For Thanksgiving weekend John and I went to his aunt's house in Oregon. His parents were also there. I couldn't figure out why everyone kept asking me if I was feeling okay. Looking at the pictures now, I see that I was white as sheet. The reason would become clear a few weeks later.
I was starting to adjust to dialysis and I was driving there and back. It was now December 6, 2002. John and I were going to have pictures taken the next day, which was a Saturday. On my way home from dialysis I was merging from one freeway to another where there is a small yellow cement barrier and some maniac decided to pass me on the right. Only there isn't enough room for him to do that so I swerved and wound up hitting the barrier which isn't big enough to damage the car but it shredded and flattened my front tire. I had to limp down the side of the freeway and then on the road. There wasn't anywhere to pull over for about four blocks. I finally pulled into the post office. I called John but he didn't answer. I finally asked two guys if they would put the spare on for me. They did. I walked into the house and told John that we had to go get the tire fixed. It turned out that we had to buy a new one, but John and the tire guys told me I did a good job of not bending the rim. We dropped the car off and decided to walk down to a restaurant and get some dinner. Afterward John offered to go get the car and come back for me but I decided I was okay to walk back down to tire place.
John had to work Saturday December 7, 2002 and we only had one running vehicle at the time. I needed the car to run errands. I woke up not feeling well, but I thought I was just coming down with the flu or something. John took one look at me and asked, "What's wrong?" I said, "I don't know, I just don't feel right" He then asked me if I wanted him to drop me off at the emergency room on his way into work. I said, "Oh no, if I feel worse I'll just drive myself in." So, I rode with him to work and drove myself home. I had already decided I was going to lie down when I got home. When I got home something told me to leave the door unlocked which I never do. I am paranoid about leaving my doors unlocked. That same something told me to grab the cordless phone. I laid down on the couch to take a nap. About a half hour later I awoke with excruciating abdominal pain and I could not get up off the couch. I dialed 9-1-1 and told the operator I needed the medics. "Why do you think you need the medics, Ma'am?" She asked. I said, "I've had four kidney transplants and the last one just rejected in September. The kidney has been swelled up and I also have an abdominal hernia. I was asleep on the couch and I just woke up with excruciating abdominal pain and I cannot get up. I think either the kidney or the hernia has ruptured." She said, "Hold on." Then she transferred me to the fire department. I then had to repeat everything to the fire department operator. They asked me if my door was unlocked and I said, "Yes, it is." After I hung up the phone I called John and told him I had to call the medics. He was upset because he was now stranded at work. And he had tried to drop me off at the same hospital on his way to work. The medics had to come in and lift me onto the stretcher and out of the house. I was taken to Swedish Hospital and Medical Center in Seattle. I was examined by the emergency room doctor who could not really tell anything right away. Therefore, he sent me down for a CT scan. When I came back to my room the doctor said, "We can't see anything on the CT scan so we're gonna have to do exploratory surgery." The same surgeons who had done my transplants would do this surgery. I am glad they were the ones too because they know all about me. They have done two of my four transplants and a few other abdominal surgeries. I called my dad and told him what was going on and ask him to page John at work and fill him in. My dad said that he would be there when I woke up. That was the last thing I remember until the following Thursday. I was in a drug induced coma for five days.
From what I was told, I went into surgery that Saturday so doctors could find out what was causing my pain. Shortly after they opened me up my lab results came back. The results were not good, my potassium was dangerously high. If your potassium gets too high or too low it can cause heart failure. The surgeons had seen that the pain was being caused by a strangled small intestine. Apparently my small intestine had become tangled in scar tissue and strangled, then ruptured. But because of the high potassium they had no choice but to close me up and try to bring it down to normal range. They dialyzed me and gave me drugs to fool my body into thinking my potassium was normal. The surgeon actually slept in the operating room waiting for my potassium to come down. The surgeon went to my dad in the waiting room and said to him, "I need you to understand, it it is highly unlikely that she will survive this surgery." My dad said, "I understand." Then she said, "No, I need you to understand that it is highly likely that she will not survive the surgery and if she does she will probably be in a coma for a few days and then die." And again my dad said, "I understand."
Well, obviously I proved her wrong. I survived the surgery, but I lost fifteen feet of my small intestine. The doctors tried to tell me that it really was not that much, but they are not the ones who have to live with it. I have to eat several small meals a day now because I get full faster now. If things do not move through fast enough I get excruciating abdominal pain until it does move through.
Anyway, back to the story. I was put in a drug induced coma for five days. I woke up hooked up to a respirator complete with a tube down my throat and my arms were tied to the rails of the bed with soft velcro restraints. John told me that when the drugs would start to wear off I would try to pull everything out. It's the body's natural defense to try and get things out that don't belong. I was in the ICU for about two weeks after I woke up and then I was transferred to Nephrology (kidney patient) ward. It was actually called the Nephrology and Urology Ward. I was not there for very long, though. I was having labs drawn every morning and I kept losing blood from somewhere and the doctors sent me for a CT scan. They still could not figure out where I was bleeding from. So, they decided to do exploratory surgery again.
When they went in, they found that I was leaking blood from the site where they had done the bowel surgery. The surgeon was able to repair it and my red blood count came back up. I went to another ICU ward this time. I was there for about a week. I was able to get the breathing tube out a lot sooner this time. Probably because I was not in a coma that time.
