I have had several people ask me how my 'near death' experience started and it is a fair question so here are the details as best as I can remember them.
I had been feeling poorly for a long time. Most of it was what I thought came with being overweight, under-exercised and over fifty. The last couple of months I have been miserable with allergies. My allergy meds made me sleepy and I was already exhausted. I thought it was normal to be this tired because I had gone from not working to working full time and doing a lot of training. I thought my allergies had morphed into a sinus infection or something creepy and my throat was sore. I had lost my voice and couldn't work. Since I was still on probation at work, I needed to see a doctor and have a doctor's excuse for not being at work. So, on Thursday I went to the local walk-in clinic.
The clinic doctor came in and looked me over and said, "You look like you may have strep throat. You feeling miserable?" I confessed I was and she prescribed some antibiotics and warned me that they may upset my stomach. She also said I was sick enough that if I wanted an excuse for the next day off of work I should just call her and she would write one. She also said that my fever should be reduced in 24 hours. I went home, took the antibiotics and collapsed into bed.
The next morning I felt like I had been dragged through a knothole. My stomach was tender and I decided that work was a bad idea. I called, told them I had been tested for strep throat and wouldn't be coming in. I called the clinic to see what the results of my strep test had been. The doctor said it was negative but that I should continue with the antibiotics because something was clearly going on. I popped a pill, noted that my throat really wasn't too sore anymore and that my stomach was pretty tender. I decided to eat a little something to see if it would settle down. It was a bad idea, my guts hurt.
Saturday is a bit of a blur for me. I was in miserable pain, felt ghastly and couldn't seem to get between my couch and my bed without retching. I began to wonder if I had the flu. I tried drinking some water and had no luck what-so-ever. I went to bed and woke up doing the "technicolor yawn." In fact, I christened just about every room of my house and then began the dry heaves. I was diaphoretic, writhing in pain, retching and unable to think straight. The only thing that was clear was that I couldn't take any more of those antibiotics. I couldn't tolerate so much as a drop of water in my mouth without retching. By now it was Sunday and I kept thinking, "This is going to get better, you're not taking the drugs."
By Sunday evening I had writhed in pain so long and hard that I had managed to slide my mattress off the box springs and halfway onto the floor. My faithful companion of the last 11 years, Chet the Wonder Dog, never left my side. I credit him with saving my life. It is because I realized I had not let him or Thibodeaux out for almost 24 hours that I knew I was sick beyond the reactions of antibiotics or the flu. I knew I had to call for help but the phone wasn't in the cradle in my bedroom where it belonged. I had to let my doggies out. Poor things! The fabulous Ms. Thibodeaux was in her crate as quiet as a mouse. I put a robe over my nightgown and stumbled to the kitchen to get her out of her crate and let them both outside. I found my phone and my wallet and called for help.
My sister, Karen, was out of town. She has been caring for her ailing father 24/7 for the last 3 months. She was stressed and needed some time away. I was supposed to be her back-up in case her husband and son needed help. I had encouraged her to go away for the weekend and see her daughter in New York. Now I was calling her house hoping that her husband or son would be available to take me to the hospital. Her son, Andrew, answered the phone. Now, I have to tell you in all the years I have lived in Kentucky, I have talked to Andrew on the phone less than 5 times. I have never seen him answer a ringing phone, he has no use for them. If Andrew had not answered the phone my next option was 9-1-1. I am certain I would have tried to wait it out before trying the ultimate cultural experience- utilizing the public safety services in small town Kentucky. I don't mean that condescending as it might sound, please remember I worked in public safety for 17 years, several of those were as an EMT and I know what to expect in California. I don't know the rules in Kentucky. That's what I mean, not that I would have received poor quality services. I just don't know how the system works here.
Fortunately, Andrew, whom I also credit with saving me, answered the phone. He was home alone with his grandfather and needed to call his dad to come home from the golf course and either drive me or watch grandpa. I put the dogs back in the house , grabbed my cell phone and my wallet so I would have my insurance cards and I sat outside waiting for someone. Andrew arrived, took one look at me and asked, "Am I driving or flying you to the hospital?" I told him to drive safely and get me there.
