Coming Back from the Brink

If only I had taken my own advice. For the last couple months there has been a repeated phrase that I would constantly use; "pay attention." It's true when they say that the devil is in the details, if you are not paying close attention it's the little things that add up over time and grow into a huge problem. On April 29, I checked into the ER because I let several small things go instead of paying attention to what my body was saying… Again.

It all started a month or two earlier when I began feeling that I might have a urinary tract infection. I also began getting more tired, having less energy and drive to do anything, and started taking morphine once a day instead of my usual once every couple days. Other symptoms included spotty memory loss, slowing slurry speech, and a general inability to focus. Fast-forward to Wednesday, April 29 when getting dressed in the morning we found blood in my urine. I felt fine, and the ambulance dispatched didn't really feel that it was immediate emergency. So I sent in a urine sample and left it at that. But by 6 PM I knew there was an issue because I needed to take a second morphine that day and my BiPAP was not relieving my breathing issues.

For some reason there were no red flags during the checking process at the ER except for low blood pressure and a high heart rate. My oxygen was fine, and I was fully coherent. Since it took about two hours to go through the full check-in process, I took a Lorazepam to help remove the stress of getting a catheter and all of the different tests that would have to be done. Things seem to be fine still at around 12 AM except for a low blood pressure. The nurse asked if this was normal, and that's the last thing I remember before waking up two days later in the ICU.

From what I've been told the cause for this was a culmination of my infection reaching my bloodstream (sepsis), partially collapsed lungs, low blood pressure, and a high carbon dioxide level. And when I say high, I mean a normal person with a carbon level of 35 would pass out, and mine was in the 90s. If I had only stuck to my plan of checking my blood gas levels every three months I would've seen that I was slowly suffocating myself between then and my last ER visit eight months earlier. It's just a testament to how well my body has adapted and operates under a high carbon dioxide level.

At this point there is nothing the doctors could do other than pump me full of antibiotics, keep me on a noninvasive ventilator, and pray. And pray you all did. According to all accounts my room was stuffed with people praying for me as I moaned in my state of delirium. I was still in rough shape when I came to Saturday, with a carbon level of 71, and the fact that I had swollen up in the hands and eyes so much so that I was constantly leaking out of the whites of my eyes.

Recovery from this point was fairly quick, by Sunday I was sitting in a chair with carbon levels in the 60s and on my regular BiPAP nose mask. By Monday my carbon levels had reached 40s, and my x-rays were showing shocking improvement day after day, that they felt it was safe to demote me to EMU. I was finally able to go home Thursday May 5.

The only memorial of my time spent is a sore on my tongue from when I must have bit myself during the delirium, and getting a little winded sometimes. As for what I'm going to do next; pay attention. Monthly carbon checks at least for the next three months to make sure they stay stable, and continually exercising the lungs and joints. The carbon levels will be the biggest indicator that there is anything wrong in the future.

Disclaimer: this information is accurate to the best of my knowledge, most of it I received after the fact from both nurses and family. A lot of what happened is still very spotty for me seeing as how I don't remember what happened for two days but according to everyone else I was awake and talking through some of it. My next blog post will be discussing what happened during my two days and how I feel about.


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