“What’s is like to die?” is probably one of the biggest questions we have as humans. Although I still can’t answer that, I had a couple of close calls while in the hospital that I think are worth sharing.
Late one night (a few nights after I was hospitalized), the CNA came in to take my blood pressure and got a reading of 80 something over 40 something. Although my blood pressure tends to run low on a regular basis, that was low even for me. My temperature was also hovering at around 102. I was still woozy and somewhat confused.
The CNA called the nurse to report her (his?) findings. A few minutes later, the nurse came in and checked my vitals again. My blood pressure seemed to have dropped even more and I still had a pretty high fever.
I don’t recall the exact sequence of events after that. Maybe the charge nurse was called? I do remember getting a sense that the nursing staff was beginning to panic. Although I was groggy, I was still coherent enough to know something bad was happening.
A short time later, I heard the sound of footsteps running down the hall, and people began rushing into my room. One woman crouched down by the side of my bed and told me she was from the hospital’s Rapid Response Team (RRT) and they were there to help me. I didn’t really catch much else of what she was saying. I was too busy watching the numbers on the blood pressure monitor, which seemed to be slowly dropping.
A clergy member stopped by and asked if I would like him to pray with me. I accepted, but have no idea what he actually said. The last thing I remember doing before losing consciousness was wondering if I was about to die.
When I woke up, I was alone and had no idea how much time had passed. It was daylight, and the sink next to me was covered with empty ice packs and other medical supplies. I called for the nurse and asked what had happened. She didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know. Out of curiosity, I asked her if I had died the night before. She assured me I hadn’t.
As the day went on, I was still feeling confused and wasn’t very confident the doctors really knew what was going on with me. So I called my sister who lives in south Florida. “I need your help,” I said. She asked what was going on, so I told her what had happened and I felt like I needed help from someone who was likely to ask questions (my husband has a tendency to believe whatever the doctors tell him). I also needed someone who knew something about navigating the medical system.
So my sister made the five hour trip to spend two nights with me in the hospital. During that time, they managed to get my fever and my pain under control and I became somewhat less confused (although I was still occasionally talking to people who weren’t there and kept thinking the machine that took the vital signs was a person). At least I was aware I was doing those things. We spent a lot of our time making lists of things that needed to be done when I got out of the hospital.
When my sister went home, my husband came back to stay with me. That’s when the second incident happened.
My blood counts were still low from the chemotherapy, so my doctor had ordered what was to be the last of several blood transfusions. My nurse stayed in the room with me for the first 15 minutes of the transfusion, as was hospital policy. Everything seemed fine at first.
After the blood had been running for a few minutes, the nurse asked me if I felt okay. My ears suddenly started to pop, so I told him my ears were popping. He thought that was unusual but not necessarily related to the transfusion, so he asked if I felt okay otherwise. All of a sudden, my throat felt like it was beginning to close and I said, “Something’s wrong.” He asked what what was going on and I told him I was having a hard time breathing. He became visibly nervous, but didn’t really seem to know what to do. I’m pretty sure he went into the hall to ask someone because I heard one of the other nurses yell, “Stop the blood!”
I’m not sure what all was going on while my nurse was stopping the blood, but I did know my pulse was quickly rising. I watched the monitor as it went from 100 to 150, and then past 175.
The RRT showed up again and someone said the doctor had been called. I heard someone say, “She’s in A-fib,” which threw me into a full-blown panic (as if I wasn’t panicking already). I began shaking uncontrollably and started yelling for help, but nobody seemed to know what to do. Instead, all the nurses who had cared for me over the last few weeks were all standing in my doorway just watching.
My husband was yelling something about being in a hospital and not being able to get a doctor (his language was a bit more colorful). I’m not sure at what point the doctor did actually show up. I never actually saw him/her.
At some point, someone from the RRT jabbed an epi-pen into my stomach to counteract the blood reaction. I was also given Benadryl. But I don’t remember any of that.
The entire incident was chaotic and I was again sure I was going to die. Then out of the of the corner of my eye, I saw the chaplain who had brought me the prayer shawl last time I was in the hospital. I had brought the shawl to the hospital with me, so I held it up to get her attention. She came over to my bedside and asked me if I wanted her to pray with me. That helped calm me down some, and they eventually managed to get my pulse rate back under control. And thankfully, there were no further notable incidents during this last hospital stay (as if that weren’t enough).
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading my blog. If you’d like to help me with my battle with cancer, please go to https://www.youcaring.com/julie-mears-henry-495041.