I didn't write a lot about Corrie's illness in the early days, simply because I had no idea it would turn into the journey that it has. We found out earlier this year that Corrie has ulcerative colitis, a disease that affects the colon. This disease is believed to have a genetic component, and in our family's case, my other sister (Katherine) received the same diagnosis when she was in high school. Katherine's diagnosis has never required hospitalization and is manageable with daily medication, so we were unaware of how severe the disease could be.
After everything Corrie has been through, she now affectionately refers to Katherine's case as "baby colitis."
Corrie had a flare-up during the first week of August (just days before our family beach trip) - something we attributed to food poisoning or something of the sort. However, she stayed sick during our time at the beach (note how she's only in one photo), so my parents made her an appointment with the doctor when we got back. The following recap is a grand combination of text message archives and Facebook statuses forever compiled into one place as a mini-synopsis of Corrie's journey.
August 16 (the day Corrie was supposed to move into her dorm to begin her freshman year of college): the doctor sent her immediately to the hospital where it was confirmed that her case of ulcerative colitis was classified as "severe" and required immediate medical treatment.
August 21: After six days, Corrie headed home... still not completely healthy, but under the assumption that she was on the road to recovery as the medicine would continue to fight the disease. She would miss her first week of college classes, but as someone who lived for "drop/add" period, I'm not sure if I ever attended the first week of the classes that I ended up enrolling in and I turned out just fine, so no harm there ;)
August 30: A little over a week later, however, Corrie's condition continued to worsen. She was readmitted to the hospital in Winston-Salem and began receiving a second type of medical treatment, as her body clearly was not responding to the first.
Overall, Corrie spent 29 days in Forsyth Hospital (6 on her first visit and 23 on her second). We did a lot more than sleep during that time (ie: complete every Sudoku and crossword puzzle known to mankind as well as check out potential doctors for Katherine to date), but family sleeping pictures are infinitely cuter. As are the Ryan Gosling pictures I would send to Corrie during the week from Raleigh:
Classic, I know.
September 21: A scope revealed that Corrie's body was not responding to the second treatment either, and if she remained in the hospital in Winston-Salem, the only option left was surgery to remove her colon. However, the hospital in Chapel Hill (~80 miles east) is one of the top facilities in the Southeast for gastroenterology and had a couple of other treatment options. Obviously wanting to avoid surgery if possible, my family made the decision to transport Corrie to Chapel Hill that night.
September 22: After being evaluated, the doctors informed us that Corrie was not a candidate for the possible medical treatment, as it would take twelve weeks before showing signs of relief (assuming it worked at all). Her colon was so diseased by this point that she barely had twelve hours. Surgery was scheduled for the following day.
September 23: Corrie had her first surgery (it is a two- or three-surgery process over the span of months) to remove her colon. The surgeon told our family that when he placed the surgical tool on her colon to prepare for the cut, her colon actually fell apart without him making the incision! Following surgery, Corrie was taken to a regular room on the gastroenterology floor, where she was expected to stay for five to seven days.
September 26: Corrie began feeling very nauseous. The doctors initially thought it was a reaction to the pain medication, but switching to a different type didn't bring much relief.
September 27: Corrie's fever spiked over 101 and an x-ray showed that she had pneumonia. She began receiving IV antibiotics. Nausea became her biggest obstacle to overcome, as eating and walking were essential for her body to heal, but both were difficult as long as she felt sick to her stomach.
September 29: A CT scan revealed the source of the nausea to be a fluid/infection-filled abscess in Corrie's abdominal cavity. A procedure to drain the abscess was scheduled for the following day.
September 30: Corrie had a procedure to insert two drains into her abdominal cavity that would drain out the fluid/infection-filled abscess over the span of a week or two.
October 2-3: Corrie's fever spiked to 102 and the nausea returned. The doctor believed that some of the infection released into her body when they drained her abscess, but still felt like going home by ~October 7th was possible.
October 4: Because she hadn't quite encountered every post-surgery complication possible by this point, Corrie was also diagnosed with thrush. Who knew that was even a thing?
October 6: A pulmonary embolism went from Corrie's lung to her heart and caused her to go into acute cardiac arrest. (I wrote more about it here.) After fifteen minutes without a heartbeat, she was resuscitated and taken to ICU on a ventilator. Initially, the doctors believed she was having internal bleeding and prepared for emergency surgery, but further tests showed that her blood levels were good and there was no need for an immediate procedure. (Apparently it's really common to get an inaccurate read on blood levels when someone is coding and there is a great deal of fluid being rushed into their system.) Late night tests of "move this body part, give us a thumbs up, answer this question by nodding or shaking your head" showed no signs of brain damage. The anesthesiologist was the first to respond when Corrie coded and had her intubated very quickly, so she was "only" without oxygen for a few minutes... for which we're so grateful!
