This week has been strange. I simultaneously was looking forward to it and dreading it at the same time. Starting on November 17, many different memories came flooding back to what was going on last year at this time. Some days, I can’t believe it has been a year. Others though, it feels like it has been a lifetime. People say they have never witnessed a miracle, but I experienced one. My life is a miracle, and the very fact that I’m not dead is something that can only be explained as such. My body had been actively “growing” clots for about six months. At any point one of those could have easily broken off and I could have had a pulmonary embolism. By the time they were discovered the lower half of my body, from my pelvis down to my toes was almost completely clotted off. I had had no remarkable symptoms, a little nausea/vomiting and fatigue (who doesn’t have those symptoms on night shift) until the day before my first admission when the lower half of my body turned a bluish tint and became so swollen that I could not fit into my scrubs or walk even a small distance. Things I had done without a second thought, like walking, became excruciating. My body had been compensating for many months, and had made tiny little pathways to get blood as best it could to where it needed to go. All of my major vessels were clotted off and I was about to go into renal failure because my vessels to my kidneys were obstructed with clots as well. My body was tired, and had done the best it could for as long as it could, but it was shutting down. I literally felt like the life was draining out of me. I will say though, I thank God for how ignorant I was during it all. Though I’m a nurse, educated, and know the dangers of blood clots, I just didn’t get the gravity of the situation.
Are there things I’m still angry about, yes. Do I think that some of the physicians initially involved in my care were negligent, yes. Is it disappointing that a place of business, a place I am employed cannot always be objective because a physician brings a considerable amount of revenue into the hospital, yes. But I cannot change what happened, and I refuse to be constantly consumed with the darkness of clinging onto injustices of this world.
Even though it was a chaotic and scary time in my life, I look back now and am filled with so much gratitude for being able to see so many of the people that are important to me. My sister, as well as my friends Megan and Shari, who all live outside of Lubbock were able to come down and see me. My parents brought Thanksgiving to me because I was too sick and weak to go anywhere. Deb, who I’ll mention in great detail later, never left me by myself from the very first moment I checked in to the ER. If she wasn’t with me, she made sure someone else was. Johnny, who brought me all kinds of organic drinks and things from sprouts, waited with me and my parents before my first surgery, came down to SICU in the middle of the night to visit, took me to multiple dr. appointments and so much more. Heather, who prayed with me before my CT during my second admission. At this point during the whole “Cyclot” as we have nicknamed it, I was miserable. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I was having a terrible reaction to Fondaparinux (an anticoagulant injection I was taking), it was causing a horrible rash and the worst headaches I’ve ever experienced in my life. I remember getting to the ER and sitting up in that bed and feeling worse than I ever had in my life. I was miserable, and emotional, still extremely swollen, and didn’t really see any silver lining at that moment. I literally felt like I was going to die, which would have been preferable over staying in my body that was quickly deteriorating. There are so many people to mention, Tim and Tamara, who are literally always a phone call away, Gwenna & Rusty, my sweet grandparents June and Billy, lots and lots of co-workers from the ER and I’m sure there are others I’m forgetting. It really is the smallest details that can leave such a deep impression. When I was in SICU, the night after my first surgery, Michelle, one of my co-workers came to see me. I began to cry and she simply put her hands on my cheeks cupping my head with her hands. Such a simple but yet so sweet gesture. I couldn’t move my head because I had an IJ (Internal Jugular) catheter on the right side of my neck, couldn’t sit up, couldn’t do anything but lie there. I was tired, weak and vulnerable. I will never forget that kind gesture and how much, in that moment, it made me feel like I was going to be okay. Right after my first surgery I was not prepared for how awful I would feel. I have never experienced such an overwhelming sense of pain in my life. I could not move, had the IJ, and shunts on both sides of my groin. I was in and out of being awake, involuntarily shaking and crying. I have very few memories of the first hours after surgery, and for that I am grateful, but I do remember Paul and Dusty being in there for what seemed like just a brief moment and praying over me. It seems that in my most vulnerable moments, when all of the facades of security begin to crumble, that I see God most clearly.
I believe the only reason I’m alive is because of Divine Intervention. I was discharged from the hospital and sent home to wither away twice. I was told that surgery was not an option, I would be swollen and be on blood thinners the rest of my life, and that my current health state was my new “normal”. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was never going to be able to walk without excruciating pain again. I would never be able to run to Target and look around. I would never work again, never be able to have children, and probably not ever seen my 30th birthday. My kidneys were shutting down, I would eventually end up on dialysis, and the blood would pool in my legs creating wounds that would never heal.
I think about how many things that had to “fall into place” for my story to work out the way it did and it overwhelms me that God leaves absolutely no detail, no matter how small or trivial to chance. The night I got home after my second admission I was laying on my couch not really thinking about the future, just glad to be at my own house in my own clothes and not have IVs and be constantly poked and prodded for blood. And then, I got a phone call that changed my life. I’ll never forget how her voice sounded, and what she told me. Deborah had talked to Dr. Santana, told him about my case, and he emphatically stated I needed to come back and have surgery to save my life. So many things had to fall into place for this to happen.
Deborah had to be working, and be on the crit side. She had to be around when Dr. Santana was over there. There had to be an opportunity for her to speak to him. There had to be some reason for an attending Trauma surgeon to be in the ER in the first place. He had to be the one on call. The ER can be somewhat of a chaotic place, and there is rarely an opportunity to be able to ask an attending multiple questions about another case. I have never seen Dr. Santana sitting on the crit side in the nearly three years I have worked at the ER. He not only took the time to listen to Deborah’s questions, but pulled the many scans I had had done up on the computer and looked at them. He explained to Deborah that I did need surgery, and that there is a very very small window to remove clots as extensive as the ones I had. He told her to tell me to come back to the ER the next morning and he would personally see me. God ultimately decides when my heart will stop beating, and I am overwhelmed with gratitude that he used Deborah to save my life. Dr. Santana is a genius, and the kind of surgery he is able to perform is nothing short of a miracle in itself, but I would have never made it to Santana if it hadn’t been for Deborah. I would have never been able to celebrate my 28th birthday or celebrate my one-year mark since this all began. To say that I’m grateful doesn’t seem to even begin to explain how I feel. I will never be able to put it all into words. Deborah’s middle name is Faith, which I think is perfect. She never gave up, even when it seemed like there was no other option. My daughter, the one I will be able to have one day, will also have the middle name Faith. I am alive today because Jesus wanted it so and used Deborah to make that happen, something I will never fully be able to comprehend or say thank you enough for.
The “what-ifs” can drive a person crazy, and if I’m not careful I can become so wrapped up in what could have happened or what could happen now, and to say this last year has been easy would be a lie. It has been a difficult year, probably the most difficult and darkest of my life. Grieving the life that I once had has been a trying process, and one that I’m sure will continue for a long time, if not for the rest of my life. Lots of tears have been shed, tears of sadness, frustration, joy and happiness. I made it a year though, and that issomething to celebrate. I celebrate family, good friends, co-workers, and talented physicians. My life is a miracle.