Greetings from Northwest Hospital’s ICU Room 321!
I just wanted to take a moment out to update everyone on what’s been going on with me health-wise and answer some questions that have been posed along the way. 🙂 A lot of these details have been shared with me along the way by my doctors, nurses, and those in attendance during episodes, since I am unable to remember what happens during these episodes.
HOW I GOT HERE:
I went in for a routine extraction of all 4 of my wisdom teeth and part of my dentist’s sedation routine involved taking two 5 milligram tablets of Valium. My body responded very strongly to the drug and had a severe adverse reaction. When I first came to, I was a little loopy (see video above), as was to be expected from this type of procedure. My best friend, Heather, had been watching over me during and after the surgery and noticed that my behavior had escalated and that my response to the drugs was not normal. What followed this video was intense hallucinations, loss of muscle control that led to me not breathing, manic outbursts and other symptoms that are comparative to a stroke/MS. Around 5pm on Thursday, my Seattle sister (who had been given permission to leave work early) showed up to switch shifts with Heather for the evening. After seeing all that was going on, they made the call to rush me to the ER. Once in the ER, the docs worked fast and hard to sustain my behavior and assess my situation. I kept slipping in and out of consciousness with continued manic outbursts and they had to keep waking me up because I would stop breathing. They deduced that I had a SEVERE adverse reaction to the Valium and administered the counter-agent/antidote serum, “Romazicon” to my IV and within a minute, I was awake, alert, and it was as if nothing had happened. They kept me overnight in the ICU on the drip to flush out and fight the Valium with the Romazicon so that they could monitor my situation. This case is the most extreme and bizarre case of reaction to Valium and in the half-joking words of my doctor, “You are FASCINATING! Unfortunately in this case, that’s not a good thing.”
HOW I’VE BEEN HERE:
For a girl who spent the majority of her childhood in and out of hospitals and emergency rooms, you can imagine my strong hatred towards hospitals, drugs, needles, machines, being poked and prodded, and just feeling like a lab rat in general. The majority of my experiences in the hospital have been negative, stressful, and depressing. I still HATE drugs (especially now more than ever), but the care and concern that has been shown to me here by the staff at Northwest Hospital and my Seattle family & friends has almost completely changed my perspective on healthcare, hospitals, and the power of a loving support system!
One of the ways that my doctor has been testing my progress is by weaning me off of the Romazicon and testing to see how my body responds once the antidote has cleared my bloodstream. Thus far, every test has shown that the Valium is still showing up strong in my system. I have had about 4 relapses since being in here and each time, the nurses have been able to rescue me in time with the Romazicon and each time, within minutes of receiving the antidote, my body has been restored to normal full function. There have been some visitors who have gotten to witness the recovery and have been just as astounded as the doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, since the Valium is still in my system and my body responds so extremely to it, they have to keep me under observation in the ICU. The good thing is that keeping me in the ICU guarantees that they have the medicinal supply and staff available for a safe and quick recovery after relapses. The funny part is that there are times that they will bring me salt water to gargle with and my Amoxicillin antibiotics for my wisdom teeth and I forget that I’m actually in here with another ailment. 😉
Every day has been a test of my will and my spirits and every day has been another chance to watch the power of God at work in my life—mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. There have definitely been moments of sadness and disappointment, but more than those, there has been an abundance of hope, joy, love, grace, and strength from God, the hospital staff, and the family of friends that have stopped by throughout my stay!
WHO HAS BEEN HERE:
There are 2 unsung heroes that I’d like to take a moment to honor.
The first would be my Seattle Sister, Nicki.
She has stayed with me all day, every day and night (sleeping on 2 chairs since ICU doesn’t allow cots) that I’ve been in the hospital making sure that I’ve been taken care of, fed, and has been there to answer questions for the docs/nurses. She has also been with me through the relapses and helped the docs and nurses out in those situations and has taken so many opportunities to serve the staff here! She’s been my faithful listening ear & counselor, movie buddy, and comforter through the stress of it all. I am SO blessed to have her here with me every step of the way! ♥
The second would be my Rock Star Super Hero of a nurse, Kate!