There are some details I will leave out. I felt like I was going to pass out each time a wave of pain came over me. I got to the ER, filled out paperwork, waited for what seemed like hours but was probably only minutes. The triage nurse saw me, called for a wheelchair, and then whirl of activity began happening around me. I was begging for drugs, anything to stop the pain. They were apologizing telling me that the pain was the only thing that they had to diagnose me with and they would give me drugs when they knew what the problem was. I knew that but I had to ask. I was willing to undergo amputation at the neck if it would stop the pain. They were starting IV's on me- poking here and prodding there. The ER doctor said something that included the word, 'specialist' and ran out of the room. Within a few minutes the ER doctor came back in and patted my hand. I asked him if he had said 'specialist' and he said, "Oh yes, you are far too sick for a smart alek ER doctor like me." I remember laughing and thinking, "Bless you, someone with a sense of humor."
Then Dr. Tom came in and he poked and prodded. He asked me if I always had that big bump in my belly. I said, "Bump?" He touched it and I wanted to smack him. He told me he was certain I had an incarcerated hernia and was sending me for at CAT scan. He said I needed surgery right away, that this was potentially fatal and then he said the magic words to the nurse, he said I could have drugs. Now I had another dilemma on my hands. I did not want my 19 year old nephew to be the one the doctor told that I needed life saving emergency surgery. I knew I had to exchange my nephew for my brother-in-law, Mike. I grabbed my cell phone and called him. I think I said something like, "Mike, I need you to come down and talk to the doctors, they are talking surgery." Then I was wheeled off to get a CAT scan and I was so disappointed because the nurse had not returned with my drugs.
Laying flat on my back, holding my breath and trying to lie still for the CAT scan was horrific. I remember asking God if we had any unfinished business or if He could just take me home. Then they wheeled me back to the exam room where the nurse ran in and gave me drugs. She gave me a shot to keep me from retching and a shot for the pain. I praise God for drugs, wonderful, marvelous drugs. At some point my brother-in-law came in and discussed my options with the doctor. I was listening but in a drug induced fog. It didn't last long though, it seemed to be wearing off as Mike and I discussed what the doctor said. I wanted more. "If I say yes to surgery will you give me more drugs?" Dr Tom didn't think I was grasping the seriousness of my situation. I didn't think Dr. Tom grasped how serious I was about getting either surgery or more drugs before the pain returned. My poor brother-in-law had to call his wife and tell her that I was in the hospital and could potentially die. He had to call everyone else too. That's not a job anybody wants.
I remember being wheeled into the ER and being grateful that the pain would stop when they put me to sleep. I had been told death, a colostomy or bowel resectioning were all possibilities. I was told it was likely my intestines had been dying because they weren't receiving blood. I was told I would wake up with an NG tube down my nose into my stomach, a central line for drugs and blood drawing, and a catheter. After 4+ hours of surgery, I emerged looking not unlike Neo in the Matrix right after he took the red pill. However, I felt notably better. Much better. I heard my dear brother-in-law say, "It was the best possible outcome." I asked, "My guts were alive? " Dr Tom said, "They all looked viable it was a tough surgery but a great outcome." I realized I hadn't been at all worried about a colostomy but now I was glad I didn't have that challenge to face. I felt good, I looked scary. My sister had flown back and saw me the next afternoon. She said I looked very scary.
The part of the story that amazes me is realizing all the tools God used and how the timing was perfect. My faithful doggies were used to show me that I was beyond a little sick, or I know I would have lay in bed until it was way too late to get help. My nephew answered the phone. The specialist happened to be in the hospital for another patient, my brother-in-law was the right person to ask the doctor all the questions I could not. Everything fit together as only God can mesh things.
My recovery will be slow, but the lesson is huge. I don't want to waste this second chance. I don't want to return to status-quo. I want to be all in. That's my dilemma now, not to be complacent or presumptuous with this second chance. Whatever it is He has for me, I am all in.