View from the ICU
There are several UC-related things that I despise the thought of. Surgery and prednisone are givens (although yes, thank goodness we have these options), and another is C. diff. C. diff, short for clostridium difficile, is a bacteria affecting the colon which is often caused by long-term hospitalization or overuse of antibiotics. Having UC predisposes a person to C. diff, and I’ve actually had it several times. It’s treatable with antibiotics, although some people struggle with it often despite taking antibiotics. Fortunately, I’ve always responded to them.
My symptoms from C. diff have always mimicked colitis symptoms, so when I’ve had it in the past, I never knew if it caused a flare or was the result of a flare. Last weekend, I experienced the worst C. diff I’ve ever had, and it landed me in the ICU. Late that night, I threw up my dinner and threw up once more after thinking that I was fine. I then went to use the bathroom, and at first there was a regular stool, but then I had diarrhea like there was no tomorrow – over 800 cc’s worth, which is significant. (Usually it’s less than 200 cc’s.) While on the toilet, I continued to throw up, just bits of stomach bile at this point. I finally felt somewhat done, went back to my bed, and had the nurse notify the doctors. I thought the worse – had my colon just perforated? I knew these weren’t symptoms of perforation I had heard about, but that didn’t stop me from worrying about it.
The doctor calmed my nerves when he said he didn’t suspect perforation. He didn’t know quite what was happening, though, so they took x-rays and gave me fluids and a couple general antibiotics. From all the fluid loss, I first experienced a very low temperature, which made me freezing cold, and then I had a high temperature, which also made me freezing cold – shivering, teeth-chattering cold. We put hot packs underneath my shoulders, back, and feet. A woman from the ICU came in to consult, and they decided to send me to the ICP, which is a level less serious than the ICU, but due to availability of bedspace, I was brought to the ICU.
Once there, I was stabilized relatively quickly. My vital signs had been completely out of whack – high heart rate, low blood pressure, and high temperature – but these returned to healthy levels, thanks to a combination of fluids and antibiotics. Blood cultures came back negative, but stool cultures can take several days, so we still did not know what those might say. I was sent back to my floor either Sunday night or Monday night, and it was a day or two before the stool culture came back positive for C. diff. Like when I was first diagnosed with UC, I was happy to know what had caused these symptoms and to take the right medicine for it. I was put on Flagyl, an antibiotic, and I have nine days left on it. As long as I’m on antibiotics for C. diff, I’m on precautions, meaning I can’t leave my room, and when nurses come in the room they have to wear a yellow gown and gloves.
Last weekend was scary, and it’s because my colon is so inflamed that the C. diff affected me so severely. I don’t even want to think about how it would have been if I hadn’t been taking herbs and was just as inflamed as I was several weeks ago. Today, it’s almost as if last weekend never happened; the only sign is that there’s a little more blood in my stools than before C. diff. In some ways, I’m actually better, probably because Flagyl can be anti-inflammatory. I’m only using the bathroom 3-5 times a day and the stools are semi-formed. My CRP, a marker of inflammation, is within range for the first time since I knew what a CRP was.
So I’m back on track! My goal right now is to eat, eat, eat, and keep up with fluids too, so that I can gain weight, get off the PICC, and get out.