October 27, 2020

Meningitis Stories With Blake


Blake Schuchardt is a fellow meningococcal meningitis survivor, advocate for the National Meningitis Association and the cover story for People Magazine’s Summer 2020 Health edition. John and Blake each share their story of the extremely critical meningitis diagnosis period and hospital experience.





Episode Transcript:

John:
I've been looking forward to this conversation about meningitis of all things.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. Yeah. That's definitely a conversation you don't hear much about, unfortunately, but when you called and asked me to be on here and talk with you, I mean, I was ecstatic. I wanted to get on here as soon as possible and see what all we had in common and what all we could pass on to the listeners and see what we could educate people on.

John:
Yeah, you are no stranger to advocacy and education in the meningitis area. You are connected with the National Meningitis Association, which is how I found you when I was searching the web for meningitis stuff. I encountered the, I'll just refer to them as the NMA here and I think the web address is nmaus.org, and it's a website, that's got a lot of information about meningitis and the fact that a lot of people don't know what it is. How did you get connected with them?

Blake Schuchardt:
Well it's been at least five years ago now. I randomly was looking online. Just kind of see if I could find anything about meningitis awareness or advocacy. You know, when I got it, I was only 18, so I really wasn't, you know, willing to go out and tell my story quite like I do now. And I randomly came across their website and I emailed the president at the time and just said how I wanted to get involved. And she emailed me back and said, great, write up your story and send it to us and we'll get back to you. And I put it off for a year and she, she actually was persistent. She emailed me back and she said, Hey, we're still interested if you are. And that's how I got into it. They flew me out and they got my story down on paper and they put it online. And I mean, one things led to another I've gotten to people magazine, so it's been quite a ride.

John:
Yeah, it sounds like it, that's kind of how I found the National Meningitis Association as well, just scouring looking for details. And I think understand a point in my life where it's time to start time to start being an advocate. I don't know, maybe maybe Parenthood or something is what brings it out of me, but I think it's just time it's people don't know about it and people need to know about it because it's dramatically changed both of our lives. And if something as simple as a vaccine or just some other preventative measures or just awareness of, of what the disease is and what it looks like that could be fixed or diagnosed sooner, lots of people I think would have much different results.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. And I've been very happy the past few years. I don't know if you've noticed them on TV, but I've noticed a lot of commercials mainly focusing on meningitis and the meningitis vaccinations. And I really didn't see those until probably the last four or five years. And I've seen them quite a bit. And just knowing that, you know, they're starting to get that out there for people to see and not just online is great because I mean, when I say meningitis to most people, they have no idea what I'm talking about. And that's scary because as you know, meningitis can be deadly for a lot of people. It's highly contagious. And it's weird. I got thinking today that you, you, you timed this perfectly with wanting to do this with me and talking about meningitis because meningitis is actually very contagious and it's spread via droplet and airborne. And guess what else is spread via droplet and airborne COVID-19 so, yes. Great timing. So when people start hearing this COVID-19 and how dangerous it can be and how quick it can spread, they don't realize that meningitis is just as deadly and just as contagious.

John:
And the thing that would, would be different with meningitis is as we're learning, as we, we learn through or understand the COVID-19 world that we're living in and understand the disease it's affecting mostly the older folks in our, in our world. I mean, it affects everybody, but most of the fatalities and the severe illnesses are coming from people, you know, beyond 50, 60, 70 years old. Meningitis affects people young. And that's where it's a little bit different. It's equally as contagious and it's equally as deadly, but it affects the, the population that most people would think just like myself. It affected me when I was 19 years old. And of course at that time I was 10 feet tall and Bulletproof. So there's, there's no way anything would, would cause any harm to me.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's strange because these, I hear people say, well Covid-19's probably been around a while. You know, why aren't we just not worried about it? Well, meningitis has been around for a long time too. And people are just not hearing about it. So, I mean, it's this day and age, you would think we would know a lot more about the things that we don't know about, if that makes sense.

