Posted by: Kate | July 4, 2010

Holding Down the Fo(u)rt(h)

I spent a chunk of the last Fourth of July in the emergency room, having created a little fireworks display inside my head that morning.

I really, really do not want to turn that into an annual event.

I’m not worried about another seizure.  I’m confident in the diagnosis: a serotonin storm, brought on by the combination of Zoloft and Ultram.  An antidepressant specifically designed to increase the level of free-floating serotonin in my bloodstream, and painkiller with a side effect of heightened serontonin, adding up to an overload.  In retrospect, I can recognize other symptoms in the days and weeks leading up to the seizure, which all evaporated as soon as the culprits were apprehended.

Great, wonderful: a happy ending.

Now here it is, another Fourth of July, and I should be in the hospital.  I know I should.  I was told, quite clearly, to go to the ER – and not the local ER, but down to Mass General because that’s where my surgeons are and it’s where this latest procedure will happen – if I developed a fever or had a noticeable increase in pain.  And I have both: the fever is low-grade, 99.1-99.4 (though normal, for me, is down around 97.5, so the readings are misleadingly low), and the pain is steadily climbing.  But I’m able to blame the fever on a New England summer day that brings us temperatures in the 90s by 10:00 a.m. and humidity in the 105-110% range, give or take.  It’s hot out, and so I’m hot in.  And the pain is still manageable with the medications I have on-hand.  Barely, and I can’t manage the anxiety and insomnia, but still.

I’m holding down the fort here, resisting the hospital for all I’m worth.  Just for today, I want to be with my kids.  I want to make a special dessert (Oreo cheesecake) with Emily, and watch Willem and Jacob man the grill.  I want to coax smiles and the occasional giggle out of Isaac.  I just want to be here, home, on the Fourth.

I’m terrified of the hospital.  Terrified of just how wrong things can go.  Terrified of another round of “rest and recovery.”

There’s an awful irony, in the timing: as of Friday, my VNA caregivers and insurance company decided that I no longer needed to receive in-home nursing care.  I was officially declared to be healed from the March surgeries, ready to abandon all bandages and wound dressings.  Six hours after that final nurse visit, I was on the phone with my new gynecologist, listening to her explain that I had this mass, and would be having another surgery, and starting all over again.

So, I’m home.  Just today, because if things continue to advance as they have been, I won’t be able to manage my own pain tomorrow, and the fever might become more consistent (because, truly, it measures in the normal range every other time I check it).  I’m not being reckless, I’m just indulging in a little bit of conscious denial and avoidance today.  One more day home, and I’ll get up early tomorrow and head in to Boston to get back on this roller coaster ride again.

I just need to hold down the fort, for myself and for my kids.  Sometimes the mental health needs come before the physical ones, by a day.

(And, yes, I hear just how defensive I sound.  I know that means I should grab the already-packed hospital bag and go, because I’m clearly receiving signals from my body and brain which I am choosing to ignore.  I’ll behave better tomorrow, I promise.)



  1. Oh Kate, I understand the need to be home with the family, but please take care of you, and if it even starts to feel even a little itty bitty bit worse please go in.

  2. I hope you get every bit of enjoyment possible from your family today.

  3. PLEASE don’t ignore your health!! I know you’re smarter than that, but I just had to say it. I wouldn’t want to go either, given your past experiences with all things hospitaly, but listen to your dr. and heed her instructions! Seriously, I hope it’s nothing, but better to be safe, no?

    OK, now that I’ve sounded good and preachy (sorry!) … happy fourth. I hope you are able to genuinely enjoy the day with your kids.

  4. Oh Kate, it sounds like your body is telling you(yelling) things are progressing quickly. Please listen, being here alive is so much more important than producing memory of a certain day. I’m just so darn worried for you. Please don’t push the envelope. Wish I could give you a hug! Love you lots!!!

  5. I’m not a worrier by nature, nearly to a fault. Yet, I can’t say anything you want to hear. Yes, the mental health is good to put in front of the physical, and if you were nursing a sprained ankle or scratched cornea, I’d be 100% with you.

    Thinking of you. Lots.

  6. Will be doing my damnedest to not worry too much from up here, but it’s tough…Please, take care of you (I know you are, but I needed to say it)…Let me know if you need me to be your communique with the world again. Love you. Lots.

  7. I can’t tell you what to do, and I can’t know what your body is experiencing and whether or not you should be in the hospital. But I can pray for you to know very clearly what to do in any event…and also continue praying for this to Go.Away.Completely and be NOTHING!

  8. Oh dear. Honey, I completely sympathize with you, but I find I start justifying things to myself when I don’t want to really accept that they are that way. Please, take care.

  9. Kate, Being your friend is soooo stressful so I can only imagine how much stress you are under. enjoy your day but be on that road at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning OK? I will be thinking of you and hope that this is a simple and quick surgery and then the powers that be will let you live and enjoy your family everyday painfree and happy. Love you. Krista

  10. Ok. The mom/wife in me says to enjoy the day with your family. However, the mother in me says to please, please, PLEASE don’t wait too long – you know how quickly these things can turn, and you cannot afford to take any chances. So, enjoy the bbq & Oreo cheesecake, but TAKE CARE OF KATE. Love ya!

  11. Wishing you all the best. Try to enjoy your day, but listen to that little voice if is says “ok, now I really should go…”

  12. Kate, thinking of you, sending health and calming vibes…

  13. Hoping that everything is going ok.

  14. Kate:
    Late chiming in here but you need to get your self taken care of – this stuff is no game, and you KNOW it. I am sending lots of health and happiness vibes that this crap straightens out and you rebound permanently. LOVE YOU LOTS!

  15. Thinking of you Kate. ((((hugs))))

  16. I won’t lecture you about listening to your body. You already KNOW. Thinking of you and hope everything works out when you get to the hospital.

  17. I hope you’re okay, Kate. I’m looking forward to an update from you.

  18. I didn’t see any of these blog updates or your notes on Facebook until today – I hope you’re at the hospital. I hope it turns out to be the easiest possible fix. I hope you are okay.

    Sending all the good vibes I can muster your way, Kate. Jeez, you deserve a damn break already.

  19. Oh Kate – thinking of you.

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