Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Nerd Who Lived

The infection

Sometime in the first part of December, 2015, I was exposed to Legionnaires’ disease. Yes, the one from American Legion convention of 1976. This is an especially dangerous form of pneumonia. Consult the web sites for the CDC, the Mayo Clinic, the National Institutes of Health, or Wikipedia for more details.

Jennie & I have been over it several times, but we can’t be sure where I picked up the infection or why I seemed to be the only one affected (we both went just about anyplace I would have been exposed). This is a “reportable disease,” so the local health department has been informed of everywhere we remember going, and they (are required to?) report this to the CDC. In other words, it’s a Big Deal. A Big, Hairy Deal. A Big, Fat, Hairy Deal.

A couple of days before my vacation started (December 17, so call it the 15th or 16th), I started feeling a little woozy at work. It wasn’t a big deal at that time — just a little under the weather. On the 17th, we went to a nice dinner at a restaurant (a national franchise) and then went to see the Star Wars premier with a few hundred close friends.

On December 23 (Wednesday), I was feeling worse, so I went to a walk-in clinic (not an urgent care facility). I was taking acetominophen and ibuprofen at regular intervals, but it wasn’t doing any good. I was told to keep it up.

I wasn’t improved any on Christmas Day (Friday, per the Western church’s calendar), so even though I sat with the family to open presents, I didn’t eat Christmas Dinner with everyone. Jennie brought me a portion of the steak — Michael is an expert on the grill — and baked sweet potatoes, so I got to eat. Just not with everyone else.

On December 27 (Sunday), I was in even worse shape: Fever, chills, achiness, and respiratory problems had finally set in. They prescribed a standard antibiotic. It did no good.

The hospital

On December 29 (Tuesday), Jennie talked me into going to the Wellstar Urgent Care facility in Acworth. After they quickly checked me in (my medical insurance is associated with this health system), they took my vital signs and performed a chest X-ray. The next thing I knew, I was on a gurney, in an ambulance, and on my way to the hopital with an oxygen mask strapped to my face. This is the sort of thing ordinary people (and I!) can (and should) classify as Bad News.

It’s also the last thing I distinctly remember until Monday, January 4.

I’m told that the dose of sedative given to most people 2 pills, but for me it took 8. (Who’s not a fan of the coffee-swilling Dilbert character, Wally?)

I’m told that at some point I made motions like writing with one hand on a pad held in the other. (I vaguely remember this, but I might be constructing a “memory” based on being told about it.) Given my wife’s tablet computer, I “wrote” a few “words,” but their content and meaning were indecipherable. Apparently, I hadn’t had enough coffee in several days (see previous paragraph).

I’m also told that at some point, I tried to remove the ventilator, but my wife stopped me and told me I couldn’t. I took a weak swipe at her, but without much enthusiasm (see 2 paragraphs back).

I’m told that on Sunday, January 3, I succeeded in removing the ventilator. Without coffee. After this, I was (ahem) restrained.

Noonish or after on Monday, January 4, nurses removed the ventilator (the official way), and then they woke me up.

Before I go further, stop now and go read my daughter Hannah’s brief essay, Lessons from the Waiting Room. This is from someone who’s learning to trust God, and to understand his sovereignty. And she’s my daughter. (Did I already say that? Pay no attention to me. I’m with her.)

I was told then that I had survived the worst form of bacterial pneumonia. Back on the 29th, the ambulance had taken me to the Emergency Room, Do Not Pass Go, etc., and I was put on multiple antibiotics. I was admitted to the ICU from there. After the cultures finally grew, I was reduced to the one that is the go-to medication for Legionnaires’ disease, and recovery continued apace. At the time I write this (Wednesday, January 13), I’m at home with about a week of the antibiotic regimen left. I’m still weak, but my strength and balance improve daily.

After I awoke last Monday, people came through my room in the ICU at a fairly steady clip, and except for time I asked to rest, I wasn’t alone until lights out that night.

I woke up around 3 in the morning Monday night/Tuesday morning, and thought about what might have happened. What could have happened. What almost happened. I began to shed quiet tears, and I called out, “I am so grateful to be alive!” And I still am. When I told Jennie about this later, she said, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you!” and I said, “Why? I wasn’t talking to you.” But I should have been. She’s not the sovereign God who loves me and carries me all the way through, but she was a glove on his hand to save my life.

My condition improved steadily while I was in the hospital. The peculiar antibiotic used for Legionnaires’ disease (skipping medico-nerdy stuff — read one of the articles linked above for details) is well-known, and the treatment discipline is well-defined, however rare it is.

Home and grace

I have been home since Friday, January 8, and I keep getting better every day. I have another week or so on the antibiotic, and I anticipate full recovery.

And I anticipate continued reliance on the grace and love of my Savior, and of the glove on his hand (and occasionally, the pointy-toed boot on his foot for correcting me in sometimes uncomfortable ways), my wife Jennie.

[Reference to my current situation obvious]
Come Thou Fount of every blessing. Tune my heart to sing Thy grace.
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love.

[Why Ebenezer? This is a fixed point I want to remember for the rest of my life.]
Here I raise my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I’m come,
and I hope, by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home.
Jesus sought me when a stranger, wandering from the fold of God.
[The sinless life and innocent death of Jesus is my only rescue.]
He, to rescue me from danger, interposed His precious blood.

[But that fixed point does not end my dependence on God.]
O! to grace how great a debtor daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.
[If you don’t feel it, I don’t think you’re being honest with yourself.]
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love —
Here’s my heart, O! take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above.

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