Charles Senteio

Friday, June 29, 2007

Quite a Transition

The week of June 16th – 23rd will be one I won’t soon forget. It basically consisted of the following:
  • Packing up my house
  • Throwing away items I would not need in school and no one else could/would use
  • Trying to sell the items I won’t need but someone could use (i.e. furniture, TVs, etc.)
  • Making necessary arrangements for MSU (i.e. immunizations, registration, etc.)
  • Finding a suitable spot for my cars
  • Transitioning from CDM and Baylor
  • Attempting to say ‘goodbye’ to folks while updating them on the whirlwind (of course this was impossible to do with any degree of adequacy so I’m using the blog as an attempt to reach out)
  • Beginning the 1,100 mile drive to MSU

Of course I had help from some very good friends but what it boiled down to is a lot of this stuff I had to just flat take care of. It was a rush job but somehow I got to Saturday nite and decided to start on the 1175 mile, 18 hour journey to East Lansing, Michigan. I had a slight headache on departure and even though this is very unusual I didn’t think much about it.
I left Dallas with the truck loaded at 10pm Saturday nite and planned to drive just a few hours because I was pretty beaten down. I ended up driving until 5am, slept for 2 hours in the truck, then kept going. Thank goodness for the iPod! Are you kidding?? I pushed straight through to an East Lansing arrival at 6pm (CT) Sunday evening. I felt a bit tired and ‘odd’ but given the week I’d had, let alone the last few days, I just wrote it off to that and my first experience with energy drinks.
Monday AM I went to campus and finally met Tamera, who showed me around a bit and gave me the keys to my temporary spot in Fee Hall where most of the medical school classes are held and almost all of the administrative offices are housed. I also bought a couple of books and ran into a 2nd year Juan, who proceeded to give me the ‘scoop’ on class notes, necessary books, lockers, etc. A good dude I plan to keep in touch with. About 2pm I started to feel bad… really bad. This was not just lack of sleep or fatigue. I thought something might be up. I like to say I’m a bit of a baby when it comes to illnesses because I simply am not used to being sick. When I returned to the hotel I tried to eat and vomited…. Rut roh! Another bad sign because, I just don’t vomit that much, jeez not since pledging (’89), and the headache was from hell.
My good buddy DeLance, who was supposed to show me my condo Monday nite, came up from Troy (90 miles) and I just had nothing. I was out of it and he basically wasted a trip. I vomited again after just trying to drink some water and felt feverish. Rut Roh. Tuesday AM brought more of the same and I decided to buzz up my buddy Jim Walton and ask his advice. His combination of knowing me pretty well and his experience as a family doctor made him very good wise counsel. When I told him I had a killer headache, nausea, and felt feverish he told me to go to the ER. These 3 things, in a healthy dude like me, spelled trouble. He speculated it could be encephalitis or meningitis. He also said this would be a tough diagnosis which is why I needed to be in a hospital. I drove to the Sparrow Medical Center in Lansing and checked in at the ER around noon.

After several blood tests and a CAT scan they could see nothing abnormal, other than of course my symptoms. The PA on duty thought that I had overdone things a bit and this combination with the caffeine surge, probably was causing the headache.

What about the nausea?

At shift change an ER resident showed up and we had a brief chat. He checked me out and seemed to agree with Dr. Walton. He felt something else might be up. I had a feeling this was the case as well. I had been up for 24 hours in a row on several occasions and had certainly never felt like this. The resident called in the attending physician and they agreed that it might be something in my brain and/or Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF). The only way to test this is through a Lumbar Puncture, better known as a spinal tap. The LP is a fairly common procedure where they stick about a 3” needle in your lower back, extract some of your CSF, look to see if it’s clear, then send it off to the lab. This is the way to get a firm grip on what we were dealing with.
After the 3rd poke the resident decided to call in the attending and on his 3rd attempt he hit the right spot. The CSF looked clear, good sign, and they sent it off to the lab for further tests.
By the way the LP was not thaaat bad. I by no means wanna diminish the very odd feeling of a needle entering your lower back, “you’re gonna feel some pressure now!” but it is certainly manageable. It probably helped that my head was throbbing though. I do hope I never have to have one again.

