Viki-Marie Gousias – In sickness and in health
Couple’s Love Song: We don’t have a song
Ted and I have never had a wedding. May 1st will be our 18 year anniversary. It wasn’t exactly love at first sight. We actually annoyed each other at first. We worked together at a call center in Las Vegas. We started off as friends for a while before ever realizing that we were soul mates. We were together for ten years before we had our first child together. When our daughter was about six months old, Ted went to Europe with his son from his first marriage. He came back to the U. S. and didn’t feel quite right. He had visited his doctor for his headaches and fever and on September 11, 2010 he got in his car to drive himself to the emergency room. He went around the block because his vision was blurry. He called a cab and the driver dropped him off at Alexian Brothers hospital, in a suburb of Chicago. After his first spinal tap, he called me collect telling me that he was in the hospital and not to worry. At that time, I was in Las Vegas taking care of our little girl and his father who had dementia.
Luckily, I have my family who took over while I jumped on a plane that evening and flew to Chicago. I took Southwest Airlines into Midway, got into a rental with gps and started driving. I got to the hospital late so the only entrance open was the emergency room. I went to the floor and room and walked in and the room was dark and the blankets were folded on the bed. My heart started to race and I started shaking. I went to the desk and ask for Ted and I looked at the nurse’s eyes and said, “so is he dead?”
The nurse told me that Ted had worsened and was moved to the ICU. As I took the elevator downstairs, I was shaking and clenching my teeth. I asked another nurse for the way to ICU and at this point I started to cry. The nurse escorted me to my destination. Ted was behind two double doors. The first door had a sign warning you to wear a mask before you enter. I got my mask on and entered the room. There he was. Ted is bald man and his head was red and swollen. His fevers went up to 106 degrees which is not even compatible with life and he passed out on the front steps of the E. R. Which explains the spinal tap. He was under a cold blanket. I was putting cold compresses on his forehead which began to boil after ten minutes. He was burning up badly. He started to tell me that he was unable to lift his left arm. That it was getting so heavy. He told me that he didn’t know what was wrong with him but that I needed to brace myself because he knew whatever it was making him feel like this, it was serious. He didn’t want any of his friends to know he was ill and did not want anyone at the hospital, but I called them anyway. Two days later Ted was intubated and he was in a coma. At the time of his hospitalization, his HMO had threatened that I move him to another facility because they could not find what his illness was. I spoke with his attending and she had him transferred to Rush university hospital. While we were there, I got a call from Martha at his HMO telling me that It was not the right facility and they deny all claims of his hospital stay and that it would be 100% out of pocket.
Ted was in a coma for two weeks. During that two weeks Rush performed a second spinal tap. The CDC and Illinois health department asked many questions of me, thinking he had brought back a superbug from Europe. He finally awoke and the second spinal tap confirmed Meningo Encephalitis West Nile Virus. Rush performed a tracheotomy taking the tube out of his throat and cutting a hole in his throat for him to breathe. He was paralyzed from the waist up. We were together at Rush for about a month and a half in the Neuro ICU. We had a team of neurologists (students too) and infectious disease doctors. I slept at the hospital and did not leave his side until the sixth day. My knees were wobbly. I finally had my first meal on day five because I was clenching my teeth all this time the potato chips hurt my back teeth. I went to his friend’s family and stayed the night. I felt so guilty leaving him but I had a decision to make and needed some rest. Dr. Lin, one of the infectious disease doctor’s wanted to use an experimental drug on Ted but it could only be given during the 14 day window phase of infection. It would either be the real drug or placebo. All of the information I had read about it was not very promising. I ask Dr. Lin, looking him in the eyes, if this was his mother would he give it and he looked down and paused long enough for me to know that was a’ “no.” I denied the drug and let God decide Ted’s fate. During the time he was in Europe, CNN headlined over 500 cases of West Nile in Northern Greece. He was on a a fairy boat traveling to the south of Greece and the boat did make a stop in the North departing from Italy.
We missed our daughter’s first birthday. He again was transferred to another facility on Lake Shore Drive. This hospital was a nightmare. There were many incidents but the one that I remember as if it was yesterday was on Novemeber 8, 2010 his physical therapists put Ted on a portable vent to take him downstairs for some exercise. Something was telling me not to leave. I lived at each facility and would only bathe once every four days. Also, I had only packed 3 pairs of jeans because it never crossed my mind that Ted would get so ill. This day I had gone downstairs and watch as Ted was seated and trying to move his legs a bit. All of a sudden, his lips turned blue and his eyes bugged out and rolled up, his ventilator was not working and he was dying right in front of me. I started screaming he can’t breathe. They called a code the clinical director heard me screaming and crying don’t leave me. The nurses started bagging him and brought him back.
During the time of his hospitalization, I went from 150lbs. to 124lbs. from the stress of trying to keep this man alive. Ted was 175 all muscle and went to 120 only eating from a feeding tube. Since they almost killed him at this facility I put him on a plane with an EMT and nurse since he was still on a ventilator unable to breathe on his own and flew him back home to Las Vegas a couple of days before Thanksgiving.
He was in a nice hospital Healthsouth on Tenaya and then transferred to Plaza which did not accept any HMO insurance. I called his insurance and made a special request because the HMO wanted to put in an awful facility like the last one in Chicago. I spoke with Kathleen, who was in charge, I cried explaining to her our circumstances and she made special arrangements with Plaza and they accepted him as a patient. There he was improving.
Ted was hospitalized for close to ten/eleven months. He had been in over seven different facilities and on the ventilator close to ten months. It is quite rare for a patient to be able to get off the ventilator after that long. He had contracted pneumonia five times and had coded in front of me eight times.
I wanted to bring him home to see his daughter grow up. Ted arrived home the week of June 16, 2011, it was close to Father’s Day. Two more years of rehabilitation, Ted is a West Nile virus survivor and a walking miracle. I am happy to say I did not become a widow at 32 but, I was pretty close. People have said that you never know the kind of spouse you have until the s— hits the fan. Everyone needs an advocate when they are hospitalized. Even though I did not get much sleep I paid attention. Always making sure the nurses gave him the right meds. I asked everyday. One nurse came in with insulin and I informed her that he was not a diabetic and asked her politely to leave. Medical mistakes happen everyday. I hope anyone that experiences something of this magnitude has a happy ending like ours. It’s been a rough road through his virus but through it all, we love and appreciate each other even more. Since I was cleaning him and bathing him at the last few facilities. I have shortened this story a bit ,otherwise; it could be a book.
We never had the chance to have a wedding, I hope you can appreciate this story and good luck to all the other people entering this contest.