Dreadful Hospital Tests and Stay: Tuberculosis (Part 2)
If you who want a summarised version of my story and recommendations for medical concierge and financial advisor, refer to my previous post, “I have Tuberculosis (Part 1)“.
As mentioned in that post, I wrote a super detailed account for myself to remember the fateful week. Lest I forget. It is also for family and friends who care to know what happened to me and prayed over me. Also, for empathetic souls who want to put themselves in the shoes of the sick in public hospital. A world of difference compared to private hospital.
I poured out a lot of myself as I wrote. Emotionally drained as I recounted my story. Now I understand why some victims rather drop the lawsuit and not “go through” the whole ordeal again in court proceedings. Moreover, those victims would have to endure the additional pain of being grilled/accused by the defending lawyers.
Warning: Super duper long post ahead.
Jul – Aug 19: The Prelude
August 2019, I was at the A&E again.
One month ago, the A&E doctor diagnosed my sharp chest pain and breathlessness as gastric / heartburn issue. I thought I was dying from shortness of breath, and hence rushed to the hospital. Turned out, it was a “harmless” gastric problem I have suffered since young. Still, I wondered if it could be a panic attack, or a heart wrought with anxieties that’s causing me to gasp for air.
I was a bit embarrassed for making a mountain out of a molehill, having hubby to go to the hospital with me and our neighbour to keep watch over our sleeping toddler. Usually, I would monitor my condition before going to the doctor, but the breathlessness felt suffocating. I should have monitored a bit more. I should have. At least thank God it’s a false alarm and not life-threatening.
Learning my lesson, I was going to be more chill going forward. So in early August, even when I got sharp pains in my chest, shoulder and ribcage, I brushed it off as the heartburn the doctor had diagnosed. Even when the pain was acute at every deep breath I took, and worsened so much when I lied down. The pain felt was stabbing into me so much that I couldn’t flip to my left side at all.
“The pain will ease off,” I thought, as I curbed the gagging nausea feeling in me. I had loss of appetite too. Why did I have morning sickness this time round? Yet, on hindsight, these could be symptoms of TB instead of morning sickness.
Soon, I had fever on and off. “Go see a doctor,” my hubby suggested a few times. I thought it was food poisoning, because I puked really bad, and out came my McDonald’s lunch and the start of my fever. Moreover, paracetamol was making me feel better, and the doctor was likely to give me the same medication and ask me to monitor. Viral fever will subside itself in about a week anyway. I was going to be chill this time.
One week past and my fever was still coming on and off, a low grade fever getting worse usually in the afternoon. So I headed to the polyclinic – BIG mistake. The doctor listened to my lungs with his stethoscope and didn’t detect anything. Apparently, he should have heard that something was wrong! He should have heard it and asked me to go to A&E right away. He simply told me that viral fever would not persist for more than 10 to 14 days. So I should go A&E if I’m still running fever for three more days (that would be 10 days).
I probably would have sought emergency help sooner if I went to a GP instead. Lesson learnt.
(Day 0) 20 Aug 19, Tues: The Fateful Day
Unlike the first time, I didn’t think I had anything serious. I was going to A&E just to confirm I was alright. It was for a peace of our minds. I went to A&E alone this time, while my mother came to watch over baby EX as she napped. I showered and did not wash my hair. Even though I heard baby EX woke up from her nap, I did not kiss her goodbye. I was rushing for the bus. I thought I would be away for just a few hours.
No wonder some say treasure every parting like it’s the last. I’m not going to die, but on hindsight, things in life can really happen in the suddenlies.
Preliminary Tests and X-Rays
Same as the first visit to A&E, I went through the standard procedures — heart checked on the pulse monitor clipped on finger, followed by ECG on my chest. The first time, the nurse had me get on the hospital bed and pushed me into a room of patients waiting for the doctor’s check up. This time, the nurse simply told me to walk into the doctor’s clinic at the side. “Doesn’t seem as serious this time round,” I thought.
I did further blood test and urine test. The doctor also put me on IV drip because of my fever. I still didn’t think it was anything major. Soon, I was asked to get on the bed, given the IV drip, and rolled into a waiting room of patients. No explanation.
The doctor came to me again after quite a while. “It’s likely to be pneumonia,” he said, “We need the x-rays to confirm it.” He even googled research studies to assure me that it’s safe for pregnant ladies to do x-rays. Yet, at the x-ray room, the technicians made me felt unsafe.
