 20th of this month.
After weeks of anxiety, I had the surgery (on a Monday), and spent a night in the hospital to recover. As soon as I woke up from surgery they gave me some oxy, and I don’t know if it was the anesthesia or the oxy or something else, but I became violently ill for the next six or so hours. At the same time, I was sweating profusely. My whole body was pouring with sweat, to the point where my hair and clothes were soaked. The nurses were wiping me with towels and cold packs. All while I’m vomiting violently. The sweating slowed down, but the vomiting continued. Later, my doctor told me this may have all happened because surgery in my neck could have stimulated my vagus nerve. In any case, it fucking sucked. I went home the following day (Tuesday).
My neck had been sliced open, a drain was sticking out, life sucked. I went back (Wednesday) to get the drain out - life was better. The following day (Thursday) I started to swell up under my chin and on the side of my incision. The next day (Friday) it got worse, and I sent pics to the doctor. He said it wasn’t surprising, and that the antibiotics I was on should help.
All hell broke loose on the weekend. Saturday I realized things were NOT right. My face got so swollen and tight, and there was redness beginning to emanate from the area. I had barely been eating all week, and it was getting really hard to swallow anything. My fever crept upwards throughout the morning. I called a 24 hr nurse line, and she said that the fever + and difficulty swallowing from swelling meant I had to go to the ER. I hung up and burst into tears, and packed a bag. I called a friend and she drove me to the ER, with me crying in her car as she held my hand.
At the ER they ran a CT scan and found an infection, and sent me home with antibiotics. Relieved, I called another friend to take me home. I went to bed that night DETERMINED to get better. I left my hospital bag packed, just in case.
Sunday I woke up feeling pretty decent and did whatever sick people do. In the afternoon I took a fitful nap. I had wild dreams, and in one of them I was violently throwing up again. I woke up some time later and stretched, running my hands through my hair, when I felt a ton of wetness in my hair and on my pillow. Immediately I thought my vomit dream had become a reality, but no, it was PUS. I ran to the bathroom and saw that the opening from my surgical drain had become a geyser for pus :(((( I cleaned up as best I could, putting a pathetic little band-aid on it, and again called my friend for a ride to the hospital.
This is where shit really goes sideways. The visit starts with them being kind of like ‘meh, you don’t even need to change into a gown’ and ends in emergency surgery. The doctors this visit were SO SWEET. The ER doc was this funny older guy who used all the most endearing nicknames with me (sweetie, etc) but in a fatherly way, not a creepy way. Apparently my CT scan from the previous day had shown no fluid, and he said things had progressed much more rapidly than expected. At this point I changed into a gown. He decided to try to push some fluid out, which made me cry actual tears from the pain. (I can’t really do narcotics due to the aforementioned barfing problem). The ENT on call got consulted, and he decided to come in to the hospital to work on me further.
He was also a sweet dude. I realized later I actually saw him once before, around the time I was going to Spain and needed a quick look at my cyst infection. He was unhelpful that time, but was clutch this time. Anyway, he put the sheet over me and numbed me up (warning me the numbing might not work!!!), and started poking around as I lay still as can be. I was doing some serious cognitive work to imagine I was somewhere else while it was happening. I tried to imagine my time in London and Pairs and Mexico for all the peaceful and happy memories as my neck was getting squeezed.
Then, the doctor said, hey, do you have the call light? Can you hit it for me?
I was like oh yeah sure. Wait.. is something wrong? And he explained that I was bleeding profusely. The site he was working on was near my external jugular and something something the surgical drain from earlier in the week weakened it and now it had broken open. He said not to worry, that someone just had to keep pressure on it until they could fix it.
The next bit was disturbing. This doctor was just covering for my normal ENT’s on call shift, so this doctor doesn’t actually work at the hospital I was at. So he was asking for supplies and the med techs and nurses just didn’t have what he was looking for. They grabbed a cautery and he said it was way too small. Eventually he got someone else to hold my blood vessel while he went off and looked for stuff. He came back and said we just needed to go into surgery. Eventually the bleeding slowed and they were able to wrap it for the moment. He told me these things happen slower than in grey’s anatomy, and he was right. I sat there awhile texting (still in a bloody gown), until they were finally ready for me.
Surgery went smoothly and I woke up shaking like crazy, but not sick at all! A nurse talked me into trying dilaudid with nausea meds and that was my savior for a few days. I stayed in the hospital on IV antibiotics until Wednesday. There was a lot of pain, shooting from my chin to my ear, but again, dilaudid made it so I could relax and sleep hours at a time. My ENT consulted with an infectious disease specialist and sent me home on more antibiotics.
I went back to see him today (Thursday) and he removed the new drain they had placed, and then he stuffed the wound with sterile gauze. I have to go back again tomorrow (Friday) for him to check up on it.
I’m definitely feeling a lot better. The wound is still leaking pus so I’m not out of the woods, but I’m getting there. I lost my quarantine 10 lb during this, which I’m not mad about. My appetite isn’t back and I still can’t fully swallow properly, either. I missed a week of work for surgery, a week for infection drama, and my doctor told me to take another week to recover. I’ll use my sick time and some PTO, because it’s not like I need PTO during a pandemic anyway - there’s nowhere to go.
Other thoughts: The hospital stay was interesting. I legit made friends with one of the nurses, we have so much in common we’re like the same person. We traded instas and hopefully can hang out sometime! There were lots of belligerent geriatric patients at the hospital (one lady down the hall was a non-english speaker and was so confused and angry and shouting all the time) so pretty much all the staff loved working with me, a quiet polite non-demanding young person.
Also of note, all the doctors keep telling me how chill I was throughout the whole thing, and how tough I am. I never really thought of myself as tough with stuff like this? The doctor told me today my answers are always very definitive when they’re doing something painful to me. He’ll ask if he needs to stop and I’m like “NO!”, lol. I told him it reminded me a lot of working out at the gym. Just push through the pain. My PT also says I hide pain super well, it takes a lot for them to tell when I am struggling with something. Also something I wouldn’t say to them but is still true, is that having grown up with abuse, emotionally this whole situation is FAAaaaaAAARR less difficult than stuff I’ve experienced before. I guess I can be proud of that mental toughness.
This has also again brought up interesting thoughts about the people in my life. I’ve had to rely on a large part of my inner social circle here in Seattle. Having no significant other or close family to rely on is fucking scary and life is just not built for it. It’s not fair. But I’m grateful for each person who stepped up for me when I needed it.
That’s all for now. Wish me luck that I continue to kick this infection!
Last updated July 31, 2020