Rat Lungworm (Blog Version Pt II)

beforeIf you haven’t read (Blog Version PT I), read it before you read this.

My angel’s name is Hamed. He asked me to lift my legs one at a time, then tried to touch them. The ear piecing scream and free-flowing tears he received as a result of brushing his fingers along the chafed, dull colored sticks that were once my functional legs, were enough to convince him that somebody wasn’t doing their job.

I heard a voice froth with passionate disbelief, “You say she used to be an ultra marathon runner? This is insane! For three weeks now? Why hasn’t she been admitted yet?”  He turned to me, “You’ll be admitted today.”

And so I was.

As is characteristic of a VA Hospital, they had trouble finding a room to place me since I was female.  I ended up on the 1st floor in the live in area of the hospital…the hospice section of the hospital.

It was around 6PM when I got there, and I hadn’t eaten a bite since that morning. I was starving. They brought me dinner.

Soup, juice, and water.

A liquid diet for the constipation.

My appetite was gone. I gulped down the juice and water, slipping in and out of consciousness between gulps.

No soup for me! (Insert Crazy Soup Guy voice if you didn’t get the reference.)

It was explained to me that I was to have a lumbar puncture, exactly what the procedure entailed, how large the needle is, and that the collected cerebral spinal fluid was to be sent to the Center for Disease Control to be tested.

After explaining this, my doctor asked, “I am going to do a lumbar puncture. Do you understand?”

“Yes,” I mumbled a semi-confident response.

“Then tell me what you understand.”

“You are going to put a timber in my back,” I replied confidently.

“…ummmm…well, not quite,” the doctor slowly and deliberatly looked at John. In that moment it was decided. John would be their go to, conscious, and alert guy.

Luckily I was so drugged up by that point, that the “timber” didn’t feel like much more than slight pressure. The truth is, the doc had a pretty hard time finding the puncture spot.  There was even a nurse coaching him….

“No, not there, a little to the left.”


You can be paralyzed by a lumbar puncture, by the way.

When he finally got the needle inserted in the correct spot, the spinal fluid gushed out. There was so much liquid it merely took seconds to fill their vials. Afterwards, around midnight they finally left for the evening, and I fell asleep yet again.


I didn’t have the best reactions to the IV and pill meds that they gave me.  I had full body sweats, and I writhed uncontrolled, moaning,trying to wipe the sweat from my brow… all without waking up.

rat-lungworm survivor Aurita Maldonado

I squirmed and pawed at my sweaty skin and clothing until my IV began to loosen.

John ran out to the nurses’ desk to tell them.

When he returned to the room, the IV was fully out and dripping.  The nurses arrived as he turned to let them know. They passed him and entered the room, and standing over me said in disbelief, “Yeah, he WAS right!”

They inserted another IV, and I fell asleep again before the lights went out.

I continued to moan the night through.

Around 5:30 AM the hospital came alive, and it all began again….

“We need to draw your blood.”

“Here, take this medication.”

“I’m here to set up your IV meds.”

“How much pain are you in from 1 – 10.”

“Lift your left leg. Now your right one.”

“Can you feel this? And this? How about this?”

So many questions.

So much pain.

Breakfast came about 7:30 AM. I was whisked to get lots and lots of pictures taken. MRIs, CT scans, and x-rays.

The MRI took so long I was given headphones to enjoy the ride. Two hours later I was hoisted onto the gurney and wheeled back to my temporary hospice room. John helped with everything, from helping transfer me, to holding my legs for catheter changes. He was and is still absolutely amazing.

It wasn’t long before there were some more doctor visits.

“Here, take this other medication.”

“I’m here to set up your IV meds.”

“How much pain are you in from 1 – 10”

“Can you feel this? And this? How about this?”

The afternoon passed this way.  I spent the vast majority of it asleep, even when I was in my appointments. There was IV after IV, pain med after pain med.

It seemed, as explained by the doctors, that they were staving off treatment until they were relatively sure of what type if illness they were fighting, and they didn’t want to complicate matters.

