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.