I was down in Portland, ME walking from my NAMI support group to my Mother’s NAMI support group. One mile away. A woman from my group decided to walk with me, just to make sure I’d make it there safely. Well, we got to my Mother’s group, but I had to keep stopping to catch my breath. I could hardly breathe at all. My heart was pounding, I was sweating, and I could barely mutter a few words at a time. I thought it was from the Prazosin I was on (It can cause congestion), or from allergies, but boy was I in for a surprise.
For the next few days I was laying low and kept thinking to myself, “I really need to see a Doctor”. On September 13th I was extremely close to going, but didn’t want to bother my Father, since he was probably planning on relaxing in the chair at home. I told my Mom that day that I didn’t go, and she told my Dad to bring me to Mercy Quickcare on Friday (The 14th).
So, we went. I was dreading going, because I figured I probably needed bloodwork, or that they wouldn’t find anything wrong. I ended up getting a EKG, bloodwork, and two chest x-rays. The doctor comes in, says nothing looks wrong, BUT my oxygen saturation levels were between the high 80′s and very low 90′s. Usually You should be at 98-99%. Since my oxygen saturation was low, and nothing else looked wrong, the doctor told me it was most likely anxiety, but just in case, to go to Mercy Hospital.
I hopped in the car and told my Dad that they wanted me to go to the hospital. I really, really didn’t want to go at that point. I thought if I gave it a few days and tried pulling myself away from stressful events, that it would just fix itself. We get to the ER at Mercy and during the walk from the parking lot to the registration desk was brutal. I could not breathe at all.
The wait in the ER waiting room took forever. I swear, we were there sitting for an hour. They finally call me back, I leave my dad in the waiting room because I figure they’ll be done with me in an hour. They took more blood, and did another EKG. I finally told the nurse at the 2-hour mark to bring my dad back with me. They then wheeled me away to the xrays, then finally gave me a CT scan. That CT scan saved my life.
If you’ve never had a CT scan done, it’s fairly cool (scary to some people). They hook your IV up to this contrasting fluid – only in some cases, though, so I’ve heard – and they tell you, you WILL feel like you peed yourself. And they were absolutely right about that. They injected it twice, and the 2nd time around was worse. Anyways, when you’re in the CT scanner, it gives you instructions on when to stay still and hold your breath in. At that time, they’ll inject the fluid – and will warn you when it happens so it wont startle you.
After the CT scan, I was wheeled back to my lovely “room” – solely 2 walls and a curtain. Shortly later, a doctor came in, held my hand, and told me that I had some bad news. They found a significantly large pulmonary embolism resting in my pulmonary artery. I cried the most I’ve ever cried in my life in those few hours after hearing the news. I was almost 100% certain that I would die before seeing the outside of the hospital.
They then brought me to the ultrasound room to check my legs for blood clots, to see if it broke of from my leg and moved to my lung, but that wasn’t the case. They figured it was from the birth control I was on, after ruling out pregnancy, smoking risk factors, genetic disorders, and clotting disorders (This took more than a few days, but I wanted to talk about it right now). They immediately started me on injectable blood thinners - Lovenox – and I had to get a shot of 100mg every 12 hours. Shortly after, I got my own room in the CCU/ICU/whatever you want to call it.
The CCU was scary. So many sick and dying people were there. My neighbors were a comatose man with a tube down his throat, and a woman who coded shortly after having a spontaneous heart attack. I was the only adolescent/young adult there. During my stay in the CCU, I had a bunch of great nurses. Pete, Jen (I think), and Pete. They would draw blood from me every now and then, and inject me with the Lovenox at 6:30am and 6:30pm. They also added 10mg Warfarin – another blood thinner – to my cocktail. The room I stayed in was small, but I had a television I could watch things on, and later on when my Mother visited me, she brought in my laptop and cellphone charger. So there I was – a 19 year old girl in a CCU where everybody was dying – on Facebook chat sites, texting on her phone, and watching Oprah.
