Today is my 200th blog post. (My old blog had 239 posts.)
For my 200th post here, I want to write about my story how I became a photographer. I get asked this question frequently but I don’t share my full story often, because it is a little uncomfortable.
A few years ago in July, I was finishing my freshman year of school out of state in Utah when I became incredibly ill. I went to multiple doctors, and emergency rooms, only to continue feeling worse and worse. Eventually, I couldn’t leave my bed because I was in so much pain.
I was confused as to why I was feeling so sick! I had been exercising and training for my first 5k which I was about to run soon. But a week after initially feeling sick I was admitted to the Pediatrics unit. Within 10 minutes of being in my room a dozen doctors surrounded my hospital bed. I was startled. I asked them what they were all doing here. One doctor looked at me and said almost sternly, “You’re very sick.”
Hospital via Utah Valley Regional Medical Center
That would be the last thing I would remember for quite awhile. Shortly after being admitted I was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit. Because of my extremely low white blood cell count they initially thought I had Leukemia and began treatment. But then my kidneys and liver failed. Then I developed pneumonia, pancreatitis, sepsis, and high fevers.. all at once.
A few days went by without a diagnosis. Then, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, hired just ONE day before I was admitted diagnosed me with Lemierre’s disease. Lemierre’s is a rare blood disease, affecting less than 1 in a million young adults. This specialist just happened to have seen this disease before and was able to recognize it. He saved my life and I know it was no mistake that he was put at that hospital at just the right time.
I spent two weeks in ICU, and I honestly don’t remember much of it. I had surgery on both of my lungs which caused me to be intubated. I remember just wanting to talk or sing so desperately. I remember sitting in a chair for 20 minutes every day and crying through it because it hurt so badly. Despite the pain, at this point I really had no idea of the scope of this disease.
After two weeks I was transferred back to the pediatrics unit. Being the restless person I am I asked the doctor when I could back to work and school. I honestly thought that in a week or two I would be back to my normal life, and accomplishing the goals I had previously set. He looked at me a little confused and told me at least 6 months. I cried and cried. I wasn’t used to putting my life on hold and I also did not understand how much my body had been through at this point. I didn’t understand that healing takes time and patience.
Left: Unconscious in the ICU. As much as I hate this picture, I am grateful my parents thought of documenting this part of my life. Right: Walking with my dad. I look so grumpy, and I probably was.
Physical therapy soon began. First, it was just moving my legs in bed. I remember telling the physical therapist to go away because I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even moving myself, he was moving my legs for me! Soon I would stand up and then the hardest part, walking. Even with a walker I could barely walk. I felt trapped in my own body. It was frustrating to watch TV because every time I would see someone jumping, running, or even just walking I wanted to tell them how lucky they were to move so freely.
After two more weeks in the hospital I was able to go home. I didn’t feel ready because I still couldn’t walk on my own fully but home I went. I was still taking IV antibiotics every 6 hours along with shots. Recovering was exhausting. Everything took effort, and I had no motivation to move, let alone eat. Within a a week I was back in the hospital again for another week long stay. It felt as if this nightmare would never end.
Over time my body started healing and I started to believe that life would return to normal someday.
Read Part II tomorrow.