John:
With all the information available it's yeah, you're right. And I have also noticed, like, like you said, that I have seen more advertisements mostly on television about the the vaccines. And I'm just going to tell you, honestly, I don't know much about them. I know you've got much more experience than that with me, but there's like an a and a B, and you've done some work with another great organization, the16vaccine.org.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yes. So I spent a little bit of time doing some filming and this awareness that we, we spent an entire day, me and another doctor she said another doctor, but a doctor. We basically went on television, on live television through several media outlets and we help try to spread the awareness of what it's the 16 and it's the number 16, that's the16vaccine.org. And it was really pushing to get that second booster shot at 16 years old, because a lot of people don't know that the main vaccination timeframe is between 10 and 12 years of age. So right. As you're getting ready to become into high school. And there's actually a booster that you really need to get at you're at the age of 16 before you get into your college days, because college, you know, you're in cramped dorms, you're a lot closer just like in high school. You're very close proximity. So they're really trying to push that second shot. The booster shot at the age of 16, but the great thing is, is they've had a meningitis vaccine for years. I think when we were talking, the, you, there may not have been one around the time that you got sick, but there was around the time I got sick and there's like that five-year gap or something like that. I think we decided that it had to have popped up in there somewhere so early two thousands is when they came out, but it only, it only covered four of the strains and there's five. So it covered the A, C, W, and Y. And the strain that you and I both got was B the meningitis B. So here recently, a couple of years ago, they came out with the meningitis B vaccine. So now not only do we have, you know, the A, C, W, and Y strains covered, we also have the B, which is believe it or not. And I just I've gotten this information out today as it, every outbreak that you've been seeing a lot of the colleges, so that not just the individual meningitis symptoms, but like the outbreaks. So the ones where multiple people got sick at these colleges, every one of those outbreaks was caused by the meningitis B strain. So they all got the exact same strain that you and I did. And as you know, that's the most deadly strain there is. More people die from it. More people have issues, long long-acting issues after the fact. And, you know, we'll get into that more of what you and I both have going forward from that, but, you know, people are so afraid nowadays with this COVID-19 where we don't have a, we don't have an immunization for it. We're just masking up. Well, meningitis has a vaccine. We just have to get our children to the doctor and get that vaccine to them.

John:
Yeah. Do you know any reason why it affects the age group that it does so profoundly? Is it because of just the environment that the age group is in, or is there something unique about that age?

Blake Schuchardt:
I really don't know the exact why's, but I know I've been told over and over the years that, that it does find, like, it's almost, it's weird and this, this would have to be fact checked for sure. But the more healthy and better immune system you have, the more it fights the bacteria, the more of the bacteria fights back and spreads. So I know at the, you know, when you're an adolescent teen, you're at the healthiest, you know, your immune system is as high as it's going to get. But what I don't know is like for, for the very small infants that get it, what causes, I don't know if it's because their immune system hasn't developed yet, so they can get it a little easier. And then, you know, obviously adolescents were very healthy and as soon as we start fighting, it, it fights back. So that's really the only thing I can think of, but I don't know for sure why.

John:
Yeah, well, in my experience or my, my, the discussions I'd like to have going forward, I want to get some medical people involved to get more answers to more of those specific types. And then all the strands, the A, B, C, X, Y, Z and all the, all the other ones that are out there. So I I'm really on a quest to be informed myself and then pass that information on to as many people as I can, because I, as sure as we are both sitting here today, we know how deadly this disease is and how really it can change. It can change lives that can change families and, and it's, it can be prevented.

