Here I am just two months or so removed from a wonderful ten-day ICU stay (you can read about that here) and what are we doing? Taking Son-The-Younger and his two girls on a short cruise! Just what the hell am I thinking??? COVID-19 is running rampant across the globe and I’m just waltzing right in. Plus, we now have a confirmed case of the virus locally.
It may seem that the virus is targeting cruise ships. But I think it’s more of a “captive audience” type of thing. Let’s face it, you have thousands of folks miles from land all stuck together like sardines. It’s a petri dish blissfully floating out on the water.
Now, this is a short three-day cruise. Just out to the Bahamas and back. Nothing spectacular. Since it is a short cruise I don’t think it will attract the “jet set” travelers. I just don’t see anyone that’s been in any of the hot zones around the world joining us on this little adventure. My main concern is the crew. This will be Wifey and my fifth cruise (the first for the kids) and we love the international flavor of the crews. But that does pose a greater risk of having someone that has been in a hot zone being on board.
We must trust that the cruise line (Royal Caribbean in this case) will live up to their promises of greater sanitation for most areas on the ship, more hand sanitation stations, and better screening of crew and passengers prior to boarding. They have also stated that the fees for medical screening/care of anyone complaining of most “flu like” symptoms will be waived for the duration of the trip. They appear to have an expanded quarantine area ready, just in case.
Naturally the CDC has called for the elderly and those with compromised respiratory systems (and I fit at least one of those categories, maybe both depending on who you ask), to avoid travel “especially cruises”. Yeah… right. I never was one to listen to authority. There is a chance that I could be denied boarding. If I have a fever (which I haven’t since that hospital stay), or if my constant coughing is deemed to be a problem.
We are leaving on that most auspicious of days, Friday the 13th! So what could go wrong? It is spring break for the girls as well.
They say the virus can be killed with a greater than 60% alcohol solution. I’m sure one of the bars on board will have something that’s 120 proof or higher. Plus, we can use this as a warm-up for “Amateur Drinking Day #2” St. Patrick’s Day.
So, watch this space. Wifey may be handling a post soon while I’m in quarantine, or worse. I’m confident that all will turn out well and I will have pictures to post next week. Now please excuse me, as I must prepare for this trip. By which I mean the single malt is calling my name!
This is the long awaited follow up to A Very Delayed Post. While not required reading for this post, it’s a much more upbeat article, so I suggest you read it.
As I mentioned in the Delayed Post, the health issues started early on the morning of Saturday, 28 January. I woke up about 0300 that day with fever and chills. Being 500 miles from home, and in the middle of the Campbell Christmas Vacation, I elected to self treat. I started the Tylenol and lots of water, which will usually get me through most minor colds and such. But I have never had a virus like this.
By the time we returned home on New Year’s Eve, I was down right miserable. I had next to no appetite, no energy (which was good as I had no desire to do anything other than crawl into bed), a racking cough, and was still plagued with fever and chills.
I sat in a tepid shower for almost 45 minutes in an attempt to break what ever bug that was beating me down so badly. Needless to say, it didn’t help. On New Year’s Day I told Wifey to take me to an Urgent Care. She (being the smart one in this relationship), ignored my request and took me straight to the ER. While skipping Urgent Care and going straight to the ER probably didn’t change the outcome any, it at least skipped a stop and got me the care I desperately needed just that much quicker. Plus one less co-pay!
The ER nurse was our friend. She took one look at me and my basic vital signs and skipped past the basic triage area and right into a treatment room. The only stop was to have an EKG done. Once again I was in A-Fib with RVR (Atrial Fibrillation with a Rapid Ventricular Response). This is not a new thing for me, but this time I had absolutely no symptoms! I could not tell that my heart rate was 188, and I had no chest pain. All I knew was that I couldn’t breathe.
The usual IVs were started, swabs taken to see if I had any of the flu strains, or other contagious processes going on. I do remember another nurse telling me I was positive for Influenza Virus, and she gave me Tamiflu. This was roughly 1630 (4:30 PM). I had already been in the ER for about 8 hours by this time. I remember friends and family coming into the ER room, in full gowns, masks, and gloves. All the time I was thinking this is just a bad cold folks. Admit me, give me antibiotics for a couple of days and everything will be alright. Wow was I wrong.
Sometime in the afternoon of the 1st, I suddenly could not breathe. I was in acute respiratory distress. My lungs felt as big as the room, yet I couldn’t get any air in. As a long time COPD/Chronic Asthma patient, I was trying every breathing technique I could think of. I’m sure I didn’t remember all those tips, I was going into full panic mode. But nothing was helping.
