Friday, February 1, 2013

E. Coli Part 1

2 years ago this February, I got really sick. Up until now, I haven't really taken the time to detail everything that happened, and what I'm doing about the residual effects. This is my (abbreviated version of the) story. I wanted to share it both for information, as well as to hopefully be an encouragement for anyone who has had to live through a serious stomach illness. I've broken it up into 2 parts for the sake of length.

The beginning of February 2011 brought many troubles for our new little family. My husband I had only been married for a few months when I was hospitalized with E. Coli 0157:h7.  Initially, I thought I only had the stomach flu.  I had been sick with it in December and the initial symptoms seemed the same. When I started noticing blood in my diarrhea and started experiencing severe stomach cramping, I knew that something was different. To say that this scared me is a major understatement.  I was starting to run the possibilities of worst case scenarios through my mind. Jon insisted that we go to the doctor to check things out, but since it was already getting late, we went to a Patient First. The doctor told me it was "just a nasty stomach bug" and to take some antacid and I would be fine. A few hours later of vomiting, lots more blood, and the worst pain I've felt in my life, we made our way to the hospital.  I've never experienced the pains of childbirth, but I hear that e. coli cramping is worse.

They admitted me into St. Mary's Hospital, put me on an IV, a ton of antibiotics, and a really strong pain medicine called Dilauded every half hour. As soon as the pain medicine wore off, I would be writhing in pain again and miserable. This went on for 3 days, with my condition getting worse, before they finally figured out what was ailing me. That time of waiting was miserable! I had 8 different doctors coming in and out, analyzing me, asking me questions in my delirium, and leaving shaking their heads. I was told I might have Crohn's Disease and many other ailments, but they were not sure. One doctor even said "We have no idea what you are sick with... it's kind of interesting, we feel like we're on an episode of Dr. House!" Not what someone in a hospital bed EVER wants to hear...

My amazing husband slept in a chair/bed that was far from comfortable every night and stuck it out with me. He feed me apple sauce when I could manage it. He prayed over me, tried to make me laugh, helped me to the bathroom every few minutes, and overall was my intercessor for the doctors. During the day he still tried to attend classes and get some down time, but was otherwise by my side. I was in a lot of pain and utterly exhausted, so it was really hard for him to see his new bride going through some unknown illness. Many friends and family members came to visit, and Jon even greeted them with donuts and coffee. Once the doctors discovered it was e. coli, everyone that came in the room was required to wear purple gloves and special yellow hazmat gowns as a precaution. People still came to visit me despite this.  That's love.

Jon's "bed", me in my misery, and Jon in his hazmat gown.

When the hospital finally realized it was E. Coli 0157:h7, they immediately stopped any antacids and antibiotics, as these are known to actually make things worse. Oops. I slowly started to improve and all the numbers on all my charts started to stabilize.  I was victoriously released a few days later to go home. Hooray!  Yet something still didn't feel quite right yet. I had a feeling this wasn't over. Turns out, I was right.

I began to feel insatiably thirsty, and very weak. After 3 days, I wasn't getting better. I started vomiting again, so Jon took me back to the hospital. We figured I was just dehydrated and would need an IV for a bit then go home. They ran some tests and everyone was surprised to learn that my kidneys were failing. I had developed Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome (HUS) as a side effect of the e. coli.  HUS causes rapid red blood cell and platelet depletion, as well as kidney failure. Normally this only happens in 15% of cases of e. coli, and mostly in children or the elderly.

They ordered a blood transfusion and I was 2 points away from needing dialysis. Miserable! I then had my first ever panic attack during the blood transfusion. My body was trembling, heart racing, I felt dizzy and out of breath, tingly all over, and couldn't focus my eyes or thoughts. I had no idea what was happening and was sure that I must be dying. After that, the doctors had a miscommunication and took me off all food for 3 days, which caused me to crash. I couldn't even stand on my own I was so weak.  When the hemotologist found out, he put me back on solid food and put potassium and sugar in my IV. I was more excited for that terrible hospital meal than I ever have been for any other meal in my life.

Rice Crunchins and soggy bacon in all its glory

Jon and I celebrated our first Valentine's Day as a married couple in the hospital, too. He was even
sweet enough to come dressed up with roses for me. Our "date" was interrupted when the nurse instructed him to help with giving me a sponge-bath.  How's that for steamy? I assure you, it was not. Still, he was my hero husband and took care of me every day and night.

Finally, towards the end of February, my numbers had yet again stabilized and I was able to go home... this time, for good. It was a great joy to be out of the hospital, and while I was still weak, I was at least able to walk again. I even thought I was good to go back to my normal diet, but quickly discovered I was wrong. More on that in part 2...


  1. Amanda, thank you for sharing this. Breaks my heart to hear everything you went through! But praise God you are healthy now... this is a good reminder to be praying that you wouldn't feel any more effects from this experience!
    Love you

  2. Ahh I cannot wait for part two! I remember you being in the hospital for awhile but had no idea it was that bad! It sounds like the doctors were real doofuses which is scary. I'm glad this is all well behind you. Love you!


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