Casey called the ambulance, left a message for the doctor and called my sister, who was already on her way over. Before long, our house was a fury of activity. Kelsi was trying to pack us a bag but was also terrified and sobbing. The camp founder's wife had slipped in and was by my side praying quietly and peacefully over me. Our camp director, who is EMT trained, had come in to check on my vitals and just be there until we were on the ambulance. Others were trying to make sure they were with my other kids and keeping them in an area of Camp where they wouldn't see the ambulance when it came in. Friends were on the porch praying and looking stunned.
Casey was fanning me over and over while a couple people kept rotating out cool wash clothes for my forehead. All my strength had left and what little I had was spent on staying concious. I was praying, reciting scripture in my head, focusing on objects, memories,.... basically anything I could do to keep controlled, relaxed and "alert". I knew that if I lost it, it would only be worse for me.
I was also ocassionally pleading with Casey, whether in a few words or in look, for him not to let me slip out of it again. I truly felt that I wouldn't come back. Now, let me just say with certainty that I'm not afraid to die. I am so thankful that my heart and life belongs to the Lord and that I have eternal salvation through Jesus Christ. I can't wait to get to heaven, now or in 50 years! (Of course, I feel that my work here isn't done as long as I have 7 children to raise but even that's not for me to say.) My life is in the Lord's hands for however long I'm here. I just hope that when my time comes, as it will for everyone on this temporary earth, that it will be peaceful. What I experienced last Sunday was anything but peaceful. It was horrific!
I was also pleading for that ambulance to come. We knew we could have made it to the hospital faster than the ambulance could get here but I couldn't get to the car or ride in the car. I also knew that being taken right into the ER from the ambulance would be smoother. So I focused on seeing the ambulance pull up. Two people here at Camp went to the camp entrances to guide the drivers to our house and to also have them turn sirens off so that my children wouldn't be made aware of what was going on.
It took 35 minutes for the ambulance to arrive! Apparently they have 2 vehicles and one was already on a call close to us and the other had to come from Macon, which is where we were heading. The 3 paramedics on the ambulance were very kind, compassionate and caring, which is very important to me. But unfortunately, when it came to the technical part of their job, well... that's another story.
First of all, there is a widely used and taught assessment for this condition that emergency responders should be aware of. I had all of the markers they should have been looking for. "The overall mortality risk depends on the speed of diagnosis, the treatment provided, and the underlying cause of the tamponade (mine was recent heart surgery). Untreated, the condition is rapidly and universally fatal." And so, as our responders became aware of the state of my vital signs, all of which unarguably pointed towards this condition, they remained clueless and chose to drive 40 miles to the hospital with no lights or sirens and at regular speed, stopping at every stop sign and light. One of the men told me reassuringly that they chose to drive at that speed so that they wouldn't make me concerned or anxious. I mentioned that they were thoughtful, right??? I was actually thinking the entire ride that I will feel so much better when my care was out of their hands and in the care of the hospital staff. They also stopped before pulling into the hospital because they remembered that they hadn't called in yet to let the ER staff know that they were bringing me in (please refer to bold print above). They didn't want to get in trouble, so they backed up and called in before they would become visible to the folks in the ER. Between that and some of the questions they asked ( "Do you have a history of chest pain?" - Uh, I have 35 staples in a 6-7 inch incision down the center of my chest.... YES! I have chest pain!!), I felt very much like we were in an episode of green acres.
Unfortunately, when we were brought in to the critical care unit of the ER, my care was very much the same. No one was rushing or had any sense of urgency about them at all. There were several times that Casey and I were the only ones left in the room. My eyes would plead for him to do something to help me and to speed things up but I also didn't want him to leave my side because he was fanning me and that was the only comfort I had from head to toe.
One of the big hold ups in the ER (as it was in the ambulance) was that no one could get my pulse ox. Instead of realizing that my heart was failing and my pressures were to weak to detect, they spent all sorts of time trying different equipment, cords and even getting oximeters from the pediatric area. No one seemed to realize that my heart was failing and I was quickly dying. Even the MD on call came in, introduced himself and told me they would do a few tests through out the day to see if I was having gall bladder or other similar problems because of my stomach pains. It was as if the fact that I had just had heart surgery was irrelevant to him. I reminded him that it wasn't "stomach" pain per say but that I was feeling a sensation of fullness and pain in my upper abdomen and that I was nauseated but that I needed something quickly and couldn't hold on much longer.
FYI- That light blue area is where the fluid was collecting. Over the course of the next couple of days, I had over 1,000 ccs of fluid drained from that area. Can you, with or without medical training, guess why my upper abdomen felt "full" and was sore to the touch???
I know, like us, you're at least in SMH mode about the medical staffs' lack of urgency and knowledge but here's where and why none of that matters: The Lord numbers my days and He's in control. Some may trust in horses (medical staff), some may trust in chariots (ambulances?) but we trust in the name of our God. My help comes from the Lord, and ultimately, He put the things in place for my life to be spared and here I am to write about it and to give Him the glory. Even when the surgeon was at my bedside after the initial surgery 2 weeks ago and I thanked him for what he did for me, he humbly responded with a heavenward gesture and said, "Don't thank me, thank Him."
Finally, the MD did an echo on my heart per phone instructions from my heart surgeon, who was on his way. After literally 2 seconds of viewing my heart, he ran to call the surgeon and tell him that there was a lot of fluid around my heart. It didn't look good but at least we were finally getting somewhere.
In the mean time, my hands had turned dark purple. My feet, which I couldn't see, were numb, tingling and ICE cold. And before long, I felt a very cold sensation taking over. My heart was shutting down and was ceasing to deliver blood to my extremities. I was weakly telling these things to Casey as he tirelessly fanned me in an effort to keep me concious. I did lose conciousness again, not sure how many times, one or two maybe, and woke up convulsing and vomiting. Not fun:(
When the heart surgeon arrived, he began to put a fire under everyone. He quickly brought in an ultrasound tech and I remember him commenting out loud to her that there was more fluid than there was heart and that the entire right side of my heart was compressed from the fluid. At some point he leaned in to me, asked me to open my eyes and look at him while he let me know that he would be taking me back into surgery to reopen part of my incision and create a window into the sac around the heart so he could drain the fluid.
He quickly began to get things in place for surgery and then returned to my side to monitor my blood pressure. The last time Casey remembers seeing my blood pressure reading, it was 60/30 and with that, our very competent surgeon rolled my bed himself towards the operating room.
I guess there will have to be a part 3 to this because that's enough for me today:)