Friday, October 02, 2009

Chapter 2 - Blue Green Algae? Night Chills Begin.

I hope I wasn't too melodramatic yesterday. I didn't mean to leave anyone wondering or worrying. I wish I could sit and talk with each of you about what's been happening to me but since I can't, thanks for allowing me to tell the story at my own pace.

So, I left off as we were embarking on our family camping vacation. Cameron did a lovely job of documenting our trip on his blog. Let me see what I can add, in light of my current medical condition, since that's the story I'm telling.

Sunday, 8/16, I enjoyed being out of the house, in the sunlight and seeing new parts of northern California as we drove farther north than we ever had before. At one point, while we were listening to an audio book, I feel completely asleep in the afternoon sun, post lunch. That didn't seem remarkable at the time but worth noting now.

I was impressed by the area around Humboldt Redwoods State Park and our secluded campsite was beautifully nestled among these giant trees. I was happy to be there but tired. I would have been alright staying at the campsite (except the mosquitoes were brutal there) but Cam wanted to walk down to the river. Sam & I wanted too too so we did and had a lovely little dip in the river (despite the public health warning). It didn't say to stay out of the water, just to avoid contact with the blue-green algae and their toxins. We tried not to get water in our mouths and to wash our hands before eating. I took a shower that night.

Because I had been sick, I hadn't done the research about the areas we'd be visiting that I'd intended to do. We booked the campsites months in advance with the full intention of swimming being one of the main activities of our time in the area. We didn't have internet access so I wasn't able to read about the dog deaths, etc. There were signs posted but we just crossed our fingers and went for it. Since none of us experienced the obvious gastrointestinal upset they alluded to over the next couple of days, we seemed to have escaped relatively unscathed.

I didn't think to mention our exposure to blue-green algae to my doctor until after they started finding trouble with my blood work on 9/17. I mentioned it to my primary care physician on Monday, 9/21, to at least two doctors in the ER/hospital when I was being admitted on 9/22, to the internal medicine doctor who treated me while I was in the hospital and to the hematologist. None of them seem to have thought it of much consequence. I don't think I bothered to mention it to the thoracic surgeon on 9/30.

As I type this, I'm thinking maybe I should bring it up again but so far, none of the doctors I've been working with seem to think this is part of my current problem which is great because I think the day we spent playing in the river was my favorite day of the vacation. The area where we spent the most time had flowing water which was supposed to be helpful for avoiding the algae. There is a picture of me eating after having swam in the water. I don't think we had any hand sanitizer with us. (Yes, Heather Zona, I would have been happy to have your Purell with me that day but I didn't.)

The next day, we drove to an easy path where we had an easy walk among some of the tallest redwoods. I liked the easy part but the area was really battered from misuse. Cam drove us to another area where there was a path he thought we'd like. We had a picnic in the shade then crossed a bridge over a dry riverbed and walked towards what Cam assured me was a lovely path in the shade. (Did I mention it was in the 90s while we were at Humboldt?) I was up for crossing the riverbed but when we couldn't find access to the path and when Cam proposed we walk along the river for awhile searching for it, I just camped out in the shade of some trees and let him walk along by himself. I didn't have the energy to even talk about how I didn't have the energy to walk a long distance and maybe not find a path.

I guess he found it and had to walk the long way back to us again and convince me to leave the shade and follow him. Once we were in the shade, among the giant trees in this somewhat secluded cove, I was happy again. We happened upon a path down to a creek. Cam proposed we walk along the creek for awhile. Since it was shady and the water was cool, I was happy to wade along at a slow pace for awhile. When our way was blocked by fallen trees, we hung out and enjoyed the area before walking back.

We made it back to the car in mid-afternoon with a lot of the day left to kill. I was starting to like the tongue-in-cheek suggestion Cam had made about going to see a movie in a neighboring town (about 45 minutes away) but we were in the redwoods and were supposed to be enjoying them and we could see a movie anytime. So we drove around a bit looking for areas where I was willing to hike. I felt lame feeling so tired but I was tired. When Cam proposed just driving along the Avenue of the Giants for awhile in the AC with some music, that seemed like a lovely compromise. We were able to appreciate the beauty of the redwoods while sitting in comfort.

