Ed’s Not-So-Excellent Adventure

Where in the world has Ed been, many have been wondering. He reliably posts 10 times a day or more. What could possibly be keeping him offline and out of communication all this time? Did he have a heart attack and die? Well, close. And now that I have a real computer, I can tell everyone the whole story of what happened.

A week ago (exactly last Saturday), I was experiencing some serious pain in my abdomen, near my kidneys. It was keeping me from sleeping at night, it was so bad. So I drove to the emergency room in Greenville. They ran some urine tests and didn’t find anything wrong with my kidneys, so they gave me some vicodin and told me to call my regular doctor on Monday morning. So I wait…

Fast forward to Sunday night and suddenly I’m having trouble breathing. I can’t walk 5 feet without feeling like I’m gonna fall over, my heart is racing a mile a minute and I keep waking up drenched in sweat. I decide not to wait to see my regular doctor and not to try to drive to the ER, so I call 911. The ambulance came Monday morning and they thought I was having a heart attack. I get to Greenville ER and the doctor there immediately decides to send me to Butterworth hospital in Grand Rapids, a world-class medical facility, especially for cardiac problems.

I get to Butterworth with my heart rate over 160. They did a heart catheter and found no blockages at all. They did a CAT scan and found the lining of my heart a bit thick and the right ventricle a bit stiff, but those things shouldn’t cause the problems I was having. All day Monday they did tests, also finding that my lymph nodes were swelled badly. Tuesday morning about 10 AM, my heart rate goes over 200 bpm and they decide they can’t wait any longer, they have to open me up.

So, Black and Decker to the sternum and they are shocked to find a ton of fluid in my chest, pushing down on my heart and lungs and making my heart go into overdrive to keep oxygen in my system. They do a biopsy on the lymph nodes, clean things up, install three chest tubes and sew me back up. Sometime in the middle of the night, I ripped out my ventilator tube (I told them that better not be on my bill, I did it myself). As for what caused all of this, that’s still not certain.

There are two possibilities left — a fungal infection and sarcoidosis, an auto-immune disorder that essentially has to be diagnosed by ruling out all the other possibilities. It’s treatable and should be able to be handled medically without long-term problems. Looks like I’ll be allowed to leave tomorrow, but I’ll need to stay with a friend to look after me for the first week or so before going home.

It’s all been quite an adventure, and not a pleasant one. But given all the possible alternatives, the news is relatively good and the prognosis is positive. I feel quite lucky, both to have excellent medical care provided by brilliant and committed doctors, nurses, technicians and research scientists, and to have a great family and friends who have rallied around me and provided a great deal of support. Thank you all so much for the well wishes and the positive messages.

Comments

  1. says

    Damn! Best wishes for a speedy (and as pain-free as possible) recovery from the surgery. I loathe the process of narrowing down what I *might* have by excluding everything else.

  2. Maureen Brian says

    Poor you! Do keep on getting better and taking full advantage of all the good support you have.

  3. says

    Do you believe in GOD, NOW!? (democommie ducks, with amazing alacrity for a stiff old codger).

    Seriously, Ed, all the best. Please tell us that you did not call 911 on Sunday and not have them show up until Monday (unless of course it was close to midnight).

    You could always give me, slc1, Raging bee, dingojack and heddle (now, now, I know that there are many other worthies!) the keys to the house. You can depend on me to feed the fish and make sure that nothing in the fridge goes bad–the other people can be sane and reasoned bloggers, I hope!

    Cheers.

  4. says

    Ick, ick, ick! What a nightmare! Good luck and full recovery, Ed.

    “Black & Decker” — great line! (Was it really a B&D?)

  5. Cathy W says

    Oh, goodness. I’m glad you were able to get good care, and are on the road to recovery.

    Do one thing while you recover: TAKE IT EASY. You won’t be as strong as you feel for a few weeks.

  6. otrame says

    I was worried about you. I knew that an OCD blogger like you only posting once a day was not good news. I’m sorry you were an interesting case. You never want to interest a doctor if you can help it. Usually not good. I’m glad it was something treatable. Get well soon. I promise not to pray for you.

