Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Thankful Yet Frightful Thanksgiving

I know it's been almost a year since my last post, but I wanted to share my latest adventure.

We have said that we are not celebrating Thanksgiving anymore. Bad things always seem to happen. Not every year, but still. Two years ago, I took my grandma to the hospital and we found out that she was having a gallbladder attack, she didn't need to have it removed, and was sent home. This year it was my turn.

For the last four months or so, I've been getting what I thought was simply nasty indigestion. I was wrong. Within one week before Thanksgiving, I had three attacks and they were getting worse every time. The Friday before the holiday, it was bad and we decided it was time to see a doctor. I didn't have health insurance, so I always go to the health clinic. They couldn't get me in for about a month. There was no way I was going to put up with this pain for another day let alone a month. Hospital was my only other choice.

The hospital were I live has not had the greatest expectations when it comes to their doctors, so I was always hesitant about going there. I've even said that I would request in my medical records to fly me to Reno or Loma Linda or anywhere if anything happened to me, just don't treat me here. I've had too many doctors in my life here tell me that all my aches and pains were all in my head. Turns out I had medical issues going on that they chose to ignore. Not right, right? I was really hesitant on this trip. Little did I know, I was about to get the best treatment I could possibly ask for.

We went in at about 10 am. They immediately ordered some tests and blood work. They even talked to my mom first and then me and got me approved for emergency state-covered health insurance so I wouldn't have to pay for most if not all of these various tests. They did a chest x-ray to make sure everything was okay with my heart. My heart was fine. Then they decided to look at my stomach and gallbladder. One ultrasound (which hurt like a bitch just so you know) and one other test that I don't know the name of (they inject you with this radioactive solution and a tracker and put you under what looks like a CT scanner and watch how your stomach and gallbladder process the solution). Turns out I had some pretty nasty gallstones and an irregular gallbladder. I had to stay overnight in the hospital (then first time since I was born) and had my first surgery in 30 years that Saturday.

My surgery went fine, even though I don't wake up from anesthesia very well, and was sent home the same day. I started recovering from that just fine. Out of the clear? Far, far from it. With any surgery, the biggest risk is developing blood clots, especially in the legs because most of the time you are sitting or lying down while recovering. The day before Thanksgiving, my left leg hurt so bad that I couldn't put a lot of weight on it. We were concerned about a possible blood clot in my lower leg. Back to the ER we go. They ran another blood test and another ultrasound (which didn't hurt quite as bad as the other) and both turned up negative. I was sent home and told what to look for if I do have a blood clot in my leg. Blood clots in my leg was the least of my worries.

I woke up early on Thanksgiving to say goodbye to my dad and brother who were heading down south for the holiday to spend time with my dad's family like we do every year. My mom and I both stayed behind because we had surgery eight days apart (she had to have her foot surgically fixed). My leg still hurt but kind of went away with some walking. Thanksgiving night, I started feeling this pain in my chest and was starting to feel short of breath. Just walking from my bathroom to the living room became so difficult that I felt like I was going to hyperventilate. I don't live in a gigantic house. I do have asthma so we tried my inhaler and waited. I didn't work and I was getting worse. My mom looked at my fingernails and toenails and they were slightly blue. I didn't hesitate when she asked if I wanted her to call the ambulance.

By the time the paramedics showed up (I felt okay with them since I knew both of them) my lips were starting to turn a little blue. They started me on a breathing treatment and started to load me up so they could get me to the truck. My poor cousin came home to see the ambulance in front of our house and looked like a deer in headlights when she saw it was me they were taking. The breathing treatment started to work while we were heading to the hospital. Once in the ER, the nurses went to town on starting some tests. I was grateful that my breathing started to slow. They ran an EKG and another chest x-ray to make sure my heart was still okay and it was. Next came the CT scan of my chest. Out of all of the tests that had been ran on me in less than a week, the CT scan finally showed what was wrong.

We could hear the doctors talking outside and all we could hear was many blood clots. I was diagnosed with a bilateral pulmonary embolism. In simple terms? I have multiple blood clots in BOTH lungs. The doctor explained to us that this should not have happened in a 32-year-old or at least rarely happens. My mom, grandma and I met with a new internal medicine doctor at the hospital who told us that I would be admitted for observation. We found out later that I was his first patient to admit to the hospital. My dad and brother were going to come home the next day.

I got situated in my room around one am and my grandma and mom left at three. I tried to sleep but just couldn't fall asleep after everything that had happened. By four I started feeling my back spasm and it was getting harder to breathe. Six o'clock rolled around and I told the nurse I was having a hard time breathing. They gave me some percoset and told me to relax and try to control my breathing. The nurses kept checking my stats which were all normal. After 45 minutes to an hour had passed, I was getting worse. They gave me morphine and that immediately made me ten times worse. I was getting really pissed and irritated with the nurses even though I knew they were doing everything they could at the time. Just before nine, I felt like a fish out of water gasping for breath. I knew I was heading for disaster. The doctor came in, took one look at me and ordered me to ICU. That's when I knew how bad I was. You don't get into ICU with a minor injury.

I have never felt so helpless in my life. Everything happened so quick that the memory is almost a blur. I had five people attending to me while I attempted to breathe. Ken from respiratory therapy started a breathing treatment while the nurse gave me dilaudid, a heavy duty pain killer that is basically one step down from heroin on the drug scale of pain killers. It was hilarious when the dilaudid kicked in. My mom said that I looked like I was high, got this very relaxed look in my and then would pass out which was fine because I needed to sleep.

I stayed in the hospital for four days, two and a half of which was spent in ICU. I lost count on how many breathing treatments and blood draws I had. I was poked so many times with a needle that I stopped counting after a while. I started adding up what had happened to me over the last week and a half, all the tests that had been done, and I'm curious to know how much the bill is, I'm glad I won't have to pay it.

I was released from the hospital on December 1st and had to give myself two shots a day for five days of Lovenox. I kept telling the doctor, "you know I hate needles right? And you want me to inject myself?" He apologized and explained that the injection is quicker to take effect than the pill form. For the next six months (well five and a half at the time I'm writing this) I will be on coumadin. Sometime in June 2015 I will start some genetic testing to see why I have so many blood clots in my lungs at such a young age and if I will have to stay on coumadin for the rest of my life.

So many people were saying prayers for me during this time and I cannot tell you how thankful I am. Miracles happen every day and I'm so grateful for mine. I'm crying as I'm writing this because I know how close to death I came, but I'm here and I here because of everyone at that hospital and everyone who prayed for me. Knowing how close I came to not being here, I have to laugh because so many people say your life flashes before your eyes. Well, that may be true for some, but for me, my bucket list flashed before my eyes and even I sent up a pray to any god or goddess that would listen that I have way too much shit to do before I die and I refused to let November 28, 2014 be the end.

Before all this happened, I was planning my next tattoo. It is going to be a dandelion whose small florets turn into birds as they blow away in the wind on the right side of my chest and up onto my shoulder with the saying "Every breath is a second chance" underneath. Originally, I was going to have it represent the five years of my childhood that I spent threatening suicide and the fact that I didn't go through with it. That saying holds a deeper meaning to me now. I just have to wait until I'm off the coumadin to get the tattoo.

So to everyone who attended to me at the hospital, said a prayer, and kept me just in their thoughts... thank you.

And I have to because of the date: Happy Yule!!! Blessed be.