Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Yesterday was the Day I Almost Died.

All I could think was, "Please, do not let me die like this." Curled in the fetal position of my bathroom floor, covered in my own vomit and feces and sweat while some faceless EMT or Paramedic, or both, worked on me. I could hear John's voice in the background, telling them to "please, just hurry. She's had these reactions before. She knows what they are."

Everything had been fine about 20 minutes ago. I had awakened from a nap after working all night. I had a sore throat that had persisited through the last half of my shift, and was still there when I woke up. I took a sample of the Avelox my family doctor had given me the day before I was hospitalized for pneumonia. A couple of minutes later,I ate a candy bar from Evan's school fundraiser. I started having this intense itching all over my back, and I made John scratch all over. Then I had these stomach cramps that were bad enough that I went and sat on the toilet. It was there that I started to feel lightheaded, felt the thickening in my throat, the tightening in my chest. I yelled for John to call 911 as I fell to the floor in front of the toilet and began to vomit. while clear drainage poured from my nose.

I got the terrifying feeling of taking a deep breath, but the air wasn't getting anywhere. In between gasps, I would shout "Please hurry!" to anyone who could hear me. John kept trying to reassure me : "Baby, I hear the sirens. They're closer." I remember telling him I was going to die.

EMS arrived, and I was assaulted with the questions I ask my patients: "Ma'am, what's your name, allergies, date of birth. What happened today, what's your health history, are you on illegal drugs?" I don't know if the words were coming out. I tried to tell him to hurry while trying to answer his questions. Did he really just ask me if was on heroin? John's response: "Dude! She's a registered respiratory therapist!" I smelledthe new plastic of the nasal cannula, asked fo the nonrebreaher instead. "My sat's okay. For my comfort," I croaked. I begged for the Epinephrine I knew was in his bag. The miracle drug that would stop me from having to have an emergency cricothyroidotomy when what little left of my airway was long gone and the only way to get air to my lungs would be through the whole they made in my neck right there on my bathroom floor. More importantly, the miracle drug that would ensure I would be alive when Evan got out of school in just a few short hours. Ahhhh, Evan. Funny how I can be in hell, knowing my life hangs on how many more seconds it takes this EMT to give me the epi when he appars to not be grasping what is going on, to focus on the sound of John's voice somewhere behind me, and through it all, only be able to see Evan's face.

I don't know where it was in the progression of things when the image of my surroundings began to fade and blur around the edges, when I collapsed the rest of the way, still begging for epi, and thinking of my mom and how I didn't want to, but it would be okay to just go ahead and die. That John and Evan would be okay, that my life insurance was adequate. And I just let go.

Then I felt a pinch in my arm. When I realized I could beathe just a tiny bit better, I realized it was epi, then the EMT said it was epi. That is when I started to vomit again, and someone thrusted my own bathroom garbage can under my face. When my bowels completely released. They were asking me to sit up, to help them help me to stand. I have no idea how I got on the stretcher. But then I heard the clacking of the wheels, saw daylight and the flashing lights in front of the house. Then I was at the hospital, and there was more epi, more Benadryl. More oxygen and questions. And IV, followed by even more Benadryl, Pepcid, steroids. The cold washcloth as the nurses cleaned me up. I begged hem to close the curtain. "I work with these people", I wailed. And sleep. A sleep deeper than I have ever known. And you wake up and it is all over. "Mrs. F, we are going to send you home on a medrol dose pack and I want you to take Benadryl every 4 hours for tonight. And you must get an Epi-Pen. You need to have one with you at all times, do you understand?"

Once home, more sleep. But this time, I would wake to John and Evan's faces. Feel my son kiss me on the cheek, and hear John tell him that Mommy had been sick while he was at school.

And I thought to myself that, though the hours/ days/ weeks/ months/ years of my life have been or will be consumed by images of scrubs and stethoscopes, textbooks and classes, hopes and goals and ambition, isn't it funny that when the edges started to fade, it wasn't any of that that floated with me just beneath the surface as I resigned to my death. It was John's voice and Evan's face.

I have had anaphylactic reactions before. Only none of them were so memorable. I woke up intubated after one of these episodes, but my only memory of that was feeling nauseous and waking up fighting against the tube. Other times, I sought help before it got to that point. I never felt myself slipping away like I did this past week. A later recounting of the experience to my doctor confirmed that I was dying that day, that I was almost gone. Now there are just a few reminders of it left: bad memories, a bruise on my arm from the EMT's rough injection technique, and fear. Fear that my body can react so violently to something to which I have been exposed my whole life without incident.

Now, because I feel like I need to, here are some links for more info:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Nothing Like The First Day

Evan's fist day of 2nd grade....

Here is to a fresh new school year. To learning more, and making new friends. Harder math and more challenging reading. Improved handwriting.

But for us, as parents, it is always about so much more...