October 7: The doctors began weaning Corrie off the ventilator and she responded well by breathing on her own. Her white blood cell count was high, indicating an infection somewhere, so she began receiving an antibiotic for that. A scan showed a possible other blood clot, but a further look showed that it was just "old blood" and no cause for alarm. Exactly 24 hours after she coded, Corrie was taken off the ventilator.
October 8: Corrie had a procedure to insert a new PICC line (for nutrition) and to insert a drain into each of her lungs to drain off fluid. The doctors had also spotted a pocket of blood/infection in her abdomen that needed to be drained (and was apparently the source of the nausea all along), but the sedation didn't last long enough to insert an additional drain into her abdomen during the same procedure. Immediately following the procedure, the PICC line stopped working.
October 9: Corrie had another procedure to drain the pocket of blood/infection inside her abdominal cavity and the PICC line began working. An echocardiogram showed that half of her heart was only functioning at 50%, but it was too soon after her acute cardiac arrest to know if the damage was permanent or temporary. A follow-up echocardiogram was scheduled for the following week. During the evening, Corrie's oxygen levels dropped and wouldn't come back up, so she was placed back on the ventilator. A scan revealed that one lung was filled with pneumonia and the other lung had partially collapsed.
October 11: The doctors began reducing Corrie's sedation, so she woke up for the first time in ~40 hours. Although unable to speak while on the ventilator, my parents told her to use her fingers to spell out words... and her first finger spelling was "B-E-T-H"! So much win. (Sorry, Katherine... my name's just shorter.) However, a high heart rate during the night caused the doctors to keep her on the ventilator longer than originally planned.
October 13: Some severe abdominal pain led to a CT scan, which showed that very little had drained from the pocket of blood/infection inside Corrie's abdominal cavity since the drains were inserted four days prior. She had another procedure in the afternoon to reposition the tube and put in a larger drain (which was successful, yay!) Corrie was finally taken off the ventilator in the evening and given an oxygen mask.
October 14: We so desperately needed a good day at this point, and October 14 was definitely the turning point! Since being taken off the ventilator and having all the drains functioning properly, Corrie was able to spend a good portion of the day sitting up in a chair and even stood up during physical therapy... and I received my first text message from the princess since before she coded!
October 15: Corrie continued to receive breathing treatments throughout the day from respiratory therapists as her lungs were still very weak. The doctors told us that she would remain in ICU until they were absolutely certain that she would not have to be placed back on the ventilator. They removed the drain from her right lung as well as her feeding tube, and she was also cleared to begin an all-liquid diet.
October 16: The follow-up echocardiogram showed no permanent heart damage!
October 19: Corrie was moved from ICU to ISCU (Intermediate Surgical Care Unit).
All of the nurses in ICU were absolute angels! The one pictured on the left bought Corrie a tiara to wear during her move from ICU to ISCU.
October 20: The doctors removed the drain from her left lung, leaving "only" three abdominal drains still attached to her (in addition to the central line and IV pole, of course).
October 22: Corrie was cleared from respiratory therapy as her lungs looked infinitely better than they did a week prior. She also received her last bag of IV nutrition (which also meant the end of frequent blood sugar testing and insulin shots... the IV nutrition has a lot of sugar!) and began prepping to move out of ISCU to a regular room.
October 24 (2:00 a.m.): Corrie was moved to a regular room on the same hallway she was before she coded. The doctors removed one of her abdominal drains, leaving only two still inserted into her abdominal cavity.
October 25: No longer on any IV medications (oral pills only) and rid of the IV pole, Corrie was able to go outside for little bit... the first time she felt the sunshine since the first week in August!
Corrie's nurse the day she coded got to be her nurse again for a day once Corrie returned to a regular room. Happy tears all around!
October 26: A CT scan showed the pockets of blood were still in her abdominal cavity, but the infection was gone (white blood cell count was great) and the doctors believed the body would absorb the blood overtime, so they took out the remaining two abdominal drains. Our entire family got to spend the day together for the first time in exactly three weeks!
October 28: After 60 consecutive days of her second hospitalization (23 at Forsyth and 37 at Chapel Hill), CORRIE GOT TO GO HOME! This, of course, is another blog post in and of itself, but oh, what a happy day it was!
Congratulations if you managed to make it this far :) Honestly, getting all of this into one post was more for me than for my blog readers, but I'm happy to share the story with those who have followed along from the very beginning... and I'm very happy to finally have all of the photos and hospital updates consolidated into one place.
Check back early next week for the "Welcome Home, Corrie" post - it's a little less crazy and a lot more exciting than this one!