I wanted to stop for ice cream but knew Cam had packed lots of nice food for us and that it was waiting for us back at the campground. Eventually, we decided to stop there for some food, I insisted upon "linner" around 4pm as I felt famished and like I needed more than a snack. When we decided to go back, we talked about going swimming again but everyone was happy resting at the campsite. Cam read aloud to us from a book we were sharing and I hit the sack early.

The next day, I woke feeling fine. I slept well every night at Humboldt (except for waking up in the night having to go to the bathroom and not wanting to trek across the campground in the dark to the bathroom even though the stars then are nice). Cam & I packed up the campsite while Sam caught a few more zzzs in his tent. When he awoke, we scooped him up and headed off.

I was ready to move on and happy to see new territory. We had breakfast in Eureka then enjoyed a lovely drive along the Trinity National River between Eureka & Lassen, our next destination. The white water rafting opportunities we passed along the way looked fun. Again, I was happy to be sitting, resting in the car, seeing beautiful nature while basking in the sun but not exerting myself. I think I was still taking Motrin and running a fever pretty much this whole time but my mouth was much better.

Cam had talked about hoping we could get a hike in that day. As we were planning, I liked the idea very much but as we were approaching the park, the idea of laying low was more appealing. I felt lame being so tired on our vacation but when we found out one of the trails was closed, I was glad that Cam was satisfied with the idea of a swim in the lake at our campground.

We set up camp then headed over to the lake. The water was cool but refreshing. We all enjoyed the swim. (I was happy that there were no posted warnings about getting in this water).

When we returned to the campground, we realized that we'd accidentally left the flap open on our tent. It was full of flies which was a huge bummer. They were all congregating at the top and we weren't sure how to get them out. We turned the tent upside down and shook it but that didn't seem to help.

I decided to make the 13 mile drive to the campground store to pick up a few supplies (Sam wanted to roast wieners) and to take a shower. When I returned, I was happy to hear that Cameron had figured out how to get rid of the flies. He had turned the tent so that the door was at the top and freed flies happily flew away. This thrilling news reminded me that I'd left the windows open in the car. I went back to it and climbed in the passenger side, put the keys in the ignition and turned the car on just enough to get power to close the windows. At the same time, I was still talking with the guys about dinner, my shower and the success with the tent. I managed to close the door w/o turning off the car or retrieving my keys. Woops.

We were 13 miles from the nearest working phone. I talked with the camp-
ground hosts who said a ranger might come by in the morning or they said that could give me a ride to the store the following morning after 9am. They were not very enthusiastic about resolving the problem quickly and it was a very vague plan. Despite the new dilemma, we enjoyed our evening by the campfire and decided we'd work on finding a solution in the morning.

That night, in the tent, I woke up shivering. My teeth were chattering and I couldn't get warm. I found some Motrin and some water and a few minutes later, when my fever had broken, I was warmer and able to sleep again. The same thing happened the next night and the next. I now know that shivering fevers with chills in the night are a sign of a bacterial infection. I was seriously ill but thought the issue was the change in elevation effecting the temperature. Plus, we were on vacation with limited time to enjoy the wonders around us and without ready access to medical care. There didn't seem to be any reason to go to a hospital and the closest real town was again about 60 miles away. Trying to see a doctor would have likely been an all-day ordeal. One I decided wasn't necesesary.

The next morning, I was able to hitch a ride from some other campers who were going to the campground store. I used the phone to call Geico who thanks to our emergency roadside assistance plan was happy to send a tow truck up mountain roads from Redding. Google maps says Redding is an hour away. I think it took that tow truck closer to two hours to get to me but really, the issue was resolved remarkably painlessly. Honestly, I was happy to have the time to sit in the shade and read a book rather than trying to hike morning, noon and night.

