BlogSeries Excerpts: Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare
Chapter One: 911
January 15, 2009 11:30 a.m. Lying face down on the floor I only had one thought, where am I? The sound of heavy footsteps and male voices coming up the stairs clued me in that all was not right. I theorized that I had fallen from the attic as I tried to turn my head to look up. However, my head would only turn a couple of degrees, as if someone had tapped me on the shoulder, and I was none too eager to know who it was. I had no memory of what had transpired before this as I lay on the floor of the upstairs hallway of my house. I was just outside my bedroom, and I could not move. As the footsteps and voices got closer I felt I was in a dream, or the victim of a cruel practical joke. The voices and steps continued to approach through a haze. I had no fear of them. Perhaps they could get to the bottom of this. I could feel someone kneel close to where I lay. “Can you move?” a man asked. I could feel his hot breath next to my ear. I thought this was a rather familiar distance, but I was in no condition to question issues of personal space. It made me feel like an injured football player when the training staff comes sprinting onto the field. The conversation that is taking place in their small world was always something that I could only imagine until now. The power of voice had escaped me. I could only moan hoarsely, and perhaps shake my head. “What’s your name?” he asked. Even if I could speak I would have still said nothing, because I couldn’t be sure. I had no answers. I heard a garbled world of voices and felt activity around me until a clear voice said, “We’re going to turn you over.”
They somehow turned my limp body over, and an oxygen mask was soon attached to my face. The blast of air was so soothing and refreshing, but only to a certain point. It felt like it was just a stop-gap measure in helping me. No way could I continue with this on my face. I just took the relief it gave without another question because I was having definite troubles without it. “Do you know where you are?” I thought it was my house; however it really didn’t feel like my house. It felt like I was in another decade. I still had no answer. I saw the hallway wall in a blurred, spotted way but could not make out any faces. I heard only voices during this exchange. I felt like I was in another world, hoping my responses or lack of them would make all of this go away. “We’re going to need the gurney that can get him down these stairs,” the interviewer said to someone.
There was a lull in the proceedings. I had no idea where my wife Becky was, she had to be around here somewhere. I just couldn’t tell where. Every time I opened my eyes I was met with this horrible tunnel vision coupled with a feeling of being underwater. Every act, every motion was in a start, pause mode. “This is a big guy; we need all you guys to help out,” said the interviewer.
Becky Hoover’s Perspective
January 15, 2009 – The ambulance driver stuck her head out the window and informed me, “He says he wants to go to General Hospital. So we will be taking him there.”
I said, “Fine.” Not really grasping the implications of this change in plans when St. Hubbins had been discussed as the destination up until Howard was placed in the ambulance. In any event I was glad to see that whichever hospital it was it would only be a couple of miles away. I was sure that I would be spending the majority of the afternoon in the ER, perhaps sitting by his bed as he got whatever IV he needed. He would need his glasses and the book he was reading. With these items and a couple of more I quickly got into the car and headed to General Hospital.
I heard the gurney brought up the stairs, and a lot of help was needed to get my prone body onto it. I am six feet four, weigh around 210 pounds, and may be even full of muscle during good times, but I hadn’t eaten in a day and a half. This as dead weight is a challenge to move, even for the burliest of fellows. A sedated rhino on the Serengeti gets less attention than I was getting now. Perhaps I would just be tagged and left to roam around the house.
Many hands were brought under me as I was lifted. The straps were tightened, and I was brought to a reclined position. They began to roll me toward the top of the stairs. The stairs have two ninety degree turns and surprisingly I was barely jostled while I was brought down to the foyer. The scary part was I could not move, nor could I feel a thing. I just knew something was wrong, then again I felt like I was in some other guy’s body. That feeling might have been a pretty good indicator that something was wrong. This couldn’t be me; but it was. Adding to my woes was my thought that the stairs were being scratched up with this gurney. I could hear the grunting of the firefighters straining to get me down, and I was a little embarrassed by all of the attention. I was whisked outside into the January air. The blast of cold air woke me up for a bit. I was surprised over this fuss like I was a thousand pound shut-in that had to be rescued from himself. Yet would I eventually be able to wash myself with a towel wrapped around a stick? The ambulance and fire engine were outside on the street. I could sense a crowd had started to gather as I was rolled down the driveway. “We’re neighbors. What’s wrong with Howard?” someone asked. I could not hear the response. “We’re going to take him to St. Hubbins,” said the ambulance driver. “OK,” I heard Becky say somewhere behind me. My house is equidistant between two of the largest hospitals in Charlotte and possibly the state of North Carolina. We are a couple of miles from both hospitals: St. Hubbins and General Hospital.
In hindsight, had I weighed the two hospitals on aesthetic grounds, I would have preferred St. Hubbins’s emergency room. I went there a few years ago to tend to a wound I had received on my forehead by clumsily opening a window in the upstairs bathroom. It was the window’s fault, not mine. The waiting room there had a big screen TV and cushy chairs that would provide a comfortable environment for me while I waited my turn. In comparison, the visit I had to the ER of General Hospital with my youngest daughter, who was three months old at the time, was comparable to a scene from Independence Day. However that was six years ago, and the one significant point in comparing the two was that General Hospital has a higher-rated trauma center. Plus, with Dr. Noah Drake, Luke, and Laura, how could I go wrong? Usually when I hear Emergency Room I think there will be a large investment of time, an IV, a replacement of fluids, some paperwork, an annoying ER bill, and I would be good to go. Quite frankly, I had shit to do. There was some project I had been working on for work for some place that was due at some unspecified time for someone that I didn’t know. It was that important. Amazingly, I thought of none of that as I was rolled to the ambulance. As I was slid into the unfamiliar space I could continue to make out the neighbors asking about me, but I could not hear the answers they were being given. Once I was in the ambulance I felt myself going. There was a force weighing me down that I could not fight. I heard voices around me, and the central point in my decreasing field of vision was the interior of the doors, with blurry faces outside looking on.
As I lay in the ambulance, I consoled myself by repeating in my head, they’ll make this go away; all of this will go away. The doors then closed on me; my eyes closed; and there was darkness.
Part IV: Travels
Part VI: Rehab
About the Author Howard Hoover lives in Charlotte, NC with his family and is a first time author. As a sepsis survivor he has been invited to speak at conferences, hospitals, and manufacturing facilities domestically and internationally. He holds bachelor degrees from the United States Merchant Marine Academy, and the University of South Florida, and a graduate degree from Mercer University. He is a registered professional engineer in Georgia and North Carolina. Contact Howard Hoover: email@example.com Visit www.howardwhoover.com for more information about sepsis and a couple of other interesting items regarding my story. Travels through a Toxic Shock Nightmare is now available on Amazon.