Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So different than last year!

The past couple weeks the one thing running through my head is how opposite this year is from last year. Ben and I have been talking a lot about how weird it is this year knowing that last year this time I was already sick with the flu... BTW I'm going to apologize now for the tears you can't see that are going to happen while I put this together, they're starting already.....

I don't remember much of Christmas last year. I remember feeling like crap for a few weeks before. I remember feeling SO tired. I remember thinking everyday that "It can't get any worse than it already is." It did. Everyday.


Yesterday Mad asked in the car if anyone remembered Grandma Penny's Christmas tree last year. I said I didn't. But I then did remember putting the lights on it. That has always been my job, I enjoy it. I didn't last year, but I got it done.


Actually, I think saying "I didn't enjoy it, but I got it done" covers most of lat year's holiday season for me. Which sucks because Christmas truly is my favorite time of the year. I love the spirit it brings out in everyone. I'm one of those cheesy people that wishes it could be that way year round.


This time last year I was already staying home from work because all the guys I work with were looking at me like I was crazy sitting at my desk and hacking away. I had no idea what my body had in store for me.


Even now When Ben and I talk about it we both tear up. Ben was catching up on Deadliest Catch a couple weeks ago, it was the episode where one of the Captains was in the hospital and you already knew he wasn't going to make it. We were laying in bed holding hands and I was crying away. He was squeezing my hand.

Back to last year.....


I remember doing the salad with marinated steak for the ward's Relief Society progressive dinner. I don't remember what day it was, I didn't go, but I got it done. Then I went home and slept.


I remember laying on my bathroom floor on the rug that Ben vacuums every Saturday morning as I'm lounging in bed. I remember at that point being grateful that I had a nice clean, soft rug to lay on. I spent a lot of time there. I had my cup of ice chips and my phone. And the toilet. And after every ice chip, I was glad I was within crawling distance of that toilet.


I remember not eating anything for a week and a half. Except for the ice chips that would then revisit me.


I remember going to the emergency room on Christmas Eve day and apologizing to Ben, feeling bad that we were dropping money for the ER knowing that we had just spent our funds on Christmas and now we had to drop more money on me. I didn't know then that we would be back in 12 hours.


Late on Christmas Eve I remember sitting on my bedroom floor being SO mad at Ben that I was wrapping all those "extra" presents that hadn't been seen under the tree yet and he was laying in bed fast asleep! Once that was done, I got in bed and said to him "I'm not wrapping my own presents!"


The next morning I got up and made the cinnamon rolls, courtesy of Pillsbury, that are the minimum required on Christmas morning. My parents and grandparents came over, the kids came running downstairs. And I laid in a puddle on the floor. Later at my parents house I sat in a puddle in a chair, slightly away from the group, so that I didn't get anyone else sick. And again later at my grandma's house I remember once again laying in a puddle in the corner. The big moment of that day was that I ate. And kept it down. Prime rib, mashed potatoes, and thick homemade chicken noodle, gravy style, no broth, hopefully you know what I mean. If you don't than you've really missed out and should come over to my grandma's house some time.


Then next day, we were supposed to go to Ben's parents house. I didn't. I don't remember that day AT ALL. I'm pretty sure I laid in bed, out cold, all day.


The next morning was the 27th. Ben took me into Urgent care. Once again, I remember that I couldn't even walk back to x-ray, they busted out the wheel chair. I remember hanging from the x-ray machine, it was only thing keeping me from going back to my favorite status as puddle on the floor. I remember the nurse telling me to calm down and breathe, and me thinking calm? I don't have enough energy to be anything but calm! I remember the EMTs coming in and thinking one was cute. I remember getting in the ambulance.


I don't remember getting to the hospital. it was only an 8 mile ride. In an ambulance. It couldn't have taken that long, but I was done.


Once I was at the hospital I remember Ben giving me a blessing. In it he said I would get worse before I got better. I remember asking if we could get a second opinion. Looking back I'm amazed at the faith that it took for him to be able to utter those words. I'm humbled that I could have a husband who could trust to Lord enough to know that those were that words he was meant to say.


It was true. I got SO much worse.

My family went through 12 days of torture. Not knowing where I was on a seemlessly endless slipping scale. Some times I would slip up, only to be followed by a gigantic slide down. There were surgeries. Lots of different drugs. Blood transfusions. And many questions and unknowns. there were happy moments and there were bad days. Really bad days.

I still ask Ben questions about when I was in the hospital. It is still emotional for us to talk about...


After that I don't remember anything until I woke up in the ICU, intubated, in pain, and scared. I had no idea what was going on. I saw my dad, my mom, and Ben. They were looking at me with those eyes that are worried, relieved, and happy all at the same time.


