Monday, November 24, 2014
I get by with a little help from my friends
During my recovery, my friends on Friends of the Mountain Dulcimer (FOTMD) and Facebook have been cheering me on through my many ups and downs. I can't tell you how pleased I am that my perseverance and emotional strength throughout these struggles has been inspirational for so many of them, but I wouldn't have been able to get through this without their encouraging posts and innumerable virtual hugs. Their support has been just as inspirational to me.
Along the way, I've left a trail of cyberspace bread crumbs worthy of Hansel and Gretel. It started with a blog Keith posted on FOTMD after I fell into a deep coma: Geekling Status Update, when it looked like I was unlikely to survive. Next came the thread that Carrie Barnes started to cheer me up in the nursing home after, against all odds, I awoke from the coma with all my mental faculties intact: Greeting for Geekling. (Note: The most interesting parts are near the beginning, when I was was taking my first steps and finally being allowed to eat food.) This blog contains my first posts after the awakening, when I could barely hold the stylus in my hand to peck out the words one letter at a time. I find the countless typos rather amusing, since I'm such a perfectionist.
As my strength grew, I started my own thread that became a blog of my continuing recovery: Gadding about with Geekling. The thread features many photos Keith took on our garden walks to improve my walking. At first, a four-wheeled rollator was too challenging for me. Later, when I was stable enough to keep the rollator from rolling away from me, I graduated from the two-wheeled walker I had been using, which allowed me to walk much farther. The pictures are another kind of log of my physical progress.
The prednisone I was taking for my autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis (DM), weakened my immune system and caused me to come down with Legionnaires' disease, which is what made me to fall into the coma in the first place. But when I wrote this blog about how I diagnosed my DM via Dr. Google, prednisone was still a godsend, since I had already sustained a great deal of muscle damage from the DM: I won the lottery, but what I got was no prize. Fortunately, my DM went into remission while I was in the coma. I'm stepping down from prednisone now, and I will soon be able to discontinue it completely. Besides the coma, prednisone has also given me severe osteoporosis. Before the advent of prednisone, DM was often fatal, but talk about double-edged swords!
- In July of 2013, I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died. When I awoke from the coma, I could barely lift my head. It has been a hard road to recovery. The doctors advised my loved ones to give up all hope for my full recovery, but while they were shining lights in my eyes to gauge my level of consciousness, I was telling them grumpily to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep...in my coma-dream. I was experiencing covert cognition, and the coma-dream was my version of a near-death experience. I'm a skeptic, so I saw surreal images instead of spirits or dead loved ones. According to my research, as many as one in five people with consciousness disorders have covert cognition.
Not a miracle recovery, but a miracle of modern medicine
In 2013 I fell into a six-week coma and nearly died after I contracted legionella. The Legionnaire's disease was in turn triggered by immunosuppression caused by the prednisone I was taking for my rare autoimmune disease, dermatomyositis.
I suffered a series of strokes on both sides of my brain when the sepsis caused my blood pressure to plummet. I fell into a deep coma. My kidneys and lungs began to fail, as my body was began dying one organ at a time. My doctors told my loved ones to give up hope for my full recovery. They expected me to die, and even if I somehow lived, I would remain a vegetable or at best left so hopelessly brain-damaged that I would never be same. But unbeknownst to them, while they were shining lights in my eyes and shaking their heads, I was telling them in my coma-dream--my secular version of a near-death experience--to leave me alone because I was trying to get back to sleep. I was experiencing what is known as covert cognition, the subject of my Skeptical Inquirer article "Covert Cognition: My So-Called Near-Death Experience," which appeared in their July/August issue.
But it wasn't a miracle--despite what so many continue to believe--that I recovered so fully. I owe my life not to God, but the miracles of modern medicine, as well as the nature of the watershed-area brain damage I suffered, as I detailed in my article and in this blog.