Blake Schuchardt:
Absolutely. Yes, absolutely

John:
Hard to, it's hard to detect, especially if you don't know what it is. And oftentimes it starts with something as simple as a cold or severe cold or flu like symptoms for me when I became ill with it was in the winter, late winter of 1998. And it was in February. And for me, I just kind of thought I had, first of all, I'd never heard of meningitis. Okay. So that's one strike against me. And two, it was flu season or winter time. So I was in college. I was in an apartment living my two roommates, and I probably, I went to the hospital on a Saturday and it was late Thursday that I started feeling bad. Like, I, I just felt like I had like a, probably a severe cold really is what I felt like I had. And I remember stopping at a drug store or convenience store or something and getting some severe cold and sinus medicine and taking that and had a exam on that Friday. So I was going to go home and do some studying. And I didn't really do much of that. Cause I really was feeling pretty poorly and didn't think a whole lot of it, of course took the medicine, went to bed relatively early and woke up pretty early Friday morning. And for me, I was, I was very sick, very sick. I was vomiting a lot. And when the, the thing that at the time was, was for me, I knew something was now looking back at it. I knew this was different. I was in bed and got up from bed to go to get sick. And when I hit the ground from getting in bed, I immediately was on the floor. Like my legs didn't work. And mostly because I was dizzy, the room, everything was spinning and I could not, it was something like I've never, had never felt before or witnessed before. And so I was getting sick a lot. And after that stopped, I don't know what, what time it was. I got back in bed. I actually called my parents. Probably I waited a little while because it was very early in the morning for me and called my parents. I want to say around 6:00 AM or so, and was telling them that I was not feeling well, and this was pretty bad. And they had just gotten over the flu themselves within the last week or so. So we kind of chalked it up to that and I hung up the phone. I, I think I called, I'm pretty sure I called my professor for the class that had tests in that day and told him I wasn't going to be there. I went to bed and woke up seven days later in the hospital.

Blake Schuchardt:
Wow. Wow. Isn't that something that was my goodness. Yeah, that is wow. Well, mine's similar. So I was a senior in high school. I was a month away from turning 18. And I, this was in March of 2005. So I was so close to the end of my senior year and, you know, looking forward to going to college. And I had been healthy all year long. I don't think I had missed a day of school yet for being sick. So I remember around lunchtime that day and I think it was on maybe a Tuesday. I don't even remember anymore. It's I just know that I started feeling like I was getting sick. And like you said, a cold or a flu or something. I mean, this was the end of flu season. So I thought maybe I'm just getting a bad cold, you know, I'm starting to get a runny nose. I'm just, I'm very weak. I just feel like I'm getting ill. So I managed through the day took my girlfriend home from school, gave her a kiss goodbye, you know, and that right there is important because knowing that this is droplet, you know, she could have got it. So I dropped her off, went home and I made the decision that I was going to stay home that next day. I just, I didn't feel good enough. I knew I wasn't going to try to push it. So I wasn't even going to set my alarm. So I remember that night all through the night, I just had terrible dreams. I don't remember specifics. I just remember tossing and turning all night long. And this is I, I woke up roughly around 10:00 AM and I knew, man, I don't feel good. I need to, I'm going to go to the bathroom and, you know, start a bath, see if I can just lay in a hot tub and, you know, get feeling better. And I went to sit up out of bed and I couldn't, my neck was stiff. I just felt like I couldn't bend at the waist. I couldn't get up. I didn't have the energy to just physically get out of bed. So I ended up rolling out of bed and I basically crawled to our bathroom, which for me, it was right next to my room. So it wasn't far away. And I got to the bathtub and I turned it on and I knew I couldn't sit there and wait for this. I needed to go lay down. I couldn't wait for it to fill up. So I called that to my bed. And I remember standing at the side of my bed, getting up onto my feet. And instead of just laying in bed, I literally just fell onto the bed. I mean, just fell face first onto my bed. And for some reason, higher power, I don't know why my dad doesn't know either, but my dad, for some reason, stayed home from work that day. And he doesn't know why he said, he just felt like I was sick enough. He was going to stay home with me. So he called into work and he happened to be downstairs and heard me turn on the bath water. And he came to check on me. And he said, when he got to my room, he asked if I was okay. And as soon as he saw me, he saw these purple spots all over my body, my face, my back, my stomach, my legs everywhere. And he instantly knew he had to get me to the emergency room. Well, he said, get dressed. I'm going to make some phone calls and we'll go, well, 10 minutes later, he came back in there and I was still laying exactly like I was. So he had to get me dressed. He rushed me to the hospital, which was about 30 minutes away from our house. And there the ER doctor was thinking that I just had a very severe case of the flu that I was dehydrated. So they're just going to keep me overnight. Well, my aunt is used to be good friends with our family doctor. And so she just happened to call him and she said, hey, this is his symptoms. Does this sound right to you? And he said, no, he needs to go to another hospital, a bigger hospital where they, you know, this is something serious. So they allowed my parents to rush me two and a half hours to Vanderbilt down in Nashville in a vehicle when I should have been flown or ambulanced or something but they drove me two and a half hours. And the last thing I remember was I, we got into the emergency room and I was in a wheelchair and my dad was pushing me. And I remember telling my dad, I don't feel good. I need to lay down. I'm going to fall asleep. And I laid my head back onto my dad's stomach while he was standing there behind the wheelchair. And I remember passing out and then I woke up around a week later in a hospital bed, hooked up to a ton of things. And I had a, the ventilator was down my throat. And that was the first thought I had was what in the world's going on. So that's very similar to yours, John, where you say, you just woke up a week later and bam, it was basically, the sickness was over now the battle starts because really that's what happened. The sickness was over. Now, we had to start fighting to get back to where we were.

