Tuesday, December 28, 2010

It's all fun and games 'til someone has sepsis.

It all started on Christmas Eve, naturally. We were at Phil's parents' house about 90 minutes away from home and Phil woke up feeling not so hot. His mom noticed and asked me what she could give him for pain. When I asked what kind of pain, he said he was achy.


We'd all passed around a yucky cold the week before but felt like we were on the upswing so this achy-breaky turn of events was certainly news to me. Our P.A. had given Phil a prescription for a Z-Pak the day before, just in case he got worse over the holiday. Realizing this qualified as worse, I gave the prescription to his sister and her boyfriend to get filled at the pharmacy and also had them get a thermometer so we could take his temp.

By the time they got back Phil was fading fast. He was on the couch under blankets, flushed and lethargic. His temperature was 103.9. I called our clinic in Ann Arbor which was closed because of the holiday, but spoke to the nurse on call who told me, in no uncertain terms, to go directly to the ER. So we did.

While there, Phil's fever got up to 104.3 and his resting heart rate was 97. (It's normally about 60.) His breathing was labored, as if he were jogging, but he was just lying there. The ER doctor called our clinic back in Ann Arbor and they agreed that Phil should immediately have IV antibiotics and be put on an ambulance back to U of M. After speaking with Phil's mom, we all agreed this was the best plan. Phil's sisters came to the ER to bring him food and sit with him while I took Ruby back to the house, packed up the kids and all our belongings with the help of Phil's parents and all my brothers-in-law, and the kids and I headed back home sans Phil.

Phil, his mom and sisters at the ER in Midland

Phil was admitted to U of M at about 6pm on Christmas Eve. I got home with the kids shortly after that and my parents came over to hang out with Ocean and Iris while Ruby and I headed to the hospital. By the time she and I got there Phil felt a little better thanks to the fluids and antibiotics but he was definitely still feverish at about 103. We were told he had an infection that was overwhelming his body. Diagnosis: Sepsis. But they were going to run blood cultures to find the source of the infection and he would probably have to be in the hospital for a few days pending the results.

The next morning, Christmas, I took all the kids to my parents' house to open gifts. Phil Skyped in from the hospital so he was able to watch the kids open their gifts. I then left Ocean and Iris there and Ruby and I went back up to the 8th floor at UMHS to hang out with Phil. His fever had come down quite a bit but he was also taking Tylenol for a headache so it was hard to tell if the fever had broken or if the Tylenol was masking it. Phil's parents, sister and sister's boyfriend had also driven down to spend the afternoon with him. He had a flu culture done which came back positive. They did a chest x-ray and we're waiting for those results.

On Sunday my mom came over to watch the big kids so Ruby and I could go back to the hospital. Phil was definitely looking much better and felt better too. He was off the Tylenol and his fever was gone. We walked the halls a little bit and Ruby smiled at all the passers-by as she is famous for. That evening the doctor told us Phil's x-ray came back showing pneumonia, primarily in his right lung. They put him on some big-gun antibiotics that night.

Feeling much better.

Yesterday, Monday, the doctor was confident enough in Phil's recovery to send him home on an oral antibiotic. We were out of there by 2:00.

All of Phil's chemo is currently on hold until he's better. He feels about 70% today. He still sounds pretty bad but better than he's sounded for the last week.

There are a hundred lessons we learned through this experience. I do not have the bandwidth to recount them all right now. The one I will share is probably the most obvious: If you don't feel well, call your doctor. Immediately. Things can go from zero to sepsis in a matter of hours, especially in the immune-compromised patient. We didn't realize how terrifying things were until it had settled down a little. We're not dwelling on it, but lesson learned.

(Another thing I learned is that sputum is possibly the most disgusting-sounding word in the English language with an equally disgusting definition.)

Christmas was not as we expected or envisioned for 2010 but we were able to experience the true meaning of it this year: Grace and mercy.

We're looking forward to a lighter, brighter 2011 for all of us. Cheers!


Kindred Spirit said...

Dear Phil and Cassie and little ones,
My prayers are with you all as you go through this time of trial. Surely Our Lord is with you throughout it, and you are not alone. These sufferings have their purpose under Heaven, and God is in control. May He bless you and keep you all. Merry Christmas and a blessed new year to you and your loved ones.

Linda said...

I worried something was wrong when we hadn't heard anything from Phil since his "cold, coughing, Christmas..." post. So very thankful he is improving and home, though my heart breaks for you all having such a scare and him being so sick on Christmas. Praise the Lord for his grace and mercy as you said. EZ and I will surely pray for him as he continues to recover, and thank you so much for sharing a lesson we all need to keep in mind as we continue living life post SCT and chemotherapy.

Amy said...

Wow. Thank God you got him to the dr when you did and that he's improving. You both must be wiped out! Praying for a quick recovery for Phil and some rest for you too. Grace and mercy, to be sure!

Roobeedoo said...

Well done for rapid reactions! Hoping you all have a fantastic New Year!

Mike said...