“The rays you will be exposed to is like using handphone for one whole day.” That didn’t sound so bad, until one came in and asked, “The doctor said must do?” Another added, “Does the doctor know about the pregnancy?” Another lady who looked like a senior walked past, and instructed as if I was not there, “You must tell her the risk, make sure she understands them, and sign the consent form.”
I thought of the baby in my womb and prayed that God would protect him/her. We needed to know what’s wrong with me so the doctor could proceed with the proper diagnosis and pluck that root out.
I trusted God to take care of baby and me. I signed.
Waiting to be Warded
“I know Tan Tock Seng is busy and crowded. If there is no bed available, then she has to wait and sleep here until there’s one?” a caregiver of a fellow patient beside me asked. The nurse answered along the line of yes.
Just then, hubby came back from toilet. “I met a friend outside and her relative fell. She needs to be warded and was told that there’s no available bed now. Estimated waiting time is 10 hours!”
I was hoping not to wait 10 hours in this noisy waiting room for the hospital bed. I had already been “forced” to settle for a 5-bedder ward, albeit as a private and not subsidised patient. Yes, paying a little premium for the air-con and choice of meals, but still 5-bedder! Apparently, the last bed for single or 2-bedder was taken by someone just before hubby registered me. On hindsight, it was a good thing, because for the majority of my stay, I was moved into the isolation ward.
“Most likely I will have to wait until morning to get a bed?” I asked, almost rhetorically at 11:00PM. I was sure people were discharging the next morning instead of at ungodly hours. Thus, I expected a long wait ahead.
“Not necessary,” the nurse replied, “Sometimes, there might be a transfer to ICU, or to another ward.” He stated other reasons I couldn’t quite remember now, except my own conjured reason — someone died.
Lying in the waiting room, I tried hard to sleep. The room was near the main area at A&E, and its door often opened to the noise outside. The bright room lights seeped into the cracks of my eyes. I was alone with almost 10 other strangers. Hubby had gone back to settle baby EX into her sleep.
I reached Tan Tock Seng Hospital (“TTSH”) at about 4:30PM, and started all the secondary tests about 5:30PM. Finally got a bed and officially warded around 2:50AM.
More than 10 hours.
(Day 1) 21 Aug 19, Wed: Warded and Tubed
In Hospital: First Night, First Morning
At 2+AM, a bed finally freed up for me. Entering the ward, it was considerably much quieter. At least for a while before reality set in. The grandma next to me kept wanting to go toilet or to take out her clothes. Her daughter kept hushing her, asking her to stop taking off clothes, stop eating, and go sleep. Her daughter sounded like a patient saint.
I finally could rest and sleep in the ward, so I thought.
“Wait for the night nurse in charge of the ward to come. She will give you an orientation,” the person who rolled my bed into the ward told me.
I decided to have a quick shower first while waiting. Based on experience, the wait might be long. I was right, she still was not here after my quick shower. Quick because the water was too cold, the heater didn’t seem to work. I needed a shower badly enough to endure the cold waters at 3AM, too cold for a hair wash though. And that’s me who usually steamed up the bathroom with hot showers.
After the nurse came and briefed me, she told me to wait for the doctor to come by to tell me a bit more about my condition. I wanted to sleep! My usual bedtime is at 11:00PM. This was way too late. It was such a draining night. So if anything, visit a doctor early in the morning.
Doctor came by at probably close to 4AM and told me that there was water in my lungs because I had the pneumonia infection for too long. Young patients usually take 2 to 3 days to recover from pneumonia, but because of the water, I might need a longer recovery period. It all depends on how my body responds to the antibiotics.
Praying that my body would respond well and I could discharge soon. I definitely could not rest well in a 5-bedder ward with all the noise and lights.
Just as I was to doze off, an old lady started repeating loudly in mandarin, “Pee, urgent urgent.” And the grandma beside me were still “haggling” with her daughter. The next night, this grandma’s night commotion got worse.
She kept wanting to get off her bed to go toilet or to go home. For some reason, they activated the alarm for her this time. That means, every time she tried to get off the bed, the alarm at the ward entrance would go off, loudly. This was to warn nurses that patients who have risk of falling are trying to get off the bed. Being so near to the entrance, and the alarm already loud, it was nearly impossible to sleep. The nurse came to help her to the toilet, but there was no pee or poo. But she still kept triggering the alarm, insisting she needed to go to the toilet. The busy nurse became so frustrated and barked loudly.
