New tablets were prescribed and collected and we hoped that Karen would begin to improve.
Its at this point I suppose I should mention my failings as a carer.
I am abysmal.
In fact I'm worse that that.
In mitigation, by this point Karen had been ill and bedridden for 11 days. Her breast milk had all but dried up. We had a hungry 7 month old baby who still required feeding in the night, I've slept on the sofa because Karen is keeping me awake and I'm up at 05:30 every morning to go to work. I'm not making excuses, but I hope you will at least cut me a bit of slack after reading the last paragraph.
So, on Tuesday 6th December I received a phone call at work, from Karen, saying that she needed me to come home urgently as she's confined to the bathroom with vomiting and diarrhoea.
I dashed home.
We managed to get an emergency appointment at the local GP and amazingly, Karen was able to walk the short distance to attend. In hindsight, what happened next was, in my humble opinion, nothing short of malpractice.
The Doctors advice was to stop taking the antibiotics as if they were going to have worked, they would have by now and that they were just adding to Karen's problems. He then went on to flippantly mention a mate of his who had a kidney infection and went on to develop septicaemia and how dangerous that could be.
Finally, he berated Karen for discussing her fears about her breast milk drying up, stating that she had "done her bit" by breastfeeding for 6 months and that even that had questionable benefits.
And off home we went, without a test of blood pressure, temperature or any kind of examination.
6pm that day I called 999.
It was my Mum who saved Karen's life.
I don't know how much longer I would have let it go on, or what symptoms would have prompted me to take more direct action.
She was laid in bed, deliriously talking gibberish.
Normally she leaves that to me. Sorry, I shouldn't joke.
The Docs at the Hospital did comment that if we had left it any longer "it would be a different story" and I think we all knew what that meant.
We will both be eternally grateful for my Mum being there that day and effectively saying "Enough is Enough"
Even at this stage, we didn't know just how ill Karen was.
But, within 30 minutes of being at the Northern General, the penny didn't drop.
It was hammered home.
I popped outside to make the customary 'updates' telephone calls, leaving Karen on a bed in A&E and returned to find her in a resuscitation bay and being readied for transfer.
This change of location and the defibrillator on the foot of the bed was the catalyst for a feeling at the pit of my stomach, which I had never felt before.
The huddles of health care professionals, speaking in hushed tones, uttering phrases such as "not responding" and "critical" did nothing to ease the situation.
Karen was swiftly moved to the Intensive Care Unit where, upon entering, I was told to say goodbye and was ushered off to the waiting area whilst they made her comfortable.
This was heartbreaking. I was sat there, at 11pm, on my own.
And I have never felt so alone.
Every beep, every buzzer, every close of a door I heard come from behind those doors made me think the worst. And then in a split second, I would take a grip of myself and talk myself round. "Shes not going to die" echoed around and around in my mind. I even said it out loud to myself a couple of times, to make it more believable.
My thoughts were distracted slightly when Karen's best mate turned up. She'd asked if she could come down as she wouldn't sleep at home.
I was thankful of the company.
And the 2 packets of crisps, a muffin and a half eaten bag of Minstrels.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was told I could go and see Karen.
This was an instant relief, not because I could see her, but because it meant that she was still alive.
It transpired that the lengthy wait as caused by the fitting of an IV feed, directly into Karen's central blood line, which had to be stitched into her jugular as her veins had started to collapse.
I was so glad to see her face and be able to talk to her and hold her hand.
Shortly after, I was ushered away by one of the consultants for the diagnosis, which consisted of "we know what is happening to her body but we don't know what is causing it at this stage, so we will continue to fight against the symptoms until we find the problem"
I was told that Karen had gone into Septic Shock, which is "the result of severe infection and sepsis, causing multiple organ failure and death"
I obviously didn't know this at the time, I just knew it was serious, so I looked it up on my iPhone.
And did myself no favours, particularly when I read "The mortality rate from sepsis is approximately 40% in adults and is significantly greater when left untreated for more than 7 days"
So, there we were. I was advised to go home to get some rest and could come back tomorrow.
|Our very own scene from [insert name of hospital drama here]|
To cut a very long and medically complex story short, it was a juggling act between the unholy trinity of blood pressure, heart rate and temperature. If one went up, the others dropped dangerously low and vice versa. This was then further complicated by a dose of bronchial pneumonia, thrown in for good measure, as Karen's lungs started to fill with fluid. All things told, she wasn't getting any better and the Consultants were at odds with what to do next.
|Lungs minus 80%|
In what seemed like a very rushed decision in a very frantic period of activity, the Consultant decided to perform a nephrostomy.