I don't know about others, but for me, it is always about being one year closer to the day he will leave the nest. One less year to have him with us. It is always the year I will be more involved, more patient about teaching him new things. Watching him grow a little more. One sad day, I will be able to sit back and see that my work is finished. But now, in the middle of the greatest responsibility the world has to offer, I am amazed and realize that these are the days for which to live.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In Awe

Read here about what USMC 81 posted about honoring Medal of Honor recipient CPL Jason Dunham, USMC. I wish I could get the message across to our young people that our true heroes are not "gangsta" rappers, but rather young men like Cpl. Dunham, who saved the lives of his fellow Marines by using himself to absorb an explosion. Truly a hero among heroes...

Ha Ha

Just some RT humor.....

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Okay so seriously, it is that time of year. The only other time where it is more expensive to be a parent is at Christmas time. My little list started as just a few uniforms. We inventoried the closet to see what uniforms from last year could be reused and came up with a healthy stack. Next was the list of supplies. Evan's school does something differently: each year, when supplies are donated, they divide them up among the students. Say, for example, that each second grader needs 4 boxes of crayons for the year. If enough crayons are donated so that each child can have 2 boxes, the school does not make us buy the 4, but rather he 2 that are lacking. In the end, the supplies that are donated end up saving each parent some money. So now supplies are added to the list.
But then I start to think about things. He'll need new underwear, and socks. And undershirts. Oh, and shoes. We need a pair of gym shoes and a pair of oxfords. And we can't forget that he needs a couple of new belts. And a light jacket. And of course we cannot forget the backpack. Heaven forbid it not be the preppy one with his name embroidered in the center... And of course somewhere before next Wednesday, we will have to get a haircut. Before I know it, a couple hundred bucks for a few uniforms to add to what is left from last year...well, let's just say that the sum morphs into something else entirely. In the meantime, I mention to him that the plan for later in the day is for us to go school shopping. This is the look I get from him. (See above) Why is he so sad? You would think he was the one footing the bill.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Morbid Fascination

So I am revisiting the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire. Again. Reading and digging a little into Women's History, and seriously wondering if perhaps I would be better suited to a degree in the subject, with the addition of my pre-med classes, than I would be a degree in molecular biology. How awesome would it be to spend my days and nights learning of this stuff that weaves itself into everything we are now???

But anyhow, right now, my distraction from chemistry exams is Von Drehle's Triangle. Of which I am about halfway finished. Next, I plan to take on Carry Me Home. After that, who knows.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Lot To Say and Don't Know Where To Start

This has been the week I almost became my mother.

I remember the faint burning in my chest to tell me that I was coming down with something. I remember the taste of illness in my mouth when I would cough. I don't remember how I got from the onset of a mild chest cold to the panting, dysneic existence I knew the night John rushed me to the emergency room. I just knew I couldn't breathe. I felt like I was dying. And the life of my mother flashed before my eyes, like her choices were manifesting themselves into what was to become of me. Alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency. That was all I could think. Genetic emphysema aggravated by several years of just plain ol' self-neglect in the form of Marlboro Lights. The last time I mentioned te disorder to a doctor, I was asked if I wanted to know how I would die. I said no. When death is the culmination of drowning in your own fluids, who wants to know of its appraoch? Certainly not me, so I declined the test. But this time, when I mentioned it to the pulmonologist, he didn't give me a choice. He just nodded and scribbled somethng down in my chart. An hour after he left, a lab tech showed up in my room to draw some blood. No questions asked. No chance to chicken out.

I will not die her death any more than I will live her life. The test was negatve. I have the time and the chance to make the choices necessary to ensure that I will not have the same demise. Those goals I have set for myself? They are still attainable. As I lay in that hospital bed this week, I told myself that, should the test be positive, I would abandon the whole doctor thing. I would instead focus on my son and my husband and live my life leaving well-enough alone.

Instead, I didn't have to make the choice. Instead, I was branded with bilateral pneumonia with secondary areas of atelectasis. In layman's terms? I had pneumonia in both lungs that was bad enough to require a week-long hospitalization, and was horrifying enough to cause some collapse of several lobes of my lungs. In other words yet? I became my patient. And for the first time in my life, I did not want a cigarette. I was scared. I was confronted with my own mortality. So now, here I am making soe major adjustments to my life.

Incidentally, this is what happens to an arm after 15 gazillion needle sticks and IV attempts.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My Baby Boy Is Coming Home!

Just for fun, Evan has been staying down at his grandparents' houses for the past few weeks. They do this every summer since we moved away. But this time it has been over 3 weeks and I miss him dearly. But today, his grandfather is bringing him home. I am so excited to see him!

Fritzy Keyboard = I Am Not Lazy!

I m going to type this without going back and checking for typo jut to prove my point. I am not doing this intentionally, bt unless I peck at the keys very slowly and deliberatly, it skips letters. I am wonderng what my son has spilled down between te keys or if there isa ay t clean it. I like the keyboard we have now. It's the Dell one tat came with the computer. But in the meantime I should mention that I am tryin t go back and fix any and all typos, but there is such a huge amount that I am prone to miss a few. I hate lazy people who do not go back and check spelling, grammar, and typos, so just know that I am not one of them.