Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Very Happy End to a Very Scary Night

I'm very happy to report that I'm back home!

The last week has been the most brutal yet for the pregnancy, with trips to the ER last Sunday (the 25th) and again on Wednesday (the 28th) for complications from the pregnancy. I continue to fight food aversions and nausea, usually throwing up 3-4 times a day. For the last week, I've been getting by on water, flavor ice and jello. With the weight loss and lack of good food, I've been getting more and more dehydrated and exhausted. I could tell my body was getting weaker and my head injury symptoms were starting to take over. Niels has helped me to see that when my body reaches a certain physical stress point, it starts to shut down: I don't make memories (not such a bad thing) and it gets harder for me to communicate. At worst, to hear Niels describe it, I go into a near catatonic state where I am unaware and unresponsive to my surroundings. From my perspective, I simply shut out everything around me and my body uses all its energy to focus on breathing and balance.

Saturday night, Niels and I were looking forward to a party a friend was having for all the spring birthdays. Tony always has the best parties, and I've felt bad that we've had to cancel pretty much every social possibility for the last six weeks, so I really wanted to go. Friday was a particular bad day, I even threw up blood at one point. So I spend most of the day in bed. My doctors were thinking that I developed a cold from all the irritation in my throat from vomiting and was stuck in a cycle of cough, vomit, pass out from exhaustion. Saturday I was feeling a little better, so we were able to go to the party and I felt almost normal for the first time in weeks. I even had some cheese, chips and ice cream! Sunday morning after church, I was sick again and listless. I was able to sleep for a few hours and woke up feeling much better. I made the ill-advised decision to take Niels out for dinner to an all-you-can-eat-buffet. A good idea for him because the poor guy has had to fend for himself an awful lot lately, but not such a good choice for me. I didn't eat much at dinner and was starting to feel sick, so we decided to walk around a bit to try to settle my stomach and get some semblance of exercise.

I barely made it home before I was in the bathroom with one of my violent spells. When I first had my head injury, I got to the point where my body simply rejected all food and assumed it was all meant to be thrown up. In the process, my breathing would get cut off and I would start to hyperventilate. Poor Niels thought I was going to be able to sleep so he was downstairs and couldn't hear me screaming and crying, but Bailey did and we're quite sure we've traumatized her. I called him on the phone and he came up to help me. This time, even after emptying my stomach, I still couldn't get air and felt like I was going to pass out. Niels and I debated calling the doctor because at $150 a pop, we're not all that keen on going to the ER every few days when it doesn't seem to make any lasting difference. But I was pretty shaken up this time and forced the issue. Niels talked to the doctor when he called back because I was back in the bathroom and the doctor could hear how I was doing. Of course, he told Niels to bring me to the ER.

I pretty much went into my special place on the way to the ER, so this next part is from what Niels told me. The doctor had called the ER so when we got there, we were brought to triage right away. I don't remember any of that or how long we waited. Apparently I wasn't aware of where we were either. The first I remember is being in the ER room with Niels when the same doctor we saw on Wednesday came in and woke me up. I was afraid she would think I was a wussy pregnant woman who couldn't just deal with it. But they hooked me up to an IV to hydrate me and also gave me some breathing treatments which helped me get a lot more air. The vampire/phlebotomist took about a gallon on my blood and the doctor ran a couple of tests, including an EEG and a spiral CT of my chest. The nurses kept coming in to check on me and said the tests were in and the doctor should be in soon. It seemed like we waited forever for results. We figured everything was okay and were impatient to get back home because by this time, it was nearly midnight, ushering in Niels' birthday, his first as a married man, and our first together as he was in Canada with his groomsmen last year.

When the doctor came back she didn't have her annoyed look anymore. She was all serious. She said that the CT showed what looked like a blood clot on my lung (a pulmonary embolism, or PE) and that I would be admitted to the ICU! We're really glad we didn't really understand then what it was because we later learned it's the #1 cause of death in pregnant women! After that I was a rock star with about a billion people working on me. I had little metal stickers all over me so they could monitor my heart, breathing, vitals, oxygen levels, etc. They started an IV of blood thinner (Heparin) and put me on oxygen. We were admitted around midnight.

When we got upstairs to the ICU we mentioned that it was now Niels birthday and that as newlyweds we had never spend a night apart. The wonderful staff up there put us in a private room and managed to find a chair that converted into a twin bed so Niels could stay with me. By this time, I had three IVs going (Heparin, saline to hydrate me, and Zofran for nausea). I really didn't sleep much because there was a constant parade of people coming in to check my vitals, take my blood, change my IV's and otherwise poke and prod me. Plus, of course, I had tubes everywhere, had to keep my arms straight and couldn't get on my side. (I'm all caught up on my informercials now). And of course, in the few moments when I was left alone to sleep, pregnant woman that I am, I had to go to the bathroom. This, of course, was a major production because, first of all because I had a bright yellow wristband that said "Fall Risk" due to my previous head injuries. Secondly, I was on limited mobility. I wasn't allowed out of bed without permission and assistance. (I later learned that this is because movement can cause the clot to move to heart or brain and be fatal). So, every time I had to pee, I had to use the call button and wait for nurse to come and unhook me from my bed and wheel the IV stand to the bathroom. And of course, they wanted to measure everything that came out as well. So much for privacy!