I remember where I thought I was. In Hawaii, at the airport, laying on the exposed aggregate with the ticket counter in front of me. I was trying to figure out how I had gotten to Hawaii and not remembered. Did my parents surprise us with a trip for Christmas? How could I have forgotten packing and getting there? I was so confused.


I remember the first thing I said. I looked at my mom and said "What happened to me?" Do you know how hard that is to do intubated? I knew something had gone wrong. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to move. But I had no clue. People kept coming to visit me. And I continued my "vacation".


After Hawaii I thought I was in Utah Valley Medical, which apparently is a real hospital, that I have now actually been to. Unfortunately, it was not a happy place for me for my "visit". The nurses were learning and driving me crazy. My bed had bizarre spider like features and I thought it was going to literally flip me out of it.


After that, the next stop on my trip was at some hospital in California. When a friend stopped by to visit me I thought it was weird and sweet that they would take time out of their Disney vacation to come see me in the hospital. There was a nurse who took the time to rid me of my extremely 80's ponytail on the top of my head and comb my hair and put in a new, more current, ponytail. I think her name was Jess. She left the next day to go skiing. No really, that part happened, the next day she went skiing so I didn't see her again. I really liked her.


Next came my favorite hospital. It was in a VERY small town in Oregon on the coast. I had a window in my room, I could see the grass and walkway leading to the hospital doors. And the beach. I could see the beach. The hospital was also a lighthouse. But they didn't have an ice machine. They had to go get ice from the coffee shop on the side of the hospital.


I remember Betsy sitting by my side the whole night that fist night that I was awake in the ICU. It was her job to stay awake with me so that Ben could get a night's sleep in the two chairs on the other side of the room. Not an easy feat for him considering that the nurses were coming in all night and the pumps administering my meds had alarms that went off frequently.

Side note-- after being in the ICU with pneumonia and an empyema getting out and googling what you had is a slightly intimidating thing to go through. Knowing what you survived and by what margins, is extremely humbling.

I also remember that night and how horrible it was. I didn't sleep. AT ALL. I was in pain, serious pain. They had put in some chest tubes while I was out. From some of my basic "research" typically chest tubes are made of flexible plastic tubing. Mine were copper. Hard, metal copper. No bending or flexing. It felt like I had rebar going through my body. It hurt to move. It hurt to be moved. It hurt to breathe.

I had a little button that I could push to give me a boost of pain meds. I could push it every 8 minutes. Do you know how long 8 minutes can last? Even with pain meds layered on pain meds, I couldn't think. Literally. Betsy helped through that night so much. There were times that I hurt so bad I forgot to breathe. The beauty of that being it didn't hurt as much when I wasn't breathing. I remember thinking that night that if I could just make it through that one night, then I could make it through the whole deal. There were times I questioned if I could make it through..... Fortunately I had Betsy there. And I'm assuming she would see my oxygen level dropping and then remind me I needed to breathe. I don't remember how many times she had to remind me to breathe, and to push the button.

I didn't sleep that night. I was supposed to. I think I may have nodded off for a few minutes, but not long enough to actually count as sleep. I didn't sleep for the next 48 hours. I spent the night hugging my two ice packs. And asking for more ice. For me to hug, and to chew on. Oh, and asking for more pain meds. I had to wait for the doctor to show up in the morning for that.

That morning when the doctor came in he said to me "I heard you got hit by a truck and the truck lost." My response was "That's not what it feels like." I told him how badly I hurt and he was the guy that made my day by adjusting my prescription. I still felt the pain, but it was slightly more bearable.

I had made it through the night. I was still miserable but for me it was a turning point.

The day seemed abnormally long. Like two days worth of time crammed into one LONG day. Eventually I was moved up out of the ICU to a shared room. More visitors, more chaos.

We had some members of the Bishopric stop by. While they were there Ben gave me another blessing. This one was much different than the last. I was medicated. I was in pain. I was anxious.

The following is one of the most special moments I've ever been through. It was amazing to experience at the moment, and even now I hold it dear to my heart.

The moment that Ben laid his hands on my head I saw in my head a small stained glass globe. I was inside it. The glass was shades of ivory that you couldn't see through. At first it was just a tiny little sphere, it seemed like a hollow marble. As Ben spoke the sphere started to grow. I could hear Ben but all around me all I saw was the gorgeous stained glass. Ben said that "through my faith, and the faith of others, I would be healed." That I would have no lingering effects from my illness. That I would be as I had been before. That I would be comforted. For the duration of the blessing I was overcome with a sense of peace. For the first time since waking up my head was clear. I had thoughts that weren't muddled by drugs. I wasn't "seeing" in big bold billboards every time I shut my eyes. Just the ivory sphere that continued to grow for the duration of the blessing. Not only did I feel peace, but I didn't feel pain or fear. I could breathe with ease. By the time the blessing was wrapping up the small ivory sphere had expanded to a huge cavernous space. The opaque, ivory, stained glass space was filled with warmth and light. It was a moment that I never want to forget.