  7. slc1 says

    Get well quickly, we miss our daily dose of sarcasm. Lots a crap going on, relative to the fiscal cliff, Chuck Hagel, etc.

  8. Ichthyic says

    So, Black and Decker to the sternum and they are shocked to find a ton of fluid in my chest,

    wait…. did you recently make a trip to a famous fictional chocolate factory?

    you… you didn’t try the chewing gum, did you??

  9. Hank Fox says

    Does this mean my plans for total FTB domination have to be put on hold? Crap, I already got the iron glove and the white cat.

    Seriously, Ed, glad you’re better.

  10. dukeyork says

    Get well soon, Ed! We need you out here.

    Did you at least get to meet the Michigan version of Dr. House?

    Duke

  11. jakc says

    It sounds very serious but it couldn’t be too serious as you didn’t start down a long tunnel filled with bright light only to have baby jesus tell you it’s not your time and you should turn back

  12. brianengler says

    Damn, Ed! You certainly know how to have fun don’t you? Seriously, very glad to hear that you availed yourself of evidence-based medicine, and that you’re recovering well. Take it easy and take your time. Hope to see you at WIS2 or one of the many other events coming up in the new year.

  13. John Hinkle says

    Frightening thought, having to call 911 because you question the ability to get yourself to the ER. My most sincere sympathies.
     
    This all reminds me of a joke: this rabbi, priest, and doctor of medical science walk into a bar and…

  14. slc1 says

    I almost forgot the statement from Wayne LaPierre of the National Rat Association about putting armed guards on all the schools in the US, in response to what happened in Connecticut. He wasn’t alone in this regard, our whackjob Virginia Governor McDonnell also recommended arming teachers! Some pretty good fodder there.

  15. Scott Hanley says

    I wish you the best of luck through this. I know you’ll keep us up-to-date on your status.

  16. Michael Heath says

    Squiddhartha writes:

    Oh, man, Ed, I figured you were just taking extra time to work on your book. Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery!

    That’s what I thought. So in spite of all that you continued to post some blog posts every day? Wow.

    Here’s hoping for a full recovery real soon. It’s amazing they you can open you up like that; yet you’ll be able to leave the hospital within days, and then be autonomous within a week or so after that. So great news on the expected recovery given what happened prior.

    Until about two hours ago we’ve been survivalist mode around here since 4 a.m. yesterday. Perfect timing for the Mayan thing though it was more like Thor’s version of Hell.

    We got a huge snow storm with concrete-like* snow Thursday evening losing power that evening until a little while ago (I live in Northern Michigan were big storms are the norm.) Thursday evening we got 15″, on top of the 5″ during the day Thursday. My dad hooked-up a generator to the furnace late yesterday afternoon so we didn’t have to worry about busted water pipes. Most of the work involved clearing the snow and cars out of the roads, and getting some family members situated in temporary digs until the power came back.

    Our only casualties were a couple of ceiling tiles and two downed cedar trees. I might be able to save the trees, they’re both pretty resilient.

    *Concrete-like snow is so heavy with water it sometimes gets compacted in the snowblower as if its concrete. Too much and the augur can’t blow it out; and then you gotta use a garden spade to dig it out. I had that happen only once in about two hours of blowing snow so I felt fortunate. All this in 25 – 30 mph winds with gusts up to 40 mph.

  17. Funny Diva says

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery.
    And to echo somebody upthread–don’t overdo it too soon. If they took Black&Decker to your sternum, that’s done some MAJOR structural, uh, modification to how your body holds you up!

  18. says

    I feel quite lucky, both to have excellent medical care provided by brilliant and committed doctors, nurses, technicians…

    Heh, wait ’till you get the bill.

  19. sabai456 says

    I get to Greenville ER and the doctor there immediately decides to send me to Butterworth hospital in Grand Rapids, a world-class medical facility, especially for cardiac problems.

    I think this is the luckiest part of your ordeal.It’s like a miracle.

    Get better.

  20. raven says

    Oh Cthulhu.

    Words all of the sudden don’t seem adequate.

    You did survive so all that is left is recovering. Hope you are back to something vaguely resembling normal soon.

  21. gardengnome says

    Peirce @ 31
    Next time insist on a DeWalt, or at least a Skilsaw!

