It was a Thursday morning in late August, a beautiful summer day. My partner was complaining of a severe headache. It had been going on all week, since Sunday evening. It just got progressively worse by the day. No over the counter pain relievers gave any relief. On that Thursday morning, he looked awful. He was obviously in severe pain. He was actually vomiting every 20 minutes because the pain was so intense.
At nearly 11 am, he was still trying to take phone calls and manage site jobs for the company he had just begun working for. In between bouts, I looked at him and said “get in the d—- car, we are going to the hospital”. I really thought he was going to drop dead that day, from a brain aneurysm, or meningitis, or perhaps he had a brain tumor! It was very concerning, and that severe.
Our son was at school, in third grade. Our daughter was only a year old. I hurriedly packed her diaper bag, including snacks, drinks, and distractions. Into her car seat she went, and I secured her in place. Then, I assisted my partner into the car. Off to the Emergency Room.
We pulled up under the marquis and got him into the entrance of the ER, the baby stayed with me while I parked the car. She went straight into her stroller. I raced across the parking lot to join him in the reception, and he was checked in. When asked his symptoms by the triage nurse, he replied severe, excruciating headache that started days prior and got progressively worse. He was running a low fever at the time when she checked his temperature. By the time we exited her office to go back to the waiting room, she too looked concerned.
We waited for what seemed an excruciating amount of time. He sat in the chair of the waiting room, rocking and holding his head in his hands. The baby got tired of her snacks and sippy cup and was ready to move. I had all I could do to hold it together. The whole experience seemed very surreal.
His name was called and we entered the corridor of the ER and were taken to a room, with one bed. The nurse got him comfortable and continued to ask him questions while she put on a mask, and gloves. She told him that the doctor would order blood work. She then asked me about some of his symptoms. As she exited, she told us the doctor would be right in, and she taped signs to the outside of both doors to the room. You know the type… the ones asking others not to enter, possible contagion, wear full gown, etcetera- if you must enter. This made my heart drop. It was all I could do not to cry. The baby was now a good distraction. My partner and I just looked at each other. I really can’t imagine what was going through his mind at that point- other than make the pain stop.
Within a short time, the doctor entered in full gown, cap, mask, glasses, and gloves. She was a woman close to our age, and quite pregnant. Thus, I knew immediately she could relate to us on some level. She was very smart, and very compassionate. She began to explain to us that because his symptoms were like that of meningitis, she would test him for this. She also added that he would be tested for West Nile, and Lyme. Until she got the test results back, we would have to stay in the room. She also asked us how many family members had been in close contact with him, just in case. He was given some pain medication, which gave him some relief. He was at least able to be more restful. While the doctor was still with him, someone came in to get his blood samples. They both exited, and we looked at each other. Neither of us really knew what to say, so we took a deep breath, and contemplated to ourselves the possible outcomes, and what we would do next. He called his employer to tell them he was at the ER and would not be into work for the rest of the week. I called my mom to let her know what was going on. Thankfully, she was able to meet our son off the bus when he arrived home that afternoon.
The test results for Meningitis, West Nile, and Lyme all came back negative. He then had a CT scan of his head which revealed no tumor, or other issues. The pain medication had taken the edge off so he was able to rest, and once the pain subsided, he stopped vomiting. We were sent home, with instructions to return to the ER if the headache returned. Feeling anxious, and hopeful at the same time, we prayed the pain would not come back when the medication wore off…
We would soon find out this would begin a whole new journey for us. One we were not ready for, or really well equipped to deal with.