Captain’s Log: Day 11
SO MUCH has happened in these past eleven days. It’s been a near-unbearable roller coaster ride of grandiose proportions.
After my last post, I was told by the doctors that I have, not only a ton of clots hanging out in my lungs, but one GIANT clot completely occluding my left pulmonary artery; plus, because of the back pressure, I have severe heart failure.
I’m sorry, what? Did you say my 31 year old heart is FAILING and that my left lung can’t do it’s job either?
Okay, wow. This was a LOT to take in. Furthermore, the treatment that they decided to do, because I’m so young and my condition is so severe, is to put a catheter in through my neck, snake it through my heart, and jam it into my lung. This catheter would be the hose they use to inject – or “blast” – the clot with a medicine called TPA. This is a pretty invasive procedure that they reserve for fairly dyer cases.
I was told I’d be “sedated” but that full anesthesia wasn’t an option…and this got me in a bit of a panic. To top it off, on the way down to the procedure room, the radiologist was explaining to me that the sedation they use for this “usually doesn’t work on younger people”.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!
So, I sobbed and shook for the entire, hour-long procedure, with the blue surgical drape over my face. The sedation obviously didn’t work and I felt like an absolute nut case.
But it didn’t stop there! I was taken to ICU while the tube was in my neck because the TPA is such a powerful and potentially dangerous medicine, they require strict monitoring in intensive care.
Not only did I have some triggered anxiety and grief about being in ICU because of Summer’s mom, but I was the most miserably uncomfortable that I’d been since I had kidney stones in 2010. They had to slice through muscles in my neck (obviously) to get the tube in, and no matter how I tried to place my head, it pulled on that incision, or it cramped up other muscles in my neck that were trying to compensate. I spent hours sobbing hysterically from discomfort. Causing such a scene in my room, that multiple staff had asked me, “honey, what do you take for anxiety at home?”
BITCH I DON’T HAVE ANXIETY AT HOME!!!
Oh man, I was a hot fucking mess and the only thing anyone could offer me was Tylenol. Plain ‘ol Tylenol. I declined for so long because, come on, what good is that shit gonna do for my problems? Once someone finally convinced me that I might as well give it a shot, my life got a teensy bit more tolerable.
Yes, from that point on, I had accepted Tylenol as my lord and savior and have been taking it on a scheduled basis ever since.
They removed the tube at my bedside and, though I couldn’t see what was happening, I imagined it being like pulling an anaconda, by the tail, out of its riverside mud-den. Gross. But as soon as that was out of my neck, the paid subsided.
I was transferred to another building to hang out and recover. They stopped allowing me to meander about my room without supervision, so that was a bit annoying… but understandable. I was finally allowed to eat though, so that was awesome! I ordered a ton of food, ate like I’d been stranded in the desert for 3 years, then immediately puked it all up. Turns out, 2 puddin’ appetizers, mac n cheese, and grilled salmon is a bit too much for a body that’s been starved for 32 hours. Slow and steady is apparently how you gotta reintroduce food. Who knew?
Anyway, I had a good first night in Building B. It was different – old. It was much less monitored than the last two buildings/floors I’d been on, so I figured that was a sign of progress. The next morning, Christine brought me a decaf coffee and we visited for a while. I had to pee after all that delicious decaf, so I called for my escort.
I made my way all 8 feet to my toilet, then back out to wash my hands. I saw that my oxygen saturation had dropped to 84%, which I totally felt, and that my heart was racing, but that was my new normal for any kind out out-of-bed activity. I sat down on my bed and put my feet up so I could lay back and suddenly got very dizzy.
I writhed in the fear and discomfort of having the worst case of the spins than any 20-something, binge drinking, summer of oh nine night could offer. This seemed to last for roughly one fucking eternity, then I was in a euphoric, white space, having a casual in-passing chat with an oval-shaped man in blue. I was pain-free, happy, not a care in the world!
Then, all too soon, I was back in my own tiny hell. There were nurses around me trying to call my name and wake me up. I knew my eyes were open but they refused to focus! It was like being in REM, but with my eyes open and seeing. Once I finally was able to focus my eyes and acknowledge the nurses, I remembered that I was terrified and literally frozen in shock or fear or disbelief or maybe there’s a special kind of paralysis involved after losing consciousness? In any event, I couldn’t release the death-grip I had on my nurse’s hand and I couldn’t answer any questions or follow any commands for several minutes. This was the most traumatic experience of my life. By far.
I was moved back into critical care, but this time it was CVCU, the cardiac unit. They did tests and scans and found that I had a new clot that had lodged itself into my right lung…also, the TPA didn’t even phase me. Because of my sudden and very serious condition, they consulted a cardiac surgeon to possibly do an open-heart surgery to remove the clot from my pulmonary artery. After about 24 hours of being on strict bed rest, my condition started to improve and the possibility of the in-house heart surgery was taken off the table. And thank god!! Apparently the cardiac surgeon here at SMH only does this in emergency situations where death is the only other option. She has only had one patient survive the procedure. So, thankfully I was improving!
I’ve since been regaining stability in my vital signs and have had the bed rest order lifted. I’ve been moved down the hall to the cardiac IMCU (intermediate care) and just yesterday was granted permission to meander about my room and the halls without supervision, due to the stability of my heart rate and oxygen.
We did another Echocardiogram yesterday, which shows that my heart failure has moved from severe to moderate! This is great news! The heart surgery is still a necessity, but it’s going to be done at University of California San Diego. They are the best in the United States, and they specialize in this particular procedure. My pulmonologists say that because I’m so young and otherwise healthy, I should be bumped to the top of their list and be able to get this procedure underway within a month – hopefully much sooner.
Today, I’m thankful for Xanax, Tylenol, and modern medicine as a whole.