    Nah, Makita every time.

    All the best Ed – take a holiday.

    Michael

  22. krisrhodes says

    After reading you every day for many years, I started to get worried around Wednesday. Hope you have a good recovery.

  23. Sastra says

    ‘Tis a Christmas miracle! Almost.

    You poor baby — take care of yourself, and all our best wishes.

  24. says

    And here I was thinking that Ed was going to tell us that he spent the time in a “undisclosed location” (Vegas). Well, I guess what happens in Grand Rapids, don’t stay in Grand Rapids!

  25. Jeremy Shaffer says

    Damn, here’s to a speedy recovery. Still , seeing you were given some vicodin and that sarcoidosis as a possible diagnosis I feel I should make a House reference but I find that none come to mind.

  26. ritapita says

    Wow! I’m surprised you were able to post anything at all. Hope your recovery progresses well.

  27. typecaster says

    Wow, is this becoming an FtB rite of passage? First PZ has an interesting cardiac episode, and now you have an adventure. If it happens again, we’ll have to invoke the anti-hazing laws, assuming the Michigan Republicans haven’t repealed them yet.
    .
    Seriously, get well, and believe the folks who’re urging you to take your time with it. When it’s a choice between posting and catching a nap, pick the nap.
    .
    My chest hurts just from hearing your description of the procedure.

  28. mishcakes says

    Feel better, Ed. Glad you have a great support network.

    Michael Heath @29 – we’re currently getting dumped on and expect to have upwards of five FEET once this storm is done. :)

  29. Doubting Thomas says

    Damn, every time you, PZ or one my other favorite bloggers go dark for a while my mind starts to imagine that one of those wing nuts we love to insult has…

  30. says

    I had some posts built up, which our site tech scheduled for me while I was out. I didn’t have a computer until tonight, so I’m building up some material now for the next few days. Blogging should return to relatively normal now. I actually had several emails from people saying “You’re not posting very often. Is everything okay?” Nice to be a part of other peoples’ routines, I guess.

  31. Olav says

    That must have been scary. I had a medical scare myself a few months ago, so I can sympathise to a degree. But thankfully no powertools were involved in my treatment. That must have been worse than scary. Of course, do get better and take any good advice the doctors might give you. Even if it includes the dreaded “lifestyle changes”. We must all make them, at some point.

  32. nooneinparticular says

    Ed – Wow. Glad you’re feeling better and that it looks like it is manageable. I wish you a speedy recovery and continued good health. Take care and don’t work so hard.

  33. amyjane says

    Ed- I’m glad you are getting better, but please do as they tell you. That sternum
    needs time to mend.

  34. chuckonpiggott says

    Take care of yourself Ed.
    Speaking as a fellow member of the split chest club it takes a while to get over that.

  35. ragingapathy says

    I noticed the low post-rate and figured it was time off typical for folks round this time of year. But dang what a turn of events that must have been. I am happy to hear you’ve pulled through and I hope very much your condition improves even more and that some conclusion can be reached about how it happened, the better to avoid repeats. Peace and good health!

  36. tfkreference says

    Glad you’re ok. Hope that blogging provides good occupational therapy for you Be careful, though, reading all that wingnut crap has got to be stressful at times. Please concentrate on the funny stuff, like creationism and Orly Taitz.

    Thanks for the improved mobile template on FTB.

  37. savagemutt says

    I thought something was odd as I was expecting a post about Bork’s death.

    My best wishes for a quick recovery.

  38. dingojack says

    Demo said “You could always give me, slc1, Raging bee, dingojack and heddle (now, now, I know that there are many other worthies!) the keys to the house”.

    That’d be a pretty long flight for me just to feed the fish! (‘worthies’ is a little strong, in my case).

    Shouldbeworking said “Dingo said he’ll shovel your sidewalks and driveway for you”.
    Then
    Micheal Heath said “We got a huge snow storm with concrete-like* snow Thursday evening losing power that evening until a little while ago (I live in Northern Michigan were big storms are the norm.) Thursday evening we got 15″, on top of the 5″ during the day Thursday”.

    Thanks shouldbeworking – hope you’ve got a loooooong handled shovel, Ed! ;)

    Ed – so now you’ve had this, what the hell are we gonna get you Xmas?!?

