Illness Doesn’t Only Happen to Other People


When I was little I used to read a lot of books about sick kids. The types of books which little boys and girls would get some kind of horrible disease and often die. I don’t know what I found so fascinating or compelling about those stories, but they shaped in me an enormous fear of becoming sick.

I used to think all the time about how scary even being admitted to a hospital would be, I dreaded the loneliness and the hopelessness I imagined would come with it. I’ve spent my life living in fear of cancer, brain aneurysms, appendicitis – anything big or small, that would put me in the hospital.

I’ve tried my best to keep my obsessive Googling at bay. Everyone knows that the last thing you should do when something is wrong is google it. I would usually end up googling things anyways, but I’d always tell myself, “These things aren’t going to happen to you, you’re fine.”

A few months ago I came down with a pretty bad flu. It had all the usual symptoms: fever, sore throat, headache… so I didn’t think too much of it, until the headache started getting really bad. My mom gets migraines, so even then I figured that’s what it was, but I went to the doctor anyways, hoping to get some relief. The doctor who saw me ordered painkillers for me and referred me to a neurologist for an appointment within two weeks.

I went home feeling a lot better, almost cured. I could go outside again, I went back to work, I put the whole thing out of my mind for the next two weeks. The only thing bothering me was that sometimes my vision would blink out, just for a second. Google told me this could be a number of benign things, and I had the appointment with the neurologist coming up anyways, so I ignored it.

Two days before my appointment my eye started to feel strange, like I had gotten something in it. I remember asking people if they saw anything in my eye. Eye drops didn’t help but I thought it must just be dry. By the time my appointment came, I couldn’t see out of my right eye.

After explaining my symptoms to a neurologist and having a quick examination both by him and by a neuropthamologist, they came to the conclusion that I had intracranial hypertension. In other words, by brain was producing too much cerebrospinal fluid and creating pressure on my brain. This pressure was causing my optic nerve to swell leading to something called papilledema, and if I didn’t get treatment immediately I could lose my vision.

I was sent to the emergency room where I was admitted to the hospital for the first time in my life. They gave me a lumbar puncture to relieve some pressure, which was another one of my childhood fears and I was in tears, terrified. It was the middle of the night, the doctor’s at the hospital didn’t really understand my diagnosis and neither did I, it wasn’t an ideal situation. All my worry ended up being for nothing because it didn’t hurt. I had three more in the next two weeks I stayed in the hospital.

It turns out I didn’t have too much to be afraid of in terms of staying at a hospital either, I was hardly ever alone. My family and friends really came together to be there for me, my sister even spending her birthday in the hospital with me.

The doctors still haven’t quite figured me out, I’ve been poked and prodded and tested for everything they can think of but I still have more to come. For now I’m on a lot of medication and I’m doing my best to feel as healthy as I can.

Without those lumbar punctures and without this medication I’d probably be blind right now, or at least blind in one of my eyes. I don’t know when I’m gonna start feeling better, I didn’t think it would take this long. I always told myself something like this would never happen to me, but sometimes these things just happen.

If I’ve learned anything from this experience, it’s that there are things scarier than your biggest fears, like thinking you have a brain tumor, or having doctor’s tell you they can’t figure out what’s wrong. But you’re stronger than you think you are when you have to be, and it can always be worse. Don’t neglect your health, don’t explain away symptoms when something doesn’t feel right, and please, get your eyes checked!

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