How it all Started
It was in 1995 and 1996 when I started experiencing complications with my menstrual cycles. The pain was so bad I couldn’t get out of bed for the first two to three days. I relied on pain pills to knock myself out so I didn’t have to feel anything. I endured this for well over a year when finally I had enough. I began a search for a cure in hopes of finding a way to end the interruption this caused my life. After several consultations and second and third opinions, surgery became the apparent cure and I was scheduled for a hysterectomy. On October 20, 1997, at the age of 39, the surgery was performed.
I woke up from the surgery in excruciating pain, the worst I’ve ever felt. I knew the surgery wasn’t going to be easy and pain was to be expected, but this was off the zero to ten charts. I was given medication to ease the pain. In a daze I heard my then partner (I’ll call him SFB) screaming at the nursing staff for, who knows what. He was escorted out of the hospital leaving me mortified. This is a whole other story. I’ll get to that later.
After five days I returned home armed with antibiotics, pain pills and instructions to call if anything changes. I was tired, sick, and worn out from the ordeal I had been through. All I wanted to do was rest in quiet silence.
Once home, in my attempt to recuperate, I was mostly at own devices to get what I needed. SFB’s interests were positioned in his role as a musician preparing for an upcoming awards show. I put up with the minimal help and I did what I always did, just do it myself.
Even though I had just underwent major surgery and released from the hospital a little over a week prior, I accompanied SFB to the awards show. It was during the celebration of their big win that I began feeling warm. I took refuge in a booth, took more pain pills then I probably should have, and just wanted to go home. It was on the insistence of others that SFB take me home. By the next morning I was burning up and literally couldn’t stand up straight or sit because of the extreme pain I had in my lower abdomen. It was unbearable. I was horrified when I called SFB to come home from work and drive me to the doctor, he felt I could drive myself and wouldn’t come home. The pain was so intense that I knew I couldn’t drive myself. It’s funny how in this instance I called for help but when I woke in a wobbling mess, I didn’t… Not sure what to think about this…
I called my Mother who along with my sister-in-law, Mary Kay, dropped what they were doing and drove in to help get me to the clinic for an emergency appointment. They felt the urgency I was in and disgusted that SFB wouldn’t help.
In the elevator on the way to the fourth floor I felt something in my body burst and a huge pool of horrifically smelly blood ran down my legs onto the floor. Someone brought a wheelchair, I got in it, and Mom and Mary Kay rushed me to a restroom where we attempted to clean me up and replace hygiene pads with several more to soak up the blood. Then we went to the clinic. I felt like I was going to die… Because I as a “fit in” patient it was taking longer than usual to be seen, even in the state I was in. As time went by I became more and more ill. The receptionist alerted a nurse to tell the doctor that I was in dire need of being seen immediately. A nurse took my vitals while I was in the waiting area, they weren’t good. What happened next made me feel so insignificant when I heard the doctor, scream at the top of her lungs saying to the nurse, “I will see her when I am damn good and ready!” Everyone heard it. Embarrassed, the nurse returned to the waiting room and along with my Mom and Mary Kay sat with me to offer comfort. Other patients who were waiting could see how ill I was and offered to give up their appointment time so I could get in to see the doctor as quickly as possible. This, I believe, was a life saving offer and I am forever grateful for that kindness.
I was hurried to an exam room where the doctor did a quick exam, and the next thing I remember was in a hospital bed hooked to tubes of antibiotics and pain killers. Because of a huge blood clot that had formed after my surgery I had developed a serious post operative infection. I was the sickest I have ever been and, in danger of losing my life.
I spent 10 days in the hospital on a regimen of high powered antibiotics, clyndamicin and gentamicin. Invasive, painful vaginal ultrasounds were performed to monitor how much the clot was shrinking. I endured these tests several times and even packed with pain medication the pain was excruciating, driving me to tears.
Soon after being admitted, just outside my doorway, I heard a very heated argument between two doctors. One expressed strongly that I should have surgery to remove the clot, the other stood ground that I remain on antibiotics. Antibiotics won.
My family, friends, and co-workers stopped by. I received flowers and cards. SFB visited once. On her first visit, one of my dear friends, Linde, walked in, stopped in her tracks and said, “Cheryl, seriously, you look green”.
After 10 days I was released from the hospital but not before a crushant catheter was inserted into my forearm where through a vein a long thin tube was inserted up my arm and into my chest. This was so I could continue taking the antibiotics at home, by myself. It was a painful procedure.
SFB wouldn’t take the time so at discharge my friend Linde arrived at the hospital to get me, however, rather than take me home she drove me to my Mother’s where I continued to recuperate. There I knew I would be cared for gently and consistently. I remember falling into sobs on our way when on the radio I heard Martina McBride sing “Only Angles Know How to Fly”. It was so fitting to the situation and to the relationship I had with SFB. As I think back to that moment, perhaps this was a message from my own angel.
I spent 8 days with Mom, who herself had health problems. She had a heart valve problem and COPD making it difficult for her to get around. Even so, she took good care of me. While I was with Mom SFB called a few times and came to visit once.
During one of the few calls from SFB I let him know how hurtful his lack of presence or caring was. His reply? “All you do is sleep so what can I do, hold your hand while you sleep?” I said, “Yes, that’s what someone who cares would do.” He hung up.
I did sleep most of the days away, part of the healing process. Mom made homemade soup and I tried to eat but could get little down. All I really wanted was toast with cinnamon and sugar on it and tea, and my favorite comfort food, mashed potatoes with chicken gravy. Mom made these taste so wonderful and still today they’re my feel better comfort foods. On Christmas Morning 2008, Mom passed. I cannot express how much I miss her, everything about her.
For 8 days Mom helped hook me up to the same antibiotics I was given in the hospital. We set two alarm clocks in intervals of eight hours to prompt us to connect the bags, back to back, one after the other, and wait for them to empty. The whole process took over two hours.
We were instructed to store the antibiotics in the refrigerator so we had to let them warm up before starting the drip. Even so, it was so cold going in and each time sent chills throughout my body. After a couple of days of this regimen, I started feeling terribly nauseated and then started vomiting every time I completed the dosage. This became so severe we called the clinic to explain what was happening. We were given instructions to stop the clyndamicin but remain on the gentamicin. Little did I know that this instruction was going to change my life, forever.
Because the nausea and vomiting was so bad I was prescribed an anti-nausea medication called compazine. Side effects of this drug are nightmares and yes, I had the worst nightmares of my life. The dreams were so real and the frights so intense, that over and over again I cried out for my Mom’s help and crawled into bed next to her. We made another call to the doctor, this time the instructions were to stop taking the compazine but continue on with the gentamicin. The nightmares went away but the nausea and vomiting continued, subsiding after a few days. Then I began feeling unsteady, my ears felt “full”, and my vision was strangely blurry.
I became quite proficient at IV administration when after seven days a home health nurse arrived to remove the catheter in my arm, thankfully, not nearly as painful as putting it in. By this time I had been on the antibiotics for 17 days and could finally stop and admittedly reluctant, able to return home. I arrived home on a Sunday and the following Wednesday woke up, went to get out of bed and fell into Subject Zero. This was in November of 1997.