    Oh I know!
    Get well soon.

    :) Dingo

  39. Crudely Wrott says

    I’d thought something was a bit out of kilter this past week, but dadburn the dadratted dadgum, Ed!

    I’m relieved to know that you were able to get good, competent and timely attention. That makes me feel confident that you’ll recover and be your old self again soon. We’ve missed you and want you back.

    Now, be sure to listen to the doctors, wink at the nurses and take your medicine on schedule. As well, next time insist on Craftsman tools.

  40. whheydt says

    You’ve got my sympathy…especially about getting your chest opened up.

    I had bypass surgery almost 13 years ago. Take it *real* easy. Unless they’ve found something better, until the bones knit, you’ve just got a few staples holding you together. (And, unless things have changed, coughing hurts like a son-of-a-bitch for a couple of weeks following surgery.)

  41. says

    Ouch… take care of yourself Ed. As much as I love reading your posts having your chest cracked open is more than reason enough to ease back on posting for a bit.

  42. David C Brayton says

    Just out of curiosity, did they know what they were looking for when the did the surgery? Or was the surgery essentially exploratory? Did they snap a boring old chest x-ray? I’m pretty sure a fluid build up that leads to tamponade would show up pretty well.

    BTW, you can really tell that I’m a dork, eh? Straight to the technical question. Anyhow…What was the worst part–the pain and uncertainty regarding your health? Or not having a keyboard/internet connection?

    Has everyone come to visit? Dad and H, Duwayne, K, etc.

    Wish them all a Merry Christmas for me from wet (not snowy) California.

  43. julial says

    Be better. Much better. Soonest.

    You have my sympathies.
    I’m glad it’s not what Android Ash had even if that’s what it felt like.

  44. magistramarla says

    Ed,
    When I read that there was a concern about your lymph nodes, I immediately started thinking that you have an autoimmune problem. Several of them can cause a fluid build-up around the lungs or heart, including Lupus. One has an serious effect on the lymph glands – Sjogren’s Syndrome, which I have.
    Here’s the link to the SJS website: http://www.sjogrens.org/

    I hope that you read this and that it helps.
    Here’s hoping that you feel better soon.

  45. mildlymagnificent says

    Oh my giddy aunt.

    Take care. Don’t be too disappointed if you can’t get back to ‘normal’ as soon as you’d like. Let your friends cosset you for the first few weeks.

    And we won’t nag if you’re a bit less active for a while.

    Get better soon. Get well when you can.

  46. didgen says

    Having worked in medical I want to ask questions that are none of my business, but, a CT didn’t show the fluid? Been hanging out in the San Joaquin valley for fun and fungus? Please feel better, none of those procedures is minor and all are exceptionally painful. Only difficult patients self-extubate, it’s not polite.

  47. shouldbeworking says

    The amount of snow falling on my (formerly) bare driveway is almost enough to give me cardiac pains. Good thing I have 2 loving daughters. They can call 911 for me.

  48. says

    David-

    The plan when they opened me up was to install a device to keep the heart under control, to do a biopsy on the lymph nodes and to find out what was going on. At least that’s how I remember it being explained to me while I was panicking and sedated. I think they also thought that my heart just wasn’t going to last long at 200 bpm. The worst part was the dread and uncertainty. I was terrified at the thought of open heart surgery, but when they said that’s what they wanted to do, I immediately consented. I’d spent the previous 36 hours feeling like I was going to die and having no idea why. I wanted answers, to know what was going on so we could get it fixed. Kevin was the one talking to the doctors mostly and he just came to me and said, “You need to do this. They have to get in there and find out what the problem is, one way or the other, so let’s do it now.”

    Everyone has been around from the family and my group of close friends. The support has been great, as one would expect. Jill and Susie came up and spent a whole night here. Kevin slept here for three days, watching me like a hawk. Jack has called several times from Colorado. He wanted to send in some Mormon elders to pray over me, but dad told him that probably wasn’t a good idea.

  49. says

    I’m a bit late to the party, having been busy with xmas preparations, but needless to say I wish you a speedy recovery and have yourself some great holidays!