Anyway, it’s common for nurses to talk loudly in the ward, regardless of the time, regardless whether the patients are sleeping. I had thought rest is important for patients to recover, but public hospital doesn’t seem to actively create that conducive environment for rest.
Other than the ruckus from fellow patients, the door of the ward was perpetually opened to the noisy beeps coming from the nurse station just outside my ward. My bed was right next to the door, and directly opposite the toilet. Front row seat to the “symphony”. The beeps went on all night because of patients pressing call buttons for the nurses. The ward was obviously built for 4 beds, but a 5th bed, my bed position, was squeezed in. The bed position prevents the entrance door from fully opening and blocks the pathway to the light and air-con switches. So definitely a bed squeezed in.
I drew the curtains around me for the night, and the whole of next day before my visitors came, forming my own private ward. However, it’s uncommon for patients to do so – perhaps due to the claustrophobic feeling, or the nurses not giving permission as the curtains hinder their work and movement. Anyway, curtains did not have soundproofing effect.
After a long ordeal on my first night, I finally fell asleep at probably 4:30 AM, only to be rudely awaken at 6:15AM. The nurse injected antibiotics into my vein (painful and numbing), poked me for blood test and tested me on ECG. The painful antibiotics had to be injected into me every 8 hours, and blood pressure checked every 2 hours, no matter what time it is. What did I say about rest in hospital?
Tubing to Drain the Fluid (Afternoon)
After being woken up for the injections, it’s time for breakfast. Speaking of which, the hospital food is generally presentable and okay, nice but not flavourful enough. With my loss of appetite, I usually finish only half of the food. Full from breakfast, I rested, drifting in and out of sleep as I waited for doctors to come by. It was a general doctor who checked on my condition last night and early morning.
The specialists did their doctor’s round only in the late morning. A lung specialist showed me my x-rays and pointed out the fluid in my left lung’s pleura (membranes lining and enveloping the lungs). It’s the fluid that’s causing me to feel breathless, and pressing on my nerves to make me feel the stabbing pains.
He suggested that the only way to drain out so much fluid is by poking a hole and putting a semi-big tube through my body. But I still had a choice to leave the fluid in me. Hence, he left the decision up to me and if we went ahead, the procedure was scheduled to be after lunch at 1PM.
Putting a tube through my body sounded scary. I wanted hubby to be by my side. Yet by the time he reached me after his half-day work day, I was halfway through the procedure.
I got the doctor to brief me on the steps of the procedure. I wanted to know what to expect. Assured after being briefed, I got panicky again when I saw the junior doctor picking up the tools. I had bad experience with junior doctor when I was a child. My arm fracture was painfully pulled 2-3 times to align/straighten it without success, then the senior took over and it was over with one try. This “nightmare” sort of repeated itself again.
Firstly, the junior doctor marked the spots on my body with pokes of a small needle. Then it’s the painful injection of local anesthesia. I got this injection twice instead of once because of a mistake he made. Argh. Good thing the drilling on my body went alright. Secondly, this junior doctor was not daring enough to forcefully push the tube in me, and that prolonged the process.
The tube insertion literally felt like what he was doing — of someone who kept pushing/shoving something in me. Painful but not as much as natural childbirth. The after effect was likened to super painful muscle aches. Thank God a nice nurse allowed me to grab her hand throughout the whole process, easing my pain.
On my first night in hospital, I did a video call with Baby EX. She cried so pitifully because I was not there to put her to sleep. So much so I cried too. Heartbreaking. This was probably the second time I parted with her at night – the first was my personal retreat.
Not long after my tubing in the afternoon, baby EX came to visit with my MIL and SIL. She was not running towards me in excitement, but walked towards me cautiously with a stoned expression, like she didn’t recognise or miss me that much. Didn’t even want to hug me because of the catheter inserted into my hand (for IV drips and antibiotics injection).
Took a while before she warmed up, but she was still distanced. Wanted to spend more time with her, but the nurse suddenly came in and told us that the doctor suspected I had TB. Hence, it’s better not to let the child stay too long around me, or have too much physical contact. Once the isolation ward freed up, they would shift me in. Most probably the following day. Then, baby EX could only visit me for a short while, around five minutes, each time.
I missed her so so so much.
In the morning after the terrible first night, God told me, “I would catapult you to (___) after this episode.” Then I came across a minister on news and thought of Heng Swee Keat. He went through health scare and came back stronger.
But part of me was fearful.. praying it’s nothing life-threatening.
