Friday, December 27, 2013

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Recovery Room

About 2 weeks ago, I got Appendicitis. It was really sudden- it just popped up after we had an amazing day. It really was one of those postcard days. Jeff had a snow day and we frolicked around and then later, once it had melted, went into the District and had a great time. Then we put the kids to bed and caught up on Scandal ("Wait! Why are they making out? Doesn't she still think he killed her mom?? Ughhhh.") and I ate a bunch of cookies. We got ready for bed and then, suddenly, my stomach hurt. I thought it was because of all of the cookies.

It was a weird night. The pain woke me up once or twice, but mostly I just had a bunch of dreams where I kept telling people how badly my stomach hurt. When it was morning, I burst into tears when Jeff said he had to go to work. Luckily, that conveyed my message well and he stayed home. I figured out that it was Appendicitis by about noon. Before that, it felt like that moment where you have really terrible gas cramps, but there wasn't actually any gas or movement, just constant pain around my belly button. I started to really figure out what it was when I found out that you can't actually have gas pains without any gas for 12 hours and when the pain started to move to my right side. So I went to my doctor and he basically just looked at me hunched over in pain and said "You have Appendicitis." He was right, and he seemed kind of annoyed as we waited for the blood tests (which indicated Appendicitis) and the CT scan (which showed that I had Appendicitis) because he already knew. It was all very textbook, I guess. That's what the surgeon said too. I went in for surgery that night and it went very smoothly. 

And then...

I remember waking up in the dark (I guess that just means that my eyes were closed) and I remember not being able to breathe. I was coughing, but it was like I was choking on some water or something. There were a lot of hands all around me and they were sticking things down my throat and I remember wanting to fight them off because I thought that I'd be able to breathe if they would just get their freaking hands out of my mouth. 

And then...

I woke up for real. There were a lot of people in the room. There was this intense breathing machine stuffed into my mouth. "What happened?" I asked Jeff this not because I actually thought anything had happened, but because I just sometimes get confused when I'm tired. "After the surgery, your lungs filled up with fluid and you stopped breathing. You're in the ICU. They think that there is something else that is wrong, but we're going to figure it out and get you better and I love you so much." I remember thinking that Jeff, who always seems like he loves me, REALLY seemed like he loved me a lot and I was sad that he was upset.

I kind of dozed in and out of a lot tests and doctors, but what really woke me up was this intense thirst. I have never been so freaking thirsty in my life. I didn't eat or drink anything when I was sick because you usually don't have an appetite at all with Appendicitis and then I couldn't drink anything before the surgery and so when I started feeling coherent, I kept begging for something to drink and the nurses wouldn't let me because of the type of ventilator that I was on. I don't even know what kind of ventilator it was (It wasn't a tube, though I had a tube earlier). All I know is that it went really far back into my mouth (and gave me these terrible blisters all over that still haven't completely healed) and that the nurses said that it was compressing the liquid out of my lungs.They told me I could have a sip of water if I could breathe without it. I readily agreed (I probably would have defected to North Korea if they would have given me water) and they took out the crazy ventilator and gave me a more reasonable one. I remember feeling like it all wasn't real until that moment- like there had been some mistake and my breathing was fine. But they took out the giant thing and all of the sudden- I couldn't breathe at all and I remember gesturing really urgently for the nurses to put the beast back in my mouth. That's how I knew something had actually happened to me- I hated that ventilator with everything in me, and realizing that I actually needed it to breathe was really jarring.

It's so strange how fast everything went. Doctors kept coming into my room and checking how much fluid they had drained out of my lungs (last count we heard was 2 liters) and eventually they tried again and I was put on a more reasonable ventilator and I got to finally drink and eventually I learned more about what actually happened.

What actually happened? Nobody really knows. After the surgery, the surgeon told Jeff that it went fine and to go to sleep. Then, about a half hour later, the recovery nurses called him and told him that something had happened and that he needed to come downstairs immediately. I can't completely give an accurate account of what really happened downstairs because 1). Jeff very obviously was in shock and 2). He doesn't really like to talk about it. I know that there was a flurry of activity around me as they tried to get me to start breathing. I know that the doctors and nurses didn't speak to Jeff in the normal, clinical tones. They were calm, but they were extremely concerned about what the outcome would be and they voiced this to him. I know that me dying was always a concern, but that the more likely concern was brain damage. I know that the time that I wasn't stabilized were the worst moments of Jeff's life and my heart just burns when I think about how those few hours must have been for him. I wish I could take them away.

In the end, I learned that I had something called Acute Respitory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). My lungs filled up rapidly with fluid (Flash Pulmonary Edema) and things were extremely crazy for an hour or two. The stats for ARDS are pretty grim. About 1/3 people who have it die and a fair bit who survive have some sort of permanent damage, either to their lungs or brain. I seem to be fine. I coughed up blood for a few days (it was very Moulin Rouge) and I still feel like it's hard to take very deep breaths, but I am fine. My heart is fine. My brain is fine. The doctors do not know why this happened to me. It could possibly happen again if I have surgery, but I'm basically going to try to never do that again. Fingers crossed. At least we know that my appendix won't be an issue anymore. I've got my eye on you, gallbladder and tonsils. 