It was vitally clear to my amazing medical team that the A-Fib was a secondary issue now. If I couldn’t get air in, it didn’t matter if my heart was in a normal rhythm or not.
I guess it was around this same time that my test results starting coming in. Not only was that Flu virus attacking me, I also had a bacterial streptococcus infection. Both of these combined to not only basically take out my left lung with a pneumonia, I was going septic. My blood was so infected that my body was starting to shut down. The real last thing I remember the ER doctor telling me was “You’re a lot sicker than you think you are.” Needless to say that scared me.
I’m not sure who brought up that I should be intubated. But that person saved my life. I do remember giving my permission for the procedure. Whomever I was speaking to at this point in time asked if I understood what they were suggesting. Being a retired Army Medic (a paramedic in the civilian world), I understood exactly what the procedure entailed. I willingly let them sedate me, put the tube down my throat, and hook me to a ventilator. While I understood that having a machine breathe for me would neither speed up nor lengthen the healing process, I knew taking my now full panic mode brain out the equation would only be a good thing. When I mentioned that to whoever it was, they smiled and said, “OK! Let’s do this.”
As all the equipment was being brought into the room, two things went through my head, and this will tell you just how separated my brain was becoming from reality.
First, that my paternal grandfather, Herbert J. Campbell died of exactly what I was going through; Pneumonia, secondary to the flu. He passed away February 1919. Almost 100 years before me sitting in the ER with the same crap coursing through my body. Second, I was looking at all the cool tech they were bringing in, and was slightly upset that I wouldn’t get to see this cool tech in action. And as much of a history buff, and wanna-be genealogist as am I, following in my grandfather’s footsteps was, surprisingly, not real high on my bucket list.
It was late on the afternoon of the 4th that the decision to extubate me was made. I’m unsure who was consulted, if anyone other than the medical team. They have brought me just up enough to ask me questions (wifey said I was trying to talk to her in “morse code” at times) or not. In any case the tube was coming out.
As mentally frightening as everything up to now had been, this was physically frightening. The first real conscious thought I had was waking up and choking due to the tube still being down my throat.
They had to wait for all the meds to wear off and to make sure my lungs would start on their own before removing the tube. So I’m now fully awake trying to breathe on my own, with a tube in my windpipe. I had a suction tube in one hand while trying to pull gently on the tube to make room to suction my mouth and throat. I was gagging and didn’t want to aspirate anything and cause another pneumonia. Of course the med team was right there and took the tube out before anything bad happened.
The next 6 days are very boring. I never left the ICU, not because I needed the extra care or attention, there were just no available beds. The only beds available in the entire hospital were in the ICU. I didn’t mind it at all. I had great care. Everyone from the housekeepers emptying the trash and mopping floor every day, to the patient care techs would took care of all my basic needs before I was even allowed out my bed, to the totally amazing respiratory techs, to the lab folks (but was it really necessary to do the blood draws at 0530??), to finally the nurses. The last few days of my stay, when I should have been on a regular medical floor, I would have Physical, Occupational, and Speech Therapists come in to not only do their jobs, but sit and just talk, and some stayed a little longer to listen the music I had playing on my tablet every day.
Friends, I have never been so scared in my life.
My main concern now, other than just getting back to full strength, is learning to live as a Warfarin patient. I have to watch how much Vitamin K is in my diet. It’s not that I can’t have these foods, I just have to find a balance between meds and food. Nothing new for me.
I do hope this hasn’t bored you. It’s a bit therapeutic for me to put it all down. I’m sure my dates and times are off, days blend together in events like this.
I have to apologize to ya’ll. We took our Campbell Christmas Vacation as planned, leaving here on December 26th. While the vacation was a joy, I became very ill, and was hospitalized on our return. That will be the subject of my next post, as I am still sorting out details of the whole vacation/illness. So this will be a quick post with some pictures of the vacation aspect.
The plan was to leave here on the morning of the 26th, and we actually made it work. We piled Wifey, Son-The-Younger, both granddaughters and myself into the car and headed north. Our destination was Maggie Valley, NC. We rented a larger cabin than the one Wifey and I rented two years ago for a five night stay. The weather was good, and for once, traffic not an issue at all. We all got our suitcases unpacked and stuff put away in our rooms and away we went!
