It’s been a year since my life was rearranged, flipped, turned upside-down and inside-out. A year since everything and nothing has become important.
A year since I got a second chance at life. And I am so thankful.
I have talked openly about suffering from a pulmonary embolism but today, one year to the date, I’m sharing my story.
The day started out like many others, taking down Christmas decorations and preparing my house for my parents to arrival in a few days. When my husband arrived home from work we decided to take our daughters out to eat in Waikiki. We were stationed in Hawaii at the time. That evening we ate out and laughed and walked along Waikiki Beach before returning home and to bed.
It’s funny how the mind can remember such little ordinary things. I can still remember the smell of the ocean as we walked along the beach to the car. The tourists, sunburnt and white-eyed from too many hours in the water. I can remember the torches along the walkway flickering bright orange against the dark night sky.
Then I remember the pain- searing hot as I woke in the early morning hours of December 28th. It was black, closer to night than morning, dawn still hours away.
As I stepped from my bed I was wet with sweat and unable to catch my breath. My left arm was completely numb and the pain, oh the pain, was radiating from my neck down my back. I managed to wake my husband. As much as I remember about the night before, those quick minutes after waking up and heading the ER are a blur. I know we woke our two daughters, ages 9 and 5 at the time, but I don’t remember how they got in the car or how I got in the car. Perhaps my husband carried them. Perhaps he carried me.
I do, however, remember the nurses concern as I hobbled into the ER, and then my daughters’ faces as I was rushed backward in a wheelchair literally seconds after coming in the door. I didn’t get to say goodbye or I love you or reassure them it would be okay.
Of everything I remember from that day, the one thing I will never forget, is their faces; confused, worried, still half-asleep with rosy red cheeks and sleep, half-opened eyes.
After tests, EKGs, scans, blood work, and hours later, my doctor returned to tell me the news: I had multiple blood clots in my lungs, pulmonary emboli. I’ll be honest with you, I was relieved, that sounds ridiculous now but I knew little about blood clots and I was just happy it wasn’t a heart attack.
I held back my joy however, when she said they had to transfer me by ambulance (and yes I had to stay in my gown and no I couldn’t at least put on my jeans) to Tripler Army Hospital on the other side of the island because the small hospital I was currently in wasn’t equipped to handle me.
I was shocked as the transport team pushed me, strapped into my gurney, onto the Special Care Unit at Tripler. I peeked into rooms as we passed by to see mostly elderly, and very sick looking people.
Joking has always been something we do in our family, something of a coping mechanism at times. So it was only natural that I joked myself through the morning and all the way into my new bed, much to my husband’s disapproval. I should have known this wasn’t a funny situation just looking at his somber demeanor.
After several more tests, questions and another EKG I finally met my new team of doctors and was able to ask what all the fuss was about and when my daughters could come see me. To my disappointment, they explained children were not permitted on the SCU. Then they explained to me not only the severity of my situation, but the uphill battle of recovery I was going to face. How I was still not in the clear and if not treated correctly the clot could break loose and travel to my brain.
In that moment something clicked. I wish I could explain to you how the wind shifted and my head started spinning. The doctor kept talking but I didn’t hear a word, suddenly I fully grasped the gravity of the situation. I was sick. And by the words I was catching here and there, words like; recovery, herapin, warfarin, blood thinners, underlying condition, before we can release you, long-term damage, I understood that there was no joking my way out of the situation. As soon as the doctors and my husband left, I grabbed my phone and looked up pulmonary embolism. I was shocked at just how lucky I was to be alive.
As my pain medication began to wear off, the searing pain I had felt early that morning began to creep back in but so did a new pain, one of regret, shame, disappointment.
As I lay in bed, alone, in the dark room, unable to get comfortable, taking in my situation, I couldn’t help but think about my family, my husband and my daughters. What I had left behind for them to remember. I wish I could tell you that I was proud of myself. Of the life I had led. But I can’t, because if I’m honest with myself, and with you, I was selfish and cranky much of the time. I wasn’t as good of a mom as I could have been, or wife, or friend. I rushed around trying to meet some ideal, some expectation I had painted of myself. I said yes to everyone and everything but my own family. I was a professed Christian but if you looked at my life from the outside you’d be hard pressed to tell other than my occasional quiet time and Sunday morning church going. The verse from Revelations 3:16 came to mind, “you are neither hot nor cold and I’m about to spit you out of my mouth.” In the dark, with my monitors beeping, I bowed my head and asked God for another chance: another chance to love Him first and foremost, another chance to love my husband well, and another chance to be a Christ-like example for my daughters.
I got that chance and I’m grateful. My PE experience changed my life and for the better. It gave me perspective on what, or rather who, really matters. I got to go home and I can still remember the joy when my daughters came running to me. Tears of joy streamed down my face, hot and searing just like the pain I experienced days before. I had a long road of recovery; in fact, I’m still recovering in many ways. I’m on a blood thinner and will be for the rest of my life.
I don’t just share my story today because it is the anniversary of this event. I share it today because I don’t want you to find yourself lying in a hospital bed unsure whether you will make it through to morning, wishing you had lived your life differently.
A year ago I got a second chance and you can have one too.
On January 4th, I am launching a series of posts entitled 4 Easy Steps to Creating a Life You Love. I’ve spent the last year of my life on a journey realigning my priorities. I set out to rearrange the important (and not important) things in my life. I decided to start living life with intention. I spent the majority of 2016 figuring out what mattered most to me and then began to live those priorities out. I want to share that process with you so you don’t have to wait for the near death experience, you can create a life you love right now! You can sign up and have the series delivered straight to your inbox.