LIFE'S BETTER IN THE MOUNTAINS

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Very Special Day

Today is my birthday and it is a REALLY special one. Oh, not because it's one of those "landmark" birthdays. No, it's because I spent my birthday last year in the ICU and almost didn't survive to see another birthday.

I didn't feel well on my birthday last year. As the day wore on, I began to feel worse and worse. I just wanted to crawl under the covers and lie there. My physician husband insisted on taking me to the hospital despite my insistence that I would be all right if he would just let me lie there and leave me alone.

I remember arriving at the hospital emergency department. I remember my husband trying to explain to the incompetent hospitalist that I had classic signs and symptoms of a significant GI bleed and that I needed immediate care. I remember the hospitalist being rather patronizing to my husband as if he had lost all credibility and medical expertise when he retired two years earlier. I remember my husband's refusal to allow the hospitalist to send me for a full body scan and his insistence that I needed to be in ICU RIGHT NOW because I was going into shock.

My recall of the next 24 hours is sketchy at best. The long and short of the story is that I had a very large bleeding gastric ulcer. After I was transported to ICU, the ulcer eroded into a blood vessel and I had a severe acute bleed and went into deep shock from the massive blood loss. I do not recall seeing the amazing gastroenterologist who saved my life by performing an endoscopy right there in the ICU (certainly not under the best of circumstances) and finding the bleeder. I do remember distant voices periodically. One physician said, "Start pumping the blood and up the dopamine. We're losing her!" I was not able to speak, but I do remember thinking that I should reassure everyone that I was going to be fine. While I was unconscious for most of this time, I did awaken periodically. One nurse later told me I had asked why I was in Trendelenburg so she laughed and told everyone, "this one's a nurse for sure." [Trendelenburg is the "shock" position in which the head of the bed is lowered and the foot of the bed is elevated to provide more circulation to the head.]

I spent six days in ICU. An endoscopy 24 hours after the bleed showed the bleeding to have originated from a large gastric ulcer. A biopsy proved the lesion was not malignant. From there all things progressed better than anyone could have expected. I came home a week after my birthday and quickly regained strength.

Two people saved my life a year ago today. One was the skilled gastroenterologist who was able to find and zap the bleeder. The other was my husband. Without losing his cool, without using profanity, and in the face of a hospitalist who treated him like an old war horse my dear husband served as my advocate. It was at his insistence that I was not taken for a CAT scan but rather straight up to ICU. In short, it was his persistence that saved my life.

Major contributors to saving my life were the selfless people who regularly take their time to give a precious part of themselves...their blood.

So today we celebrated my birthday. We went to a nearby town and did some shopping. We had lunch, then met with a wonderful sculptor and commissioned a metal piece for our mantle. And every now and then, all day long, one of us would say "this time last year" never bothering to finish. We both just smiled at each other and enjoyed the day.



Like this startled little Pileated Woodpecker fledgling, sometimes you just have to hang in there.




So for this birthday, and for all the days of this year I am truly blessed.

35 comments:

Stephanie D. said...

Amazing story! Way to go, hubby!

Hope you are blessed with many more uneventful birthdays.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Happiest birthday my dear!
Thank God your husband was such an outstanding advocate for you.

The Thundering Herd said...

Makes every day seem incredibly special once you know how fragile life is. Happy birthday!

kks said...

Wow.....incredible story, incredible hubby...and no profanity? What a wonderful celebration this year!
Hugs to both of you!
xoxo

Busy Bee Suz said...

You are one lucky lady....and you married a very smart man!!!
I am so happy that your story has a happy ending, and it will always give you a reason to be happy for another birthday!
I used to dread my birthdays...hated getting older. But now, I see how blessed I am to be here each and every day.
Happy birthday!

Rae said...

What a terrific story. You are truly blessed with a wonderful husband. It wasn't too awful long after your hospitalization that you returned the favor and took care of him too. You are a very lucky couple to have each other. Happy Birthday to you!!

Bird Girl said...

Oh my gosh! What a story - I was on the edge of my seat. And remember praying for you last year...yet never, ever realizing the seriousness of the situation! We should have more like your husband - perhaps retirement gives a doctor a clearer view of things. How amazing that he kept his cool. I had to laugh - when you said that word that means the 'shock' position? I thought sure you were going to say you were high on the drugs and that was a crazy town in Germany ;-) Yes indeed, this is your most special birthday looking back on what almost was!
I LOVE that little pileated and he does look like he is in shock :-)

KGMom said...

I'm with Bird Girl--I recall last year you making a brief reference to having had a health problem. But, with your usual restraint, you didn't elaborate. I am always curious, but also respectful. But I do admit--I wondered.
WOW--what a story. Scary, and uplifting all in one. Good for your husband. Good for the competent doctor on hand.
And so so glad the outcome was what it is.

