The Morning it All Started
On June 30th, 2019, my life changed.
I know what you’re thinking, “dramatic much?”
But it truly did. I am not where I thought I would be in life at 18 years old… not at all. And what happened to me will always be a part of my story.
Let’s start at the beginning.
My family and I had just gotten home from a week long vacation in Wisconsin. It was a relaxing and fun trip but the last two days I had been feeling a little off. I assumed I was car sick and my body was just tired from traveling and the activities we had been doing. I had no idea that two days later I would be fighting for my life in the ICU.
I have been sick. I have puked. I have felt weak. But nothing compares to that Sunday morning. Now this may get a little TMI at times so I’ll try my best to give you a heads up.
(TMI part) I had puked more than I knew was possible. And after I was done, I was still gagging. My stomach was begging me to just keep pushing everything out. I barely had the strength to speak but I attempted to yell out. I could not lift my head and felt like I was about to pass out at any second. Help was playing on repeat in my mind.
This is where it all began. 8am, Sunday morning, June 30th.
My sister finally heard me and got my dad (my mom was unable to walk due to a broken ankle during all of this). He rushed to me and started a bath. I could not care in the slightest if my dad saw me with clothes on in that moment. That should give you a little insight into how awful I felt. I assumed the bath would help, but the gagging wouldn’t stop. Eventually, I dosed off in the bathtub but was awoken by excruciating abdominal pain. I was (by the grace of God) able to get myself out of the bath and into some pajamas. I had showered the night before but my hair was drenched with sweat now.
After crawling up the stairs, I sat, laid, squatted, curled up, did everything to try to relieve the pain. No position was comfortable. I needed to go to the hospital. My mom, who is an RN looked at the color of my face and knew something was very wrong. I’ll insert a picture of that now.
My parents took me to the little hospital in our little town because I could not make it thirty more minutes to our hospital of choice. So this would have to do for now.
Now this story is from my point of view, so some things may not make sense, and that’s because I simply can’t remember what happened.
I have no memory of going into the hospital but I remember an IV being put in and then ending up in a hospital room after being admitted. The pain I was feeling was unlike anything else I had ever felt. I could not focus on anything because the pain was so excruciating. I know they were pumping me full of pain meds but it sure didn’t seem like it. No position was comfortable in the slightest.
I slightly remember my two best friends showing up, but could not even speak to them. A kind man helped me lay down on a machine that forced me to hold my breath. I had never had a CT scan but they quickly became normal in my life. This was the most painful 10 minutes of that day. I was trying to lay still and hold my breath when instructed but it seemed impossible. The results came back. Acute Pancreatitis.
And then I remember waking up to my doctor standing above me. Next thing I know, I’m in the back of an ambulance on my way to the hospital of choice.
See what I mean, a little confusing. Bare with me.
I guess I had worsened so much over night that the doctors knew I could not stay there. The little hospital was not equipped to treat someone so ill. Neither of my parents were able to ride with me in the ambulance so I felt alone and scared. What is happening? It was by far the longest 30 minutes of my life. I had to lay flat but it hurt so bad. Why can’t I just sit up? I kept asking myself this question, but it never left my mouth. The EMT in the back with me was trying to distract me from the pain, I know this now. At the time though, it was so annoying. I was in no condition to want to carry on a conversation.
I really can’t remember what happened next. I was admitted to the Pediatric floor, but didn’t stay long because my condition continued to worsen. Many things took place but the next thing I can remember is being pushed in my bed into a little room on the ICU floor. There were nurses everywhere, I was trying to find my parents but my eyes weren’t really working right and I couldn’t focus. And then I realized… I can’t breathe. They had just put a new oxygen mask on me, but I felt like I was suffocating. I start to fight. It takes everything in me to do so, but I try. I need air. I need help. Where are my parents?
Finally I see my dad. He tries to keep my arms down and is speaking. What is he saying? Why isn’t he helping me get the mask off? I need help.
Next thing I remember, I’m laying flat. Great… not. I think you all get the idea by now that laying flat, hurts. I can’t breathe when I have to do this but they keep making me do it. I see someone with a mask on to my right, and my dad to my left. There were a few other people around that I paid no attention to. I ask when I can sit up and the man with the mask says “in a minute.” I count to 6o and try to sit up. They all try to stop me. What the heck? It’s been a minute. I need to sit up. I need air. Dad tries to talk me through it, he says we’re almost done and then I can sit up. But I CAN’T BREATHE.
This is the main thing on my mind for the next 2 weeks. I can’t breathe. It’s my biggest struggle and the only thing I care about.
Now for all of you wondering why I was having so much trouble breathing, it was because over the course of two days, they pumped me full of 40 pounds worth of fluid. My organs were essentially drowning.
