Wednesday, December 31, 2014

10 Years

I've been wanting to write this post since November, but about that time I put up an item on my etsy store and got overwhelmed with orders.  I've finally found a moment to sit down and write this (despite having about 3 quilts I still need to make), so here it is.

November 17th marked 10 years.  Ten years since I almost died.  Not "almost got hit by a bus" almost died, but "lost half my blood volume and needed emergency surgery" almost died.  I was in my first semester of college and one day on my way to my Intro to Engineering class I had a sharp pain that caused me to double over.  I called my mom and let her know that I had the pain, but I was still going to class.  I went to class, and then I went my chemistry lab.  I informed my TA that I probably had an appendicitis, so if I doubled over in pain or collapsed, they should call an ambulance.  But I really wanted to be there and to complete my lab.  After chem lab I walked back to my dorm basically doubled over in pain the whole way.  I decided to go to the ER.   I took my backpack full of books (because I had a calculus midterm the next day and I needed to study, duh), and hopped on the bus to the ER.  I TOOK THE BUS TO THE ER.  Looking back, I was way too stubborn and dedicated to my studies.

I waited in the ER for a long time, and studied for my midterm while doubled over in pain.  I called my mom and asked her to drive the two hours to where I was going to college.  She arrived as I was being taken to CT. I was so relieved.

This is getting long, so I'm going to make a REALLY long story shorter and focus on the important parts.

A mess of things happened in the ER.  They said I was full of poop and that was causing my pain.  I disagreed.  I pooped all the poop out and the pain wasn't any better.  Mom and I were sent home from the ER around 4 am, We ate from the vending machines.  Cheetos.  Mom slept on the floor of my dorm room.  Once they were open, we went to my CF clinic to get some actual help.  They called a surgical consult and then I was on my way to have my appendix out.

I woke up from surgery and made sure I could still do a triple integral, and then went back to sleep. Because midterms were still incredibly important at this point.  In the morning, a med student woke me. He jabbed my surgical site; I backhanded him. I was given a med I didn't want to take.  My mom fed me some Jell-O, and I fainted.  I wanted more Jell-O but it got spilled when I fainted.  I had no blood pressure. My mom DEMANDED that surgery come see me.  They didn't come for hours. Finally she demanded I be seen by pulmonary, and they demanded that surgery do something,  I was almost dead.  My pupils fixed and dilated. I was in and out of it. I felt a darkness pulling at me and I fought it off. I fought hard. I thought, "My parents, my doctors and I haven't fought my CF this hard for 18 years for me to die from an appendectomy." The darkness faded. I gave my mom a "thumbs up" with all the strength I had, and she began to cry. I was trying to tell her I knew I would be okay. I had a CT that showed a ton of blood in my abdomen. I wanted my mommy to sign the surgical consent form for me, but I had to do it.  I was barely able to lift my arm, but I made an 'x'-like thing on the paper.  I had emergency surgery.

I woke up.  I couldn't remember how to do a triple integral. It didn't matter. A nurse was wiping vomit off my face because I had thrown up in the OR.  I had a garden hose in my nose.  I was panicked.  I thought they had punctured a lung. They hadn't, but my lungs were full and weak. I had three blood transfusions. The rest is a blur.

It was a long time, but when I could finally lift my head and whisper, I said to my mom, "Call. Sarah." My mom had already saved my life, but somehow I knew I would need the support of my childhood best friend.

I didn't fully recover for 8 months.  I tried to go back to college and my classes about a week after my surgeries.  I'm going to blame that decision on complete determination to not let anything medical derail my college dream and the brain damage I had from lack of blood.

I did have brain damage.  I was lucky I was young so I recovered.  I had problems following conversations, and figuring out puns.  Fast TV shows confused me and wore me out.  I once told my mom, "I feel like I'm a Monet painting.  From far away I look pretty and put together, but once you get up close I'm fuzzy and messed up."

My mom literally saved my life during this ordeal, and she nursed me back to health in the following months.  I was so sick for a while my parents couldn't leave me alone.  They had to go to a closing a couple hours away, and if I remember correctly, they had my brother stay home from school to babysit me.  He might have had a day off, but I know Darin babysat me - his older sister.

Socially, recovery was hard. My college friends were amazing.  I had only met them months before, but they were so supportive and wonderful.  One friend took me to the doctor, they all came to check on me in my dorm room, and they would go to the grocery store with me so I could get the milk I needed to keep my weight up.  When I was at school I did better, but I was honestly too sick to be away from home, so I went home.

Home was a disaster.  What few friends I had in my hometown were away at school, and one friend in particular was awful to me.  I thought she was my best friend, and the first time she came to visit after my surgery she brought her new best friend to meet me.  I was so weak I couldn't follow their conversation and when they left I just cried. We had an ugly parting of ways, and I didn't know if I was going to be well enough to go back and be with my new amazing friends at college.

The only person in my hometown who came to visit me more than once after I got home was Sarah.  Whenever she was home over that holiday season she would come visit.  She was wonderful.  If I just wanted to rest she would just sit with me.  She took me to visit my favorite teachers - even our favorite elementary school teachers.  She invited me to go sledding, and when I was too weak to walk back up the hill she told me to sit on the sled and she pulled me up the hill and suggested we just go home and watch a movie.  She was, and is, the best.

My mom saved my life physically, but I was really depressed after my surgery - I had brain damage and was so weak and frustrated.  I lost the person I thought was my best friend, but my TRUE best friend showed her colors and pulled me out of my funk.  She gave me a reason to keep fighting every day.  I had to fight very hard, but she helped me see it was completely worth it and I was loved.

Right about this time ten years ago Sarah took me sledding.  She pulled me up the hill and helped pull through the toughest time in my life.  I am forever grateful for her.

I could never thank my family and Sarah enough for getting me through that ordeal.  I owe them my life and all the happiness and joy I have experienced since.  I love them all infinitely.  I am infinitely grateful.  As awful as everything that happened was, it brought me and Sarah back together and gave me perspective on how short and wonderful life is - and I gained that wisdom much earlier than I probably would otherwise.  And I am grateful.

I can't believe it's been 10 years.

2 comments:

Cheriz K said...

You are lucky to have such a supportive mother & friend. Sorry to hear about how rough everything went. I have CF too and had a traumatic experience too. I was rushed away from college in an ambulance, transported to another hospital and had life saving emergency surgery (took out 10% of my intestines) and I had a 6 month recovery. Its tough getting back into the swing of things! It's been 12 years now and I look back and just feel blessed though! Hope life & med stuff has settles down for you! I found you on twitter & blogger, I do both too! Take Care!

Nicole Gagnon said...

This is a great story. Thank you for sharing. I don't have CF, but I married a CFer. And I don't have brain damage, thank god, but I have been so depressed that I voluntarily admitted myself to a psych ward... I just didn't know what else to do anymore, and my very good therapist said hey, I think it's time for a hospital. I thought she was crazy because noone who has been as lucky and blessed as I have in life has ever been that depressed before. I was thinking so clearly, right? From what you said about the Monet painting, I think it feels somewhat the same as brain injury plus depression. Nothing brings you joy. The only reason I didn't kill myself was that my mom would have been too sad. It would have been too awful for her. Anyway, your courageous story and amazing grace toward those who helped you are inspiring. I clicked on your name after seeing you on the Salty Girls Facebook page. I'm really glad I did. Life can be wonderful sometimes and the best thing about it seems to be connecting with other people.

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