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Warning: The One About UTIs.

The last time I had a urinary tract infection was about ten years ago.

I used to get them every once in a while, and while I’m sure it was horrible at the time, these infections weren’t frequent enough to make a mark on my memory.  I know that ‘feeling,’ of the twinge of pain after urinating when the muscles re-clench and how that was the hallmark sign that I needed to call my doctor and go in for a urinalysis ASAP, but overall, these infections were few and far between.

The one firm memory I have of these infections was how quickly they would come on for me – in a matter of hours, I would go from “fine” to “decidedly not fine.”  My OB/GYN at the time confirmed what my endocrinologist had always told me:  type 1 diabetes makes issues like yeast infections and urinary tract infections move quickly and aggressively.

The worse one I had was at my grandfather’s funeral, which took place in the midst of my parents’ divorce and during a time when diabetes was unattended to (<– massive understatement).  I was slow in recognizing and responding to symptoms, slow in contacting a doctor, and pretty much slow to anything that even came close to self-care.  These days, I’m better about self-care, but even still, things like a urinary tract infection can crop up in a matter of hours and make a mess of things.

Last Friday afternoon, Chris and I were preparing for Birdy’s birthday party and doing the whole clean things/bake things/set up things cycle that comes with party hosting.  At 4.40 pm, I headed to the store to grab a few last minute things, and I felt fine.  I came home around 5.30 pm and still felt completely fine.  At 6.10 pm, I went to use the bathroom and had that weird twinge of pain while urinating.  And by 6.45 pm, I was using the bathroom every three minutes (not an exaggeration) and in extreme pain, with a fever of 101 and a Dexcom graph that was doubly pointed north.  By 7.30 pm, I was peeing blood and hosting every other symptom of a UTI (lower abdomen pain, constant and painful urge to urinate, pain when urinating, cloudy urine, blood in urine, shooting pain after peeing, fever, chills, and oh yeah, instant blood sugar issues).

“Decidedly not fine.”

Of course this happens on a Friday evening, when doctor’s offices are closed.

Which is why I am so, so thankful to be a patient in a doctor’s office where there is an on-call doctor who was able to return my message within 15 minutes and order a UTI test and also provide a prescription for antibiotics to kick the infection to the curb.  Even though I had to stop en route to the pharmacy (six minutes away) to use the bathroom, I was diagnosed and medicated by 8.45 pm and feeling much more human by 11 pm.   And by birthday party time (the next afternoon), I was almost completely better.

Thank you, excellent medical team, for being almost as quick as the onset of this urinary tract infection.  You saved me from peeing in pain whilst serving birthday cake at my kid’s party, and I’m very grateful.

(Note:  the frosting is yellow due to food coloring.  After all this discussion about pee, I wanted to make sure that distinction was clear.)



13 Comments Post a comment
  1. The worst for me was when I kept getting the symptoms of a UTI but kept getting negative test results. Imagine going through that knowing that you’re not getting antibiotics to fix it! I saw a urologist that confirmed that there was inflammation in my bladder. Luckily there were inflammation-in-your-bladder meds he prescribed that got rid of the symptoms. To this day I don’t know what caused it. And I seriously hope that never comes back! Glad you were feeling better quickly. UTI’s suck.

    04/22/14; 12:56 pm
  2. UTIs, if left unattended can migrate up to the kidneys and cause damage. As a former dialysis patient, I have to be extremely prudent about getting prompt treatment. Sometimes I don’t have any concrete symptoms – just an intuitive knowing – and I drop everything and head to Urgent Care.

    04/22/14; 1:25 pm
  3. If boys got these as rapidly as girls antibiotics and all the other good stuff would be OTC 😉 I feel your pain and yay! yet another T1D party favor 😛

    04/22/14; 2:14 pm
  4. Knock on wood… it’s been nearly 8 years since I suffered from a UTI. It’s happened to me 3 times, but this is the first and only time someone offered an explanation for how and why they come on so quickly! At least the cure kicks in pretty quickly too (not that it seems that way when you’re in the midst of it!)

    04/22/14; 4:30 pm
  5. Glad you let us know about the cake icing! 🙂 Great looking cake, hope Birdy had a great birthday and a great party. 🙂

    04/22/14; 4:56 pm
  6. Very glad you were able to get a prescription so quickly and that it was effective. You’re fortunate to get a fast response from the doctor on call. It’s been so long ago for me, it was good to be reminded of the symptoms. Hope you were able to enjoy your daughter’s party and thanks for the information about the cake frosting.
    Take care of yourself!

    04/22/14; 8:47 pm
  7. Sarah J #

    I’ve only had one become a kidney infection. That was left completely ignored for two weeks (my bad!)