(Day 2) 22 Aug 19, Thurs: Isolation Ward
Earlier on, I mentioned about the grandma who made a ruckus about going home and toilet, and insisted on coming off her bed, and thus triggering the alarm all the time. She kept me from falling into deep and restful sleep on my second night. So when the nurse woke me up at 2:24AM, my sleep wasn’t interrupted much.
“We’re moving you to the isolation ward in a while.”
After the nurses pushed and left me in the isolation ward, I prayed for Jesus’s blood to cover this room. It gave off an eerie vibe and I was all alone. It’s like so many lonely and grieved souls have came before me. Or have someone died in this room before? Nevertheless, I thank God for the silence, it’s probably His answer to my prayer of good sleep.
In the isolation ward, I finally could sleep better, albeit being awoken at 6+AM again for the painful antibiotics injection. Soon after, a doctor came around 7AM and said, “We have sent the fluid we drained from your lungs for testing. Having fluid in your lungs could be due to liver or heart failure. But the x-rays doesn’t really indicate it, so we ruled them out.” He proceeded to do a stomach and breast examination on me, and continued, “It might also be cancer.” Glad, he did not flag out anything after the examination.
He went on to say that a few of his seniors saw my x-ray and thought it might be tuberculosis (“TB”). The full indicative results would have to take 1 to 2 days. And to rule out serious cases, we had to wait for the culture results to be out in 2 months.
“TB is not fatal,” he explained in calming manner, “if minor, it’s just an infection.” But flashes of people coughing blood on television dramas came to mind.
The second day was slower compared to yesterday’s whirlwind of tests, tubing and medication. I was still subjected to needle poking and nebuliser though. The nurse had to change the catheter on my hand. She poked once on each arm, but failed on both times. So she had to let my hands rest and try again tomorrow.
This was the scene my parents saw when they first visited me. My heart would break if I see baby EX in such a condition. My mum then shared how my grandma cried when she visited my mother in hospital years ago. So now it was like a deja vu for her, to be in my grandma’s shoes, except she didn’t cry.
Nebuliser turns liquid medicine into a mist and the mouthpiece is for me to inhale the mist. I didn’t have any phlegm for testing and so the doctor ordered saline water to itch the phlegm out of my throat. Sadly, this didn’t work even after a few times. Hence, they increased the concentration of saline for me the next day, and even that didn’t help. Why must they be so persistent in getting the phlegm? If only I was coughing with phlegm, like typical TB patients.
(Day 3) 3 Aug 19, Fri: Tuberculosis?
Sounded like bad news.
According to doctor, the x-rays and fluid patterns/levels suggested TB. There seemed to be a bit of TB in the lungs, but the tricky part was to determine if it’s TB in my pleural (the gap lining the lungs). It’s very hard to detect the bacteria in the region, and thus they needed my phlegm to test. In other words, the doctors highly suspected I had TB but could not confirm without a phlegm test.
Praying hard that I would have phlegm to avoid more invasive testing. And also for miraculous healing so I wouldn’t need to go through TB treatment. Most importantly, praying that the baby in me would be protected throughout the whole pregnancy.
If I still had no phlegm, the doctor would order throat swab for me. “The swab would be uncomfortable,” the doctor warned. “Also, the swab test can detect active TB, but will miss out on more positive cases than the phlegm test. So it’s still best to do the the phlegm test.”
Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy. Let me dwell in your tent forever! Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! SelahPsalms 61:1-4
Afternoon: Ultrasound Scan
Underwent ultrasound scans to check if I had fluids in other organs (praying not!) and to ensure baby was doing well inside of me. The baby was so active during the scan that even the scanners exclaimed how active she was. Reminded me of baby EX! Subsequent scans with my gynecologist however showed her to be milder and more peaceable than baby EX. Perhaps during my hospital scan, she was actively telling me she was okay inside of me.
Early on, I had the peace that she would be protected by God’s additional wings (the sac) inside of me. Yet, I didn’t have that godly peace over myself. I felt that burden to keep praying for new lungs, so that the doctor will be shocked by my recovery. I wanted to pray and know in faith that God will give me new lungs and I’ll have no ToB.
Afternoon: Needles, Throat Swab and Fasting
My arms were running out of veins to draw blood from. I got poked twice for TB blood test because nothing much was coming out the first time. I’d been drawing too much blood these two days that supply was drying up.
Other than poking me for the blood test, another nurse changed my existing single catheter to a bigger one with two outlets.