Well about 2am Wednesday we had our diagnosis, I have viral meningitis.

CSF readings:
Red Blood Cells (RBC's) = 4
White Blood Cells (WBC's) = 534 this is waaay high, the body is trying to fight infection
PMN = 2%
Mononuclear = 98%
Protein = 154 (15-45 normal)
Glucose = 33 (40 - 50 normal) – low but not too low. This was a bit troubling though because bacteria survive in part with glucose. Bacterial meningitis is super nasty and we didn’t think I had that.

At about 2:30 AM Wednesday I became a resident of Room 741 at the Sparrow Medical Center in Lansing.

Hmm…. Orientation starts in 6 hours….

I ran into some really cool docs and nurses at Sparrow. They had their own style but were very nice and since Sparrow is a teaching hospital affiliated with MSU I ran into a lot of residents. All the staff I interacted with seemed to get a kick out of me starting medical school. The docs seemed to think this was cool and the nurses asked me to behave myself and not forget about the ‘little people’. I made sure to let them know, “you mean the people doing all the work”.

Treatment was to keep me hydrated and pumped up with pain meds, which they were great about. They still wanted to rule out bacterial and since I had no vision issues and symptoms seemed to be steady it is just up to my body to work through the viral infection.
By the way, I had a good conversation with one of the residents about how one gets viral meningitis. We don’t really know, you can just pick it up. A virus exposed to one person may have no effect however when that very same virus is exposed to another person it can cause great harm. Apparently this is what happened to me. Also, I was/am not contagious.

Wednesday was uneventful other than vomiting after a small meal, I would not be ready to go until I could keep food down. Thursday AM I enjoyed a small omelet which was the first meal in awhile that wasn’t followed by vomit. I was ready to jet, after of course stopping by the pharmacy to get 30 500mg vicodin. Right now vicodin is my friend. On Thursday around noon I was discharged and on the way home I had to get my mailbox set up at the UPStore, stop by Wal-mart and Sam’s before heading back to school and trying to catch some of orientation. I caught the tail end, just in time to get my Anatomy supplies which included lab coats, gloves, and a study guide. I also joined the student organization (SOMA) and met a lot of administration. I haven't met too many students yet but they'll get to know me soon enough as word spread quickly there was a "guy in the class in the hospital". I heard from a couple of folks that they didn't expect to see me at all this week.
Thursday nite I finally talked to my parents. My sis had called me on Wednesday to develop our strategy. We thought it was best for everyone if she told them what she (we) knew, then let them know I would call them when I knew more. This turned out to be genius, she and I work pretty well together when we need to, the day or so of not hearing from me gave my mom a chance to do some research on viral meningitis so when I told her the story she pretty much could follow along with me and it also calmed her nerves a bunch. Pops is a true master at masking feelings, especially worry, so he was cool, although he did sound a bit relieved to hear from me.... Just a bit ;-)

I still have a slight headache and am hoping that gets better by Monday, would be tough to be productive studying feeling like this.
I am on a vicodin every 2 hours routine to keep this nasty headache at bay.

I’m laying low today, haven’t even left the room. I find that quiet and darkness help me feel better. I’m not doing any orientation activities today, kinda a shame given that the White Coat Ceremony is going on right now. This is sort of a big deal, I think all medical schools do it as it signifies your official kick off of being a medical school student.

I hope things get clearer by Monday. It’s just Anatomy for July and August and I hear it’s intense, all anatomy all the time. Would suck having to start with a headache or hopped up on vicodin. We’ll see how fast I can rid myself of this nasty virus.


  • Charles, thanks for posting this on your blog! Needless to say, you have the worst "first day of med school" story that I've heard -- I am sure it will all be better from here! :)

    When do classes start?

    By Blogger Jeremy Gregg, at 6:42 PM  

  • JG,
    Thanks for the note and yes it has been a hell of a couple of weeks.

    They say the hardest part is getting in, I guess I am testing that ;-)

    Seriously, if this is the most serious hiccup during my medical training then I'll be very blessed.

    Tell the good folks at CDM I said 'hey'. Take care, I'll keep the blog updated.

    By Blogger Charles Senteio, at 11:22 PM  

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