A kidney drain to you and me.
Given Karen's current instability, it was decided that at the same time they would put her in an induced coma, so that they could control her breathing and other vital stats.
As you can probably imagine, this was terrifying, for all concerned. In fairness to the Consultant, he was brilliant in his explanation of his thought processes surrounding this decision, which did help us come to terms with what was about to happen.
For the second time in under a week, I kissed Karen goodbye and she was taken away to theatre.
I had been told that the procedure would be carried out whilst Karen was in the coma and then they would monitor her overnight to see how she responded. This would also allow Karen's body to rest from all the fighting it had been doing. They would then try to bring her back to consciousness for short periods and keep doing this until she was able to breathe unaided. I left her in this state in the early hours of Saturday 10th and went home.
It was at this time that I thought I ought to notify friends and family of our situation, as up until this point, the fact that Karen was in hospital was known by only a handful of people. Now, Facebook has its critics, but in cases like this; where you wish to communicate to the masses, it was a godsend.
And a morale booster too. Within hours of posting a message, hundreds of well wishes came flooding in. It was humbling to know that we had so many people thinking about us, from all corners of the globe.
If you were one of those people, I'd like to thank you again, from the bottom of my heart.
The good feelings kept coming that morning as when I phoned Intensive Care for my morning update, I was surprised and overjoyed to hear that Karen had been brought out of the coma and was breathing unaided again. The nephrostomy appeared to have done the trick and the Consultant was confident that they could start moving forward with treating the cause rather than dealing with the symptoms.
Karen wasn't out of the woods just yet, but it certainly felt like we were taking a step in the right direction.
It transpired that the severity of Karen's illness was one in thousands.
And it was definitely a case of planets aligning more than anything else, as no one component part was particularly life threatening (root cause, not symptoms)
The general consensus from the Consultant is that Karen had a kidney stone which caused the first pains and prompted a trip to the hospital. The Hospital failed to spot the stone and diagnosed an infection, which prompted the prescription of incorrect drugs, which Karen had an allergic reaction to.
The allergic reaction made her ill and weakened her body's battle against the infection, which allowed it to rage behind the blockage caused by the stone. The infection got into her blood and caused septicaemia, which the GP failed to spot, even though he was banging on about how serious it was! This was left unchecked and developed into sepsis which then in turn caused her to go into Septic Shock.
A chance in a million
The next few days saw Karen's strength and health increase and within a week, she had been taken off the critical list and moved to a general ward. And this meant that we could do the one thing which had driven her fight to recover; I could take Edith to see her.
There were tears all round.
I look back now and I am eternally grateful for having such a resilient, calm and relaxed little baby.
Her breastfeeding had been abruptly stopped, her Mummy had disappeared and her Daddy didn't know whether he was coming or going. And she handled this without an ounce of drama. She even started sleeping right through the night during this period. Well, for a few days anyway!
Karen's time on the Urology Ward consisted of monitoring and strategising about what to do about the kidney stone, but all we were concerned with was the fact that Christmas was approaching fast.
It was down to the wire, but with a few days to spare we finally got Karen home in time for Christmas.
It was a quiet and simple affair but we were all together for Edith's First Christmas and nothing else mattered.
|Desparately thin but smiling|
Ours were outstanding.
Terry & Carole Roebuck (My Mum and Dad) Justine Childes (Karen's sister) Kate Cam (Karen's best mate) Joe & Fliss France (My best mates) were simply amazing during Karen's spell in hospital. It’s usual to say “I don’t know what we’d have done without them” but I do know. We wouldn’t have coped. Words cannot express how grateful we are for their support and assistance and I feel unbelievably privileged to have such outstanding parents, family and friends.
And a big thank you again to all of our friends who called, text, tweeted, sent gifts and came to visit us.
At the time of writing, Karen has been signed off from the hospital and will be monitored for the next few years. They never did get the kidney stone in the end, having tried sonic blasting, laser treatment and a snatch and grab operation, so it now lies embedded in the wall of Karen's kidney, where we are assured it will stay.
And if it moves, we'll know what to look out for!
And I'm trying to be a reformed carer, I promise.
The guilt of what could have happened has seen to that.
That was bloody hard work.
Writing this, I mean. Not the ordeal itself.
That was easy.
Alright, I'll stop joking about such things. But if you didn't laugh, you'd cry.
And crying is for jessies!