Well, first off I must thank my dear friend Lisa for stepping in and helping me with this blog. This was the easiest way to get up to date info out to everyone about hubbie's condition and her help took such a load off of my mind and a welcome help for my bed-bound pregnant friend.
I would like to share with you the story of this past week. It seemed surreal in the moment and now seems like a dream. God sustained and gave me strength that I could not have had on my own. Grace is given only in the time of need. Not a moment before and not a moment after.
When Eric came home last Tuesday night he was having a hard time breathing. We had already been to the ER two other times in the past two months and so I know he was trying to avoid a third time. He did two nebulizer treatments but neither one relaxed his lungs enough to breathe so he resigned to going to the hospital another time. Boo got into the driver's seat and before I could get out to the van they drove off. Goose ended up driving me to the ER. When I got there I was greeted by nurses and staff who assured me that Eric was being taken care of by five physicians and that he was in good hands. I was a bit dumbfounded by this since the last couple of times we came in they wouldn't even see him until I started the paperwork. I later found out that on the way to the hospital Eric asked Boo to dial 911 because he was blacking out. The 911 dispatcher tried to get Boo to pull over and wait for an ambulance but she was literally a few moments away from the hospital so she insisted that they just keep driving. The dispatcher connected her with the ER where they started to make preperations for Eric's arrival. He was rushed back into the ER and given more oxygen and treatments. They were going to intubate him right then and there but for some reason the Doctor on duty decided not to. By the time they let me back there he was sitting up and looking good. They almost let him go home but in God's providence a Respiratory Therapist (RT) and an ER nurse that we had seen on the last visit insisted that he be admitted.
We had a semi-quiet night at the hospital. Every few hours he had an RT coming in and giving him a breathing treatment. The excitement started on Wednesday morning after taking him down to get a chest x-ray. He came back into the room and a few minutes after getting into bed he started to have a coughing attack. He was gasping for air and so I contacted the nurse. She immediately called an RT to come and give him a treatment. It just made him cough more and he began begging for help. The floor Dr. came into the room and gave us the options of seeing if the relaxant that they gave him would help or intubating him. We hoped the relaxant would help but the Dr. made the choice for us when he realized that it was not working and he was getting worse.
From this point on Eric does not remember. We raced him upstairs to the ICU where they were ready to intubate him. By the way, his stats looked great but he looked like he was dying. They quickly got him taken care of and I stepped out of the room. They assured me that he would be asleep for at least two to three days. But, on the way back to the hospital I get a phone call from my daughter Boo, in tears, saying that she just talked to Dad. I walked into the ICU room to find him sitting up in bed talking to the nurse. He had extubated himself. They had not tied him down and the nurse had allowed his sedation to wear off.
Our pastor had a long talk with Eric and I talked with him for about an hour-he does not remember these conversations. He moved around a bit and then went into a coughing fit again. I called the nurse who came in, looked at the stat board and just told Eric to stop coughing and relax. She gave him something to help him relax but it did not work as it did not work that morning either. I told her that this is what had happened that morning. They called in an RT and also the floor Dr. By the time the Dr. got there Eric was begging for help. I have no idea how much time elapsed between all of the details but it sure seemed like it took forever. I was holding Eric and putting cool clothes on his head. He kept asking me to help him and then his helps started to turn into incoherant mumblings. His body was shaking violently and eventually his eyes rolled back and he stopped breathing altogether. This whole time I was holding him and telling him how much I loved him and how much the kids loved him. In my heart I was willing to let him go if this is what the Lord willed. I look back and can not believe how incredibly strong I was. I got out of the way but continued to hold his hand and pray over him as they bagged him. They did get the tube in and got him on a respirator. He was no longer breathing on his own.
God was gracious enough to send two dear friends to the hospital at this time. They actually were going to go to Target but decided to come by the hospital to see how I was doing. They got to see the whole thing from the ICU window and immediately hugged me when I walked out of the ICU. I just fell a part. My closest friend, my husband was now being kept alive on a respirator!
