Sunday, June 3, 2012

A pint of platelets for me please

Turning 30 - its some big deal they said. Me thinks, "what the fuck, don't overdo it"
Then, I turn 30. Its a big deal alright, it came to me with some Rubella and($!@#'^) Dengue as a birthday present in two separate packages. Joy I say, not.

How it all started - a tiny swelling in one of my lymph nodes in the back of my neck(suboccipital). I ignored it. It was the right thing to do. Then  mild mild fever, I treated it. Then. A rash. I didn't ignore it. I got a little annoyed. So I took something to calm the rash down and promised myself and Raghu I'd go to the doctor the next morning.

I did. He suspected Dengue, but got a whole lot of tests done and ruled out Dengue. Said its a viral infection, obviously there's nothing to treat. So take it easy. I took it easy.

Then I decided that doctor was a little incompetent. For those of you who know me, you know I can be insane. This was one such time. So I took myself(and Raghu) on my birthday(fuck my luck) to Manipal hospital to see a doctor - Dr. H.D. Holla who I have some respect for. After a terrible 3 hour wait, he looked at me for no more than 5 seconds and said 'My dear, you have German Measles'. I thought to myself - now that is what a good doctor can do....he looks at me and he knows what I have. Phew. I'll be okay.

Then a couple days later, my eyes got sore. Expected. I knew everything about Rubella. So I relaxed.
But then one day I woke up with a whole lot of black crap in my mouth...which after careful examination(by myself) turned out to be blood. It seems my gums were bleeding. Now this is not Rubella. Just when I started getting better(or felt like it at least). So I took a deep breath and decided to see how it goes till the end of the day. My dad, understandably, was a little worried. I dozed myself on some vitamin supplements and asked Raghu to check with the doctor. That darling man did. The doctor said it's normal. He relaxed a bit, I didn't. I knew something was off.
So I spent a day eating tons of blood flavoured food. Disgusting.

I fell asleep that night hoping the blood would no longer be around the next morning. Wrong. I was bleeding from my gums. Then I did what a lot of people do in the mornings. I peed. Then I did what a lot of normal people would NOT do int he morning. I peed blood. Disgusting. And scary. I fell asleep for a couple hours cause I didn't want to think about it. Then I woke up, pretending nothing had happened. But I was still peeing strange substances. And I noticed my lips were swollen and ulcerated and...disgusting.

So I shook myself awake. Bathed. And went to the hospital. Told Raghu to go to work and that I'd call him if needed. Awaited my turn, this time not patiently. Then the doctor saw me and told me that he suspected my platelets were 'probably' low. I knew that, I suspected that myself. Thanks to the internet and faithful old wikipedia.
Then he rushed me to get some tests done. He seemed worried. That got me worried. But the lab didn't share his concern, they took their time to do the tests. Then Raghu called me. I told him what had happened and he decided he should show up.

As if things weren't bad enough, poor Raghu met with an accident that morning and got punched by the sucker on the motorbike...who was actually at fault. Then Raghu went home, dropped off his messed up car and motorbiked his way to the hospital.  He looked at me and was terrified. Stress. And elephants in all the rooms in the hospital. And one little one in the canteen too. I did look quite bad. We didn't talk about it for the entire hour I was waiting for my lab results.

Then the results - my platelet count was down to 3000. It should have been at least 150,000. The doctor had no clue where else in my body I was bleeding, or how I was walking, or talking. It was an emergency admission. The elephants soon ran away. We knew it was bad and we knew what had to be done.

What was the problem?
You see, it was a misdiagnosis. It was Dengue all along. Not Rubella(or maybe). The good doctor might have been wrong. But it was a secondary Dengue infection.
A secondary infection is when you get it for the second time. Most cases of Dengue, about 80% are asymptomatic. So my first bout whenever it happened was also asymptomatic. I didn't know I had it. This makes you immune to some strains of the virus. About 20% of secondary infections result in DHF(Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever) or DSS(Dengue Shock Syndrome). I happened to be in that 20% and mine was a classic case of DHF. The bleeding is called 'Spontaneous Bleeding'.

Platelets control clotting. Which mean. That without platelets there is no clotting and all your organs bleed. The Dengue virus is quite sophisticated, it remains in your body in multiple ways(read about it, its very cool). And its one of the few viruses that attacks the bone marrow. So even though my bone marrow was generating platelets, the virus was destroying them. Sucker.

There are 2 counts IGM and IGG. One of them indicates a secondary infection. I think its the IGG. And IGM being negative does not mean I don't have Dengue. It just means I could have had dengue a while ago and there are no traces of the virus(antibodies) left. Sneaky piece of shit.

There is no treatment. I needed platelet transfusions to stop the bleeding. I had no other symptoms. It was that simple.

Turns out 3000 is the lowest count Manipal had ever seen. So I became this exotic zoo animal that everyone kept coming to, to see and talk and experience. It was cool and then it got really boring.

The first day was insane. Sridhar(our project manager) sent out an email to ThoughtWorks about the situation and Raghu was swamped with calls from people willing to donate platelets. Fucking hospital holds your transfusions(if my condition can afford it) till someone donates platelets. So its give one, take one. And then pay a shit load of money for the take even though the give was free! But I guess its fair.
This is the best part - so many people helped out. Some I knew, some I didn't know personally. That was one thing we didn't have to stress about. So many came multiple times. It was great to have that support. Thanks guys. I owe you platelets. Or beer if you prefer it. They look kind of the same.

But all that was needed was platelet transfusions and with time I would get better. And I did. The bleeding from my gums stopped after the first infusion. And the peeing unnatural elements stopped a little later. I had ultrasounds and the doctors confirmed I wasn't bleeding into or out of any other organ. Phew! So I was not in danger but I was in critical state. A couple more transfusions. The counts went up and down. The doctor called it 'hide and seek'.
The fifth  transfusion, I developed an allergic reaction. So it had to be stopped. When it was administered my counts were 16,000. Still dangerously low. So they stopped the transfusion.
That was the worst day. I was down and angry and frustrated and miserable. And stressed. And the doctors wouldn't even come and tell me whats going on. So I threw a tantrum(of sorts) and made them explain to me what the next course of action would be. All along I was thinking - 'you bastards, I might die of plateletlessness and here you are not a wee bit worried.' But they did know what they were doing...which is waiting and watching. That night, after that horrible allergic reaction, my platelet count shot up. So much for all the fuss. I felt quite stupid, frankly. And then from then on it was all uphill.

I ended up spending 6 days in the hospital, with 4 days of transfusions and 2 days under observation. The bill came to 132,000. Fuck. And thank god for insurance. Not god, he/she doesn't exactly get the credit...but someone. I ended up paying 16,000 for the room that I selected and all that. And then I was in the car heading home :)

Now I hate mosquitoes. And everyone in their right minds should.

Four and a half pint of platelets, a load of money spent, a couple weeks off work, a husband left with a stressed back(its not what you think), and a whole lot of love and attention. I'm on my way back to being me. Except, my arms and legs are spotted because of the rash. But if you concentrate on my personality and keep your eyes off my legs(which might be hard, I understand), you'll see that I'm back.

1 comment:

Yandong Qiao said...

oh dear, I am scared when I read half of the blog. God bless me you are all OK now. Just want to let you know, I love you even we can not meet/talk offen (actually after I gave birth to my baby son I never and can not leave him since we need each other ^_^). A big hug and kiss to you. (Raghu, please do not be angry, just want to express my love to your wife :-))