In that same afternoon, the head nurse put a long stick of cotton bud down my throat for the throat swab. I pushed the swab out the first time, and hence she had to stick another one down my throat. Feeling gagged. I have to do it again the following morning, early morning, for a second round of test. This time it was by the on duty doctor, and it was much gentler without pain.
Fasted half a day today for ultrasound scan of the gall.
Today, hubby pointed out that there was no more additional fluid in my “drainage” box! Does that mean the fluid was all drained out of me? Hopefully no more accumulation of fluid! And I could remove the tube soon.
Bible verses, daily devotionals and prayers greatly pulled me through this hospital ordeal. Other than these, I had been scouring for healing testimonies to read and watch. Usually, I find such testimonies boring. Now in my desperation, they were like beacons of hope. Reading and claiming the same healing for myself.
Read this particular testimony tonight and it increased my faith to ask for a new set of lungs. That healing is possible. Was hoping they do a x-ray on me soon and see that I’m completely healed.
“What I do not understand is,” the doctor said, looking puzzled, “The first set show active Tuberculosis and the second set show just scar tissue where you use to have Tuberculosis.”
(A few days later)
“The X-rays they took of your lungs on Wednesday showed an advanced stage of Tuberculosis, the blood work and other tests backed that diagnosis up. Yet the x-rays from Thursday show scare tissue from where you use to have Tuberculosis and the blood work showed no Tuberculosis present. But today’s X-rays don’t even show the scar tissue.”
Looking at my file, then looking back at the X-rays taken today, the doctor said, “even the scare tissue from when you had Scarlet and Rheumatic fever are gone. In fact Mr. Benson”, he went on, “if I didn’t know any better, I would say I am looking at a newborn baby’s lungs“.thecrossoverproject.org/healing-room/healing-testimony/healed-from-tuberculosis
(Day 4) 24 Aug 19, Sat: Choices to Think
Morning: Options Laid Out
[11:08 am] During the morning round, doctor informed me that my other organs are without fluid and thus not infected. The doctor then said since I had no phlegm, they would try nasogastric tube in the afternoon to get my stomach juices to test.
Again, he said it’s most likely TB but still had to wait for the blood test, stomach juices and swab results to decide next step.
Scenario #1: If the results came out to be TB positive, I could start on treatment.
Scenario #2: If all came back negative and non-conclusive, then they might need to do bronscopy to get to my stomach or pleural biopsy to get skin sample from my pleural. Because of my pregnancy, they tried to avoid these two procedures and use non-invasive methods first. Both are not good options:
- For bronscopy, I would be put to sleep and the low oxygen level and medications might cause distress to the baby in the womb. They’re consulting with the anesthesia team who has experience with O&G, because they were not capable to monitor fetus themselves (being specialised in lungs).
- For pleural biopsy, it’s super painful, worse than the chest tube insertion. And because I have little fluid left after drainage, there might not be enough fluid to protect the lung for this procedure.
The doctors suggested these two possible tests to confirm there’s TB before starting me on the treatment. They also wanted to prescribe the right TB treatment — whether 4 antibiotics or medications for drug-resistant TB. They didn’t want me to suffer the side effects unnecessary. The treatment has side effects on liver and also others such as rashes and vomiting. Also, the treatment takes at least 6-9 months. Longer if drug resistant. Sigh… God, please protect baby inside of me.
Scenario #3: If I decided not to go for the above two invasive testing, another option is to start treatment first before the culture from my fluid comes back with positive TB. This culture test is more accurate that all other non-invasive tests, but there’s a two months wait.
Overall, doctor said because I’m pregnant, it was more complicated to diagnose because I couldn’t easily do the procedures needed to test.
In any case, I wouldn’t be discharging this weekend. Sunday would be a “slow day” with doctors having their weekend off, and I simply waiting for Monday for results to come in. It was so dreadful to be in the hospital. I wanted to be discharged! Now I understood the agony of the whiny grandma, crying to go home. I thought I could be out by the weekend. Counting down to I didn’t know when.
Afternoon: Blocking of Tube
The nurse blocked my “drainage” tube today for the fluid to accumulate in my pleural. This was in case we go for the biopsy option on Monday. For this procedure, fluid was needed to cushion the lung as the needle enters. The fluid would return if the infection was not cured. I was praying hard the fluid would not come back, so to have signs of healing and to omit the biopsy option. The doctor admitted biopsy is painful and worse than chest tube insertion. Sounded excruciating.