The next couple of days are full of details and yet I can not remember the order in which they occured. At some point they brought in a neurologist to determine if he had had a seizure or a stroke before he stopped breathing. His neck was stiff so they did a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. This test came out clear. They took multiple CAT scans of the brain and neck to determine if there were any blockages. These also came back clear. There was no sign of pneumonia in the multiple x-rays that were taken. His CO2 levels were 111 on the day of his attack. This was cause for alarm because your normal level is around 40. He continued to have multiple coughing fits whenever they lowered the sedation and his lungs went from being clear one day to being wheezy and full the next. The pulmonologist was baffled but by the end of our stay she started to put together a theory.
She believes that Eric's post-nasal drip, which he has had for most of his life, has caused a chronic cough that has strengthened over the years. The chronic cough closes down his throat and causes bronchial spasms. The bronchial spasms make it look like asthma when actually it would not technically be asthma. It seems so simple but when it is all said and done taking care of the post-nasal drip could take care of all the other problems. We will continue to search for the answers by visiting a couple of new Doctors.
On Friday we decided to allow the kids to come in and visit. One of the ICU nurses let us know that the VA hospital was planning on moving us to Palo Alto so we thought it was important to get the kids in there to see him. He does not remember them coming to see him but he did smile at the kids and squeeze their hands. It was a very emotional for us all.
By Saturday he was not coughing as much and we had hope when he squeezed the hand of the neurologist and moved his legs for her. He barely opened up his eyes. We were very excited. On Sunday they had reduced his sedation down to 30 (he had been up to 75). Sunday morning he opened up his eyes and started to fight against his tube. I spent most of the morning trying to calm him down. I kept talking to him about his determination to climb Mt. Whitney and how it was one step at a time. He tried to communicate with me but it was a bit hard for this blind woman to read his lips and even understand what he was trying to communicate.
The pulmonologist came in and talked to Eric. Told him that she wanted him to be completely unsedated before she pulled out the tube. His eyes popped open as if he wanted to prove to us that he was fully awake which allowed the Dr. to decide to take the tube out right then and there. What an ordeal! Eric was so relieved and overwhelmed by the whole ordeal. He knew that he had almost died even though he does not remember it - God's mercy! Tears flowed from both of us as we rejoiced in God's great mercy.
They kept him in ICU for another two days and then moved him down to a hospital room. That was a shock! We went from a Marriott four star room to a Motel 6. He had a delirious older gentleman as a room mate who groaned all night long. This did not make for the ideal resting situation so they allowed him to go home. His oxygen levels were at 96 which is not great but not bad.
He is very weak and his motor skills are not all up to speed yet. We will go back to see the pulmonologist and the neurologist in a couple of weeks. They sent him home with a lot of meds and told him to rest. We will also be taking Eric to our MD who uses natural means of healing before using medication. We are hoping that he will be able to solve some of this mystery.
I want to thank the Elders of our church who came out to pray over Eric and spent much time by his bedside. I want to thank the men who came and sat with Eric for me while I was at home having dinner and tucking in our children each night. I want to thank all of those who have brought food and sent money to us. Your gifts are humbling. I want to thank the thousands of people around the world who are praying for Eric. I want to thank Caroline, Jean, Cheryl, Kenj, and Valerie for being such doting friends. I want to thank EK for helping us out with the VA system and Steve for making sometimes three trips a day down to the hospital. I want to thank Lisa for keeping up this blog. I want to give a special thanks to Jennifer who was constantly bringing me coffee, food, and a shoulder to lean on. She also spent many hours on the phone contacting a whole lot of people daily so that I could spend more time with Eric. A special thanks to my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for coming out to see their son/brother. And, a very special thanks to my parents for keeping my children on track with school, running the house so smoothly, and helping out in our different businesses so that Eric can get well and I can concentrate on helping him get well.
So, you now have the whole story. Thank you so much for all of your prayers but if you think of it, please continue to pray. We need answers and I am a bit on the anxious side especially when he always looks so good and yet he goes down fast.