The Fight Begins
At some point I go septic. I am on the edge of dying and I have no clue. Not that anyone was hiding this fact from me, I just wasn’t with it enough to pay attention to what anyone was saying. I didn’t really care either.
As I laid in my hospital bed, I can remember having several visitors. I was really too tired to speak, it took too much air that I didn’t have, but I loved visitors. Except… everyone cried. Why are they crying? My best friend, my grammy, my papa, my nana, my grandpa. What’s wrong? I’m fine! Just a little sick.
Throughout the month on July, my goal was to just get out of the hospital. I had a trip to Maui and college move in day coming up. I needed to prepare for both. But the Jaiden laying in the hospital bed for three weeks had no idea what was about to hit her.
I had avoided a feeding tube which was great, but it was time to start eating again. I did not realize this would be a workout. I did not realize that because my pancreas was so sick, that I would feel sick eating. My very fist meal in a week was… Jimmy John’s! My favorite. My dad cut the my sandwich into fourths. It took me three days to complete that sandwich.
I struggled eating my whole stay. I drank Ensures (the thought makes me want to puke now) in order to get calories. I was told my whole diet would need to change, and it has. No fatty foods. Yes, that means anything fried is off limits.
I started to walk again. Slowly but surly. I had some amazing nurses who really pushed me to get out of the bed even though it was hard. I would walk a few steps to the commode after my catheter was removed. I would walk to my chair. And then I started to walk the hallways. Just a little at a time. But my parents and nurses were so proud of me! It encouraged me to do more. So I pushed myself. Yes I needed a nap after my 5 minute walk, but at least I was making progress.
After a week, I was moved out of the ICU, yay! I was very slowly improving. My breathing was a little bit better, I could for the most part go to the bathroom on my own. What’s crazy is looking back and seeing these little things that we take for granted, were so hard. I could not use the bathroom, shower, or walk by myself. What seems like such simple tasks, were simply impossible for me.
It was time for a shower. I had only had one other shower during my stay at the hospital and my (amazing) nurse had to do everything for me while I sat. My dad wheeled me in my wheelchair, while my mom wheeled herself in her wheelchair, to a room with a shower. It took me a lot longer than expected to even get undressed and by the time I was undressed, I was out of air and had to rest. I sat on a bench in the shower yet it still seemed impossible. It was the biggest workout of my life it seemed like. That single shower was enough to make me sick. I overworked my body. Yes… from showering.
I started running a fever and puking. I had already had my IV, picc line, and arterial line removed. They said I was close to being released. But now they couldn’t even decide if I should be moved back to ICU or not. We luckily avoided it but I had to get another IV put in. Getting out of the ICU was such a big step, that I started to feel discouraged when there was talk of moving me back. I missed my sisters, I missed my room, I just missed normal life. But I was not going to stop fighting.
The next few days were hard, mentally. My parents and I had our hearts set on leaving soon but that was ripped away. It’s not that I was sad, but I started to lose my motivation. My parents tried to get me to watch tv, play card games with them, go on walks. But I just laid in bed watching the clock. For some reason this was soothing to me.
I had the occasional visitor, which I enjoyed. And got to play with some dogs on days I felt up to it. One day a pony even came into my room… how cool is that?
I was nearing getting to go home. I was told many times, and still remind myself of this today, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I didn’t know what would be waiting for me at home. So the day I was released, close to 3 weeks after being admitted, I was so excited. So ready to just get back to my life.
But “my life” sure didn’t feel like MY life anymore. I had to make the difficult decision to not move 3 hours away to my dream college. I didn’t get to go on my senior trip to Maui. I couldn’t even walk down the stairs to my bedroom. And not having the constant support from a dozen nurses, made me feel lonely.
My parents were (and still are) rockstars. They did everything in their power to make me feel better about things, even though I know they were struggling too. My dad would get home from a long day of work and offer to take us all on a drive to get ice cream to lift my spirits. I got to pick the movies we would watch. Yet I couldn’t help but just cry. all. the. time.
I couldn’t sleep at night because I was so uncomfortable, and anything I ate, I would puke up. I had no energy, ever. Is this really a life worth living? I began to ask myself.
You see, getting sick, at the time, seemed like the worst possible thing that could have happened. Now, I truly see it as a blessing. I am living with a chronic illness (I’ll leave that for another post). It’s not easy most days, and I often wonder what life would have been like had I not gotten sick. But I do believe it’s made me a stronger person. And if I can reach one person who is struggling, then I’ll know it was all worth it. All the pain, all the sadness… completely worth it.
I fought for my life, and it was the best decision I’ve ever made.