Monday, October 1, 2018

Home Just in Time

Well, I didn't expect to be talking to you so soon, but I realized you should know what happened the night I left the Trail. Right after my wife and son picked me up a little after 8 p.m., I downed a Coke and a bottle of water and had a cigarette, and Forest had his Kong with a meat treat stuffed in it. Then, we drove about 15 minutes to a Subway to chow down; they hadn't had dinner, and I had my usual case of hiker hunger. Before I could even get my food, though, I passed out in our truck in the parking lot, apparently had a seizure and vomited all over myself and the truck while I was out. When I came to, I was being put into an ambulance. Confused and disoriented, I started yelling, "Don't separate Forest from me," as I'd been trained. My wife ran over and reminded me that Forest was with her and my son and that they would follow me to the emergency room in the truck. She realized that the EMTs needed room to work, and I wasn't exactly conscious enough to make sure Forest was out of the way.

The EMTs checked my blood sugar and heart, and both seemed fine. When we got to the emergency room, they immediately started working on me, trying to get a line started for an IV and to take blood, which they needed to determine what was wrong. It took them an hour and a half just to get a line in, with two nurses and a doctor each trying in my arms, hands and feet. Finally, just when they thought they would have to try the groin (Wait, what????? That woke me up!), the doctor finally succeeded. They also did an EEG to check my brain because of the seizure.

They ran about three IV bags into me rapid-fire, using a pressure bag. The diagnosis was pretty much that I was completely run down, extremely dehydrated (more than anyone they had ever seen before) and all of the related blood levels (e.g., electrolytes, which can negatively affect the heart and brain, hence the seizure) were very low. They also said I had some type of infection and low blood pressure. My wife had previously made an appointment for me to see her primary care doctor on Monday, so the ER doctor decided to let me go after the fluids finished. They said that we could stop at any ER on the way home if I started to feel bad again (that didn't reassure my wife very much!).

Fortunately, we already had a hotel reservation made in Pittsfield, MA, for Friday night (thanks, Bear!). We checked in at 2 a.m. The next morning, my son woke up at his usual 7 a.m., and he and my wife went out to clean up the truck and let me sleep a little more. We went down to walk Forest at about 9. When we returned to the room (I had planned to shower again), we found that the maid had bagged up all of our belongings and cleared them out of the room! We got everything back, and she apologized, but they definitely need to improve their internal communications. After that, we went back downstairs to have breakfast. The only upside was that it got us back on the road a bit faster.

I was seriously wondering if I could make it the whole way home in the truck (about 12-13 hours), when a friend of a friend offered to cover dinner and another hotel stay Saturday night (thank you, Dawn and Jim!). You see, this all happened at the very end of the month, and I get paid on the first, so I was flat broke. I have been so very lucky to have had such a generous troop of my very own Trail Angels helping to support me and cheer me on when things got rough. They've reminded me that people can be kind, without expecting anything at all in return other than to share my journey. When I look back on this, I think that will be one of the best memories.

At about 6:30 we decided to stop in northern Virginia, where we found a Quality Inn with a Denny's Restaurant nearby. My wife was happy to have a veggie burger (it's often hard to find vegetarian options when you're eating fast food), and I literally inhaled my dinner.

On Sunday we climbed back in the truck to go the rest of the way home to Charlotte, NC. My parents were there to meet us (with home-cooked FOOD), and my wife's two older kids were there as well. It was a little bit of sensory overload for me after being isolated for so long, but it felt good to see everyone and settle back in. Forest is good, too. He seems to be glad to be home and is listening well; we'll be working to polish his home commands, if they need it, once I get my strength back.

Today, I had my appointment with the doctor. They did more bloodwork and ran a test for Lyme's Disease. It will be a little while before they have the results. Once again, they had to stick me twice to get enough blood. My veins are more evident, but my blood is apparently thick. I guess it will take a while for me to get back to normal. My weight today was 158. I could tell I had put some on just since I was picked up on Friday, since the pants I was previously holding up with a belt won't close now.

It might sound stupid, but I am kind of glad this all happened. If it hadn't, I would have always felt like I did not give it my all. Now I know that I could have ended up in serious medical condition or worse if I hadn't called my hike off when I did. I'm also so fortunate that my wife made such fast arrangements to come get me. Who knows what would have happened if I had gotten on a bus.

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How It All Began

In August 2017 Canines for Service Inc. in Wilmington, NC, provided Service Dog Forest to me (U.S. Army Veteran "Fisher"). It was ...