There really are just no words for how amazing Kate has been to me! She was my nurse since day one and has made every effort to not only get me my meds on time, but to swaddle me in warm blankets, sit and talk with me when she’s seen me feeling down, and sharing life stories, and go above and beyond to make me feel like a princess! She was my biggest cheerleader each and every day and treated me as if I were her own daughter, suffering in the ICU. During one of our check-ups yesterday, she said she was sad because she wasn’t going to be working on Monday so she wouldn’t get to see me. Then, later she came back in, and excitedly shared that she had taken on an extra shift on Monday and had requested to be put in my room to take care of me! And I’m happy to report that not only is she here and taking care of me right now, but she even snuck me in some contraband: some of her husband’s signature roasted butternut squash soup!!! Her love, care, and understanding has been healing to my mind, body and soul and I cannot thank God enough for putting me in her care!
WHAT IS EVEN GOING ON??
I’ve gotten a lot of questions from people about what’s going on and why. Believe you me, I’m JUST AS, IF NOT MORE concerned and inquisitive about what’s going on. Every day I’ve got new questions, new thoughts, new scenarios and theories that I am presenting to my doctor and nurses. I’ve rehashed this instance and the symptoms and circumstances over and over and over and over again. The bottom line from my doctor is that: NOTHING about this case is normal, so there are no “textbook solutions” or “textbook answers.” The Valium has stored itself in my lipids (fat) and based on a wide range of variables, it releases in various amounts at various times on its own accord. The way my nurse put it is this: “According to the text books, it should have left your system by now However, the drug itself has not actually READ the text book and can do whatever it pleases.”
Some have asked if it has something to do with the fact that I had Bell’s Palsy when I was a kid and if that may have left some lasting damage to my system, causing my body to react this way. Again, my doctor assures me that that is NOT the case. However, they are going to have me check in with the Cardio Techs after all this is said and done to make sure that the Valium did not do any lasting damage to my heart. I’ll also be getting a medic alert charm necklace to wear to assure this doesn’t happen again.
A few other people have suggested that my rapid weight loss, healthy eating, and exercise regimen may be a cause/elevating factor of this reaction. I’m so sorry folks, that’s just NOT the case! We have definitely addressed the issue of my eating habits and all of that and the doctor has assured me that it’s for sure NOT because of the weight loss or the healthy eating or exercise or because of anything related to that. They are NOT concerned with my weight at all and have actually said that the GOOD thing is that I AM healthy and have been taking care of my body because that has kept my heart and immune system fighting so strong and hard. So that is definitely not a concern.
They said that the bottom line is that it’s just how my body reacts to that certain drug. My blood pressure, oxygen, etc, are all perfectly fine, it’s just my heart rate and the fact that when they take me off the antidote, if the Valium is still in my system the symptoms put me in danger of losing my life. So they just keep doing tests where they remove the drip and wean me off to see how fast and how strong the Valium shows up and they gotta keep doing it until it’s all gone. Since there is NOTHING normal about this case, we are constantly working together to find answers and it’s just going to take some time—but they are giving me the BEST care and are keeping me informed every step along the way. They have also noted that my wisdom teeth are healing up at a GREAT rate and have attributed my health to that as well! Yay for good health and nutrition—it really DOES work!! 😉
WHAT IS UP?!?
There have been a lot of great things that have come out of this whole situation!
- The dentist had originally given me a take-home packet of an extra dose of Valium and Amoxicillin to take the night before the surgery, but I had lost my packet. Since I had lost my packet, the nurse said she could call in my antibiotic and pain-killer prescriptions, but that I’d have to miss my night dose of Valium and just take my normal morning dosage early that morning. Had I taken the Valium the night before, I may not have been alive when Heather picked me up the next morning for the actual appointment.
