After writing part 1 and rereading the events up until that point, something unexpected happened for me. I so clearly began to see God's hand in each tiny, seemingly insignificant step. From the nurses being unable to start an IV causing me to need a central line to Kelly staying the night with me that Thursday to give Brandon and my mom a break...all of it was Him preparing and protecting me. Talk about therapeutic!
Friday morning, May 20, the news came in that I was suffering from aspiration pneumonia and a pulmonary embolism. I was taken directly from CT back to the ICU. My mom and Brandon, who Kelly had called and told to get up to the hospital, were there waiting for me. The doctor on staff came in to let us know the diagnosis. At this point, they were unsure if there were any other clots waiting to make their move. This rendered me to complete bed rest, unable to move at all, until we knew. It also left open the possibility of being taken back to the operating room to have a vena cava filter put in to catch clots. That meant no food or drink while we waited. To say I was miserable, would be a huge understatement.
On top of those conditions, my breathing had gone way south. I was struggling. There is no worse feeling that being unable to breathe, literally drowning slowly. Apparently, I also looked pretty bad. All the color had drained from my face and was replaced with an eerie gray tint. It was decided that the oxygen mask I was wearing was not going to be sufficient. So, I went on something called bi-pap. Bi-pap is a machine that does the breathing for you. It fits really tight onto your face, covering your mouth and nose. Air is forcefully pushed into your lungs and then drawn out, effectively inhaling and exhaling for you. As they were hooking me up, the nurse told me to try to relax and not fight it. She said most patients hate it and struggle against the machine the whole time. Once I was connected, it became clear that what I knew of the difficulty I was having and what they knew were miles apart. From the moment that machine was turned on, I was in heaven! Instantly, the relief was overwhelming and all those patients that don't like it, well, they must not have felt the way I did before. My dear friend, Lise, came to visit shortly after Brandon sent out the text saying I had made a turn for the worse. She stood next to my bedside and gently stroked my head while humming hymns. I couldn't speak on the machine and was just too weak to communicate anyway, but this moment still comforts me when I'm upset. It was amazing.
Eventually, a doppler study was done of my legs and revealed no other clots. I was allowed to move (to the bathroom and back) and eat and drink again. Antibiotics, via my central line, and injections of Heparin in my stomach were started to battle the pneumonia and make the embolism "sticky". I remained on bi-pap for about a day and then weaned back to an oxygen mask. At first, I wore oxygen even to the bathroom. It was impossible to breathe without it and I was not willing to try. There were breathing treatments every couple of hours, around the clock antibiotics, chest x-rays (done in my bed) twice a day, Heparin shots, blood draws (thankfully taken from my central line), and several doctors in and out of my little corner of ICU. Not much changed for the first four days or so, other than the addition of Coumadin to my meds and a very slow weaning of my oxygen intake. During this time, I was unable to see my children at all. They were not allowed in the ICU and that was so difficult on all of us. I also began having horrific panic attacks any time I was left alone. No one was allowed to stay the night with me and it seemed like as soon as visiting hours were over, my mind would rush to a place of fear...the horror of not being able to breathe and being alone. I literally passed out from panicking one night when I had gone to the restroom. I decided from that point on, whenever I felt scared of not being able to breathe, I would say, over and over, "Jesus is the breath of life." This worked :)
By the following Thursday night, one week after heading to ICU for the second time, I was ready to move back to a regular room. This was a huge milestone, not only for my prognosis, but I got to see my kids the next day! Sweet Abram was so scared of me in that condition and all Blaine could do was hug me and tell me how much he missed me. It broke my heart.
INR is the measurement used to indicate the rate of time it takes your blood to clot. They wanted mine to be between 2.0 and 3.0 in order for me to be considered stable and able to go home. Finally, on Sunday, May 29, I was within range and discharged. I left that day on Coumadin for what was to initially be six months. I left that day with a 7 inch incision straight down my chest. I left that day with a stomach covered in bruises from Heparin injections. I left that day with a hole beneath my right collarbone from where my central line had been. I left that day with stitches in my lower abdomen from a pulled chest drain. I left that day emotionally and physically drained from such a long, horrific ordeal. I left that day and returned to my husband, my children, and my home knowing God had once again saved me from what the world thought would do me in. I left that day with no tumor in my chest and a benign pathology report.