Believe me, I wish I was being dramatic. We have had a scary ride these last 10 days or so. Probably the scariest in my life. I haven’t really even begun to process what has transpired. Too much has happened. Too many tears. Too many nights without sleep. Too much disruption.
It has been a total upheaval.
Writing is usually my first step to processing something the Lord is doing in my life and so this blog post is more for my own heart to begin to make sense of things than for your reading enjoyment. No offense 😉 The days have blurred together and I know that if I don’t get something down, it will be harder and harder for me to remember or be able to piece together.
I mentioned in my last post that the buyers of our home had moved up our closing date to February 1st. It was a tight timeline but we knew we could get our house fully packed and moved by then. I had rented a POD to store our furniture and we were steadily chipping away and packing boxes. I left David in charge of the heavy stuff so he spent last Saturday lifting and carrying heavy boxes. Towards the end of the day he mentioned that the side of his ribcage was hurting. We chalked it up to a pulled muscle and continued with our progress.
On Sunday the pain was making him wince every now and then. When he stood up or sat down, he’d close his eyes and say “man! this really hurts.” Again, we chalked it up to a pulled muscle. A few times he was doubled over in pain and I suggested going to an UrgentCare. “They’re just going to give me some Advil and tell me to take it easy” David said. Monday was no better, though he did finally see an in-house doctor at his work who confirmed that it was likely a pulled muscle. She literally gave him Advil and told him to just take it easy.
Tuesday I woke up to David struggling to breathe. He couldn’t talk or move. His eyes were shut tight and he had tears running down his cheeks. I did my best to put some clothes on him and rushed him to the ER which we thankfully lived 3 minutes away from.
At first, the ER doctors thought it was some minor complication from a cold he had the week before. They seemed genuinely unconcerned. They ordered an EKG and a chest x-ray which came back clear. But when a triple dose of Morphine didn’t take away David’s pain, I saw a change in the ER physician’s demeanor. He looked at the lab results and noticed a test for blood coagulation came back abnormal. He ordered a CT scan and they immediately took David out of the room.
When the doctor came back, it looked like he wanted to cry and apologize at the same time for not taking us seriously from the start. “You guys, I am so glad that you came in. David has two large blood clots in an artery of each of his lungs. If you had waited to come in, or tried to push through the pain any longer….. this would have ended very….. very badly.” In 25% of people who have pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in the lung), sudden death is the very first symptom. Ultimately, it kills 1 out of every 3 patients who have it.
He was immediately admitted to the cardiac unit and given all sorts of shots and pills and drips of IV medicine. The first 2 days were pretty bad. His pain was out of control and he really struggled to breathe if he moved even the slightest bit. Morphine + hydrocodone truly did nothing for his pain. It was so hard watching him be in such sustained pain. David is a tough guy, he’s had all sorts of broken bones and injuries- in 13 years, I have never seen him in such physical distress.
It was only once they introduced a very strong anti-inflamitory pain medication called Toredal that things started to finally turn around. His chest pain lessened, his breathing was easier and his spirits lifted. Praise God!
Interestingly though, after he started this medication, he mentioned having a touch of a headache (Note to Self: if you’re ever on opoid prescription pain killers and still have a touch of a headache, it’s likely more than just a headache). That was just before he threw up. Even more interesting, the doctors and nurses didn’t find any of this the least bit troubling and decided to discharge him after a 3 day stay.
He came back to his parent’s house after being discharged. Within hours, the pain in his head grew worse.
What happened after that was a blur of 2 ER visits, stabbing pain, worried doctors, relentless nausea and vomiting, MRIs, blood tests and CT scans. There were talks of bleeding in his brain due to blood thinners, talks of severe reactions to the blood thinners, talks of spinal taps and of stroke risk. For a while they thought perhaps the clots in his lungs had traveled to his brain. There were lots of tears, prayers, Morphine, Dilaudid and Zofran. And then a readmittance into the hospital for a 2nd time.
I didn’t sleep for a span of 48 hours. I couldn’t take my eyes off of David, watching each breath he breathed and thanking God for allowing him to be alive.
He was admitted to the neurology floor where neurologists worked to figure out what in the heck was going on. While they tested out theories and prescribed various treatments over the next 2 days, David was in a state of utter torture. His pain was what the hospital staff referred to as “unmanageable” meaning, no medications helped. Even the strongest of the strong, Dilaudid (about 3x stronger than Morphine) would only touch his pain for a brief moment. His nausea was also unmanageable and the only way David got any relief was literally by being unconscious. One particular drug called Phenergan was very helpful for just knocking him out and giving him a little reprieve from the agony.
During these days, I got a strong sense that this thing was bigger than ourselves or the doctors’ abilities to help. I stopped being able to pray intelligible prayers and simply began begging the Spirit to intercede on our behalf. I called upon the name of Jesus more times than I can count. We had a revolving door of support come through. David needed complete darkness and silence, so much of the intercessory prayer happened outside of his room but that didn’t make it any less powerful! I’ve only had a few times in my life where I could literally feel myself being carried by the prayers of others, this was one of those times.
After 2 and a half very long days, eventually the neurologists gave us explanation for what David was experiencing. He had a condition called status migrainosus which is characterized by 72+ hours of relentless and unmanageable pain, vomiting and nausea. They confirmed he had no blood clots in his brain and no bleeding in his brain. This condition put him at a heightened risk for stroke and began evaluating him several times each day for stroke signs. But ultimately, they believed there were no abnormalities in his brain and that he would be ok. I truly believe God spared him from a multitude of worse-case scenarios.
They finally put him on a steroid protocol with a mix of IV medications which aimed at breaking his pain. After about 14 hours, he slowly moved into a more coherent state of mind as the pain began to dissipate. The next morning, he ate a few bites of food. He smiled. He kept his eyes open. He spoke in full sentences. He began to slowly turn the corner. The steroids helped him so much and really brought him back to reality again…a reality with much less pain, confusion and torment.
Terrified to be discharged prematurely again, David and I decided it would be best for him to see how he did without any pain or nausea meds in his system before we agreed to be discharged. We stayed long past when we needed to, just to make sure. He had so many ups and downs over the week, we didn’t want to go home only to have him relapse yet again. But after 12 hours of reduced pain and no nausea, he seemed to still be doing well so we cautiously went home.
He has since been on the mend and recovering well. The blood clots are still there. They will probably stay in his lungs for the next few months, but the doctors feel confident that they will not get bigger and they should dissipate with time while he is on blood thinners. We still have some testing to do in the months to come to see if the blood clots are due to a coagulation disorder.
He seems to have recovered fully from the pain and nausea, which is a big blessing. His body is handling the blood thinners well and aside from not being able to mountain bike, shave with a razor or really do anything that could cause bleeding, the blood thinners don’t seem to be too much of a problem.
Somewhere in all of this, we moved out of our house and into my in-law’s home. We sold our home. And I started grad school. But those are different posts for a different day.
For now, I will simply thank God for His favor and protection over my sweet husband. And I will continue to smile and stare at him as I watch him breathe 🙂