(Every time seven comes up, I think of this comic strip.)
This is my seventh blog entry. Lucky number seven. This month marks the one year anniversary of my extended ICU stay. December 12, 2011 was the first day I just couldn't pretend to be healthy anymore. I worked a full 12-hour shift the day before I checked in, and that was my sixth day in a row. I wasn't feeling so great and it showed. I moved gingerly and helped with at least three births and one C-section. Several of the nurses kept asking if I was okay, but I just smiled. I got through it, but barely. And then I went home and was so uncomfortable that I could hardly walk due to swelling from my medication site, and my heart kept thumping, and it hurt just to breathe. I couldn't lie down or sit up straight because swelling in my abdomen caused more pain. But I was so, so tired that I didn't want to do anything except down all the pain meds in the house. Its a good thing that it hurt too much to get up off the couch. I remember thinking, "if I live through tonight I'll go to the hospital in the morning."
It was a night of painful, shallow breathing. I was actually surprised to be alive in the morning. But enough was enough, and I was done. I knew my brother would be up early so I called him first. I've been single my whole life, and fiercely independent and would have driven myself, but I couldn't. Jared was at work, and I remember him saying things like, "You need to call an ambulance. I should call an ambulance. You're worse than you think. You sound terrible" and I kept thinking, if I made it through last night, I can wait for a ride, I don't want to pay the stupid co-pay for an ambulance. So my sister-in-law came to take me to the hospital and I looked so bad that I scared her kids.
Much of the next few days were a blur.
I remember showing a doc and nurses my inflamed belly, and it was almost funny to see them gasp and shrink back. Then they kicked into action and, bless that first nurse, who not only took the time to find a good vein for an IV, but placed it in the middle of my forearm instead of the vein close to the elbow. And she (I think her name was Allie) suggested fentanyl since morphine products make me nauseated. Best. Suggestion. Ever.
My heart rate was so high they didn't want me to move. I was in a drug stupor. I heard everything, but couldn't move at all for the next couple of days. Funny story: I had to have a Foley catheter placed, and the nurse who came to do that was so pleasant and so sweet and explained everything she was doing that I thought, "Am I getting a Foley or a facial?" I remember people coming in and visiting but not being able to do much other than open my eyes. It was bad enough that my brother called my parents and they were there as soon as they could drive up from Sierra Vista (Hereford, actually). My brother is a doctor and my mother, who never panics from years of being an emergency room nurse at army hospitals, were both worried more than normal. I know I should have been more worried, but I was just really happy that I had a good IV with the fentanyl flowing freely. Bits and pieces of that first week come back to me every once in a while, and now it seems so surreal. Its strange to know I had to be resuscitated; I remember people in my room yelling at me to "BREATHE!!!" and all I could think was, "Nah. I'm tired. Leave me alone. Don't you know how hard it is to breathe? I don't want to." But they wouldn't stop yelling, so I finally gave in and tried. I'm a Leo born in the year of the Tiger, I was a Buena Fighting Colt, then a University of Arizona Wildcat. And I promised friends I would make it to our 20th high school reunion. Giving up at this point was not an option. The "Go! Fight! Win!" had been installed and rebooted.
So its been a roller coaster year.
I'm still here, but I'm trying less to figure out why, and more focusing on finding the right path. I wonder why I'm not dead, and I wish I knew why I've been kept alive. I guess I have work to do; I just wish I knew what it was so I can focus on that goal, instead of just surviving. You know how people who live through terrible circumstances say things like, "If it wasn't for my husband/kids/pets, I don't know what I would do?" I gave up custody of my dog when I couldn't keep up with her, and have no husband or kids...so I'm that person who doesn't know what I'm going to do.