- The timing of my friend Melanie unexpectedly showing up at my place to deliver a pumpkin pie resulted in a crucial moment of assistance. She was able to help Heather and Nicki get me ready to rush me to the hospital and allowed for everything to run as smoothly and stress-free as possible so that I could get there and get taken care of in the quickest manner possible!
- The amount of friends that have come has overwhelmed me with joy, love, and hope that has fueled my healing process exponentially! Also, they’ve been so kind in asking me if I want them to bring me anything, and have brought me in some of the best contraband ever:
- Applesauce, which the cafeteria wouldn’t let me have since I’m on an ICU Full Liquid Diet
- Flowers galore
- Muscle Milk Protein drinks, since the only nutritional shakes on the menu are Ensure (nastayyyy)
- Books & Magazines that aren’t health related 😉
- COFFFEEEEEE!!! (though my doc now has me on a non-acidic diet)
- Cranberry Juice (Which they have on the menu but only bring you a little cup of at a time)
- V8 Fruit Juices (an EXCELLENT change from the menu offered standard V8)
- Jamba Juice Smoothies
- My nurse came in to let me know that since this is such a rare case, the Poison Control Center has been in contact with the hospital every day, collecting data and putting together reports with that data to submit to the FDA for drug research and for updates on how Valium may affect others. They said that the information they are collecting from my experience is going to be used to save the lives of people in the future who may have the same kind of reaction and it will provide them the knowledge they need to continue to make advancements in this area of medicine, which to this point has been sparse. The story of my experience here in the hospital has been referred to that of HENRIETTA LACKS. My nurse put it this way: “Girl, you are in the books!”
- Every day I’ve gotten a chance to deal with my personal demons and since I’ve had Nicki, Nurse Kate, and so many other great friends around, I’ve been able to face them and wrestle through them in a safe, caring, loving environment. ♥
- I’ve gotten a chance to see my friends from all circles of life connect with one another! My friends have set up coffee dates and hobby get-togethers with each other. I’ve even set up a special FRIENDSgiving Day with my fellow single friends who have connected with each other through coming to see me in the room!
- I’ve made new friends with the staff of nurses and techs at Northwest and I have a newfound respect for those who serve in the medical profession.
- I’m gaining so much more knowledge about my mind, body, science, and medicine in general that has been keeping my creative mind fueled with ideas for new songs, stories, and sermons. 😀
WHAT I’M LOOKING FORWARD TO:
Getting the Valium out of my system and going home! My love for the people at Northwest Hospital is incredibly huge. My love for being attached to machines and having midnight blood-draws, not so much. I want to be able to go for a walk in my neighborhood. I want to be able to sleep in my own bed. I want to be able to drink coffee and enjoy a BBQ Chicken Salad from Panera. I want to celebrate the holidays with my friend family!
HERE IS THE LATEST UPDATE:
I did more testing today and I’m still not showing enough progress to be discharged. The Valium is still in my system, hiding out in my fat cells, biding their time and taking their toll on my body. My doctor has been working diligently to get to the bottom of this, but for right now, she and her colleagues all agree on the same thing:
This is just a rare, unpredictable case and it’s going to take DAYS and DAYS for it to clear my system.
So now we just wait. Wait and pray. Wait and hope. Wait and we don’t give up! This drug WILL leave my body, it’s just a matter of time now.
They are not sure when they’re going to be able to release me, but it doesn’t look like it will be anytime soon. My biggest hope and prayer is that it will be before Thanksgiving, but if not, there will be a big Turkey Day party in my room on Thursday!
Thank you all again SO SO SO much for your love, prayers, and support across the miles!! It has made the road to recovery a million times easier and fulfilling to travel.
And a special THANK YOU to my Seattle family for all the wonderful visits, hugs, prayers, sneaking in contraband, get well gifts and just for being such incredible friends! I know my own family wishes they could be here to see me through this, and having you here brings the love of family that much closer to me!