6.12.2010

Rescues

Photo Tip: Sometimes the best picture is when the subject is not looking at the camera.

Fun: We folded paper boats and sent them sailing down the natural spring of water coursing through the canyon park. 

Rescue
It was over four years ago when I needed a RESCUE. I checked my 12 year old daughter out of school during lunch period to babysit my two year old boy while I went to a quick doctor's appointment at the Physician's Plaza east of UVRMC. This appointment was a consult with a surgeon regarding whether I should have a phlebectomy of vericose veins in my ankle done or not. The concern was due to several nerves found in that region of the foot cutting out veins there may cause problems. I checked in with the receptionist and was escorted to an examining room. Besides the doctor and reception, the place was empty--like a morgue. I asked the doctor if this procedure was a good idea. He responded with, "I never do phlebectomies anymore. I only do sclero." 

With that information, I explained to him about the last two times I had sclero (a sclerosing agent is injected into the veins to scar it and occlude it--very painful) done. I  had an allergic reaction after each procedure (pain, hives, redness, swelling in all my joints) and needed big doses of Prednisone (a horrible, but effective, strong anti-inflammatory with awful side effects including weight gain) to combat the problem following. I also explained that I had gone to an allergist regarding this reaction to Polydocenol. Dr. Mattheson told me it was not a true allergic reaction, but an inflammatory reaction. But something inside of me told me he was wrong and come to find out, I was right!

Doctor F said, "I don't use Polydocenol. I use Sodium Morrhate. It's completely natural (made from cod liver). I've only had one lady react to it. I was hesitant. A feeling of warning started to fill my head. I thought, "don't let him do it." Another thought was, "it's only a test patch--a 1/2 cc. (a few drops of liquid). Who am I to tell a doctor what to do. I am only a nurse." So Doctor F. asked me to lift my left pant leg. I stopped him to ask, "UHHHH! Do you have rescue medicine if I do have an allergic reaction?" He said, "yes." I still  felt hesitant and unsure about letting him do a "test patch." But I lifted my pant leg and stood there while he injected the .5 cc into a vein in my lower leg. Immediately it turned red. Then hot, knife-like, stabbing pains started searing through my head. I grabbed my head and squeezed it between my hands as if to stop the surge of incredible mysterious pain. I looked at the doctor with panic in my eyes and voice and said, "my head hurts." He said, "boy you are a reactor!" 

Within seconds, my throat, ears, eyes, and throat were swelling. I talked strange like a person in a choke hold. My throat was closing and I had a feeling of impending doom! I asked the doctor, "do you have any epinephrine?!" He said, "no!" Liar!! I was in anaphylactic shock and the stupid doctor lied. He did not have any rescue medicine!! I should have listened to my feelings and impressions, but it was too late. I was in an emergency situation. There was no time to stew over my stupid decision. I was literally dying. I knew if I didn't get the help I needed within minutes, I would be dead as a doornail. I also knew it was in God's hands. If he wanted to take me, well this would be it. I felt helpless. It was December 5. The Christmas cards had not been sent. The presents had not all been purchased let alone wrapped! Would I ever see my five children again? Would I be able to hug and raise my two year old son? Would I die alone in an office with maroon carpet and no loved ones? I was in a fight for my life. I would not give up!

I saw the doctor scrambling and panicking while he pulled out white plastic drawers and opened cabinets, sweeping them with his hands.  He located a vial of Prednisone and gave me a shot in the arm. That did nothing!! By this point, I could not see clearly. My eyes had swelled to the size of baseballs. It was like looking through a thick glass block. I could see, but everything was blurred to a point that I could do nothing, but ask for help. I started begging the doctor to save me! He grabbed my limp hand and took a radial pulse. He was tapping his foot. Finally, I said, "call the emergency room!" He left me alone in the exam room while he called the hospital's emergency room. For the next few minutes, I continued to swell and pray aloud. I prayed that my life would be spared for my children. I did not care who heard me. I prayed and pleaded even bargained with God! No one except my daughter even knew I was there. My husband didn't even know I had an appointment. It was just a consult after all.

When a few terrifying minutes had passed, I said to the doctor, "I think 911 would be quicker than this." My lips were ten times their normal size. My throat continued to swell. I talked funny. I was really worried that my throat would close completely and I would suffocate to death. I am claustrophobic as it is. I continued, "Doctor, aren't we connected to the hospital? (I knew this from my nursing rotations at UVRMC.) Couldn't you walk me to the emergency room?" Ding. Ding. Ding. A light bulb went off in the doctor's head! Finally! I asked, "should I grab my purse and shoes?" He said, "no." I grabbed his arm like a blind person and he guided me down the cement stairwell, down the wide hall, and  through the emergency room doors. Just as we approached those large swinging doors a nurse with an epinephrine syringe in hand said, "I'm your rescue." I thought to myself, "the next time someone is in anaphylactic shock, RUN!!" I was placed on a bed behind a closed curtain and suddenly my chest started to hurt. It felt like I was having a heart attack. The staff did a quick EKG to rule out heart trouble.