The doctor also ordered another “non-invasive” test, nasogastric intubation, although I think this was quite invasive. It is a medical process involving the insertion of a plastic tube through the nose, passed the throat, and down into the stomach (Wikipedia).
Since I had no phlegm, this was another way to get samples from my stomach. What was needed was my morning stomach juices before I consumed food. Hence, the nurses negotiated with the doctor to ask if I could be intubated tomorrow morning. Since there’s no point for me to insert this afternoon and suffer for the rest of the day, when the tube was only needed the next morning. Considerate nurses!
(Day 5) 25 Aug 19, Sun: Slow but Uncomfortable Day
Morning: Nasal Intubation
I tossed and turned the whole night. I drifted in and out of sleep and didn’t feel like I got any sleep. Like Jacob wrestling with God, it seems as though I was wrestling to ask for new lungs. Also, I was worried about the intubation.
“What time would the nurse be coming for the intubation?”
“About 5AM, before breakfast is served.”
“Could you help me ask if they can come later? So I can sleep a bit more.”
The nurses said she would tell the night shift nurses and see if that’s okay with them. In the end, I woke up at 5AM to prepare myself for the procedure, while the nurses came in at 7AM.
Nasogastric tube experience: super uncomfortable to the point of traumatic. The nurse tried to put the tube through the left nostril but it was blocked. I was already tearing from the insertion. She took the tube out and put the tube through my right nostril. I clamped up and teared uncontrollably as the tube went through.
The procedure was fast because I obeyed the instructions to keep swallowing saliva for the tube to slide in. I could not stifle the coughs coming from the irritation on my throat. Imagine putting your finger into your throat to puke, except this went all the way in. Gagged max. Even after the tube was inserted, I was tensing up and crying. Almost felt like I was invaded and assaulted, and then crying in the aftermath.
I had to keep the tube on the whole day so that they can take another sample from me the next morning. It was super uncomfortable to have the tube perpetually inside of me. I thought of the elderly folks I often see with this tube and deeply empathised.
I could starkly feel that something was “stuck” in my throat. It was hard for me to swallow my saliva and water, let alone soft foods. I would feel like puking whenever I drank or ate. Occasionally through the day, I would suddenly gagged and coughed as if I was choked. I was so tempted to have the tube remove and insert again tomorrow for the second round. I didn’t know how I was going to sleep with this. In the end, I got more used to it by the next morning. But yays to taking out that morning!
Slow Sunday, but nevertheless uncomfortable. I felt like I was in a torture chamber. Rudely awaken every morning to do some painful procedures, except not by torturers but nurses who were generally nice.
Late Morning till Evening
A nurse told me, “You went through so many testings, hopefully there’s no need for biopsy.” Even the nurse thought so. The nurse measured my weight and it was 44.4kg today. With the recent lack of appetite, I was not surprised that I lost another kilogram. About 3 months pregnant at this point, I was losing instead of gaining weight.
Good thing I did not need to have antibiotics injection anymore. Finally, the IV drip catheter was removed from my hand. YAYS! One discomfort down.
I suddenly have a thought, if TB tests all show negative results, does that mean I don’t have TB in the first place? Perhaps I should request for them to drain the remaining fluid and discharge me from hospital. See if the fluid would accumulate back. If it did not, it meant the infection is gone? Thinking of ways to go back home early.
(I did ask about this later on. The doctor said I have little fluid left to drain anyway, and accumulation was at a very slow rate even with existing infection. And due to the the diagnosis based on my x-rays by the doctor from TB control unit (“TBCU”), I have to take the treatment even if it’s inconclusive. The TBCU is quite strict in controlling the infection.)
While reading in the isolation ward at night, a gagging sensation surged within me. I rushed to the toilet bowl and puked out some stomach juice. Was it because of the nasal tubing or antibiotics? Standing by the wash basin to clean up, I was suddenly breathless, taking sharp breaths like I couldn’t breath! Almost called for the nurse. But after a few seconds, I recovered.
What a start and end to my supposedly restful Sunday.
(Day 6) 26 Aug 19, Mon: Deciding on TB Treatment
After the nurse extracted the stomach juice early morning, she took out the tube from my nose. Happy! Another discomfort gone.
Hubby came in the morning for the doctor’s round. He wanted to hear what the specialist had to say about my condition, and then continued to accompany me until afternoon to hear my test results and doctor’s updates. As the doctor explained my situation again to hubby, we both felt the peace to go ahead with the TB treatment without the biopsy and bronchoscopy. Regardless, I was super resistant to biopsy even though I was willing to go through childbirth without epidural. It was definitely God’s grace and peace directing me on my natural birth decision.
