Yesterday, one of my gaming buddies posted this little gem on my Facebook page:
Then he said he would grab more popcorn.
The last few days have been pretty harrowing. Last Sunday, I woke up feeling a little off-kilter, but I pretty much ignored it, thinking it would go away after I had some breakfast and coffee. I had a guest coming over later that afternoon, so I figured I had time to run out and get something. I got home late-ish the night before, and thanks to the parking situation in my neighborhood, I had to park pretty far away. So I decided to pull on an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and head out to get my car and a decent cup of coffee.
Lesson #1: You know that old adage about not wearing ugly underwear out of the house, because you never know who might end up seeing it? Yeah… my first mistake was the granny panties.
Before I left the house, I made my bed, and actually got winded doing it. I felt my heart racing a bit, and was pretty short of breath when I was done. I had been feeling some similar things earlier in the week, but figured I would call my doctor this week and see what was up. Besides, I really wanted that coffee.
Lesson #2: If something feels wrong, don’t wait to call the doctor.
Now, I kind of feel like the stupid girl in an old-time horror movie where the audience knows exactly what is behind the creepy attic door, and they start fruitlessly yelling, “No! Don’t open that door!” And she always opens the door. And tragedy happens. I wish I had an audience screaming “No! Don’t go for coffee!”
I left the apartment, despite feeling winded, and walked about half a block away before my heart started racing, sweat started pouring down my face, and I could barely breathe. Continuing along the movie theme, the world faded to black (literally.) The next thing I knew, I was coming to on the sidewalk surrounded by two guys I had smiled and waved to on my way up the block as they were working on their car, and a woman who was out walking her small terrier. The guys were staring at me, wide-eyed, and the woman was on her phone with 911.
I must have come to fairly quickly, because the ambulance hadn’t arrived yet, and I was able to state my name and age when I talked to the emergency operator. But I was far from normal. I felt extremely weak and foggy-headed, and I really had no concept of what was happening. I do remember thinking, “An ambulance? Really? I just fainted. Give me some water, and I’ll be fine.”
The ambulance arrived, and by then I was dripping sweat, despite it being a very cool morning. They took some vitals and determined that I should probably go to the emergency room. That’s when I started to get a little scared. Not so much about my condition — but about whether or not my health insurance would cover this. I lived for a good 10 years without insurance a little while back, and while I am covered now – I still get palpitations thinking about being able to afford anything. I live in an ingrained scarcity mindset when it comes to my health.
Lesson #3: I need to work on getting over that scarcity thing.
Up until this point, I have only ever ridden in an ambulance once – back in high school when I volunteered for a disaster drill for the local volunteer fire department. I got to die a dramatic death and wear makeup for that scenario. This time, I was unshowered and wearing my grungy jeans and granny panties. (And of course, one of the paramedics was really cute. Sigh.) They determined that my condition was serious enough to take me to the closest hospital, so it was off to St. Francis in Evanston.
The emergency room experience was humbling and terrifying, although the medical staff was wonderful. They put me in the “chest pain” unit, even though I wasn’t having any – but my symptoms were obviously cardiopulmonary. They stuck IVs in my arm, kept checking my vitals, asked me all sorts of questions. As soon as I told them I was on birth control – they immediately ordered a CT scan of my lungs. Lo and behold… the scan revealed a few blood clots, including one huge one that apparently was the reason I collapsed, and they immediately admitted me to the ICU.
I am single. I live alone. I am 500 miles away from my immediate family. All of these are, to varying degrees, deliberate choices that I am pretty much fine with. But the downside of each of those choices came crashing into me all at once and I felt very, very alone – particularly when I was going through the ICU admission process.
But soon, my family of spirit started to arrive. And arrive. And call. And arrive some more. And email and text me constantly. Some even offered to drive a few hundred miles to be with me. It took me 24 hours to post what was going on to Facebook, because I really didn’t feel comfortable letting everyone know right away – but once I did, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. I am crying right now just thinking about it.
Lesson #4: I am loved. (And this might be the hardest lesson to truly integrate.)
I have a lot more to write about this experience, so I will break it up into a series of posts. This doesn’t even begin to describe all the plot twists. But I will reveal the end of this particular episode: I am alive. As one of my friends posted, “Your story isn’t done being written yet.” I am absolutely taking that to heart.
Coming soon: Plot Twist, Part 2 — The Attack of the Potential Side Effects, plus Delusional Ramblings in Polish