John:
There are a lot of similarities there. I, you mentioned as you were going through that, the crawling around that, that was me as well. I mentioned that I, I was, I didn't have any spots nor did I have. Not that my roommates were inattentive to me, but it was, you know, they weren't my parents, so they weren't going to be that attentive to me. But there was a time where during that day, before I went to the hospital, my roommate said that I was up and walking around and talking with them and basically saying, you guys need to go somewhere else. I'm feeling terrible. You don't want to get what I've got. So go away. And my roommates actually spent the night away from the apartment that night. So I was there by myself and I don't remember being up and walking around. And I have no memory of any of that. My last memory of, of being there was, I was, I was literally on my hands and knees crawling because when I would try to stand up, it was just like, everything was spinning. I could not keep my balance couldn't do anything. I was crawling in and out of bed. I was getting sick. And the similarity of that crawling around reminds me of that. And for me, the, my roommates did stay away that night. So I was there unattended alone. And the next day was Saturday. And I had a we were had a, I was in a fraternity and we had a party that evening and one of my brothers was coming over to get with me. We were going to get ready for the party that evening. And, you know, you mentioned a higher power and watching things. And I certainly believe that I've always believed that. So it's not a, not a new belief or anything, but the apartment was, was open for some reason when he came by, this was before we had cell phones. So, you know, you'd actually just have to tell somebody to be ready at, you know, 10 o'clock and they'd have to be ready at 10 o'clock. Right. Can't do all the there weren't, we weren't texting or calling or anything like that. So apparently we had made an appointment or a time to get together that mid to late morning on a Saturday. And he came over to my apartment and knocked on the door. There was no answer. The first miraculous occasion was that or event that was at the door was unlocked. Secondly, was he entered the apartment. Nobody was there. He couldn't hear anything. And he was calling our names to see if anybody was there. And he went to all of went well he went to my bedroom. And the way my bedroom was positioned, I had rolled off of my bed. Or at least I was on the floor on the far side of the room, which wasn't visible from the door. And he couldn't, he couldn't see me just by looking into the room, but apparently I had made my leg or something had moved and he heard a noise. So he came around the corner of the bed inspected and he found me face down on the floor and I was lying in and I don't want to be too graphic. I was lying in, in vomit. And he immediately obviously knew, Whoa, this is, this is not good. So he called 911 and the paramedics came you know, within five or so minutes. And they had me in the ambulance headed to the I was in Lubbock, Texas at the time, the university medical center. So kind of like you went to the Vanderbilt medical center or something like that. So similar in that regard there, it was a good hospital. I was probably about, I don't know, I would say maybe four or five minutes away from the hospital by ambulance. So they got me there pretty quick, but really the diagnosis was similar to yours in the sense that they didn't know what it was either at the time I'm at the I'm at the hospital. I'm in the the ER, I'm unconscious. My, my, my face has been, I've been kind of like, if you can imagine I've been rubbing my face in carpet for some reason. So I've got these areas