Afternoon came, and the swab and stomach juice results came back with negative TB. My sixth sense kind of expected the results. Still got to wait for the blood test to come back in 1-2 days more. Even then, positive meant I had caught the TB ‘bug’, without indicating it being active or latent.
Yes, I got the peace, but doubts started to creep into me. What if it’s not TB and the doctors gave me the wrong diagnosis and treatment?
“Should I do biopsy to confirm it? Or should I go ahead with the TB treatment? Should I…?” TB treatment requires me to go polyclinic daily for two months, and three times a week thereafter for another four to seven months. 😭 Also, I must pray that my body reacts well to the TB treatment, especially liver n kidney. And pray that I’m not having a drug resistant TB, which would take 1 to 2 years of treatment.
I overthink, and that always ruffled up the peace in me. I continued to pray that God’s peace over the right option would grow stronger and overshadow my doubts. Praying for a word to confirm this choice.
On hindsight, it’s really His grace for me to come to TTSH instead of NUH or Mount A, which were my other two choices. TTSH specialised in lungs and they can easily get the doctor from nearby TB control unit (“TBCU”) to take a look at my case. The head nurse who took out my chest tube said that TTSH is good/famous for infectious diseases. Also, the hospital used to begin with heart specialization, but bulk of the doctors has moved to SGH. So lungs became sort of “big” here.
Songs of the Day
Shuffled play the NCC album on my spotify and this song, “Letting Go”, played first and comforted my soul.
SONG #1: Letting Go – New Creation Worship
In the tempest’s roar (tempest – a violent windy storm)
Still Your peace endures forever
Certain as the dawn
Perfect love has won my heart
Casting all my cares
To the One who holds tomorrow
Resting in Your love
Grace now overflows in me
Fall into the everlasting arms
Walk upon the waves
You are my calm
Jesus, I will trust in all You’ve done
Letting God take over
Be still and know
O my soul
All is well, all is well
O my soul
All is well, all is well
SONG #2: 仰望 – 新造敬拜
(Day 7) 27 Aug 19, Tues: Start of TB Treatment
I was starting to see the light at the end of the hospital stay. I finally could sleep better and got some good sleep tonight. Yet at 5AM, I was rudely awaken. “Get on the wheelchair,” said the porter, “I am going to wheel you for chest x-ray.” What? Nobody informed me. Rubbing my groggy eyes, I got off the bed almost immediately. Did I say the whole hospital experience felt like a torture chamber? I couldn’t stand all these interruptions on my sleep and the daily dose of pain. If I was a prisoner of war, I could not survive. This experience also reminded me of Baby EX’s newborn days — the days of war.
Anyway, I was happy the doctors ordered a x-ray. Secretly hoping the x-ray would show a new pair of lungs and thus no need for TB treatment. That would be my testimony. Sadly this did not happened. My lungs were the same on the x-ray, except they have less fluid now. The good news was, not much fluid returned.
Days earlier, I had asked a friend to help garner opinions on TTSH from her doctor friends. It was only today that one suggested a hospital transfer. But Stephen and my friend felt no peace over the fear mongering messages. Moreover, one or two other doctors didn’t have much negative opinions of TTSH, and so we stayed on. I think if God had wanted me to transfer, he would have timed the suggestion better. That is, I would have gotten the suggestion earlier and not the day before my TB treatment.
I also mentioned my intention to seek a second opinion to the junior doctor assigned to me. To which he replied, a few senior doctors were already looking into my “complicated” case, complicated because I am pregnant. I think he told my intention to his senior, because the next day he added that the TB specialist looking into my case was considered a second opinion. And if he decided I should take the TB medication, then by law I would have to take them regardless of another doctor’s diagnosis.
TB treatment and Others
Starting TB treatment today. The doctor reiterated the potential side effects, such as colour blindness, nerves numbness, liver and kidney. They would monitor and see if there was a need to change medications. Praying my body react well to treatment with no side effects.
Did HIV blood test today. Another prick. Apparently, HIV weakens the immune system, and thus increasing the risk of TB in people with HIV. So doctor had me do it in case it is HIV that “caused” me to have TB. Good thing I don’t have HIV.