After I had gotten the beast-ventilator out, I got on Facebook and mentioned that this all had happened (I know how stupid that sounds- but sometimes when crazy things happen to you, you figure that people would like to know. You figure that since they like your status on Harry Potter, they probably would like to know that you're on a ventilator in the ICU.) and after I had updated my status, I realized that it had only been 12 hours since the surgery. I felt so strange to know that there I was, able to update Facebook on my progress a mere 12 hours after the life-threatening event itself. I have so many mixed feelings on all of this, moments where I look back and think that it wasn't' a big deal, that it couldn't  have been a big deal because it was all over so fast. That it wasn't a big deal because I recovered quickly. That it wasn't a big deal because I know of worse things that have happened to others. That it wasn't a big deal because a few of my friends and family didn't really seem to think so. That is wasn't a big deal because I am alive and I am fine now. 

But it was a big deal to me. 

It's a strange feeling, to wake up and be told that you almost died. To hear that from your distraught husband, and later from doctors. I feel so very, very shaken. It was so random and without any reason- how can I feel safe? How can I go to sleep every night without a small part of my brain wondering if I won't wake up? That doesn't just happen to people, right? But it did happen to me, and there was no medical reason for it, so yes, I feel so very afraid. I'm sure that feeling will go away, but for now, I'm trying to just accept that being anxious about it all is probably a normal reaction and just another reminder that my mind works well and that I am alive. I am alive. 

I keep thinking back to the moments before the operation. The last thing I remember is saying goodbye to Jeff. I was pretty calm about the whole surgery until right before they took me away and I asked a nurse if Jeff and I could pray. I wanted her to give us some space; I wanted Jeff to give me a Priesthood blessing, but she just grabbed our hands and prayed with us. The last thing I remember is saying goodbye to Jeff and this sassy nurse saying, "Honey, you know that Jesus is gonna be in that operating room."  She was so sure. I'm grateful for her- her faith was inspiring. (She was also apparently a comfort to Jeff before I was stabilized, and for that she will be forever in my heart.) I keep thinking about her words. "Honey, you know that Jesus is gonna be in that operating room." The way that she said them reminds me of how my doctor said "You have Appendicitis." He was so sure, and he was so right. 

I think she was too. 

An hour or two before the stomachache.

Getting pumped for surgery.

My kids visiting in the hospital.

Feeling much better, 2 weeks later. 


Melanie Hill said...

This was a great post.I'm truly glad everything worked out.

Val said...

I'm so very glad that you are okay. I know what you mean about wanting to update facebook and it all seeming so odd that it was only 12 hours later. When Veronica was born I couldn't believe that people were still going on with their lives. I was like, "I just had the most life changing experience and so and so is complaining about the weather."

Shantel said...

Wow. I have tears in my eyes. What a terrible experience - but so beautifully worded. I'm so glad that you are okay, and that Jeff is okay, too. I think that it is inspiring how much the two of you love each other. I can only imaging the post-traumatic anxiety of the whole thing, but I hope that it fades quickly.

So glad that everything worked out so well and that you came out victorious.

Christy Kelly said...

Holy wow! So glad you are ok!

Jan Lougee said...

What a scare you gave us! So glad you're feeling better

Audrey said...

Wow. I'm so glad you beat the odds. Definitely a jarring reminder that our lives are not in our hands, but in God's.

Madeleine Richardson said...

Wowza! I have only ever had one patient with ARDS (survived, thank goodness) and that is some scary stuff. So glad you got good care, and that you are feeling better!

Sue said...

That is seriously scary! I'm so glad you're ok and feeling better!

Sue said...

That is seriously scary! I'm so glad you're ok and feeling better!

chetandbobisue said...

I think you have every right to have anxiety about it. It's kind of a scary feeling when your realize things can happen to you and your not invincible (at least is was for me). So glad you are feeling better and that you are ok! So scary for you and your family.

Stephanina said...

Okay, so this post was awhile ago, but it had an impact on me. Last weekend I had a really bad stomach ache. When I went to sleep I had dreams about telling people how bad my stomach hurt. I woke up and thought, "That's just like Sarah! Maybe weird tummy dreams are a symptom?" I reread your post, concluded I had appendicitis, went to the ER, and was told I'd gotten there just in time and was lucky it hadn't burst yet. It's pathetic that it took me so long to figure it out, and I feel just a bit silly that it was a blog post (albeit a very exciting and well-written blog post), and not the almighty WebMD, that sent me to the ER. So in my random way, I just wanted to say thanks for the blog post. It made a difference!