The Valley of the Shadow of Death
Updated: Apr 26, 2019
No matter how hard I rack my brain for memories after that Ambulance ride, they just do not exist anymore. The only thing I remember is darkness and terror. The only knowledge of what happened after that time is what has been told to me or what I have read in my now large medical record.
I arrived at Boston Beth Israel, where the MRV showed a massive clot going from my jugular vein all the way into my right transverse sinus in my brain. It was a complete blockage, preventing any drainage of fluids thus resulting in the increase intracranial pressure found by the Lumbar puncture.
I was promptly admitted to the hospital and started on heparin, a blood thinner which is used in cases like this in an attempt to dissolve the clot to restore proper flow. In the afternoon of 12/26/18 however, I suddenly became completely unresponsive.
My mom, also a nurse, was the first to catch it. She lifted my arm off the bed and watched it fall back down completely lifeless and started calling for help. She performed her own brief neuro tests while waiting for help and saw how my right pupil no longer reacted to light. She knew the worst was happening.
Due to the heparin, I had now suddenly suffered from an intraparemchymal hemorrhage, in other words a hemorrhagic stroke. The heparin had decreased my ability to clot so much that I began bleeding so heavily into my brain that now there was no more space inside my skull. My brain began to herniate. It started to push to the left as well as down into the brain stem. I was dying, quickly and only drastic measures could give me a chance.
The neurologist overseeing me in the ICU made the immediate call to intubate me in the room I had been staying in. He powerfully stated to the anesthesiologist who argued with him and questioned him on why he did this in the room instead of waiting until I was brought to the OR that he would rather maintain my breathing instead of waiting to lose it completely.
My family watched as they wheeled me to the doors of the OR, with the doctor manually breathing for me. And my mom begged them to just save me, whatever it took. They said I generously had maybe less than 50% chance of survival. A few hours later, my surgeon emerged and told them I was being brought to ICU, which meant that I had survived the surgery. My brain had swollen so much that after she stopped the bleeding and removed all the pooled blood she could not immediately replace my skull bone onto my right side. It was now being preserved in a freezer with the hopes that it could be put back in place at a later date once the swelling had gone down. She also warned them that there would be no way to know what damage had been done until I woke up.
I was kept on a respirator for several days and sedated so that I would not remove the tubes down my throat. I was also restrained, for my own safety. A few days after surgery. I had been started back on heparin because the clot in my neck was so significant that they had to try and restore drainage to my brain somehow. The team attempted to extubate me, but within a day I was struggling to breathe. My oxygen plummeted. I had developed pneumonia, and a clot in my lungs that on top of my asthma was suffocating me. And I also developed a very dangerous clotting condition called Diffuse Intravascular Coagulopathy (DIC), where the body clots so quickly it runs out of clotting factors, and puts the patient at risk for bleeding to death.
My damaged and beaten body was flooded with blood products, antibiotics, and pain meds as my almost lifeless body moaned in pain.
While this was happening to me, I remember the darkness. It felt like a horrible nightmare. I could feel my body being tied down, and I tried to use all my strength to fight to get free. I tried to scream to wake myself up. And while I struggled and fought to free myself I heard my dad's voice float through the darkness telling me that it was alright.
Psalm 23:4 reads "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."
Having walked through this valley for a total of 9 days in the ICU, I can say that it is still terrifying. To this day I can not think of another thing scarier than that darkness and trapped feeling I endured while the battle for my life raged on.