I was moved back to the Nephrology ward about a week later. About a week after that I began vomiting blood nonstop. The nephrologist and a nurse put a suction tube down my throat to try and suck the blood out of my stomach but it didn't work. I fought them tooth and nail over that tube too! It was not fun at all having that done while I was awake. I really thought I was going to die that time. I was taken to surgery once again where it was determined that I had ulcers in my throat, esophagus and abdomen. As they were wheeling me out of the room I honestly thought I was gonna die! I don't think the nurses thought they would ever see me again either. Doctors said I vomited over half my total blood volume! I had to have transfusions. I also insist they give me blood that has had the white blood cells spun out. That was so my blood would stay the same because I has such a common perfect match for transplants.
I was able to go right back to the Nephrology ward after that surgery. That was the last surgery I had to undergo during that hospital stay. From then on it was all uphill. I had to work with physical therapy and occupational therapy to build my strength in my legs and arms back up. I had been in bed so long that I could barely stand up with help. I could not get out of bed by myself. I received a walker in the hospital and the physical therapist worked with me on that. My paternal grandmother also gave me a wheelchair. It was my great grandmother's but she had gotten a new one.
I was in the hospital through Christmas, New Year's Day and my birthday. Kari, Justin, their son, Karla, Kelli, her daughter, my dad and John were all able to come up for Christmas. Justin and Kari were able to get help from the Red Cross with money for gas again. They could not stay very long, though. Justin could not take very much leave.
I was released from Swedish the last week of February 2003. Unfortunately, I had to go back several times in March. Things were very foggy then because I was taking too many pain killers and sleeping pills. That in return caused me to loose my appetite and I forgot to eat so my blood sugar dropped dangerously low. The first time that I remember was when my blood sugar got too low, only I did not know because I did not have a tester. I am not diabetic and I do not usually have low blood sugar. John knew something was not quite right with me. So, he called 9-1-1, the paramedics cam, and I cannot remember if they took me to the hospital that time or not. It does not seem like they did. I know the next time they did for sure. My doctor had put me on a pain patch called Fentanyl and well, the dosage was too high for me. I overdosed on it and Swedish had recently bought Providence and they sent all ambulances to Providence. Providence is not really equipped for people on dialysis. At the time their computer system was not linked with Swedish. I was admitted. I kept complaining about pain so the doctor there gave me a sucker also Fentanyl and I ate it all. That only made things worse. John finally found me. He had gone to Swedish first. He said that I didn't know my phone number or my middle name. I didn't know my dad's phone number. I didn't even know where I lived. My doctor was ticked off that I had been taken to Providence. He made them transfer me to Swedish as soon as I was semi-conscious.
I was kept off all pain medications for a few days. My doctor wanted to get it all out of my system. My doctor eventually let me have vicadin but limited me to three per day. He also let me have something to help me sleep. It is mild, so it does not have any lasting effects the next day. On some nights I have been known to stay up all night. I don't know why I have trouble sleeping but it seems to run in the family.
I went to my dad's apartment to recuperate for a while. I could not get around on my own very well and he was able to take time off work. John had used all his time off work up. My dad had injured his shoulder at work and had to have surgery to repair it so he was off for that. Therefore, he could be with me all day. He lived on the third floor so I would have to walk up the stairs if I went anywhere. The only exception was dialysis or the doctor's office. I had state transportation for those things and they would bring a wheelchair up to the apartment. Then they would take me down the stairs in the wheelchair. It was bumpy, but it worked. Then they would use the wheelchair to bring me back up to the apartment.
I went back to the hospital because my blood sugar dropped to 16. I have never been so happy that my dad does not sleep through the night. He said he found me unconscious around 4:30a.m. and he called 9-1-1. I remember moaning; my dad called out to me and asked me what was wrong. I said, "I hurt." That was the last thing I remembered until I woke up in the back of the ambulance. At the hospital my dad told me that the paramedics could not get an I. V. started so they call the hospital and get a doctor's order to put one in my neck. My dad told me that I screamed while they put that in and I believe him because I have had that down before while I was conscious. He also told me that they checked my blood sugar in the apartment and it was 16. So, they gave me a shot of Glucose in my neck. I think they did that before they put the I. V. in because they were waiting for the doctor to call back to start the I. V. My dad also told me that they did not waste any time bringing the stretcher up to the apartment, they just put a blanket on the floor and put me in the blanket. Then they carried me down to the ambulance. I was taken to Swedish, only because my dad made the paramedics call my doctor. My doctor called and told Swedish to accept me and told the paramedics to take me to Swedish. I had stopped taking my medications because I was taking too much vicadin and sleeping pills. I also forgot to eat again because the vicadin made me lose my appetite. One medication I had stopped taking was Prednisone. I had been taking it since age eight. You are not supposed to stop taking it suddenly. Because I did all my organs started shutting down one by one.
My doctor put my dad in charge of my medications. I ended up with damage to my liver, heart and thyroid. I also wound up with neuropathy. A condition that caused numbness in the feet and sometimes the legs. Luckily, mine got better after a while. And now it is completely gone.
I went back to my dad's apartment after I was released. My dad would put all of my medications into a set of pill containers. I have a set that is split into seven different containers. There are four separate compartments and each container comes out of the holder. I have three of them in different colors. My dad had a list of all my medications and directions on taking them. He would put them into my pill boxes every week.
I stayed at my dad's for a couple of months while I regained the strength in my legs. After my last stay in the hospital I had to start my reabilitation all over again. It was hard, but I did it and a few months later I was driving myself to dialysis.