Mrs. Queen came to the hospital to check in on me. She told me that both my mom and my sister, Amara, were coming soon. Mom on Sunday (the knowledge with which John had reassured me already) and Amara on Friday (a genuine surprise); tomorrow!  I was very excited until I fell back asleep again a few seconds later.

The next time I woke up, the doctors were all standing at the foot of my bed, looking at me expectantly.

I looked back inquisitively.

They ran through the necessary how is it feeling questions before they got me up to speed on my condition. They told me that although the CDC wouldn’t return the test results for a while, they were leaning towards a serious case of eosinophillic menigitis.  They explained that they were thinking it could have been caused by a severe case of the parasite, angiostrongylus cantonensis.

Rat Lungworm.


Rat Lungworm.

They said they had found several lesions on my brain and nodules on my lungs. There was going to be a lung biopsy scheduled for the nodules, and I was not to take the blood thinner for clotting until my brain had healed. They planned to start me on a medicine to kill the parasite, but it only has a 50% success rate, and if it didn’t work…well…they wanted me to simply hope it worked…

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18 Responses to Rat Lungworm (Blog Version Pt II)

  1. Diana B January 23, 2013 at 2:04 PM #

    Wow it’s like a cliffhanger episode of my favorite show! I’ve always admired your joie de vivre, and love following the storm even though the clouds got really dark…the rainbow always appears!

  2. Angela January 23, 2013 at 3:54 PM #

    I *heart* you Rita!! Your spirit, your smile, your depth, your journey and your will to live life to the fullest and kick ass in the face of opposition has been a huge inspiration to me and many others! I am thankful that our paths have crossed and will always think fondly of our time spent together! Your cliff hangers, well, I do not think so fondly of, but, you always knew how to draw and audience and keep us 🙂 Much love and continued prayers for a speedy and full recovery!! Oh yeah, and as for King Bing, I heart him more everyday too!!! Many talk about their angels in heaven watching over them in times like this and throughout life in general…clearly God sent yours right to you! King Bing, thank you for loving my friend back to life and thank you for keeping us all up to speed when she couldn’t! May God continue to bless both of you!!!

  3. wearingmyblackness January 23, 2013 at 6:09 PM #

    Jesus, girl. Your life…

  4. diane persons January 23, 2013 at 6:21 PM #

    At least we know you are still here.Can’t wait for part 3.You know you need to write a book, I told you that after meeting you on that short bus ride to go rafting.

  5. Susan Schlatter January 25, 2013 at 12:16 AM #

    I’ll try this through tear falling eyes. God Hurricane, how does one manage to get through this? You have more guts than anyone I know, I owuld have said “screw it” long ago and just gone away forever. You make my heart hurt knowing the pain and suffering you are going through, and you make my heart sing knowing that , at the end, you will walk away and be that crazy hippy chic from the rafting trip.
    To King Bing, as much as we love Rita, we love you that much and so much more for being there for her when most men would have walked out. As a much older woman who has loved, and lost, I know what it’s like to have someone care for you unconditionally, it’s rare and beautiful. Thank you for being Ritas heart. We look forward to messages with more upbeat news, just please hold her and kiss her for us.
    Susan and Bud

    • Hurricane Rita June 10, 2013 at 11:15 AM #

      Here’s to crazy hippy chicks from rafting trips! I’ll make sure King Bing gives a kiss today! 😀

  6. Susan Schlatter January 25, 2013 at 12:18 AM #

    I forgot Rita and I both use the same symbol for “W3E’RE NUMBER 1”. I love it!

    • Hurricane Rita February 14, 2013 at 7:46 PM #

      We absolutely do! It took until I received the email that I understood!!! 😀

  7. Dr. B January 29, 2013 at 9:49 PM #

    So ‘Rita when is the movie coming out? This has all of the qualifications of medical drama, love story, adventure…I want Robin Williams as Dr.Patch Adams to play my part.


  8. Don Poling February 14, 2013 at 3:40 AM #

    Just entered the “blog us fear” & got the most recent chapter … not quite ready to watch the video of what happened to the other guy :0 Will do so in a day or two…


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