On March 1, 2017, my life changed.
I would like to say that my life changed because Ed McMahon came back from the grave and awarded me that big Publisher’s Clearing House check, with the balloons…and that I answered the door in my robe, with makeup perfectly done, squealing with excitement! But that is not what happened.
On Wednesday, March 1, 2017, I almost died.
I didn’t feel well the day before and I thought maybe I was coming down with something. I was short of breath and fatigued Maybe I’d been traveling too much? Keeping long hours? I knew something was off, but I didn’t know what. I went to bed Tuesday night, feeling weak, with a plan to see a doctor in the morning.
Wednesday morning arrived and I felt awful, but I pulled myself out of the bed and contemplated how I could get myself together to go to the doctor and then get on the road to work. I walked in the kitchen to make breakfast and I couldn’t catch my breath. I stumbled back into the bedroom where I almost collapsed. This was serious.
My boyfriend knew I was ill, but I told him to go on to work. He was in the middle of a training class that he could not miss. Initially I didn’t feel my situation was life-threatening. He took the little one to daycare and ensured Jack was on the bus. I called my oldest, who was sleeping upstairs, and asked him to take me to the ER. He got up immediately and came downstairs. He was low on gas and wanted to go fill up beforehand, so that we wouldn’t have to stop on the way. He left in a hurry and I attempted to get dressed.
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even stand. I knew I was in serious trouble, so I called 911. I didn’t know if it was a heart attack, as I had a feeling of pressure in my chest, but I knew something was terribly wrong. The 911 operator was kind and stayed on the line until EMS arrived. My son got back home right as they pulled up and guided them into my bedroom. My breathing was labored and shallow. I felt like I would pass out at any moment, but I knew I needed to stay alert to answer questions.
They did a quick assessment and swiftly loaded me on the stretcher. I remember feeling the bump as we crossed the threshold of the door. I remember the sky was cloudy that day. They put me in the back of the ambulance and gave me oxygen. While in route, the EMT placed an IV. He was trying to chat with me to keep me awake, but I didn’t respond unless I had to. We arrived at the hospital and they began shouting out my stats. I am in the medical field, so I could discern most of what they were saying.
And then I saw him.
It was my father. Sitting in the middle of the hall, in a wheelchair. My deceased father. He looked at me and nodded. I felt a sense of panic. Was he here to take me back with him? Was he here to give me support? Was I hallucinating? Before I could think any more about it, he vanished from my line of sight, and I was in a room.
Seven people converged on me as the EMT’s transferred me from the gurney. One taking off my gown. Another putting on a hospital gown. Another drawing blood from one arm, while the other replaced the IV in the other. Another placed an oxygen mask on me, and another was asking me questions. There was someone else there, as I consciously counted each of them, but I don’t recall what they were doing.
A voice called out, “I need respiratory in here STAT! Her sats are dropping, she’s already down to 59!” I heard another voice, “BP is low, we need fluids.” A nurse came to me and in a soft, calming voice said, “I need to know your name, honey.”
Through all of this, I was able to stay alert. I knew I needed to be alert. My son was driving in behind the ambulance and he would be arriving soon. Even in my dire state, I felt I needed to be strong for him. I stayed focused and calm, but it was a scene of controlled chaos, all around me.
The staff struggled to stabilize me. My body was not getting enough oxygen. They spoke of putting me on a ventilator. Somehow, they were able to avoid that. And after a CT scan, I was diagnosed with a bilateral pulmonary embolism, which is a blood clot in both of my lungs.
Had I not arrived when I did, it is likely I would have died.
My lesson for day one of the nine day ordeal….
Thirty minutes could have made the difference between life and death. Had I waited to call 911. Had I not recognized the seriousness of the situation. Had I not acted when I did, there would have been a completely different outcome.
I am lucky to be here. And I won’t squander this opportunity I have been given.