In my last post about where I was in the month of October, I talked about the beginning of my medical journey. One which landed me in the ER and eventually the critical care unit, with loads of unexplained pulmonary emboli in my lungs. No one could explain why I had them. And the doctors at my local hospital didn’t have the facilities to care for a patient like me. So they conferred and shared with me their plan. They had spoken with doctors at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and they agreed to have me transferred out there via ambulance. They had specialists and surgeons who dealt with my condition and were confident they could help.
I agreed though I was a nervous. I remember being loaded into the ambulance and getting some medicine so I’d sleep most of the way. They were trying to keep me as calm as possible so there would be no excess pressure on my heart and lungs. The ride was a blur. As was my arrival at BWH.
How was I to know that I wouldn’t be allowed to finally home until November 1st? How was I to know that, on October 16th, I would be taken by ambulance from my local hospital to Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston? How was I to know that I would be diagnosed with a rare, complicated disorder that would mean major surgery, the eventual blood thinning medication, and blood tests for the rest of my life?
I couldn’t know any of that.But that is exactly what happened. When I arrived at the hospital in Boston I was put in the Cardiac CCU and a whole bunch of doctors converged on me. They looked me over, did eleventy billion tests, and then conferred. Initially they had hoped to just go in and do a sort of angioplasty-like procedure to get the blood clot that was causing the trouble. But when all the cat scans were said and done, the surgeon (who is both brilliant and the nicest person I may have ever met) realized this wouldn’t work. He recommended a more invasive surgery that would allow them to get most of the clots out of my lungs. However, with this came serious risks. One of the other docs kept saying it was a grave situation and that this was risky but he thought the best course of action.
I was terrified. Why did they have to use the word “grave”? That is the last thing a girl wants to hear when she can barely breathe. And he kept using it. But I get why. At least, now I do. I needed to be ready for any of the possible complications. And so did my family.
So 6 days after arriving, I was wheeled into surgery. I won’t bore you with the medical details but let’s just say things didn’t do as planned. First, the clots were more extensive than they thought. Second, and because of the first, I had to be on circulatory arrest a lot longer than they anticipated. I wouldn’t know until later, as in after I was extubated and the anesthesia wore off, that there was a concern I wouldn’t wake up and even if I did, I would suffer some sort of brain damage.
Thankfully, and by some miracle, none of this happened. Instead I woke up and the amazing staff at BWH had me up and out of bed less than 24 hours after I opened my eyes. It hurt like hell and it was the last thing I wanted to do, but now, weeks later, I see why they did it. Staying in bed wouldn’t have done me any good. I needed to move and get my body working normally again. And getting out of bed and walking around, despite how much my chest hurt since they had cracked me open, was the best thing for me.
After the surgery, the doctors were amazed at how well I did and how fast my recovery was going. My surgeon had never seen anything like what I had when he opened me up in surgery and he told me and my family that. On the one hand this was disconcerting since this was his specialty and he’d been doing it forever, taught up and coming surgeons how to do things, and wrote major (and famous) papers on the kinds of surgeries he did. But on the other, I was glad to be in the hands of someone who, even not having seen the extent of the clots before, was able to get rid of them. I saw him and the other specialists several times a day while I got better and sometimes they just came in to chat about books and writing (they all knew by this time that I was an adjunct English teacher). Weird, huh? Just chit chattin after all that happened? But I was fine with this because the docs really were amazing, interesting, smart, and funny and it gave me people to talk to. It also kept me from dwelling on how homesick I was.
But then, the news finally came. Nine days after the surgery, 15 days after being transferred to BWH, and 20 days after going into the hospital in my hometown, I was granted freedom! On November 1st I was allowed to go home and this time, I wasn’t in an ambulance! I was ecstatic. The weather in Boston on the day I left was amazing, and even though it was November, it was warm and the sun felt great on my skin. I hadn’t been outside in almost three weeks and I seriously didn’t want to get in the car. I just wanted to sit there and take in the fresh air. But alas, I couldn’t do this. I had to get home. I had people waiting for me. I came home to finally see my nephew and niece, my aunts and uncles, my grandfather, and other family members-all who I hadn’t seen in weeks. (Or at least, didn’t remember seeing since I was kind of out in the hospital) . Same with my cat, who wouldn’t let me out of her sight and even now is attached to my side whenever I am home.
As I write this and look at the calendar, I realized that in just a few days, it will have been 2 months from my surgery. In fact, tomorrow I head back to Boston for post op appointments. And though I still have a ways to go, I’m feeling great. Even with all the bad that happened, I have to say that overall the last two months have been good. Actually, no they haven’t. They’ve been great. I signed a contract to have my first book published. I became closer to my family. I realized who my real friends were and cherish them every day. And I even found myself more confident in who I am. I want to write. I want to be an author. I want to teach. And I’ve finally decided it’s not worth it to hide any of that any more. It was silly to hide it anyways. I let old hurts stop me from being who I am and what I wanted to be for too long. I refuse to get bogged down in that anymore.
So this holiday season, hug your family and friends, tell them how much they mean to you, and just be YOU. Be who you are and who you want to be. Be unapologetic about it. Don’t let anyone make you be something you’re not or feel bad for being who you are. Life is too short for that, after all. And I know that I’ll have a happier holiday, and life, doing just that. I hope you do too!