of on my nose and on my, my brow and on my cheek where it's kind of like carpet burn. And in addition to having the, the bile present that I'm, that I'm laying in, basically. So all that kind of stuff. And, and I don't know how long I was laying there. I have no idea. Nobody really knows. So it could have been five minutes, could have been 10 hours. I don't know. But when I get there, they don't know what it is. They know that I'm pretty messed up. I don't have any of these purple spots that I hear so many people talk about or any of those types of symptoms. And they were trying to diagnose me. My fraternity brother was there. I had known him for about two years and they immediately, for me thought I was in a situation where I was overdosing on drugs of some sort, and they were asking him about my drug use and that kind of stuff. And of course for me that, that I, and I don't do that stuff having to, I've never done it, didn't do it. So there were really kind of pressing him to, you know, stop covering for this guy. If you just tell us what he's taken, you know, we can, we can help him, but he's like, I don't, I don't think he's taken anything. I don't know, but I don't know what the, what eventually led them to understand that the meningitis, I know they did a, a, a lumbar puncture or a spinal tap at some point to get the help get the diagnosis. But there was a mad dash to figure out what was going on. They understand this, understood the severity. And then there was a network of, again, we're back in 1998 where we had some cell phones, but not, not like we do today and not like the communication that we have today. So we're trying to locate my parents, locate my brother, locate my family, locate my friends and everybody that had come in contact with me because as we mentioned, this is extremely, extremely contagious. And the race really was on for to figure out what was wrong with me and then keep me alive basically. So it was an interesting encounter. I'm sure.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. Yeah. It goes quick. And I just amazing that they've caught both of ours in time. And I know that the one good thing that the hospital emergency room that I went to first did is they gave me what, whichever antibiotic that kills the bacteria they gave that to me. So the bacteria stopped doing the work, but the job was already done. And so just like in you, the I'm sure at some point they had to have given you the, an antibiotic that was to kill the bacteria, but the amount of the, the work that it did on your body was so severe that it kept hurting you even after the bacteria was gone. You know, I know one thing my, my parents told me that when they first got to the hospital within the first couple days, they had heard that there was one other person that came in literally like 5 or 10 minutes after I did that had the same thing. Okay. Now I don't know where they're from. They weren't from around us, but they were from somewhere, they came in with the same thing and they didn't make it out of the ER. So instantly after becoming a parent, my thought is what could have been going through my parent's head to know that your son is here and someone comes in with similar symptoms and doesn't make it like, what goes through your head? I mean, I know as a parent, what would go through my head and it, it, I don't even, it's like, I don't even like thinking about it because it's just, you know, a parent never wants to see their child in that situation. And my parents, literally, as in your parents, they just kind of, you know, their hands are down and they're going, I can't do anything. What, what, what am I supposed to do right now? Like, I can't help him. And that's an awful feeling for a parent to feel.

