Breathing Was More Effort Than I Could Muster…

September 26, 2016, I awoke fighting the dyspepsia I’d gone to bed with.

I figured I’d eaten too large a portion of enchiladas at my parent’s house the evening of the 25th, and my mom said she’d used a different enchilada sauce than usual.

September 25th had been an emotionally straining day. Something to do with a family event, don’t fully recall (or I do and it’s not germane to the story).

Enchiladas (Stock Image : Pixabay)

None the less, I (through my emotional disappointment of the day) mustered up the energy to go to my parent’s house for dinner. There were a few family members here from out of state.

As I layed down for bed on that evening, September 25th, I was quite uncomfortable. I took a few Tums, thinking it was simple dyspepsia which would resolve. I’ve had reflux for years, why wouldn’t that be the case?

Seemed Plausible, Right? 🤷🏻‍♀️

Back to where I started… I awoke on September 26th, around 10am, with the dyspepsia that I’d gone to bed with on the 25th. I was still convinced that it would subside and attempted to start my day.

I had no more than brushed my teeth and changed out of my nightgown when my symptoms worsened. I started feeling weaker. I felt that awful cold sweat that one would feel with low blood sugar. I’d maybe been up an hour before I started to feel worsening heartburn. In what seemed a very short period of time, the heartburn progressed into a burning in my chest. The only way I could describe the pain was, “It feels as if a hand of hot magma has reached inside my chest and is squeezing my heart”.

It was approximately 11:30am when I found myself lying on my bed, in a cold sweat, feeling the magma hand in my chest. I had the overall energy of a wet rag. My boyfriend, Joe, had left the house to take his children to school and stopped back to see how I was feeling (knowing I’d been uncomfortable since the evening prior). Joe walked to the bedroom door and I muttered, “I think I need an ambulance”… To which he replied, “You need an ambulance?” to confirm he’d heard me correctly. I stated with more firmness, all I could muster, “I need an ambulance”.

“It feels as if a hand of hot magma has reached inside my chest and is squeezing my heart”

Joe called 911 and requested emergency medical attention for me. I don’t recall all that was said, but I know that within ten minutes, there were paramedics in my bedroom trying to get medical history from me as they hooked me up to a 12-lead EKG. I was in too much pain to answer their questions and they seemed annoyed.

One of the paramedics said that my EKG looked fine and asked if I’d still like to be transported to the ER for evaluation. I said yes, as I was still experiencing the worst pain I can recall in my life. I then heard another paramedic ask the first if the monitor was accurate. They had also put a blood pressure cuff on my arm that was attached to one of those portable machines that takes your vital signs. The first paramedic looked at the monitor and said, “let me recheck that”. The cuff inflated and deflated again.

The tone of the four paramedics in my bedroom quickly changed. The second paramedic, that had asked if the original reading was correct, exclaimed, “Her blood pressure is 60/…?” Immediately, the talk about having me get up to transfer onto the gurney changed to, “we can’t sit her up, we can use the comforter to transfer her onto the gurney”, which they did hastily. Everything changed in their movements and a sense of urgency emerged among the group of them. My chest felt even hotter once I was out of the house with the sun shining on me.

I thought I was going to hear “we’re losing her”

About half way to the hospital, an even higher sense of urgency emerged. The ambulance was no longer driving the speed limit and taking it slow through intersections. I know exactly why that was. I started to feel that breathing was beginning to take more effort than I could muster. The paramedics started a second large bore IV and started hollering at me. They were hollering at me that I had to breathe. They sounded angry, but I understand that wasn’t the actual case. I also heard them radio in to the hospital that I was declining and they were four minutes out. I was thinking I was going to hear “we’re losing her”, however that was never said aloud.

I was in shock. My blood pressure was 60/40 when I arrived at the ER. When I later read the reports, I learned I was in hypovolemic shock and they provided four liters of fluid resuscitation. Resuscitation?! I wasn’t aware that I was being “resuscitated” during the drive to the hospital and for about three hours after arriving in the ER. During my 21 years in healthcare, including as an EMT in the Air Force, I’ve learned if you stop resuscitating someone, they cease to live.

Looking pathetic, even with a Snapchat filter.

After my time in the emergency room, I spent an additional 24+ hours in ICU. I was on an IV dosed medication called a pressor. It is a drug to force your blood pressure to stay up. I was titrated down in small increments until my blood pressure would stay in normal range on its own. Once that was achieved, I was transferred to a telemetry room for several more days of poking, prodding and testing, to include a cardiac stress test due to an abnormality seen on my original EKG by the cardiologist.

Beautiful flowers my brother Ron sent.

After consultations with many different specialists, and once my electrolytes were normalized, I was released to go home. “We have no idea why you went into shock,” was the phrase of the day…

After a year of follow ups, additional specialty consults and a few “maybes” as to why this all happened, I’m still here. No worse for the wear? I’m not sure I completely feel that, but I do feel grateful that Joe stopped by when he did. I could go on with a list of “what ifs?”. That would not benefit me. I still feel that I’m thrown a great deal of lemons🍋… But I kinda like lemonade🥂.

My Last Meal — at the hospital. This was my first custom ordered lunch. Who knew you could customize your meals in the hospital these days?

I made the choice to move on from September 26, 2016 with a renewed lust for life. I have my three beautiful daughters and a budding small business. Joe has also taken up a much larger role in my life and heart.

I Continue Pushing Forward…

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