The near-death experience (part three).

Read part one here and part two here.

Once I was in my room in Intensive Care, I told the nurse I had to go to the bathroom. She informed me that I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed because the doctors were worried that if I had another clot in my leg that it could travel to my heart, which was already compromised because of the trauma that it had gone through a few hours before. They told me that if, by chance, I ‘threw another clot’ (their term) that it could kill me. So, if I had to go to the bathroom, the nurse was going to have to help me use a bed pan.

(Also, this might be TMI, but did I mention that I had my period during this whole ordeal? Talk about adding insult to injury!)

Most of the time, if a person is in Intensive Care, they are either so sick or injured that they don’t really know what’s going on. I, on the other hand, knew EXACTLY what was going on. I didn’t sleep much that first night – or any night I was in the hospital, for that matter. Someone was coming in to draw blood roughly every four hours. The nurse would come in to hang new bags of saline or blood thinner about every two hours. All of those fluids made me have to go to the bathroom all the time, and every time I had to pee, I had to call for the nurse to come help me. Needless to day,  I  never got more than an hour of sleep at a time. On top of that, I was terrified to even move lest another clot break loose, so I laid flat on my back and tried to stay as still as possible.

My parents had stayed at a hotel that first night, and came back first thing in the morning. By this time, the gravity of what had happened to me was beginning to sink in. Every doctor or nurse who came into my room told me how lucky I was to be alive. I wanted to cry, but I was afraid it would make things worse.

It was then that I began to realize how close I had been to dying. If I had tried to drive to that other hospital, I might not have made it. If I hadn’t ended up falling into that glass wall and passing out on the floor, that clot might have stayed stuck in my heart and I would have died right there, on the floor in the lobby of the ER. If things hadn’t happened in the exact sequence in which they did, I probably wouldn’t be here right now.

When a doctor came through mid-morning, I thought it would just be a routine check up. Instead, she told my parents and I that I needed to have a procedure ASAP – I needed to have an inferior vena cava (IVC) filter placed. They would feed the closed filter down through a tube that would be inserted into the jugular vein in my neck. The filter would then be placed in my inferior vena cava, which is the large vein that carries blood from the lower half of the body to the heart. Once it was placed, they would open it up like an umbrella. That way, if another clot was to form and break loose, the filter would “catch it,” thus preventing it from traveling to my heart and/or lungs. Here’s what the filter looks like:

Small clots could pass through, but any big ones – the harmful ones – would stay trapped in the filter. Once the filter was placed, I would be allowed to move around more.

The prospect of some foreign object getting shoved down into my body through my jugular vein made me (and still makes me) lightheaded. I asked the doctor if I would be put under general anesthesia. She said that considering what I had been though, she had recommended that I just be given light sedation.

Except that’s not what I got.

Early in the afternoon, I was wheeled down to radiology to have the filter placed. I thought I’d be having the procedure in an operating room, but apparently they wanted the filter placed ASAP and there were no operating rooms available on that short of notice.

I was told to lay down on a stainless steel table – the kind you’d lay on if you were going to have an x-ray of your hip or back done. It was really uncomfortable, and there were like 7 people in the room, including what appeared to be two high schools students observing for the day.

Then they told me that not only was I not getting any kind of sedation, but that I would be fully awake for the whole procedure and it was really important that I lay there completely still. They would be injecting Novocaine into my neck so I wouldn’t feel any pain, only pressure.

Having that filter placed was the most horrible experience of my life. To even type about it right now makes me feel nauseous. I won’t go into too much detail, but let’s just say that I could feel the filter being put in through the incision at my jugular and could feel them moving it down until about the top of my rib cage. It didn’t hurt, per se, but I could definitely feel it – and it was totally unnerving.

As I laid there on that stainless steel table for over an hour, with my head turned awkwardly to the left, I prayed like I have never prayed before. I consider myself to be a spiritual person, but not particularly religious. I haven’t attended church regularly in probably 12 years. But in the moment, my mind just went somewhere else. I tried to remove myself from that room, in that hospital, from the entire experience I’d been through in the last day. I just closed my eyes and prayed that I could remain totally still and that nothing else bad would happen and that there wouldn’t be any complications.

Once it was over, and I was taken back up to my room. The incision was very small, but my neck was sore and it hurt to swallow.

But finally, I felt like I didn’t have to hold in my tears any longer.

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One Response to “The near-death experience (part three).”

  1. theplumpvegan Says:

    By the way, I have been reading these posts, and they have had me absolutely RAPT.

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