John:
Did they know about that happening at the time about the other person?

Blake Schuchardt:
They didn't know about it until like the day after. So I was already up in ICU, but they had, and then I actually, so there was another girl in the hospital that came in about two days before me with the exact same thing, but she was still alive and she made it and she actually got out of the hospital about a week before I did. And we actually stayed in contact. She wrote me a letter saying that she heard about me, I guess the news news down in Vanderbilt around the Nashville area, they did a news story on me, but she found my name. And so we, we wrote each other for a couple of years and stayed stayed in contact. And, you know, she had had some, some of the same symptoms and, but she didn't have a lot of the same lingering issues I did. She had, I think, hearing trouble and something else with her liver or something. But it's just amazing how every individual person is different when it comes to the severity and what it can cause their, how their body reacts to it.

John:
Yeah. There seems to be a lot of similarities, but at the same time, there seemed to be a lot of differences and your parents were there. My parents were not, they were about five hours away from me where I was going to school. So for me, I'm just, I'm going to kind of gloss over some things. There were some really miraculous things that occurred between the time of my fraternity brother, Brad finding me. And then the time that I came to, but my parents were basically given the phone call when once they finally got ahold of them, you know, your son is in the hospital. There, there's a very good chance by the time you get here, he will not, he will not be alive. And if he is, it'll be, it'll be pretty, pretty grim. So be as fast as you can. And so they got there as fast as they could. And when they, when they got there, which was on the same day, they got there by plane. The initial report that the doctors gave them was, you know, exactly what you don't want to hear about the prognosis. And basically if he survives, it will be a permanent vegetative state and, and, or severe cognitive issues with some, a lot of physical disabilities and, and things is that's the best case scenario. Right? And so then it's unbelievable. So you have some pretty meticulous details of your hospital stay. I don't have as meticulous details, but, and if you want to go into those, you know what we can, we can certainly do that. But for me my, the, one of the other things that the milestones that occurred in my hospital stay was after a day or so, maybe two days, my parents just, I mean, the doctor that would come in was like I think it was a man, but it was like Debbie Downer. It was like he was coming in and just, just sucking all the air out of the room every time. And of course I'm hooked up to everything just like you, we've got ventilators and feeding tubes and catheters and monitors and IVs and all those kinds of things that were hooked up to, and this guy just comes in and is like, I don't know what to tell ya. This doesn't look good. I'm not sure what's happening. I don't, I don't know what's going to happen. And so my parents made the decision that essentially they're gonna fire the doctor. That I need somebody in here that's going to be interested in solving this. That is going to breathe some fresh air, bring some light, bring some life into this. And we are all believers. And we know that, that somebody is watching. We know that we can do this. I need somebody that, that has that, that shares that vision of what's going to happen going forward. And so almost immediately when that change occurred, things started happening and we headed on the right track.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. That's wonderful. That's wonderful. I don't remember that. I don't remember any of my doctors. I remember my physical therapist and he was getting me out of bed. Cause it, I didn't like her at all at the time, obviously, cause I didn't want to do anything, but I, so you said how they gave you your parents a pretty grim outlook? My my parents said that that first night I was there, they told them to call any family that they want. They wanted to come see me because there was a 0% chance that I would make it until the morning. That's exactly what they told them.

John:
I think, I think mine was, I don't know if it was exactly that pretty similar.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. And then as the days went on, you know, the next day they said, well, there's a 10% chance that he'll make it. And then the next day or two as well, now it's a 20% chance, you know? So it was very slow going at the beginning, but my mom actually kept a journal and my dad took pictures and it was, they both decided that if something were to happen, that I wouldn't make it, that one, my dad would delete every picture that he took because he didn't want to remember that being the last moments of my life. And my mom would burn the journal because she didn't want to remember those last moments of my life. And so I literally have every picture and I have that journal. My mom gave it to me and it goes into detail from day one all the way up until my last day in the hospital. And it doesn't go into huge detail, but it gave the updates as in. So I could kind of see in my mind how things were doing. And now that I'm a nurse and I work in the ICU, I'm able to, I mean, I can picture it verbatim in my head of exactly what the doctors were doing and why. And at the time I was like, why did they do that? Why did they do this? This doesn't make sense. But now I know exactly why they did it. And I can almost bet, you know, 99% that they did the exact same thing with you as to keeping you on the ventilator and weaning you off and, you know, checking to see your neurologic ability. And you know, they, they basically kept us in a vegetative coma. So our body could heal without us having to suffer. And that's the days that you don't remember is those six or seven days that you just there's no memory. Those were the days that they were letting your body heal itself from the inside.

John:
I hadn't really thought about it that way, but you do have a unique perspective with your, with your background in the medical field too. So let's just go down a checklist. Here are some of some, some devices, a ventilator, of course you had a feeding tube. I did not like the feeding tube. I pulled mine out several times.

