Alarm Bells

By Ivett de las Mercedes


HAVANA TIMES – The human body is a perfect machine which is why we can’t turn a blind eye to its signals. Early prevention ensures you live.

She didn’t know how to listen to her body and had a fever on and off in the evening/night for a month, which left her weak. She was afraid to go to the doctor. The excuse of “the fever is because of my bone problem” became a chorus.

Her children, siblings and friends were all very worried about her. She found it harder and harder to leave the house. She barely ate, she lost interest in the things she used to like, even her relationship with her partner.

She went for a check-up after we all insisted, which is when we learned that her uric acid, blood sugar and erythrocyte levels were abnormal. The doctor put her on a special diet: chicken, malanga, not too much rice, no salt. And she was prescribed medicine. Her fever continued. Her skin became rough.

Not a second went by that we told her that we should go to see specialists in Havana, but she always put it off, looking for a new excuse every time.

Finally, a cousin got in touch with a doctor at San Cristobal Hospital, who diagnosed her with Infective Endocarditis, a disease which can be lethal and its symptoms vary depending on how serious the infection is: fever over 38 degrees, chills, fatigue, acute kidney failure, cerebrovascular events, murmurs and rash. You get this disease when one or several germs infect the endocardial surface of the heart (the most inner surface) and heart valves.

She was admitted into the Hospital a day later, after suspicions that there was Staphylococcus aureus in her blood stream which could have come from the oral cavity, skin or respiratory tract. In this case, it was very likely that it had entered her bloodstream through one of the cuts she had on her arm that had taken a long time to heal. She had also had a minor eye surgery a few months ago and they believed that it could have also been a result of this.

During her time at the hospital, her symptoms got worse. Her fever didn’t subside with the antibiotics: Gentamicin and Rocephin. She had non-stop diarrhea, which led to a general state of weakness and lack of appetite.

The doctor believed that this was part of her disease but I didn’t agree. On November 11, 2018, a rash appeared which was attributed to the Gentamicin, so they changed the antibiotic. However, Vancomycin (the new antibiotic she was given) didn’t help appease the fever, her discomfort and much less the rash that only got worse.

In the early morning, she began to see things, her speech wasn’t clear. I went looking for the doctor on duty, who prescribed Dexamethasone intravenously because of the uncontrollable burning she was experiencing. He also gave her Diphenhydramine and an injection to sedate her.

In the hours that followed, new symptoms appeared: she had poor urine output, her neck and shoulders swelled up, she had shortness of breath and the rash got worse. Desperate, I went looking for the doctor again as the nurses didn’t come by.

Right at the end of the day, several specialist doctors appeared who took swift action against the new symptoms. They put on a catheter, they connected her up to an artifical breathing machine and they put on a Levin tube for drainage. Now, we just had to wait.

Soon, relatives, friends and work colleagues began to come. Her children were distraught and I did everything I could to control myself, I was in another province, far from my family. I had a lot of confidence in the doctors there and a lot of faith in God.

A doctor gathered us all in a room to tell us it might be lupus. That diagnosis would explain the new symptoms she had, which they believed had nothing to do with the Endocarditis. To tell you the truth, doctors were already having doubts about their first diagnosis.

In the face of so much uncertainty, they decided to put her on a hemodialysis machine, there was hope if her kidneys would work again. They always told us how serious it was. I sent her all of my energy from the cold seat I sat on in the waiting room. Only those who have had a sick loved one know the distress, fear and depression you experience.

She died three days later from Infective Endocarditis in the ICU, she had already suffered a cerebral affection.

Day break on November 14th.

Doctors didn’t stop fighting for her life at any moment. She was never alone, the love we professed for her helped to relieve her suffering a little. Today, I know that it was God’s will, that she was destined to have brain death, and that’s no way to live.

Losing a loved one brings great psychological pain that not all of us can overcome. Having a friendly hand or ear helps to lift the weight of that absence. I believe I am very lucky, I have had the support of my parents, all of my friends, even those who weren’t very close, and of her relatives too. Recovering from that loss is a challenge. Establishing an emotional balance takes its time, sometimes you need medical help.

Life is a divine gift and we should all look after it, that’s why we should go to the doctor as soon as there is any sign that we might be sick, not use antibiotics excessively and never self-medicate because that can also lead to death.

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