Once the blessing ended, reality set back in. The nausea. The pain. The anxiety. But believe me, I held on to that beautiful experience. I still do. It is a wonderful memory to have.

Shortly after that I was moved to a private room. It had a great view. The landing pad for the medivac helicopter was outside my window. As they were rolling me into my room there was a copter taking off.

That night I slept for the first time since I had woken up in the ICU. Now I was on the recovery floor, on the mend. Finally getting better which was a huge relief for my family.

I had wonderful visitors. During that time I had amazing people bring me YUMMY food. Kalua pork, rice and mac salad. If that's not recovery food I don't know what is. I also learned that there were people that brought my family meals and love and comfort while I was "out of it". I am so grateful to all of the people who showed love and support for my family when I wasn't able to.

The time came when to remove my chest tubes. Let me just say, that I can be pretty tough but when it comes to literally yanking something from my body, I'd rather be unconscious. I wasn't that lucky this time. It wasn't as bad as I had worked it up to be, it was done pretty quickly, but I still freaked. Although I did have my daddy standing there holding my hand.

The next day I was released. 15 days of being in the hospital was enough for me. Even though I had only been aware of two days. My family was so excited for me to get out. I cried as Ben pulled the car up to the curb. Going home was an amazing experience!

Now to this year. Everyday for the past week I have been thinking about how I felt this time last year. About how I had no idea what was coming my way.

I think about how I am back to playing soccer, while I still can't run the whole field the whole game yet, I'm getting closer. And soon I wont be playing soccer for a while....

This year at Christmas, instead of of almost losing my life, I am building a whole new person inside me. We are going to have a new family member to love and cherish. Instead of scrambling to save a life we are preparing to welcome a brand new one to this world.

It really hits me hard. Almost daily. How things can make a 180. How even though things can make a seemingly instant turn for the worst, they can also go from horrible to glorious. That road may make be slower, it may be a steeper climb. But every step of the way is worth it.

In all reality, we were actually wanting a baby last year this time, and were frustrated that it hadn't happened yet. Knowing now what was to come it seems a blessing in disguise. There is no way that a tiny baby just starting to grow and be nourished would have survived through the hospital stay with me. But now that I have recovered I have a perspective I never would have had before. Not only me, but my whole family and many friends know how precious life is. I am truly blessed. To still be here. But also to have the opportunity to bring another life into this world. Another child to wrap my arms around and snuggle. To cherish.

14 comments:

Misty said...

Glad you took some time to write about this. Made me cry, too. I'm very glad this year is much different! love you!

Betsy said...

Oh Nicole, that made me cry also!

I am surprised you remember the night after you woke up. There was some interesting conversation. I had to convince you that they weren't going to have to take you to another hospital to get the chest tubes taken out. You were really worried about the car ride there. I don't think I ever did convince you.

You are right that you didn't sleep very much at all. I had strict instructions from Ben, to make you go to sleep. I kept thinking how mad Ben was going to be at me because you weren't sleeping.

I also remember how brave and tough you were trying to be. I would remind you to push your pain button and you would say that you needed to be tough and push through the pain. I would tell you that this was not one of those times and you finally push the button.

I was sad that I had to go back to Portland the next day and miss seeing you more back to your normal self, but I was so grateful I got to see you not hooked up to that darn breathing machine.

I am sure you know this already, but there was always quite the crowd stuffed into that tiny little ICU waiting room, trying to support you and Ben anyway they could. (And I mean always... around the clock. Everyone took turns staying the night to make sure Ben would get at least a little sleep so that he wouldn't be totally useless to you during the day.)

Anyway... this comment is way too long! Just know that we love you and are so, so glad that this year is different than the last.

Cole said...

haha! I totally remember that conversation....Only when my cream of wheat came and then the xray and then the nurse who showed me her badge that said harrison on it did I realize where I was. She asked me if I knew where I was and I answered "I don't know the name but it's a small town on the Oregon coast..." She said "No you're in Bremerton" I shook my head and she pulled her badge toward me. I started crying when I realized that I was home. It was weird, as if the window that I had been seeing, instantly disapeared. It was such a relief to be in Bremerton.

Alanna said...

WOW! Thanks Nicole for taking the time to write this. It made me cry but I also felt the spirit as I read your words! We are so glad that you are better...and excited for your new addition!

hapi said...

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The Storyteller said...

well written, well designed, inspiring, informative and entertaining. Keep it up.

Lori Toal said...

Thank you for sharing your experience and reminding us all how to appreciate life a little bit more. You are a strong woman and your family sounds wonderful. You are all blessed to have each other. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas this year with your family.
Lori

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