I’ve been putting off telling this story in hopes that it would fade into the past like a good, well-behaved memory. I’d rather forget it, truth be told. But, it seems like my mind has a mind of its own and the horror of the experience is with me every day, loud and intrusive, keeping me from moving forward. About the only trick I have left in the bag is writing about it in hopes that it, too, fades away like everything else I write about and then promptly forget.
To recap, back in March of 2012, I was jaundiced and finally managed to get an ERCP scheduled. That should’ve been good news. I arrived at the hospital, had the procedure done and since it was outpatient, I headed home. Within a few hours, I was in agony, had Tim call an ambulance and was taken to the ER of the local hospital. What I remember is that the EMTs wheeled me into the ER and was waved away, told to go to the hospital in Little Rock instead. Tim told me later that they had wheeled me into the trauma room, doped me up good, and we were there 7 hours before I was loaded back onto an ambulance and taken to Little Rock.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of an ambulance ride, you know that it has got to be the roughest ride you’ve ever had in a vehicle. I spent the majority of the hour-long trip unconscious and don’t remember arriving at the hospital. I woke up in what turned out to be Intensive Care, drugged to the gills and had no idea what was going on. No matter; I just passed out again.
After three days in ICU, I was transferred to a normal room and another ERCP was scheduled. It seems that the first one showed no blockage, so they wanted to do it again. This time, I vomited, breathed it in, went into respiratory arrest and had to be resuscitated. Back to ICU I go, once again in and out of consciousness, drugged up and clueless about what had happened. At one point, I woke up to find my arms in restraints and a mask over my face filled with a thick fog. I pried one arm free of the restraint and let it lie there, then turned my head to knock the mask aside enough to let me breathe out of the corner of my mouth. I heard someone say, “Ah, she’s a tricky one” and then I passed out.
Little Rock is too far away for any of my friends to visit. Tim came down when he could, but that wasn’t often. I had a few visitors, though most of my time in the hospital was spent alone to stare at the walls and out the window – between doses of pain medication. I couldn’t see well, so couldn’t read or watch TV. I just laid there day after day, interrupted by the never-ending stream of nurses and groups of doctors doing their thing, whatever that was. They told me nothing, leaving me in an endless, drugged limbo. That continued when I was moved to a regular room again.
I was terrified, drugged, sometimes hallucinating, very depressed and in the dark about what was going on, what had happened, and what would happen. Finally, I broke and demanded to be discharged. “We’re just monitoring you anyway, so we’ll send you home.” Wonderful. At the end of April, I went home.
By that time, I had lost 40 pounds. I couldn’t eat anything but a liquid diet, consisting of broth and popsicles. I had a home health aid that came a few times a week and a list of medications to take. At first, I started to regain strength and felt pretty good, but that didn’t last long. Within a few weeks, I had to go back in the hospital for dehydration. Released, then back in again when I passed out and hit my head when I fell because of low potassium levels. I kept losing weight, kept getting weaker and weaker, until, once again, I was laying in bed and staring at the ceiling. I was down over 100 pounds and looked like a skeleton with skin draped over it. A lot of saggy, wrinkly skin.
Things didn’t turn around until I became angry. I lost my job because FMLA ran out before I could physically return to work. I could sit for 8 hours a day, but I couldn’t move around very well. I kept waiting to feel better so that I could return to the living, but that never happened. In my anger, I told myself that I would return to the living and hope like hell that my body would catch up. It worked.
And it’s been hard work. Not only did none of my clothes fit, but all my muscles had atrophied. I fought to make it to my desk from my bed, then the kitchen. I fought to make it to the bathroom to throw up instead of in the bucket beside my bed. I fought to get to the point where Tim no longer had to take care of my every need. I fought hard.
I continue to fight hard. I’ve made a lot of progress, and am now at about 80%. I can get around, I can take stairs one step at a time, and I can drive. I can even walk the grocery store now…slowly. I’ve seen Odin a few times, not nearly as much as I want to. I started cooking meals for Tim and I and can now stand up the entire time it takes to prep and even wash the dishes after.
Tim has been amazing through this whole ordeal. He saved my life more than a few times and has carried far more than you could ever expect - physically, emotionally and financially. He is the best son a mother could ever have.
This is the short version, leaving out many of the gory details of my condition. The doctor still doesn’t know where there’s a blockage, why it happened or how to fix it. Every three months, I have this biliary drain replaced and that’s about all that’s being done. I’ll just keep eating well, exercising and forcing myself past any physical limitations. Hopefully, that will lead to a conclusion of this horror story.
I’m not going to edit this, so I apologize for any mistakes in spelling or grammar. I think I’ll just let the writing move this to the past where it belongs.