Finally--HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Here's to many many more ahead.

NanaNor's said...

Happy Birthday to you!!! What an incredible miracle that your husband knew just what to do for you-I imagine most of us wouldn't have been that lucky. I, like many others, am very thankful that you got the care you did and are still here to celebrate.
Hugs, Noreen

Barb said...

You are blessed, and we are grateful to still have you! Sometimes Life sends a wakeup call. It's good at such times to have someone who loves us to be an advocate. A very Happy Birthday to you! I look forward to seeing the sculpture.

~Kim at Golden Pines~ said...

That is an incredible story! What an amazing husband you have as well to remain undaunted and stand firm in what he knew your condition was! Thank-you for sharing that with us!! I'm glad you enjoyed what I know was a very special birthday!!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Happy Birthday, Carolyn.... I remember last year when you went to the hospital.... Thank God for those who saved your life--including your husband.

Going through that makes this year's birthday even more special, doesn't it?????

Glad you had a wonderful day.
Hugs,
Betsy

TSannie said...

Wow! How beautiful is this?? So glad you're still here! And you have such a wonderful advocate - who happens to adore you.

TSannie said...

Oh, and a happy happy birthday!

Victoria said...

Carolyn, thank goodness your dear husband was so persistent! (I have to confess, I, too, thought that the word for the shock position was the name of some town in Germany, lol).

Happy Birthday! And may you have many, many more years of happy, HEALTHY birthdays.

Vicki Lane said...

A very happy birthday indeed! Good for your husband!

Cicero Sings said...

Wow, quite the story. What an extra special birthday this one is then! Wonderful you had an advocate and that it was your husband and that he kept his cool.

Glad you had a great day.

Leedra said...

I am sure it makes this birthday that much more special. We never know how many more we have. Glad your hubby was able to help you have more.

jeannette said...

How thankful you must be, to have two people standing in the gap for you! I guess it was NOT your time to go yet, so you still have something important to do here on earth... Happy Birthday!

Jayne said...

A very happy and blessed (belated) birthday to you Carolyn. So glad your husband was there and was insistent... whew...scary, scary stuff. I can only imagine how blessed you feel. :c)

troutbirder said...

Happy birthday Carolyn. You were very lucky indeed.

kenju said...

Happy Birthday! You were very lucky!

Rudee said...

Happy Birthday to you. Your husband sounds like an amazing man and physician.

May you have many more birthdays to share with him.

Toni aka irishlas said...

Such a touching story!
It just goes to show everyone should enjoy the most of everday and be thankful - even through the hard times.

Have a wonderful birthday!

The Bug said...

Happy late birthday! I'm so glad for the persistence of your most excellent husband - brought me to tears!

merrilymarylee said...

RATS! How did I miss this yesterday?! Happy, happy most wonderful birthday!!!!

Tonight our Wine Time toast will be to you and your persistent, non-profane, life-saving war horse. You two certainly take good care of each other.

No Outer Banks trip this year!

Chrissykat said...

What an inspiring story & a lovely tribute to the doctor & your husband. I'm sure not a day goes by that you don't find something to smile about. Happy Birthday!

Brenda Kay Ledford said...

Happy belated birthday. I sure hope this year's birthday was much better than the last one. Sounds like last year was really difficult. I like the photo of the bird. Yes, we need to keep on going.

I hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July.

TaraDharma said...

Belated birthday greetings to you! Your story is so surreal..."We're losing her!" We just walk around the planet thinking we've got it all together, and then BAM. Thank heavens for your two lifesavers on that day.

You must've bee on quite the emotional high after dodging that bullet!!

George said...

Happy birthday (a little late) and thanks for sharing this incredible story. I'm glad your husband was insistent with both you and the hospitalist a year ago.

FOLKWAYS NOTEBOOK said...

How wonderful for you that your husband was a competent medical person!!!

Happy Birthday and many more!!!!

-- barbara

P.S. Love your photo of the young Pileated Woodpecker.

LauraHinNJ said...

I'm late, but happy birthday!

I'm glad for last year's scare if it's made you more aware of how precious now can be.

canyoncottage said...

What an incredible birthday gift you recieved last year. I got chills reading your story. Oh, and happy birthday too :)

robin andrea said...

A belated happy birthday to you. That is quite a harrowing story. I'm so glad you had the expert care you needed. Having spent the past few days in the hospital watching Roger recover from colon surgery, I see how precarious things can be... depending on smart doctors and nurses and their communications skills. You are very lucky to have a doctor-husband who advocated for you. (Here's a funny tidbit: Roger's surgeon asked him if I was a nurse. Nope just a very tough advocate who reads voraciously!)

Twisted Fencepost said...

Happy belated Birthday! I know it was a great one.
You defiitely had your guardian angels standing by your side.