A mother’s body is designed for self-sacrifice. Even as I kept losing fluids, my body kept producing breastmilk for Leena. It automatically tapped into reserves. I became more and more depleted. Unfortunately, Leena chose this week to teethe her molars, so she’s required extra comfort feeds throughout the night.
Around 3 a.m. this morning, I began to have difficulty breathing. I felt my pulse accelerating. If my two natural childbirths were 9 out of 10 in terms of pain, my abdomen hurt an 8 out of 10. I knew I finally had to give up on my stubbornness and see a doctor. The local clinic opens at 8 a.m. so I tried to wait, but around 5:30 a.m. I realized that I absolutely couldn’t. The pain had become unbearable.
Drex called a taxi. I went to the Jewish General Hospital Emergency Room. Walking in the sliding doors, I felt dizzy. Within one minute, I saw a triage nurse. My blood pressure was 70/40. Within another minute, I was put on a stretcher. An IV was placed after three attempts to find a vein. I immediately received a one-liter bolus of normal saline to replace my body’s fluid loss. And I was given the mercy of a continuous morphine drip.
Morphine is a miracle drug. It took effect in less than two minutes. Four tubes of blood were drawn and sent to the lab for testing. The doctor came to see me an hour later, but I didn’t notice the wait. I was floating in Morphine Lake.
Eventually, we concluded I had severe viral gastroenteritis and moderate dehydration. Gastroenteritis is inflammation of the stomach and small intestine. It leads to nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. It’s no joke.
The World Health Organization puts out statistics on the major causes of deaths worldwide. Diarrheal diseases (like gastroenteritis) are the fifth leading cause of deaths each year, above HIV/AIDS. (Ischemic heart disease is number one). In low-income countries, it’s the second leading cause of death.
This morning, it honestly felt like I was going to die. Being dehydrated triggered a panic response in my body. It felt like I was being suffocated.
I am so grateful that I live in a first-world country with access to great healthcare. In the end, I received TWO LITERS of normal saline to restore my fluid loss. I was that dehydrated. Two whole bottles of Coke!
If I’d been a breastfeeding woman in sub-Saharan Africa, I’d probably have been a goner. But I live in Canada— what a difference that makes. After a few hours, I felt much better. I declined further imaging studies and was sent home with a couple of prescriptions to get me through the tail end of this thing. I am so so so lucky, and I am aware of how lucky I am.