    Anything else that feels like even a little twinge of UTI … I buy one gallon of water in a Poland Springs jug, and make sure I finish it within 8 hours. I also buy a small container of bitter cranberry juice and drink a few ounces of it (16g carbs per 8 oz) with each cup of water.
    This surprisingly works like a charm.

    04/22/14; 8:59 pm
    • Yes – the cranberry drink coupled with a lot of water does help, and has helped me in the past. (I keep a bottle of cranberry pills on hand, just in case.) But this UTI moved like lightning! I couldn’t get ahead of it.

      04/22/14; 9:20 pm
  8. Emily Hastings #

    I feel your pain – even before I developed steroid induced diabetes, I used to get a lot of UTIs (possibly due to steroids suppressing my immune system?), and I still do. I know exactly what you mean about the speed of onset – for me, the first symptom is often a dull ache over my bladder, and when I feel that I know that the next few hours are going to involve quite a lot of admiring the dodgy paint job the previous owner of our house left us in the bathroom (we are lazy decorators!).

    I have pretty good out-of-hours access to a GP, but these days I keep a supply of antibiotics (trimethoprim) in the house anyway just in case, as well as some cranberry juice. In the UK you can also buy over the counter in the pharmacy, without a prescription, a powder which you add to water which makes your urine more alkaline, which discourages the bacteria from multiplying and also reduces the burning and pain. I always have a few of those around in the house.

    The last UTI I had, though, was when I was in hospital with a flare of my chronic lung disease. Despite having all the symptoms that Kerri has so eloquently described above, including a temperature of 39.5 degrees Celsius (103.1 degrees F), and despite the fact that the nurse had dipsticked my urine and it had ‘everythng’ in it (blood, protein, leucocytes, nitrites), making the diagnosis pretty damn certain, the very junior doctor who finally arrived to see me four hours later wanted to wait for the culture results, which take an average of 48 hours, ‘so we know what bug we’re dealing with, what antibiotics it’s sensitive to, and we’re not just treating blindly’. Now, granted, I do tend to grow some weird and wonderful bugs, as a result of being on steroids, having diabetes, and having had a LOT of courses of strong IV antibiotics for chest problems, but my UTIs always respond to trimethoprim. Quite apart from having to deal with the pain – and exhaustion! – of those horrible symptoms for another 48 hours, I knew that if I was left for that long, I would be really very unwell, with pyelonephritis (kidney infection) and probably sepsis as well. I already had a suspicious ache over my right kidney area, and being on steroids, I get septic very quickly and readily – and when I am septic, they have to increase my steroids (because my adrenals don’t work due to years of steroids), which further suppresses my immune system, as well as making my sugars crazy, which makes the infection worse. And then the high sugars and the sepsis make my breathing go off, because my lungs tend to throw a paddy if they feel that they are not the centre of attention at all times. It’s a bit of a sh*t storm sort of situation.

    Thankfully the nurses on the respiratory ward know me well, and know that the above scenario is not an exaggeration, having seen similar situations play out with me in the past. Once the junior doctor had gone, the Staff Nurse just happened to have to speak to the registrar (more senior doctor, nearly a consultant) and ‘casually’ mentioned that she was a bit worried about me (by this point my heart rate was 155 and my temp was 40.7 degrees Celsius, so she had every right to be worried!). Within a few minutes the registrar was on the ward, and I was on IV antibiotics and IV paracetamol (I think you call it acetaminophen) to bring my temp down, as well as some pretty strong morphine type painkillers. Sometimes it’s not what you know, it’s who you know!

    And yes, the junior doctor was female… obviously a woman blessed with very good urinary health, who’d never had a UTI in her life, or she would never have uttered the immortal phrase ‘it’s only 48 hours…’

    04/22/14; 10:52 pm
  9. Emily Hastings #

    And just for interest, cranberry juice is thought to work its magic because it contains a molecule which blocks the receptor on the bacteria with which it sticks itself to the bladder wall. The infection then literally can’t take hold, and the bacteria just get flushed out of the bladder, particularly if you are drinking plenty as well. Obviously it can only do so much, though, and in a really nasty infection like the one that Kerri’s describing, the shear volume of bacteria overwhelm both your body’s defences and the cranberry juice’s magical powers.

    If you get frequent UTIs, though, a daily drink of cranberry juice has been shown in studies to quite dramatically reduce the incidence (although I’m sure the studies were done primarily on PWoD).

    04/22/14; 11:00 pm
  10. Emily Hastings #

    PS Love the cake! Happy 4th birthday Batman Birdie!

    04/22/14; 11:09 pm

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