Remembering March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick’s Day

Today, it has been 2 years since I nearly died from the flu. The event is never far from my mind and I hope someday I will be able to Elsa It (let it go). It was and is hard to believe that the flu could be so destructive. Due to the methods needed to save my life, I have lasting scars that I have to live with for the rest of my life.

Because I failed to get further help when I didn’t get better, my lungs started filling up with fluid. This used to be referred to as Wet Lung. Today it is called Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). If I had waited another 12 hours to get help, I probably wouldn’t have made it.

“ARDS can occur in those who are critically ill or who have significant injuries. ARDS is often fatal, the risk increasing with age and severity of illness.

People with ARDS have severe shortness of breath and often are unable to breathe on their own without support from a ventilator.”Google

I can’t thank the doctors, nurses and staff at Hardin Memorial Hospital enough. Not only was my medical condition difficult, I was a difficult patient after waking!

Also, I am forever grateful to all the friends and family that gathered daily. There was a very large group of people that came to visit. When I woke and found out the number of people who had visited, I was beyond touched. I’ve always thought I was a loner with few friends. This was the silver lining in this wretched event. To learn that I have friends and there are people who care.

Special thanks to my friends Michele and Debra, who rallied a group of people to help support my family. Many people brought food, donated cash and gift cards to use at restaurants. Thank you all so much. To this day, our family is still thankful for your help.

SPECIAL NOTE: I did NOT receive the flu shot prior to getting ill. I had never gotten the flu shot. I get it now. Even if it only reduces my chances of getting the flu by 10%, it’s well worth it to me.

Below is a timeline of events with pictures. It’s the easiest way to explain how everything happened.

TIME LINE OF EVENTS

  • SUNDAY, MARCH 13
    Fever: 102, extreme coughing. I went to the ER because it was a Sunday. I was diagnosed with Influenza A. The doctors prescribed cough medicine and Tamaflu. We couldn’t afford the tamaflu – so I didn’t take it. I often wonder if I had borrowed the money and gotten the medicine, would it have made a difference?
  • MONDAY, MARCH 14
    Fever: 104, extreme coughing. Returned to ER that night but left because it was busy. Again I wonder if I had stayed, would they have admitted me and I wouldn’t have gotten so bad.
  • WENDENSDAY, MARCH 16
    Could not lay down because I was unable to breathe. I had to use adult diapers because my coughing was so intense that I couldn’t hold my bladder.
  • THURSDAY, MARCH 17
    I saw my primary physician. My oxygen saturation was 78%. I was put on oxygen and rushed to the hospital by ambulance.

    At the hospital I was given the option of being ventilated immediately or waiting until it was an emergency. I chose immediately because I couldn’t breathe.

    After waking from the ventilation sedation, I was in a lot of pain in my back. They gave me pain medicine and I remember nothing after that. It would be two weeks before I was conscious again.

    They took x-rays of my lungs and found that they were 50% full of fluid. Four hours later my lungs were 100% full of fluid.

  • FRIDAY, MARCH 18 – THURSDAY, MARCH 31
    • I was put in a medically induced coma. I ran a fever as high as 105.5, so they kept a cooling blanket on me. This is only thing I recall from being in the coma because when I woke I thought I was in a freezer with ice cream piled on top of me.
    • I was placed in a RotoProne bed (view a video here of the bed in use | not me). The bed gently rotates back and forth which helps to move the fluid in your lungs, instead of it staying in a permanent position. Also, you are face down because there are more openings to your lungs in your back. The openings are called called alveoli.
       

      Photos of Me in the RotoProne Bed
      RotoProne Bed with patient RotoProne Bed with patient
       
       
    • After eight days in the RotoProne bed I was placed in standard hospital bed.
       

      Photo of Me on the Ventilator
      Ventilator - Stacy Huddle - ARDS Patient
      • The doctors slowly weened me off the sedation medicines. I woke fully on March 31 (my son’s birthday!). I was incredibly confused. For several days I suffered hallucinations.
        These hallucinations involved:

        • Purple roosters
        • a Catholic church
        • Being on a boat
        • Being in an A&W in the town I was born in
        • The death of my pregnant daughter
        • A nurse who was poisoning me

        I was able to realize the pain medicine was prolonging the hallucinations and they stopped giving them to me.

    • I fell out of the bed because I dumped a cup of ice on me. Somehow, I lost my gown while I was sitting on the floor. When the nurse came in she got quite the show. It took four people to get me back into bed while I was naked. After that, I had a bed alarm and someone had to sit in my room 24/7.
  • I went to rehab for a week after leaving the hospital because I could barely walk or lift my arms. To this day I have extreme weakness in my right arm.
  • After I got home, I started having difficulty breathing again and I spiked a fever again. So back to the hospital I went. You can’t believe how upset, scared and freaked out I was. This time I had a DVT blood clot (a clot in your legs) that had broken and I ended up with PE clot (one in my lungs). I spent another week in the hospital – YAY!
  • The RotoProne bed caused necratic tissue (seriously dead skin) on my neck, forehead, face and big toe. This often happens with prolonged usage of the bed. It happens from body parts repeatedly rubbing on parts of the bed. The dead tissue caused many surgeries and left many scars. I wore a Wound Vacuum for months. I ended up with a Staph infection which turned into MRSA and Pasteurella (an infection for animals!). Eventually I had to have flap surgery where they took muscle from my trapezius and filled in a hole in my neck.
     

    Photo of Me with Necrotic Tissue
    Dead tissue from RotoProne Bed
    Wound vacuum after trapezius flap surgeryHealed after trapezius flap surgery

 
In Summary: I have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from the events that happened. When I get a cold now, I get incredibly anxious. When I think about certain parts of what happened, I can’t breathe. The physical results from having the flu are amazing. Due to extreme nerve damage in my neck and scalp, my arm will never work the same, I have strange sensations in my scalp, extraordinary pain in my back, shoulders, and neck. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I want to throw things. I’m unable to stand for long periods of time. I miss my old self.
 
If you or someone you know has a fever of 102 or above and cannot breathe when lying down, please don’t wait to get help. The flu can kill in less than 24 hours.

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