The plan had been to write a second post about Norfolk a couple of days after the first. Plans don't always go as I'd hope, and this time it certainly hasn't. A day or two after my last post I started to feel grotty. It wasn't anything particularly tangible - a deep fatigue and malaise, and an inability even to think properly. I was hoping it was just a bad day of some kind as I was supposed to be going to Liverpool the next day to meet up with some good friends from the Open University.
That night (Thursday) I had an awful night. I didn't sleep well, I was very restless, I just didn't feel well, and when my alarm went off on Friday morning I felt awful. My insides decided they'd prefer to be on the outside and my temperature was up to 39.7C. There was absolutely no way I was going to get to Liverpool, but to be honest, I felt too ill to be too disappointed.
I couldn't keep my meds down, and I was concerned that my asthma would get completely out of control because of that. My temperature wasn't responding to the tiny amount of paracetamol that I did manage to get inside me, and I was becoming dehydrated. I rang the GP. When I said to the receptionist that I think I needed a home visit she sounded a bit incredulous, but really she should know that I would never ask for a home visit if there was any chance I could get to the surgery. She said that the doctor might just phone me, instead of visiting.
The doctor did ring me, but he said he was quite concerned so would do a home visit too. I unlocked the door the next time I got up to go to the bathroom, and when Dr Cn arrived he let himself in. He could see that I really wasn't well, and he was also worried that I wasn't able to keep my meds down, so he prescribed some Buccastem - an antisickness tablet that dissolves slowly in the mouth. He then rang the local pharmacy and got them to deliver it to my home, telling them that I was in no way well enough to go to the pharmacy myself. I then gave them the prescription Dr Cn had left when they came around with the meds.
The day passed in a haze with weird dreams of high temperature, interspersed with many, many trips to the bathroom. The doctor then rang me again before he left work for home at the end of the day. He asked if I'd be okay. I said that I probably would, but I was thinking, 'I don't know. You're the doctor.' Anyway, he told me that I should contact the out of hours doctors immediately if I got any worse or was at all worried. I promised I would.
The cat was obviously really worried as he wouldn't leave my side. This may sound odd, but Zach is very sensitive, and when I'm ill at night with my asthma he pats my face gently with his paw until I wake up. He then watches me intently until I'm sorted and breathing easier. He didn't need to wake me on the Friday, but he did stay glued to my side, following me into the bathroom and watching me closely all the time. W came round in the evening and she realised that Zach must be starving because he hadn't touched his food in the kitchen. He wouldn't go through to the kitchen because he was too busy guarding me, but W brought his food into my bedroom and he snaffled it down.
W was brilliant (as ever). She cleaned my toilet and the bin that I'd earlier vomited in because I couldn't get to the bathroom fast enough. She went back to her house and brought her fan back to mine to try to help cool me down. She sat with me for several hours until I was fast asleep, sometime in the early hours of the morning.
Saturday was much the same as Friday, but I was getting more dehydrated. When W came round in the evening she went to the supermarket for me to get some rehydration salts (and she also came back with some beautiful flowers that cheered me up loads). She checked the ingredients in the shop. I checked the ingredients when she got to mine with them. W checked the ingredients again. I checked the ingredients again, and again for luck. There didn't seem to be anything in them that I am allergic to, so I set to trying to get them into me and keep them down.
Twenty or so minutes after taking the rehydration salts I was lying in bed (in fresh sheets that W had just changed for me) when I realised that I was itching a lot. Then my eyes started to get itchy and sore and my left eye was swelling up. I took some antihistamine, but still, my lungs began to tighten and I could feel my throat beginning to swell. When my nebuliser did nothing to ease the chest tightness and wheezing, and I was being more sick than I had been, I knew I had to take my epi-pen. I was heading towards anaphylaxis.
The protocol for anaphylaxis is that when you use an epi-pen you have to go to hospital. You should also call an ambulance to get to hospital. I hate ambulances. I did go to hospital, but W took me in her car... Thankfully, we got there no problem, and possibly quicker than in an ambulance as it was a Saturday night in Newcastle.
I was seen as soon as we went into A&E, and taken straight through for treatment. The department was full of drunks and people laid out on trolleys in various states of drunken unconsciousness. The bloke in the bed next to me was absolutely wasted, and trying to get up despite being in head blocks because he had a suspected broken neck. The poor nurses really had their hands full. But regardless of that, they were great with me.
Once I was stabilised in A&E I was taken to the Emergency Admissions Unit where I spent the rest of the night and most of the next day. The anaphylaxis was settling well, but I still had a high temperature, I was still vomiting, and I still had bad diarrhoea so I was far from well. The medics said they wanted to keep me in for a while, but said that they'd probably keep me in my side room on EAU. This is why it was a particular surprise when the porter came to take me to the ward. Nobody had told me I was going to the ward, or what kind of ward it was, so it was even more of a surprise when the porter said I was going to the ward for Tropical Diseases!
It turned out that the ward for Tropical Diseases is also the ward for Infectious Diseases, which gastroenteritis certainly is, and a ward for those with compromised immune systems. Nonetheless, it was still somewhat unnerving to be going there, and even more so when I arrived. The Tropical and Infectious Diseases ward is the only ward on the top floor of an isolated part of the hospital. The corridor leading to the ward is locked. The door going on to the ward is locked. There is a red light above the door that indicates when someone on the ward has something particularly nasty. Each patient has their own room, and each room has a double door/airlock entry system. Each cubicle can have the pressure inside adapted (I guess some tropical diseases affect pressures, or something), and each room has a camera on the wall so that the patient can be watched with medical staff requiring as little contact as possible. At night time the camera lens is encircled by red LED eyelashes so that the patient can still be seen in the dark. The windows in the room don't open. People hardly ever come in, and when they do they're clad in apron and gloves. You see these kinds of wards on apocalyptic sci-fi films, but you never think they really exist. You think there must be some artistic licence for dramatic effect, but no, they do really exist, and I found myself on one. It was all very, very surreal.
I was on the T&ID ward for three days before coming home on Wednesday evening. I'm a lot better than I was - so, so much better than I was - but I'm still not right. It turned out that the gastroenteritis was a bacterial bug, and one that's reportable to the Health Protection Agency, so apparently I might get a call from them to see if they can locate the source of the infection. I have an idea, but I'll leave it up to the HPA to confirm or otherwise.
I am now completely wiped out. I still don't feel terribly well, and apparently I could have some symptoms for up to four weeks! I think this is going to be a slow recovery, and definitely not helped by the anaphylactic reaction. W and I have contacted the manufacturers of the rehydration salts about that. The only thing it can have been that caused the reaction is the flavouring, for which the ingredients weren't listed, and under the 'side effects' section in the patient information leaflet it says, 'None known.' I've filled in a couple of forms for them, and they're also sending one of the sachets off to Germany to be analysed, so at least they're taking it seriously, although I'm still going to try to get in touch with them to find out what the ingredients are in the flavouring. It's important that I know. Either there's something in it that I know I am allergic to, but which isn't listed in the ingredients, or I have developed an allergy to something else. I just hope they give me the information I need.
It's been quite some week. I'm hoping for a much less eventful week this week.