Blake Schuchardt:
They didn't say anything about that. They told me I tried to pull the ventilator out several times.

John:
Okay. I think I also didn't like that either. I had it. I think my arms were, were strapped down to the, to the bed on several occasions. So

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah, they'll either one put mittens on you so you can't grab, or if it gets too bad and you get smart enough and use both hands and grab, then they will do some kind of tie down. And it's obviously it's a doctor order and it's, they don't like doing that because when you take a person's rights away, that's a big deal. So

John:
I know I was tied down. I don't know if it was always or partially or what, but I didn't like that feeding tube. And even, even coming out of once I was awake, I had the feeding tube for, for some time and I would, I would still pull it out aware of it and cause it was just so uncomfortable. And because up through your nose, down the esophagus and into your stomach, and I didn't like, I didn't like that. I didn't like eating that. But the reason, well, one that was in the coma that was out of the nutrition, I guess was mostly used. But two, when I was awake, I, my muscles Blake probably similar you, I had atrophy was the least of my problems, really my muscles weren't, weren't my due to the, I guess the neurological damage, my, my facial muscle. I mean actually just muscles everywhere. I had dropped foot from, if that's what it's called from being in bed, my, my ankles were, I mean my feet didn't, I couldn't really lift my feet up to be perpendicular with my leg. You know what I'm talking about? So standing was completely out of the question sitting up was difficult. Abdominal muscles, facial muscles, my swallowing mechanism didn't work. I, my eye lids. So for me, the biggest thing that came out of my experience with meningitis was my vision loss. And I lost total vision in my right eye. And I have partial vision now in my left eye. And when I became aware of what was happening, where I was, what was weird about it or ironic in this case was my right eyelid would open like normal, but my left eyelid would not open. I couldn't open my eyelid. And so when I was awake, I'm looking, but I, you know, I can't see anything it's, it's just black and my right eyelid's open, but I can't see out of my eye, my left eye, which I have vision in the eyelid's closed. And I just assume it's open because my right one is open and it wasn't. So, I mean, just, I don't, I don't, I don't know how I became to understand that and the concept of the vision loss and just, I mean, I was, I was a wreck physically. I was, I was, I was a wreck. That's the best way to say it.

Blake Schuchardt:
Yeah. And I think it's, excuse me, it's probably important too. I mean, cause we basically jumped into, you know, we had meningitis, but I guess it's probably important that I maybe fill people in on what meningitis is and what is affected by it. So they kind of get an understanding of why it's so severe. So our brains have what's called meninges. Okay. And so if a person is to just look at a picture of a brain, the parts I'm talking about are the parts that make it look like a maze. So all of those just beefy lines that go all over your head. Those are meninges. And when those meninges become inflamed, that is meningitis. So it's, you know, it's that the meninges and then gyrus. So it's the inflammation of those meninges and those meninges become inflamed due to that bacteria. And we have spinal fluid that literally incases, that brain all the way down your spinal cord to the very tip and all that fluid becomes infected with that bacteria. So imagine all of that fluid, what all it entails and throughout your body becoming that. So it's not like just having a sore throat or pneumonia, which is just in your lungs and then meningitis affects your entire body and you can't the reason there's so many symptoms is because you don't know what part of your body that bacteria is going to affect. It's basically like. So imagine us putting that bacteria in your furnace at home, you don't know which room it's going to come out in first and whatever room it is, it comes in. It's going to take a long time to get it out of there. Just like your body. So, you know, it affected your eyes. And unfortunately that was something that your body couldn't correct fast enough that there was permanent damage. My big thing was my kidneys. So I didn't have any vision damage whatsoever. I just have what I call old man eyes. I had to have reading glasses, but mine, my kidneys shut down in the hospital and they thought that it was just an acute kidney infection and acute kidney damage. So we did dialysis in the hospital. And that was, that was one thing that later in life, you know, I'm still fighting, but that was really the big thing for me was just kidney function. I had some other small things. I like you. I couldn't walk anymore. I had to learn how to walk basically all over again. And a neat thing that I've learned in my nursing career that I was, I've always been taught by the physical therapy people is for every one day that you lay in a hospital bed and you're not able to get up and really do anything. It takes three days of physical therapy to get back all the muscle that you lost. So I was in hospital for almost a month. And I know you said, similarly, you were in there for several weeks, right? John?

