"Doc, how long?"
I was asking how long I would live. Yet, I knew that her answer was about how long my paralysis would totally seize me. I may be able to survive, but to live long with a mechanical ventilator would be worse than death itself. The cost would be so high, and my family would have a harder time taking care of me.
She looked deeply into my eyes. Her lips may have curved into a smile, but the glints of sadness that spread across her face were like daggers piercing into my heart. It could be because she knew me very well. In my eleven years as a nurse, she had the most frequent calls for neurologic management.
I knew it then. The way she looked at me made me confirm my illness.
"It could be one day, two days, and if you are fortunate, five days...Just monitor the progress of your paralysis. GBS is diagnosed by seclusion. Let's do some tests, first, and then see what we can do."
One week before her visit, I got a respiratory infection that triggered my asthma attack. This illness prompted my hospital admission. On the fifth day, just as I thought I could go home already, I suddenly got an unexplained fever that lasted for two more days. The focus of the infection was unknown since I already completed my intravenous antibiotic regimen.
After another day of having no more fever, my attending physician told me I could finally discharge the next day. In my excitement, I went out of the room to take a walk in the lobbies and chat with my friends at the nurses' station. All of a sudden, I felt numbness in both of my soles. As I took more steps forward, the numbness deepened, and my limbs got heavier that I could no longer lift it.
I presumed that it was due to hypokalemia, a side effect of my continued nebulizations. Yet, when I had my serum potassium level rechecked, it was normal and had nothing to do with my extremity weakness.
As a nurse for eleven years, I already attended many patients who had GBS. They first came in due to symptoms of diarrhea or cough, but after a few days, they could no longer move their limbs. I began to read again about the disease process, and all the sources I had looked into stated similar signs and symptoms. And those early signs were all happening to me!
Guillain - Barre Syndrome is a rapidly progressive and fatal disease where the paralysis starts at the feet and quickly ascends upward to the whole body. When it happens, the person affected can no longer breathe by himself and will need a mechanical ventilator and an ICU set up. The disease process would take months, and if fortunate, a full recovery would take two to three years.
I sent my husband and kids home. I was afraid I could no longer hold myself from too much grief. I did not want them to see me rolling down in deep anguish, nor let them see me crying hard. I wanted to be alone.
When the surroundings became quiet and the night became lonely, I turned my music player on. Songs about pressing on through hardship and trials with God as our strength penetrated through the deep recesses of my being.
I thought about my kids. They were still too young to be left out. My husband, though he was in charge of the deliveries, collection, and bank payments, knew nothing about how I ran our business. Though I let him resign from his job to support me in this field, without me, he could do nothing. He didn't have the slightest clue about the strategies and the wisdom I poured into this.
Just who would stand for them? Just who would fight for my son to continue his special schooling? A minimal salary would never be enough, and he never learned about our business throughout the years I had hoped him to.
Who would stand for my parents? They are both old and sick. My father had been a stroke patient for two years already, and my mother had her heart problem ever since we were born. In all their hospitalizations, I have shouldered the huge part. My brother, though generous and thoughtful that he gives all his salary to my mother, is also not good in problem-solving, especially in financial matters.
My heart ached for my kids. They were so lovely and perfect gifts from God, but after one or five days, I would be leaving them. I could not see them grow up anymore. I could no longer hug them, nor sing their lullabies.
I could not bear to think that they would go through the course of hardship because I would then be gone. I could not take it in my heart that my son would get hurt and bullied because their dad could no longer afford his expensive education. And I could not imagine how they would grow up without a mother who would love, understand, and sacrifice for them unconditionally!
Never had I let out a more bitter and painful cry than I did that night. Never had I gone afraid in my whole life than the thought of leaving my loved ones permanently.
I looked back at how I lead my life. I knew, in the first place, that I deserved this illness because I was killing myself with too much hard work and stress. Throughout these years, I was avoiding rest and sleep that I fueled myself with lots of caffeine to keep me up. My mind was too full that even in my sleep, I could no longer rest.
I had no right to complain and ask God why did it happen. I knew I deserved to die. I was even fortunate that God gave me a chance to prepare myself. But I was not ready, and I would never be.
For many nights I had been alone, I, painfully, pleaded with God for another chance. If I had to count it, my heart broke a thousand times before I felt His hand holding my heart. I had been so guilty that I couldn't feel His presence anymore. I had gone too far away astrayed. I had been an unfaithful and a wayward child!
I began recalling all of the sins and evil ways I made and asked for forgiveness. I messaged all of those people I had grudges with and people I simply, hated.