The Woman Who Came Back to Life

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I’ve had this fear of being in a car accident and waking up days later in the hospital with no memory what happened other than getting out of bed the morning it happened. How weird would that feel? Would I be scared or relieved that I couldn’t remember the harrowing events of a wreck that had me unconscious for days?

On Friday night, September 16, I went to bed and don’t remember anything until Tuesday, September 19; however, the cause wasn’t a car accident. Undiagnosed sleep apnea sent me into cardiac arrest around 4:15 am that Saturday morning. Danny called 911 and the operator gave him directions for CPR. The paramedics showed up and took over for another half hour. When they wheeled me into the emergency room, I was in ventricular fibrillation.

The doctors put me on a ventilator, kept me sedated, and lowered my body temperature to stave off any further damage; however, no one knew how long I had gone without sufficient oxygen. No one could say if I would come out of sedation as my normal self or without the ability to walk or talk.

The fact that I’m here on the blog writing about it obviously tells you that it all came out okay. The truth was, I more than “okay.” I was sitting up and talking pretty much the same day I came off the ventilator — three days after the cardiac episode. The next day, I had a heart catheterization through my wrist (Through. My. Wrist. Y’all. Science…) that came back clear. The day after that, I had a procedure to insert a defibrillator that went off fine. Throughout my week in the Cardiac Care Unit, I had nurses coming to my room who had seen me the night I arrived, and after I was in a regular room, other nurses visited who just couldn’t believe how well I was doing:

“You’re not supposed to be sitting up and doing this well, this soon.”

“I just had to come see you for myself.”

“I can’t believe you’re the same person.”

The Human Pincushion

If I had a dollar for every time I heard those statements, I could pay off the hospital bill. The words “walking miracle” get thrown around, and I’m completely uncomfortable hearing it. The day before I went home a 6-year-old boy was shot along with a teacher and another child at an elementary school in a neighboring county. He did not get to become a “walking miracle.” He died four days later. A former coworker’s 12-year-old daughter who went in to the hospital during my stay is still there fighting for her life, trying to beat a scary illness affecting kids all over the country. Last week I stood in front of a college friend, held her hands, and wept with her over the loss of her husband, feeling guilty that I was still here and he wasn’t. What makes me so special that I get to be the one who gets to walk away?

A couple of friends and family have commented on my Facebook statuses that they can’t wait to see what I have to say on my blog about the whole event. Honestly, I’ve been sort of stumped about what to say.

There are not enough words in all the languages combined to express the wealth of gratitude I have felt for family and friends who turned the CCU waiting room into a can of sardines, the ones who came and kept me company and saved my sanity, the ones who sent flowers and food, the staff who went above and beyond to take care of me, the EMS workers whose quick work helped increase my chance of survival.

The general agreement of all who’ve had knowledge of my case is this: in the moment Danny considers most terrifying was also the most fortunate, because the noise I made that woke him up had to have been the exact moment I lost the ability to breathe. His jump to action kept my time without oxygen to a bare minimum. Many of us say that our spouse saved our life in a figurative sense. I get to say that my spouse literally saved mine. However, he will tell you what he told a friend of ours; he actually saved his own.

The first thing I remember after Friday night was that Tuesday, when I reached for something attached to my face and then someone taking my hand and telling me I was in the hospital. I was trying to pull out the ventilator, something I attempted with such persistence that they had to tie my hands down. After I got home, I went back and read Facebook posts that gave updates on my condition and detailed what my family was going through.

I am relieved to not have memories of what went on while I was out of it (except maybe flipping my mother the bird when she commented on my barely there toe polish). I can’t imagine their fear. Perhaps I had the easiest job of all in trying to get better.

Music is often my catalyst for change, and I heard this song today by one of my favorite bands, Foo Fighters. It sums up where I am right now.