John:
I was in the hospital for 21 days, almost exactly.

Blake Schuchardt:
So that's so 21days, Times three, you know, you had that. So that took a lot and I mean, I assume that's probably how long or more it took you, but for me it took three months of physical therapy just to get back to where I could walk that wasn't running, that wasn't you no up and lifting things that was just walking.

John:
I was similar in that regard. I had a lot of therapy in the hospital. You mentioned the physical therapist, not being your favorite for me, it was the cognitive therapist I didn't have now some would probably argue with this statement here, but I didn't have any cognitive damage. And I was aware of that at the time, but this, this woman would come in, it seemed like every hour on the hour and asked me all these questions and these cognitive tests and things. And that just, I'm mean already beaten for lots of reasons. And it just was, it was just terrible. I can remember being pretty into the physical stuff, although it was exhausting. I was really driven to, you know, as crazy as it sounds, I was driven to walk. I mean, I wanted to, I wanted to get out of the bed. So I was driven by that feeling to move. Although it was very difficult. I mean, I, we just start with sitting up and, and stand, there are one sitting up and then two being in a sitting position for awhile and then three getting on my feet, which was, I mean, it was, it was quite, you know, it was like a, a milestone in my recovery to stand on my feet, which is crazy to say, but yeah, it's, I did physical therapy, you know, using your, your math there's for about 60 days once I got home yeah, that that's probably pretty accurate. I went to an outpatient physical therapist place when I got home and it was for a couple months for sure. And, you know, just basic functional stuff was what we were working on, which is, you know, crazy for for a 19 year old kid to be worried about that.

Blake Schuchardt:
My family tells me a story that happened during my hospital stay. And I remember it pretty, pretty well. So it was in March when I was there. And my, I think it was March 3rd, March 5th. I that's what's bad. I can't even remember the date that I went in. So my grandma's birthday who I was always close to, always growing up and still am. And thank God she's still alive. Her birthday is on March 17th, so St. Patrick's day. And I know on that day, the doctors decided to wake me up while I was still on the ventilator to kind of see how I was doing, make sure I was cognitive cognitively still there follow commands. And I remember they want my family in there and I remember aunt coming up to the side of the bed and saying, Blake, do you know what today is?
It's Mamaw's birthday. And so I, I don't remember how I did it. I know what it felt like I was doing, but I know what they tell me I did. So to me, I thought I was waving, come here. Like, you know, the come here motion with my hand to them, it looked like I was just moving my fingers back and forth, but I was doing that and that was wanting her to come closer and what I wanted to do, I wanted her to bend down and I wanted to give her a kiss on the cheek and tell her happy birthday, but I couldn't talk. So the most I could do was she bent down and I put my, my, I had a face mask on at the time I put that up to her cheek as in, Hey, that's my kiss happy birthday. And then they put me back to sleep. So to this day, my grandma always reminds me on her birthday of how that was one of the best presents she ever had was me giving her a kiss on the cheek while I was in the hospital room, you know, trying to survive. I was thinking about her on her birthday.

John:
That's incredible. Well, as I think we discussed earlier, I think you said very, very well, very poignantly that it was during the hospital time where the, the illness had had run its course, but we both, maybe, maybe we understood or maybe while we certainly understand now that the battle was really still ahead, it was a battle to recovery. So I think we've both glossed over a lot of details that we could get much more specific about and maybe we'll do in a future discussion. But I think the next next time when we get together, let's talk about the road ahead.

Blake Schuchardt:
Let's do it. Yeah, absolutely. There's still a lot the tell.