Thursday, December 29, 2011

How it all started

So for me this "adventure" started back in April of this year. I had worked 4 night shifts in a row which 1. I never work night shift and 2. 4 in a row is a lot. I came home that fourth morning and crashed, hard. When I woke up that evening I had a pretty bad headache and was back in bed not long after getting up. The next morning I had what I could only think at the time was a severe migraine. I stayed in bed for the better part of three days, avoiding bright lights and loud sounds and vomiting anytime I moved too much. Eventually it went away and I didn't think much of it, only that I'd had a pretty bad reaction to those night shifts. I didn't think anything of it again for weeks.

The migraine episodes started occurring more often though that summer. Every couple of weeks and would last anywhere from 1 to 3 days. They mostly happened after I worked consecutive shifts or after working night shifts. That summer was also when I switched units at work and my new unit required rotating, so I was doing more night shifts that I was used to and I assumed my body was having a hard time adjusting.  The migraines were more severe than any kind of pain I had ever experienced...even after four years of rowing, and the more intense they got the more likely I was to throw up without any control over it (ps: huge indicator of increased intracranial pressure aka ICP...had I been my own patient I probably would have been more on top of that symptom). Still though, I brushed it off as migraines, thousands of people have them and have just as severe of symptoms.

I even biked 150 miles the day after one of my bad migraines. I recovered quickly for the most part.

Late August into September was when things started changing. While I still had the bad migraines every few weeks I now started having daily headaches, not as bad as the migraines but severe enough to slow me up, in the mornings I was sluggish to get going, on my days off I slept until the early afternoons, I had little energy and survived on around the clock excedrin and lots of coffee. Still though, I plowed on...nurses always make the worst patients, and didn't think there was anything to be done. On a side note I DID go see both my primary care doc & eye doc over the summer to see if they had any contact prescription was up to date and my primary told me I had tension headaches and that was that.

October was when I finally gave in and believed something else was wrong. I started having vision changes. At first I thought I was being overly concerned and thereby imagining these problems, but they got to a point where I could no longer ignore them. Initially it started with seeing bright spots...kind of like if you looked in the sun too long and looked away and it takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust back to normal. Then the tunnel vision set in, usually only affecting one eye at a time, again never for longer than 30 seconds or so. Then the most concerning problem started, one that I couldn't ignore. If I stood up too fast, or stood from crouching on the floor (as is done often in an ICU when checking chest tube output or urine catheter output) I would completely lose my vision, everything went dark, not for long 20-30 seconds, but I couldn't see at all. So then I would find myself, for instance after jumping up to silence a monitor alarm, standing still, just staring into space until I could see again. I can't even imagine, if any of my patients parents noticed, what they thought was wrong with me, but no one asked. Of course initially I brushed it off as having "orthostatic hypotension" (a period of low blood pressure when changing positions, common in women in their 20s & 30s)...once again being a bad nurse and diagnosing myself, but at this point I also started looking in to finding a neurologist.

Once I found one it was a month until I could get an appointment, but it was better than nothing and until then I continued my daily regimen of excedrin & alieve, and sleeping whenever I wasn't working. Looking back on it, I don't know how I was functioning so well at work, but I was, it was probably the only place I was functioning really well. I was alert and able to stay on top of my patients, even through the dreaded night shifts. But every day I was looking more and more forward to that appointment.

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