I met a girl in the grocery store the other day. She was missing some fingers. She was trying to open a bag, so of course I snatched it and opened it for her, and gave her a big smile. She had some kind of contraption on her hand, and she mumbled something about her fingers. I was sans kids and actually aware of my surroundings, so I asked her what happened. When she answered me, I thought I would fall down right there. All the air left my body, and I got dizzy. Because as the words came out of her mouth, I suddenly knew what she was going to say, before she even said it. She had HIB. Not HIV…but HIB. Haemophilus Influenza Type B. Our kids are vaccinated for this disease now. But we weren’t. I know this….because I had HIB too. And you never meet anyone else who’s ever had it. I know of only one other relative of a friend who has had it. She is a young mom of several kids, and she is missing both hands. Haemophilis actually means “blood loving”, so it gets into your bloodstream and causes either sepsis or meningitis. In my case, I was entering my 2nd trimester of pregnancy, with a baby that was to be born between my oldest and my middle darling. I think I was 15 weeks pregnant, already showing and wearing maternity clothes, and already feeling the first flutters in my belly. Then suddenly, I woke up one morning with the worst sore throat ever. It was unbearable. I remember laying in bed, drooling on my pillow, because I simply could not swallow. The pain was ridiculous. I was spraying chloroseptic in my throat every 5 minutes and living with cough drops in my mouth. I was gargling with salt water and Listerine…anything to stop the pain. A couple days later I woke up and my throat was completely better. Only I felt like I had the flu. The worst flu ever. I went to the doctor. I remember laying down in the waiting room. I couldn’t even sit up. What the fuck was wrong with me? I was freaked out about the baby. They listened for the heartbeat on the dopplar and couldn’t find it. I panicked. I called Dave while I was waiting for the u/s. I felt so horrible, I didn’t think I could drive home, and I was pretty convinced the baby was dead. Thankfully, the u/s showed the little baby to be fine. They told me I had the flu, and sent me home saying to take Tylenol and drink as much water as possible. I did that. Religiously. Only I began to notice after a day or two that the Tylenol wasn’t working…it wasn’t bringing the fever down. And then I started spotting. My O.B. sent me to the E.R. The E.R. worked me up and actually tried to send me home, saying maybe I had bronchitis. I remember the E.R. doc calling my O.B. and saying he was sending me home. I remember him hanging up and then ordering more tests. My O.B. saved my life that night…by insisting something else was really wrong with me. They sent me to a room and did a pelvic exam. I remember the doctor’s demeanor when his hand was still inside me and he said, “It’s coming from your uterus.” I looked at Dave and said, “This isn’t good. Something is very wrong.” My blood pressure was low, my pulse was high. Blood tests revealed over the next couple hours that my white blood count was over 40,000. I remember hearing the doctor outside the door gasp, and say “She’s very sick.” Not knowing yet what was causing the illness, I was given a dose of broad spectrum antibiotics. My entire body went into some kind of shock. I turned beet red, started sweating profusely, and was so thirsty I thought I would die on the spot. I asked for water. They were busy and said they would get it. I waited all of five seconds before I started screaming. These fuckers did not understand, I felt like I had walked across the Sahara Desert. The lavatory in the room did not work, of course. I was about to start licking people, I needed water so badly. I finally got some and they asked me for a urine specimen. Only I couldn’t pee. They catheterized me, and nothing came out. But my bladder was full. I could feel it, and so could the nurse. I remember the look on her face, she knew something was wrong. I did too. I kept looking at Dave and saying, “The baby cannot be surviving this, there is no way.” Surreal. I was wheeled up to the maternity floor, the same floor that I delivered the first darling. I knew I wasn’t coming home with a baby. I suddenly hated everyone there, all the baby noises, the flowers, the happiness. I don’t think I slept that night. How could I? What the fuck was happening to me? The next day was uneventful and we were still somewhat hopeful that things might be ok. I didn’t sleep that night, because I didn’t want to die in my sleep. Sometime during the next day they identified the bacteria, and things got serious. Antibiotics were changed, a picc line was inserted into my arm and I started to realize that the baby was really going to die, and if she didn’t, there would be a world and a lifetime of trouble. I spotted a chart next to my bed identifying the dosage as ‘life threatening’. Christ, I’m fucking dying. I didn’t sleep that night either. I was too scared to sleep. I knew that if I closed my eyes, I would die. I was that sick. The next day, my water broke, and what came out did not look normal. The nurses tried to convince me that maybe it was something to do with the weirdness going on with my bladder. I knew what it was. I’d already had a baby. I felt the familiar pop, and the gush. And I knew my baby was dying. They wanted to do an u/s, so they could tell me the sex of the baby. I told them I didn’t want to know. In my mind, I had already decided the baby was a girl, and her name was Ashley. We had only picked out a girl’s name. The pregnancy felt so different than the first darling’s had, and truthfully I was never sick a day with any of my boys. This pregnancy had me sick every day for the whole 15 weeks. When they confirmed that it was indeed my water that had broken, Dave cried. I’ve only seen him cry with the births of our babies. I guess he only cries for babies. When they are born, and when they die. They wheeled me up for a D&C, and my O.B. wasn’t there to do it. The female doctor, who went on to deliver my next two babies, had to do it, and she was five months pregnant. I felt horrible, knowing what she was about to do. She was basically performing an abortion. Cutting up a fetus, and removing it. While pregnant. We both cried afterwards. I cried for her, and she cried for me. My uterus bore the brunt of the infection, the blood loving bacteria flocked to the most vascular part of my body. I have the skills of my current O.B. to thank that I ever went on to have 2 more kids. They told me later that the baby probably saved my life. Her life, for mine. Her life, for my bladder and kidneys. Her life, for my limbs. I stayed in the hospital a week. After a few days I sent Dave home to stay with the oldest darling. The nurses stayed with me. All night. They gave me medicine to sleep, only I wouldn’t. I couldn’t. I was so convinced I was dying. They stroked me and talked to me and convinced me to sleep. Convinced me I wouldn’t die. I could tell which ones were coming and going during the night, because one of them smoked and one of them smelled like gardenias. I had weird neck pain and a headache, which necessitated a whole flurry of activity, because HIB can cause your throat to swell and suffocate you. I couldn’t get out of bed to have any tests, I was too weak. They brought some huge ass machine in and did tests right there. By day 5, I had slept some and was getting better. By day 7, I was released with a home health nurse, to come and do the rocephin injections for the next 2 weeks into my picc line. I went home with a tube hanging out of my arm. I looked like a heroin addict for a solid year. I was so anemic and had lost so much blood I could barely hold my head up. I was depressed and pathetic, and stayed that way a long time. A few months ago someone told me they had visions of Dave, rocking a baby, and calling her Ashley. No one knew we had named her that. I had only ever written it on a piece of paper, over and over….Ashley Marie….in fancy letters.
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