Tuesday, April 05, 2011

The Plague

I have this irrational fear of germy places. (Think indoor play places, bathrooms, church nurseries, etc.) Only perhaps my irrational fear isn't really so irrational after all.

The weekend before last, we took the kids to a birthday party for one of our neighbors. It was the first party the younger kids have ever been to in their lives, actually. It was at one of those indoor inflatables places. They had a blast! And when we left, I jokingly told Jason that we'd probably be sick the next day. And we were.

All six kids had fevers and a horrible, barking cough. The cough kept them up at night. The fever kept them laying around in misery on the couch. (Only bright side? No mess to clean up!) And slowly, they started to feel better. They're still coughing all day and all night right now, but they feel good. But on Wednesday I started to have a sore throat and figured I was catching the creeping crud from the children. It's a good thing I scheduled my blog post for Thursday because I was dead for the rest of last week. Somehow I ended up with the worst strep throat that I've ever had in my life. At one point I was drooling uncontrollably. It was totally not pretty.

A visit to the doctor on Thursday confirmed a nasty case of strep. The doctor surprised me by being completely supportive of my refusal of antibiotics. And then he offered me pain medication to boot. After 5 days of misery, I'm finally feeling better and can finally swallow liquids with minimal pain. Whenever I have strep throat, I think that I should really consider having my tonsils removed like the doctor always suggests. But then I recover and I think that there is no way I want to go through the pain of having my tonsils out!

If you're wondering about why I don't take antibiotics, I'll explain. Most people realize these days that the overuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria and other nasty complications. After a childhood of constant ear infections treated with antibiotics, I developed an allergy to penicillin. Then, after a case of strep throat in 2006, I had a bout with C. diff. C. diff (Clostridium difficile) is a strain of bacteria that causes the-worst-diarrhea-you'll-ever-have-in-your-life by altering the natural flora of the gut. When the good bacteria in your body are gone, it becomes very difficult for your body to fight off the bad bacteria and so the bad bacteria easily take over. And it is just not pretty.

My case of C. diff went undiagnosed after 3 trips to the local ER. Finally, after I'd lost more than 20 pounds and was dangerously dehydrated, they admitted me for further testing. After checking my blood gases, they knew that something was very wrong. I was whisked away to a room in quarantine where every nurse or doctor who entered my room wore what looked like a space suit and I wondered if I contracted the flesh-eating bacteria or something. At the tender age of 26, I received my first colonoscopy. After they were done probing me, they showed pictures of my ulcerated colon to poor Jason, who was almost as horrified as I was.

Despite taking probiotics on a daily basis, I had colitis as a result of the C. diff and I spent a week in the hospital. Not only did I have to battle the C. diff, but I also lost my milk supply as well. Leila & Sarah were 6 months old, exclusively breastfed, and I suddenly had no milk. Jason used every drop of milk that was in the freezer. And so began a week-long process of reestablishing my milk supply so that I could feed my starving babies. It was a very trying time for our family. It was scary and, up until the day I landed in the hospital, I'd never even heard of C. diff. Now I look at antibiotics as a necessary evil. I will use them if they are absolutely necessary, and that is the only time I will use them. In my eyes, I see the potential for C. diff everywhere and it's scary. I never want to experience that again. Strep throat goes away without antibiotics and the risk of a rare complication like rheumatic fever is only 1 in a million, compared to the very real risk of a C. diff relapse-about a 1 in 5 chance. For me, that makes the decision easy. I'll suffer through strep throat before I'll suffer through diarrhea hell again any day!

Anyway, now you know more about me than you ever wanted to know. Just be glad you weren't there to see the pictures of my colon.

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