Jeremiah, the very nice tow truck driver, told me the very sad story about why one of the trails we'd wanted to hike had been closed. Suddenly, all of our problems seemed like very minor ones again.

He had the car running in no time and we were off to hike Bumpass Hell. Cam describes this surreal place beautifully. I will talk about my experience physically. I did need to stop frequently, even on the fairly flat parts of the trail and struggled to climb up back up the mountain at the end of our hike. I knew I wasn't feeling 100% but I also thought I was just really out of shape. (Surprisingly, there are some really nice pictures from this hike. It was probably my favorite part of our time at Lassen.)

We were only in the area for a few hours then we were back in the car and I was happy again to be seeing beautiful things while sitting. We checked out some easy-to-get-to geothermic activity then went to a visitor center to relish the air conditioning (it was a bit warm at Lassen too). After looking at a few exhibits, I found a chair and was happy to just sit there for as long as my adventurers would bear. I would have laid down if there was any place I could have gotten by doing so.

Cam proposed another small hike to another lake that was close to our camp-
ground. I said sure because I loved the idea but I was worried about my ability to pull it off. I fell asleep in the car on the drive back to the campground. When we got there, I got out of the car and walked straight to the tent w/o a word and fell down exhausted. I was wiped out.

Cam & Sam decided to swim at the nearby lake again. I felt bad that we hadn't gone on the hike to the other lake but I just couldn't do it. After resting for about an hour, I was able to walk over to near where the guys were swimming. I'd taken more Motrin because I was still running a fever and felt chilly. I didn't have the energy to join them for a swim this time.

Cam was ready for a break but Sam was trying diligently to free a log from some mud. Rather than walk all the way over to where he was working, I made him walk all the way over to me and then suggested he get another kid to try to help him. When that kid declined, I eventually got up and helped but it was really a struggle to exert that much energy. I was feeling lame again but Sam & Cam were sweet to me.

The next morning, after another night of shivering where I pulled on Cam's stocking cap and socks and chattered my teeth until the fever broke, Cam suggested we head home a day early. I was thrilled at the idea of having a bit more time to recouperate at home before heading back to work. When he woke up, Sam agreed to the plan. After two weeks of camping, he was starting to miss his screens.

Cam wanted to do one more hike before we hit the road. I had only packed my Birkenstocks and this trail called for hiking boots because of the loose volcanic rock they'd be climbing. This gave me an easy way out of climbing a volcano. Instead, I was able to sit and lay in a park in the shade next to a lake and read for hours.

On the way there, we saw a mama bear and two bear cubs. We also admired Lake Shasta in the distance. I was very happy they were able to do the hike and very happy to get out of it. Before we left the last part, I did have a bit of stomach trouble, the first I'd noticed, but we were heading home and that in itself made me feel better.

We broke up the drive by stopping for sushi & a movie. I was able to check out what it was like to have internet access on my phone. I'm sure I slept some in the car too.

The next day, a Saturday, I just crashed. I don't think I spoke with anyone. I remember being cranky because Cam wanted to go out to eat for lunch when he'd said we could rest that day. Gosh, I was sick if the idea of going out to lunch was too exhausting, eh?

My FB status from August 23 says, "Mary Maddux is easing back into things very slowly." There was a CASA kid's event that day at Angel Island and before I'd gotten sick, I'd hoped that I'd be able to go to the event as I had such a fun time last year and was excited about the opportunity to spend time with some of the volunteers and the youth I was working with at the time. My boss had said not to worry about trying to go to the event. She had said to do my laundry, rest, etc. I think I finally spoke w/my folks & my brother about the trip & their upcoming visits to California.

Speaking of my folks, they landed at SFO a little bit minutes ago and will be on their way to me shortly. I may not get to write much in the coming days as I want to spend time with them. I'm sorry for those of you who want to know more right now but please just know that I want to know more too and that there is still much I don't know and I have my hands full processing it. I will keep talking as I am able. Thank you for continuing to care.

To be continued...

1 comment:

Rayna Vision said...

I love the way you write; please keep blogging! How did you like the Glass Castle?