Removal of remaining fluid and chest tube today. It was not supposed to be painful when the nurse sucked up the remaining fluid in me. But because the chest tube had been blocked a few days, there was a tissue that had formed and it was in the way. The pain from the suction was excruciating, so much so that it radiated a few more minutes after the nurse stopped the procedure. Tried again to remove the remaining fluid but it was just too painful. So they left it as it is, hoping my TB medications would remove whatever little fluid in me.
Needless to say, I was in great pain when the nurse tried to remove that piece of tissue. It was a huge piece, and that’s why the pain. Thereafter, I literally could feel the nurse pulling the tube out of me. After the tube was out, she pressed on my wound so hard I cringed from the sting of the alcohol on the cotton pad. The good of it all, I wouldn’t need to carry a container wherever I went anymore.
Moving out of isolation ward because my TB is not contagious, based on all my tests being negative so far. Pleural TB is unlikely to be infectious anyway.
I asked if I could discharge today. Request rejected because the doctors wanted to monitor the effects of TB treatment on me. Moreover, the nurse was getting all the tests and x-rays I asked for as a hospital patient. The turnaround would be better than if I discharge tomorrow.
And since the doctor’s plan was to discharge me tomorrow, it’s not worth it to go to 2-bedder ward now. TTSH was going to charge my whole week’s stay based on this higher ward rate even though I was going to stay in the 2-bedder ward for only one night. So off to B1 ward. Good thing it’s a 4-bedder instead of 5-bedder room this time.
Last Night in Hospital
Fellow patients were not as noisy as those from the first two nights. Still, it was a horrible night. I miss the peace and comfort of my bedroom! One more night, one more night. The nurses were generally nice and professional, but the ones in charge of the ward on my last night were quite eye-rolling.
There’s this nurse that I remembered from my isolation ward. She came once to take my blood pressure at 3, 4AM. I remember her not because of the timing, since the hospital monitor patients’ blood pressure every few hours. Reason was, she kept wanting to small talk. I was groggy from my sleep and also grumpy to be awaken in the middle of the night. “Is this your first pregnancy? How old is your first? Boy or girl?” Blah blah.
I didn’t feel like talking. Period.
So on this last night, she was the night shift nurse for my ward. This time, she small talk with the ahma beside me in the middle of the night.
“What happened to your leg?”
“Parkinson,” the ahma spoke a bit louder. Obviously, she too wasn’t in the mood to talk missy.
“How long already?” Blah blah.
Furthermore, throughout the night, the nurses talked so loudly to other patients as if no one was around. People were sleeping for goodness sake! For example, they woke up the ahma beside me at 5AM and talk loudly about this and that, and wheeled her for ECG test. Loud enough to wake up the whole ward.
A nurse came in at 6AM and again spoke to the ahma beside me, “I bring you to the toilet first. Otherwise, later when I serve breakfast, I have no time to bring you to toilet.” But I think the ah ma didn’t have any urge to pee. “Faster!” “Wear properly.” The nurse sounded curt and rude to her throughout the conversation. I almost could imagine the kind of abuse happening in old folks’ home.
Adding to this commotion was the staple noise of the hospital, alarms and call bells at the nurse station that went on and on through the night. At least there was no crazy grandmas here, just a talkative one I tried to avoid because of her prying questions.
(Day 8) 28 Aug 19, Wed: Discharged!
The plan was to discharge today. Praying all would go well.
As the nurse changed my bandage for the chest tube area, she said, “All of us were worried for you”. I was surprised to hear that. Surprised at the favour the nurses showed me. Most have been nice, except those I ranted above. Surprised that I could have taken a turn for the worse and my condition was so bad in their eyes that they were worried. Guess my discharge was a miracle. The nurse even gave me many pieces of better waterproof bandage home to chan. Favour 🙌
Now come to think of it, no wonder when I asked this Christian nurse about the miracles in hospital, she said along the line of, everyone has to die, there’s a time to die. And that sometimes for patients the nurses didn’t think could make it, they suddenly became better and were discharged. Did she think I was going to die? Perhaps because of the many tests.
In any case, I’m officially DISCHARGED!! But I only reached home at 5PM because of the long wait for the ambulance to fetch me to TBCU. And another long wait for doctor’s consultation and blood test at TBCU. Still, glad to be home!
(Day 9) 30 Aug 19, Fri: It could have been worse
The day after I discharged, I came upon…
It’s getting long in here! I will continue my story in my next post, “Days after I was Discharged (Part 3)“. The months post-hospitalisation were not easy too. So, please keep my whole family in your prayers. 🙂