Friday was Son-The-Younger’s birthday and we promised him we would take him the Sierra Nevada Brewery just outside of Asheville, NC. Wifey and I visited the brewery and took the tour two years ago. Son-The-Younger was looking forward to this trip. We took the Blue Ridge Parkway over the mountains to Asheville. We stopped at many of the scenic overlooks and the girls took many pictures.
We arrived at the Brewery just in time for our scheduled tour (you have to make reservations), and Wifey and the girls went to “The Back Porch”, an open area that has food, a garden and even – get this – beer! Although there wasn’t any live music that day, they do have an outdoor stage, as well as an indoor area in case of bad weather. And is very dog friendly.
We drove home and had a great BBQ dinner, which was another “requirement” for this trip.
Saturday was a planned “quiet” day. In the morning we took the girls to do some “gem” mining. Then Son-The-Younger and I visited Elevated Mountain Distillery, while Wifey took the girls to a little store we enjoyed on our last visit.
It was a good thing that we didn’t have much planned for Saturday. I woke up about 3AM with fever and chills. So after the short morning excursions, I went back to bed for the afternoon. I think I sweated through my clothes twice that afternoon. The rest of the family went tubing (man made snow, sadly) while I basically sweated every ounce of liquid out of my body. Son-The-Younger tried to get a fire going in one of the outside fire pits, but it was rained out.
I awoke Sunday morning feeling better, but not great. I knew I was still fighting whatever bug I had picked up, I just didn’t realize how badly I was losing that fight.
But not giving up, we again went over the mountains, but this time from Cherokee, NC to Gatlinburg, TN. We went right through the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, and we hadn’t even gone half a mile into the park when we came across a herd of Elk. The girls were so happy.
We made it to Gatlinburg with no issues. We even found a Mexican restaurant that Wifey and I had tried almost 20 years ago! And it was right next to the Ripley’s Aquarium which was our first scheduled stop (after tacos of course). Then the real fun began.
The plan all along was to get me a wheelchair while at the aquarium. My legs were still heavily impacted by the back injury, so I figured I would not be able to walk the entire distance required. Turns out I couldn’t even make it into the aquarium!
Going up the steps to get to the wheelchair I passed out. I was so lucky that there was a guy right behind me who saw it coming, probably before I realized what was happening. He was a strong enough guy that he grabbed me and set me down so I only ended up with was a scrape on one knee where it hit the pillar I has holding on to. Luckily it passed somewhat quickly and by the time the kids met us with the wheelchair I was coherent, and some of my strength returned. It was nice have everyone push my wheelchair so I could see the major parts of the aquarium, and there were plenty of places that I could be parked while everyone else went to see something that would have been a tight fit. We got in a few other attractions that afternoon, then head back to our cabin in Maggie Valley.
I will leave the health issues for the next post. I knew I was sick, but I really didn’t feel any worse or better for the rest of the trip.
Monday found us in Cherokee, NC. I really didn’t expect the girls to enjoy the museum as much as they did. They were asking questions about the displays and had good comments when their questions were answered. it’s really nice to see them getting inquisitive about things that aren’t covered very well in school. The Cherokee people have an absolutely beautiful creation story. Personally, I find it every bit as relevant as any other creation story. It is no more, nor any less credible the one most of us have been force feed all these years.
Every time I visit a museum of this sort, I am saddened beyond words how native peoples have been treated by we white people. On every continent we have hurt if not straight out destroyed entire cultures. They had a veteran’s display in the museum. It told of a Cherokee medical doctor that was on a landing craft on D-Day. I didn’t know they had any doctors on the landing craft. But it makes me wonder were there any “white” doctors on any other landing craft? Then there was a display of Cherokee Medal of Honor Recipient. I’m sorry I don’t have names for these, and the other Cherokee’s enshrined in this part of the museum. I was so overcome, and still am, with emotion I had to leave the area and just sit down in the lobby. Knowing that chances are that these gentlemen had already been forcibly removed from their ancestral homes to the squalid desperation of a reservation, but still answered the call to serve this nation (not the Cherokee Nation, but the “white man nation”) amazes me. Sadly, most of the town of Cherokee was closed for the season, so shopping was limited.
However, Son-The-Younger conquered the elements and got the fire pit going. I am told the s’mores were wonderful!
The next morning we loaded everything back up in the car and headed home. We only stopped long enough to visit with Lil-Big-Sis at lunch. There are so many more stories to tell of this trip, but I just don’t have the energy to keep this going, nor a voice to dictate to Wifey, so dear reader this will have to suffice.
But I leave you with What’s Stuck In Wifey’s Head this morning. Enjoy!