Hi Phil and Cassie, I'm not the best wordsmith in the world but I just want you to know that I am so glad that you came through this awful scare.
I had my Melphelan on Christmas Eve in the Queen Elizabeth, Birmingham, and my Stem Cells as a Gift at 4 pm on Christmas Day. Day 4 and I'm feeling not so good, but I knoiw I will be ok because I am following Phil's inspiration and DOMINATING this myeloma.
I truly hope we all have a better 2011
Mike G.

tim's wife said...

Oh Gosh, what is it about Christmas
2010? Tim had pneumonia for Christmas too and so many that I know had a crazy holiday. Glad
you guys got this turned around quickly. Tim had strep sepsis at diagnosis and it is truly amazing how fast IV antibiotics work. Get some rest and pull out all the stops for New Year's Eve!!! And big kudos to you, Cassie, for handling all this with 3 little ones in tow. You are the wonderwoman of MM caregiving!

Anonymous said...

P & C;

I'm sorry to hear your Christmas party was so hectic. Thank you for taking us through the ordeal.

Chemo makes those of us with MM vulnerable to such infections. I suspect, though, that most people cannot appreciate how quickly disease spreads in our immune suppressed bodies. One moment Phil is well, the next he is seriously ill.

We know it will not always be this way. Better, more stable health lies ahead. Be vigilant on your way there.

Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Stephen Greene said...

Praise the Lord??? Praise Cassie and praise Phil! As husband and wife you have brought so much beauty and light into the world and your generosity of spirit seems unbounded, despite what God demands of you. Every picture celebrates Phil's indominatable spirit. Cassie's courage, providing her little babies with a sense of normalcy and joy in the face of such trial, is magnificent! I'm sorry if I offend, but I think God could spread it around a bit more and in my prayers I'm asking Him to pay a bit more attention to this brave little band of Wolverines..

Jodi said...

So glad that you are home now and on the mend. I spent Christmas in the hospital too at day +9 of my transplant. I just got home yesterday at day +12. I would've been out a day earlier had it not been for a blizzard that shut down New Jersey. Your post makes me realize how quickly one can take a step backward. Cassie, you are a phenomenal caretaker. Wishing you a speedy recovery and a much happier New Year.

Andrea said...

So glad Phil is on the mend. You are in our thoughts and prayers every day!

Carlin said...

Hi Phil and family,
was just in India for a month in an ashram while James stayed with his mom in Sydney, recuperating from his transplant. I thought I"d check in on how you're doing and was sad to see this turn of events, but glad you're now on the improve. Not the ideal Christmas, but myeloma makes you re-assess "ideal" every day, doesn't it?

May I suggest Phil consider learning some Pranayama (Indian yogic breathing exercises) from a good yoga teacher in your area (or I can show you some on skype some time). James practices at least 1/2 an hour of pranayama every day-since even before his diagnosis, and he has remained pneumonia-free and his lungs are quite strong on function tests. We really believe the pranayama has helped this, and it could probably help your lungs gain strength too, and hopefully avoid the big Pneumonia going forward.

Here's to all the best for you and all myeloma dominators in the New Year!
Blessings, Carlin

Kristine said...

So sorry to here of your "Crazy Christmas!" Thank goodness for good medical access and the strong support of family. I hope you are recovering quickly and your sweet family can enjoy the rest of the holidays.

Ryan Mason said...

Wow. Quite the holidays! You two are so ridiculously strong in spirit -- My thoughts are constantly with you.

Anonymous said...

Well it's just as well Phil had clean well, cleanish socks on for the photo shoot!

Wishing you a fantastic New Year and a really boring Christmas next year! ;D

Bob OC said...

We're praying for Phil - and for all of you - here in snowy Connecticut. Hope you have a peaceful New Year's weekend...

- Bob O.

Preferred Customer/ Janice said...

Well family Brabs, life can come and hit you when you are not looking. it is certain thing that when on such "Severe" treatment you run to the doctor. I thank God you are all ok and especially Phil. I have mentioned before one has to be a little cautious in what one does post MM and treatment. We are all different and your former life is not the life you live now. Take care Janice

Christie said...

That's the biggest grin I ever saw on someone sick in the hospital (but no one reading would be surprised). It's great that everyone is back at home and here's to more domination in the New Year.

Big EZ said...

Phil and Cassie, Happy New Year! I hope you are over the sepsis crisis. Linda and I both were saddened when we heard about your tough holiday hospital fun. May 2011 be a year of recovery and good health. We so appreciate you blog and the encouragement it provides all of us with MM. Smiles and best wishes from North Carolina. (Seminoles, Gators, TarHeels, Wolfpack all did well. We won't talk Big Ten for a bit.)

Vicki said...

Dear Phil and Cassie, I'm sorry the holidays were such a challenge. Sepsis is a terrifying word for anyone who has had a family member experience it, so I'm very glad to hear that you sought treatment promptly.

I am so grateful that you keep us informed via your blog! We miss Phil's smiling face at the office - Todd just isn't as fun of a guy without him around. :-)

I hope that 2011 provides you with much health and happiness. I hope that Cassie gets a respite so that she can relax and enjoy being a "regular" wife and mother. And I hope that you're up to coming back to work soon Phil, but take the time you need to get better.

Vicki Landau

Yvon Papillon said...

Hang in there Phil, Been there twice! Merry Chitsmas, Yvon!