I opened my eyes and I saw Dinesh. Everything felt strange and unfamiliar. I asked him “what are you doing here?” He was holding my hand and told me I wasn’t well and that we are in hospital for my treatment. I was in shock and complete disbelief. Who? Me and unwell? And I drifted back to oblivion.
That’s my first clear memory of me realizing that I am in the hospital. I was completely unconscious for four days straight after being admitted. I have no memories from that time, but I do recollect the beeps & the sounds of the medical equipment, yet I felt like I was in a dream. I vaguely recollect that I was irritated and shouted for it to stop, but there is no way to confirm this.
So, what happened in those four days?
After being brought to hospital I was disoriented and slowly lost consciousness. I was kept in ICU (Intensive Care Unit) and doctors started to figure out what was causing it. Dr. Sanjeev was the main consulting doctor. First, they emptied my bladder, putting in a catheter and realized the urine output was very low. So, they did a kidney function test and found my creatine and blood urea levels were elevated.
Creatine and urea are waste products which are processed by the kidney and released through urine. High levels of both indicate a presence of kidney disease or failure. My creatine was 6.39 mg/dL against the normal level of 0.6-1.1 Mg/Dl and my urea was 277 when the normal range is 7 to 20 mg/dL. My kidneys were failing. Uremia (a high level of urea) also causes incoherent behaviour in patients. So, to a certain extent my strange behaviour was explained. I was immediately put on dialysis and by this time I had slipped into a coma.
The hospital put a team of doctors together comprising of a Neurologist, chest physician, infection virologist and a nephrologist who then started conducting various tests. They did a lot of blood work, a CT scan, an MRI and a TB test. TB test results typically takes 4 to 5 days to come. With my deteriorating condition, doctors had to decide the course of treatment, but they were in dilemma if to treat me for TB or Uremia.
While doctors were figuring out what was happening to me, it was total chaos for my family and friends as there was no clarity with regards to what was going on. Since it was Dinesh’s birthday, the poor guy was getting calls from many to wish him and he was at a complete loss of words. Relatives and friends were calling, and he was not able to give them any answers aside from saying that I was in hospital. He couldn’t switch off his phone either as he was the emergency contact person. It was such a wrong day to fall sick!
Coming back to my diagnosis, the doctors were leaning toward it being a case of TBM (TB meningitis) on the basis of the signs I was showing. In simple words, it was TB of the brain. It is a rare and a deadly infection that mostly affects children. Proof that there is still a child in me! It is tricky to detect and if there is a delay in treating, which is usually the case, it’s fatal and has severe effects. The virus can release toxins in blood which affects the blood flow in the body and may result in the patient losing limbs and experiencing organ failure. The doctors decided not to wait for lab results and go ahead with their clinical diagnosis, so they started the treatment immediately for the TBM which really turned out to be lifesaving!
Thankfully I started responding to the treatment slowly. I continued to be unconscious, but my blood work and other vitals started showing some improvements.
Dinesh and our gang of friends were in the hospital throughout and they actually spent the nights in the car. Thankfully as Dr. Sanjeev was a friend, Dinesh could come in for few minutes to check on me. He would hold my hand and talk to me hoping to get a response. My condition was still serious and not really stable. My sister, who lives in UK, booked her flights as she was told that it would be better if she comes.
Finally, after 4 days, I opened my eyes. Dinesh was let in to meet me and of all the things I could’ve asked him, my reaction was “what are YOU doing here?”
Next Week: Back & Forth: I continue to be in and out of consciousness and then it gets worse