The only downside about being in the CCU was that I had to use a bedside commode. When I stood up my first night there, I was incredibly dizzy, so they marked me down as a fall risk. It was so embarrassing going #2 and needing a nurse to empty it. I apologized to them every time I needed them to help me with the commode, and since I was on my period, AND blood thinners, I had to use that commode fairly often. But I mean, I guess they’re used to that kind of thing and have seen much worse.
The first night I was in the CCU – around 8:00 pm, nightly prayers played over the loudspeaker for everybody to hear. I found it a little odd, but pretty sweet. I felt a connection with God while I was there, maybe because it was a religious hospital,and I never have believed in God before in my life. Prior to this whole situation, I was a 100% devout Agnostic.
I talked to Dr. Altman, the pulmonologist/anesthesiologist that was assigned to me, while in the ER and while in the CCU, and he brought up three options with me. I stay on blood thinners for 6 months to a year, I go on clot-busters, or I go in for surgery. I was unable to do clot-busters since I was on my period and I would have most likely needed a blood transfusion. I also didn’t want surgery, because I was so afraid of being put under and having some sort of complication happen, and die. If my pulmonary embolism isn’t gone by March, I may need to go back for the clot buster. Surgery is a last resort for me, after reading up about how they do it.
Fast forward three days – I finally got graduated to the Pulmonary Wing of the hospital. I got my own room, big TV, comfortable chair to sit in, amazing view of Portland,
and my own bathroom. I unfortunately couldn’t use the shower because I was hooked up to the portable heart monitor. The one day I spent in my private suite was the longest day ever. I had a representative from VNA (Visiting Nurses Association) visit me and get a referral done, more blood work, Meet with an Apria (Oxygen company) representative, meet with Dr. Altman, learn how to properly give myself Lovenox injections, and pretty much wait for my discharge to be completed.
This isn’t the end of the journey, just yet. The first week out of the hospital was tough. I had to do my Lovenox injections for three days – 6 injections total – after discharge, and get daily INR tests at my primary care doctors blood lab. Once my INR was in the 2-3 range, I was able to stop the Lovenox. Now I currently take 10mg Warfarin on certain days, and 7.5mg Warfarin on other days. I also had to use oxygen 24/7 for about two weeks, until my body was able to breathe smoothly on its own. I even bought a portable oximeter so I could check my oxygen saturation levels on my own and record them.
One day from now, it’ll be my third month of not being in the hospital. I still need to get a CT scan at some point to check on my Pulmonary Embolism’s shrinkage process and see if further action needs to be taken. Dr. Altman said it should be gone in three months or less, if there are no complications.
So, how is this a life-changing experience?
I was raised with no belief in God. My Mother and Father both were raised as Catholics and were forced to go to church. They wanted it to be up to me to decide my own spiritual path, and in all honesty, I wish every parent was like that.
You, my reader, may not know about my past. Since 2008 I have been chronically mentally ill and have occasionally had suicidal ideation. If you weren’t aware of that, surprise surprise! I have been on various antipsychotics, antidepressants, and the like ever since 2010. Anyways, what is intriguing about this whole thing is that when I didn’t have any life-or-death situations going on, I wasn’t grateful for being alive. If somebody mentioned God to me, I would think of Morgan Freeman and laugh. But now, after my hospital stay, I must say – I am happy to be a Unitarian Universalist, and I am happy to be alive.
I don’t know why I have ever thought of ending my own life, but I can put that behind me and continue on living out the life that I want to live. I want to be healthy, successful, loved, and eventually have a supportive boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other/friend to share my life and dreams with. I want to keep in contact with my family and let them know how I’m doing from time to time. I want to be Rianne. I want to make a difference in this world. If this whole “college plan” doesn’t work out, I’m not going to give up on life. Nothing will push me towards the edge of suicide ever again. I will live life to the fullest.
People die every second, every minute, from things they never wished upon themselves. Deep in my head, I wonder why they were the ones taken – they wanted life. They wanted prosperity. Why take life for granted? We’re not immortal. Everybody dies eventually. But let’s not speed up the process.