January . . .
On New Years Eve I heard the local fireworks that cracked and thumped in our neighborhood, and continued into the early hours of 2021. It's not that I denied anyone their celebration; I just prefer to sleep when I can and wake up in a New Year feeling fine. No Auld Lang Syne and no crack, snapple, pop.. I always sigh jealousy at the husband's breathing while his C-pap machine whirs quietly. In addition to being able to fall asleep almost immediately, he has the blessing of maintaining a refreshing slumber. Undisturbed.
So, that's kind of where we were once more just two weeks into the New Year. I told him to sleep and I would maintain my watch, waiting for updates from our son in law on the life of our middle daughter. Rest had been unattainable for the last 30 hours and I insisted that my husband go to bed because one of us needed to have some semblance of sanity and control. It certainly wasn't going to be me. Our son-in-law had been frantic and sleepless and we kept our phones beeping in contact.
Our middle daughter fell ill on Saturday. She called me at 5:30 p.m. to inform that she'd asked her 18 year old daughter to take her to ER. A familiar place, as she is a nurse there. "I'm having such pain in my lower right quadrant, and am now puking. I think I have appendicitis."
Sure enough, by 8:30 she was in surgery. Several hours later our son in law called to say all was well. He wasn't there, but constant phone contact with her co-workers kept him informed.
But all wasn't well. She phoned me the following morning saying there was a new and different pain and she was sure that something was terribly wrong. Her bloodwork throughout the day confirmed that there was. She was bleeding somewhere. She was frightened and alone. Nobody allowed in the hospitals because of Covid.
At midnight she was back in the Operating Room.
Around 4:30 a.m. I tapped on my husband's shoulder to wake him. "Hon, she's being Life Flighted."
Thirty-six hours later, when she was finally brought out of sedation, she was alone and confused and in excruciating pain, being stapled from sternum to lower abdomen. In a strange city with strangers. She couldn't talk because of the intubation and her reaction to the sedation and pain medications kept her in a hallucinatory state for two days. It was a nightmare for those of us on the outside, but for her it was two days of mental and emotional terror.
So that is now behind us. She is home and healing. And, a boatload of questions with no answers.
The diagnosis was Hemorrhagic Cyst of the Spleen.
No one knows what caused it and no one knows if it will bleed again. Ten years ago she was in an auto accident which bruised her abdomen severely. That was discussed as a possible pre-existing injury. She was diagnosed a few years ago with a serious auto immune disease. It is rare, but disease can cause a bleeding cyst. In December their whole family had Covid. It would be speculative to say that Covid played a part in ruptured spleen, but we know that Covid did exacerbate some serious symptoms of her underlying disease. One of her DR's said it was possible that the pressure exerted by the gas used during her appendectomy may have played a role in a cyst rupture.
One thing I do know; the local surgeon saved her life. He said this was a first for him....a hemorrhaging spleen after a simple appendectomy. He struggled to contain the bleed, and did what he could to save her and then sent her to a trauma center that would have the tools and the skills to do what he didn't think he had. But his efforts were rewarded. Along with blood transfusions followed by minute to minute monitoring in ICU, the bleeding stopped. The specialist did not have to reopen her abdomen.
She's looking at a long recovery. She's suffering from PTSD which is said to be common after a near death experience. Hers has been increased by the experience of isolation from her loved ones, frantic fear, and awakening to masked strangers.
One of the first things she did after getting home was to get in contact with various agencies and groups to advocate for seriously ill patients during Covid restrictions. Somewhere in all the quarantine rules, the emotional needs of the individual patient has been lost. Being an ER nurse, she has been very familiar with the protections put in place. But being a patient and experiencing a worst case scenario has pushed her to work for change.
There were other stories that are tangled up in this. They are important, but they would complicate the one which is most important. She survived.
I'm thankful for surgical teams who put aside their weariness to use their skills at midnight. Or whenever they are asked.
I'm thankful for crews who jump into helicopters before the sunrise and carefully transport the unconscious through the sky.
I'm thankful for people who walk into blood donation events and give a pint that will save the life of someone's daughter, sister, wife, and mother. They will never know who. But I do.
I'm thankful that my daughter is alive, and that her thoughts now are of other patients, and how to help prevent them from the devastating isolation and fear that happens in this new quarantined world.