I was so relieved to be in the emergency room. I knew I was saved! As nurses and doctors worked, they made jokes like, "your lips are five times bigger than Angelina Jolie's, hahaha!" and "your eyes are as big as baseballs, hahaha!" I took this for emergency room humor. My adrenaline had done it's magic. Dr. Abrams said, "I've never seen someone so alert who was in anaphylactic shock before." I can tell you and Dr. Abrams that I was one determined woman to survive and make it back to my family. The flight or fight reaction kicked in and did much to help me through this life threatening situation! But as is so common for emergency victims, it is when help arrives that victims die. The body's natural adrenaline acts a bit like epinephrine, but when a person knows that help is there, they relax, shock sets in, blood pressure bottoms out, and there gone. 

Once they put me on the emergency room bed, my blood pressure dropped to almost dead. The systolic reading was 60. (It's normally 120.) A systolic reading of 50 is DEAD. My body went from bright red and burning with what felt like a fiery poison surging through it, and intense pain like I had never experienced before in my life--worse than giving birth without an epidural--to dead white, limp, relaxed, peaceful, and calm. I closed my eyes and saw nothing but a bright white light everywhere. I was finally out of pain! I felt so good. I thought to myself, "Oh! Good. I wouldn't die of suffocation, I would die of shock and that is a really peaceful and painless way to die (I discovered)! I did not see a tunnel or relatives--for the record. The doctor used his index finger to lift my eyelids. He kept hold of my left wrist checking my pulse almost compulsively. I think he thought I had kicked the bucket. He was nervous to say the least!! Dr. Abrams said, "Boy. I've never seen Dr. F. like that. He was really out of his head!" I thought, "yeah! he almost killed me, lied, and was worried about a law suit!" But I was fine. They pumped my body full of two bags of saline via I.V., epinephrine, prednisone, and benadryl--essentially every tool they had to fight the ALLERGIC reaction--not inflammatory reaction--which eventually brought my blood pressure up to snuff. 

I was kept in the emergency room for two hours after the initial emergency response. The nurse closed the light blue and white curtain and there I lay. I asked the doctor to call my husband. After about an hour and a half passed. I became very tearful and deeply sad. My swelling had gone down. I could see now. I could see a white phone attached high up on the left wall, but I was hooked up to monitors and an I.V. so I could not reach it. I felt so alone. No one was there. The reality was I would have died alone and I just broke down in tears! Where was Joe?! 

When the nurse came in to check up on me, I asked her if the doctor had called my husband and she said, "yes." Then I really got upset. "Then where is he?!" I asked her to hand me the phone and I dialed my husband's number. I could hardly muster through a throat thickening and tears, "where are you?" and I hung up the phone. I was so hurt. Joe was in a meeting with his boss at Magleby's restaurant at the Riverwoods. He immediately left his lunch on the table and climbed into his Jeep. Todd Reid took care of the bill and followed behind him to the hospital. Joe arrived about 10 minutes after my call followed by Todd. I had a lot of questions for the guy. "Why didn't you come sooner? Don't you care?"

Essentially, the doctor really didn't tell him the whole story. He down played it. The doctor said, "Uh! Your wife came in my office. I gave her some medicine and she had a little reaction to it. She is recovering in the emergency room." Joe asked him, "should I come down?" The doc said, "No. She will be fine." My thought was "if someone is in the emergency room, it's probably pretty serious." Men!! This has been a tough one to live down, but we feel like the doctor was trying to cover his bases by not giving full disclosure and doing his best to delay a visit until I didn't look like a monster.

So there is my rescue story. I am grateful to UVRMC emergency room staff. They got the job done and I went home to be the mother of my five kids. I did a little life review and determined that I needed to quit photography as a business! I evaluated my life and felt pretty good about how I was using my time and energy otherwise. It's funny how when faced with death, we do a life review to determine if any changes need to be made.

Well this was the year I packed on the pounds. Each time I went on Prednisone, I put on five pounds--overnight. I have not been able to shed the extra weight since. But on a less shallow note, I am alive. I was given a second chance. So what if I can't run marathons anymore, so what if I'm overweight, so what if I have to wear "grandma tights"--compression hose, so what if I live in chronic pain? It's okay. It has taken me a long time to come to peace with it all and share my story, but I'm doing better with my new reality. I've cried a lot of tears and have found a lot of inspiration in others who have tough trials. I can do hard things even if that means standing to do the dishes. Who knew that standing would be such a difficult, painful thing to do? (I didn't fully appreciate my healthy body when I had one!) Sometimes I am over come with the difficulty of every day tasks like cooking dinner, standing in line at the store, or going out in the cold. With Raynaud's Disease, cold triggers a hyper capillary response to cold and stress.  I comfort myself with these sayings, "the North winds made the Vikings!"  

"Courage is a decision you make every day." --Nim's Island


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