In November 2002 I lived in Rodenbach Germany, near the Ramstein AFB. My husband was a contractor for the military and provided electronic support for some of their network systems.
I had started a Master's degree course with Oklahoma University for Adult Education when I began to have problems with my eyes. Also I was having roving pain problems, especially in my kidneys and shoulders. The doctor dismissed my pain problems saying that it was probably arthritis, but he was more worried about my eyes. He thought I had conjunctivitis. He provided medication to put in my eyes, but after three days my eyes went from pink to a blood red.
After he looked at my eyes again, he decided that I needed to see an opthalmalogist. It took another month to see the opthalmalogist. So it was early December before I saw this specialist. After the opthalmalogist looked at my eyes, he decided that I could have problems with an autoimmune disease or that I might not clean my eyes well. Instead of sending me to a rheumatologist, he gave me 800 mg of ibuprofen to take three times a day. He went on vacation, while I tried the medication.
In a few days my eyes lost the inflammation (not red any more). But, within another week I began to have problems eating and drinking. For two weeks I was either having problems with vomitting or diarrhea. My husband began to take me to the Landstuhl ER. Unfortunately, the ER was mostly used to treating blunt trauma (for soldiers) or heart attacks (for retirees). In my case, they told my husband that I had mental problems and that I needed to see a psychiatrist.
I went back to my primary care physician who was appalled at the change in my condition. It had been fast and severe. I lost several pounds and couldn't eat anything. He said kidney infection and gave me an antibiotic. Then he scheduled me for a blood test in two days. All this was happening between Christmas and New Years Eve. I was lucky to find anyone at the hospital. And, I was confused and couldn't move. After taking the medication, my husband had to carry me to the bathroom because I couldn't walk. When I took a bath, he needed to take me out of the tub.
My husband took me to the hospital that day for my labs. He was getting worried. He couldn't understand why the doctors couldn't find out what was happening. And, I was going downhill very quickly.
After my labs, my husband almost carried me through several hallways to get to my doctor. As we turned the corner, he was running towards us with a wheelchair. They settled me in, and he told my husband that I was losing my kidneys. It took a few hours, but I was put in the I.C.U.
At the time I didn't know how sick I was... My husband knew at that time that he might lose me. Even the nurses were not hopeful of my condition. They tried flushing my kidneys, giving me prednisolone (through an I.V.), and calling other hospitals that dealt with kidney problems. Eventually, they found a hospital near Ramstien that dealt with rare kidney diseases. But I had to hang on one more night.
I was completely wired up with a heart monitor, cathetor, etc... Even the nurses weren't hopeful about my survival. In fact before I was sent to the other hospital (by ambulance) the head nurse walked into my room.
She told me that I didn't have long to live.
"I know," I answered her. And then she left. I knew that I had to hang on until we found some one, some doctor, who would be able to help me. I couldn't die in Germany. It would hurt my husband too much.
(story continued tomorrow)