  50. Max Hannan says

    Best wishes for a speedy recovery Ed. As a frequent lurker I was wondering where you had gone! Take it easy and have a good Christmas :)

    (And I too was wondering why they didn’t U/S the heart which would have shown fluid- but that’s a vet student for you!)

  51. zmidponk says

    Jeremy Shaffer #43:

    Damn, here’s to a speedy recovery. Still , seeing you were given some vicodin and that sarcoidosis as a possible diagnosis I feel I should make a House reference but I find that none come to mind.

    magistramarla #74:

    Ed,
    When I read that there was a concern about your lymph nodes, I immediately started thinking that you have an autoimmune problem. Several of them can cause a fluid build-up around the lungs or heart, including Lupus.

    It’s not Lupus.

    Seriously, it’s damn good to hear you’re on the mend, and I hope that everything goes smoothly from here on out.

  52. Tony ∞The Queer Shoop∞ says

    Damn Ed.
    I am glad you got excellent medical care.
    Hopefully your recovery is swift.

  53. abb3w says

    I’d hoped you were merely taking some time to relax for the holidays. Alas, not exactly.

    Hope your doctors figure out in short order how to fix you back up.

  54. Michael Heath says

    Ed wrote:

    Fast forward to Sunday night and suddenly I’m having trouble breathing. I can’t walk 5 feet without feeling like I’m gonna fall over, my heart is racing a mile a minute and I keep waking up drenched in sweat. I decide not to wait to see my regular doctor and not to try to drive to the ER, so I call 911. The ambulance came Monday morning . . .

    Like the other commenters who responded here, how long did you have to wait from the time you called 911 to when the ambulance arrived?

  55. says

    I didn’t have to wait. I didn’t call them until Monday morning. There were first responders at the house within 5 minutes, followed by the ambulance a few minutes later. I probably should have called them sooner. i sat up all night trying to sleep, waking up every half hour or so just drenched in sweat. I couldn’t even walk a few steps into the bathroom. My original plan was to call my regular doctor on Monday morning and set an appointment, but it was clear by then that there was no way I was going to be able to drive the mile and a half to her office, so I called 911.

  56. ema says

    On the bright side, your heart isn’t the problem and your coronaries are free and clear. Best wishes for a quick diagnosis and a speedy recovery.

  57. dingojack says

    Tobinius – I heard that, in the end, Lord Horatio Nelson was in good spirits. ;)
    Dingo
    ——-
    ED strange that just a little while ago you were thinking of epitaphs.

  58. Olav says

    JeffreyD:

    May Cthulhu pass you by.

    You may not be aware, but that is a terrible curse to inflict on someone else. The usual good luck wish is “may Ctulhu eat you first”.

  59. says

    Olav, I belong to the new Apostolic Church of Cthulhu, the softer side of the Elder Gods. We now longer sacrifice seaside villages to HIM. Now we just throw pork chops into evergreen bushes.

  60. catlover says

    Get well soon! I hope your recovery is speedy, and as pain-free as possible.
    That was a very scary thing to live through. Glad you are on the mend!
    Please — don’t overexert yourself, and please do what the doctors say.
    (I am quite amazed you are able to post here. That is very good.)
    I thank science and all the good doctors and nurses and helpers you had
    for the good outcome. wow…..

    @ Michael Heath — #29: That snow you had sounds just like what we here in
    California call “Sierra cement”. Donner averages 100-200 inches a year of
    this hard-to-move stuff. Sometimes even the railroad’s rotary snowplows
    cannot handle the stuff.

  61. lynnwilhelm says

    Oh, Ed, I’m so sorry to hear about this. But I am glad to hear that you are doing better now. Take care of yourself while you recover.

  62. markhoofnagle says

    Sorry to hear about this Ed. Having your chest cracked is a hell of a thing, I hope you have a fast recovery, but don’t be surprised if this takes some time to get back up to 100%. Get on your feet soon, walk early and often (with assistance until you’re confident), and get better soon.

  63. Ellie says

    Behind o my blog reading. I’m sorry to read about your adventure and sincerely hope you are back to 100% ASAP.

  64. Stacey C. says

    Just figured it was the holidays…glad to hear that you’re prognosis is for a full recovery!

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