July 5, 2017

My Story Part 1

January 6, 2016

I worked on a part-time/full-time basis as a college business instructor. I also ran a small business doing bookkeeping and accounting for small and medium business. I rarely had a day when there wasn’t a deadline to meet. My life was busy but not really stressful. I had been diagnosed with COPD in October 2015 and was waiting to see a specialist.

It had been a long day and I was tired. In fact, come to think about it, I had been tired for the last 6 months. I noticed that the days I was working part time I came home at noon and was in bed by 1:00 pm. That was very out of character for me. I was kind of concerned but guessing that my age, I was after all turning 60, was catching up with me because I rarely had afternoon naps in the past. I had never been a good sleeper so I was aware that an afternoon nap usually meant no sleep at night. Lately, however, afternoon naps had not been affecting my night sleep. I could sleep until 5:00pm and go right back at 11:00pm.

That night at about 10:00 pm, I was sitting at my kitchen table watching TV and having a glass of wine before bed. Something on TV caught my eye and I wanted my son to see it so I texted him from downstairs and told him to come up.

By the time he got to the top of the stairs I was not feeling well. The attack came on so suddenly and was so very intense, he became frantic and called my daughter.

I told her that I felt like my heart was coming out of my throat. I was sweating and struggling for air. My feet and legs were burning from what I would later find out was lack of oxygen. My daughter tried talking to me, I told her I thought I was dying and thankfully she had the sense to call an ambulance.

We live in a suburban area and the ambulance service was there in less than 5 minutes. Even with that, by the time the ambulance arrived, I was vital signs absent. The attack lasted a mere 20 minutes and threatened my very existence. The paramedics revived me twice on my kitchen floor, got me stabilized and ready for transport. Transporting me was tough because of all the snow and ice around the house and they had trouble with the stretcher so they had to carry me out in a bag.

About half way to the hospital I lost vitals again and they had to pull over the ambulance to get my heart started a third time. Unfortunately, my kids in the car behind the ambulance were frantic and knew exactly what was happening. They began to realise it was a serious situation and called my husband at work to meet us in the emergency room.

The emergency room doctors worked from 10:30pm until 6:00am to get my heart and lungs stabilized. My carbon dioxide levels were 3 times higher than they should have been which could lead to poisonous gases through my body. The doctors believed I was a retainer and I was placed on life support and put into an induced coma so I could rest my heart and lungs. I was placed in ICU.

The next hurdle would be to have a brain scan. Doctors were checking for brain activity. I had lost vitals so many times there was a good chance of brain damage. My family breathed a sigh of relief that the scan showed normal brain activity. Doctors would slowly begin to reassure them that I would come of this with little or no brain damage.

I was on life support for 3 days and woke up after 5 days. I was still in ICU and was surprised to find out that I had in fact been doing some talking to both doctors and my family asking questions while being in and out of consciousness. The last thing I remembered was being at my kitchen table and texting my son.

When I woke up my nieces are visiting me and I wake with an attitude of confusion and gratification. I am grateful that I survived. I am so grateful for my family that cared for me and did it from their hearts, for their friends that took such good care of them. They told me that food just kept showing up at the door for them so that they could focus on hospital visits and doctors calls without having to worry about life-sustaining food.

I was so weak when I came out of the coma that I couldn’t even push the blankets back or sit up without support. I was propped up in the bed with pillows under both arms. I found out later it was because I pulled so hard at the restraints trying to pull the tube out and kept asking why my hands were tied while I was on life support and in a coma.

In the ICU doctors tried CPAP and BiPAP machines that were so outdated they just simply could not work. I was just slowly trying to regain any function I could and after 3 weeks I was sent to a ward. I was now one step closer to home. They still didn’t know what happened to me or why. They only knew I had COPD but this was not what usually happened with a COPD exacerbation. Doctors feel I am strong enough to go for some tests. Since they know about my COPD lungs and had recent tests to prove it, they send me for heart tests.

That means another ambulance drive to another hospital. An Angiogram shows no issues with my heart and they wrote saying in my file that they concluded that this attack must have been caused by my COPD.

I was sent home on oxygen for the first time in my life with no plan to ween off.

In January of 2016, I would spend 5 days in a coma, 18 days in ICU and 23 days total in hospital.