Fortunately, Niels can sleep through anything, so I was comforted by the sight of him sleeping. The nurses teased me about how he would ever wake up with the baby. We had lights on, made all sorts of noise, and one point, the phlebotomist bumped him...nothing...he was out cold! He finally got up around 5:30 to call his car pool buddy and also went home to let Bailey out, get my meds and few things, and call in to work. While he was gone, I had my first and only episode of the day, which really freaked the nurses out because vomiting causes all sorts of internal movement! When he got back around 8:30, I sang happy birthday to him and told him that his gift was that I got us a deluxe accommodations at a really nice hotel with very attentive customer service!

The pulmonary doctor came in around 10 with wonderful news! He looked at the CT, and after conferring with another doctor, said he didn't think it was a blood clot after all! I forgot the term he used, but he thought it was more of a shadow. Still, because of my clotting disorder (I've been on baby aspirin since our genetic testing), previous miscarriages and pregnancy, I was still at high risk. Also, there was something they didn't like about my blood results so they weren't ready to clear me yet. They took a few more vials of blood to retest and scheduled a ultrasound for my legs to check for clots, since most clots start there and work themselves up, as well as an ultrasound for the baby! They also wanted me to eat something, though I was on a clear liquid diet so my sumptious choices were limited to broth, jello, juice, popsicles, coffee and tea. I tried to smuggle in a piece of cake for Niels, but no luck. I also tried to get down to the gift store for a birthday card (Slacker wife INTENDED to get that while he was at work), but that got nixed too. So I told him his present was my presence and a day off from work. He's an easy going guy and said that was just fine. The OB came in around 11:30 and asked a million questions and explained more of the game plan for the day. Best of all he said that if all my tests come out well, we might be able to go home in the evening. When they first admitted me, they said it would be at least two days, maybe longer. So our new goal was 24 hours.

We've learned to bring our cards wherever we go so we were able to get a few games on Gin 13 in, in between potty breaks, IV checks and blood draws. At 2, I got my legs checked. It looked just like a regular ultrasound, so it brought back some memories of seeing an empty uterus after our miscarriages. But, I knew there would be no babies in my legs so everything was okay. After that it was back to my room to enjoy my delicious lunch and then off to ultrasound to see the baby. Again, truly the highlight! Because it was an "emergency" ultrasound, we couldn't get pictures, again, but they sonographer did turn the screen so we could see the baby. He/She now looks like a little gummy bear. She/He is on the side with little legs and arms sticking out in front. I almost cried when I saw the heartbeat because I was so relieved. The heart is now developed enough that you can see all four chambers. The heartrate was 167, exactly the same as a week ago. Whew! We got to see the baby move around a bit, but DJ wasn't as active as last week. Probably just as tired as mommy! The BEST part is that despite (or perhaps, because) of how sick I've been, the baby's age was dated to be 12 weeks 4 days (average of 3 scans) instead of the 11 weeks 6 days based on our previous dating ultrasound at seven weeks. This puts the baby right back to our original due day of December 11, which is right on track with my calcuations from ovulation. Best of all, I mean I'm five days closer to second trimester. HAPPY HAPPY DAY!!! So, with my probable C-section being scheduled the Friday prior to my due day, it looks like we will avoid a Christmas baby and welcome DJ on Sinterklaas Day (Dutch Christmas). Poor kid. We agreed that seeing our baby was a good birthday present for Niels and I was off the hook.

We got back from the Ultrasound feeling very relieved and grateful. We truly believe that the prayers sent up on our behalf made all the difference. Who knows that I didn't really have a blot clot (I was a textbook case) and that the prayers were used to change the results? We are very happy (as was our staff) that we did come in to the ER and we are thrilled that the baby is doing well. At 5:30 or so, we got our stack of discharge papers and new round of prescriptions. At this point, the doctors are saying that in one of my vomiting fits, I inhaled some stomach acid which infected my lungs so I have some meds to neutralize my stomach acid and some more to help with the inflammation. I also have an inhaler and Robitussen DM for the cough. The doctor said it was probably a good thing that I got the infection from the previous work because the meds I'm taking for that have also probably started healing the infection in my lungs. Today I have my 12 week OB appointment, which they said to keep, and I have to call the pulmonary doctor and see him throughout the pregnancy for lung checks as a precaution. Finally, we were able to leave a little after 6!

We stopped at Target to visit our new best friend, the pharmacist, who after just a week, already knows us by name. I took Niels' wallet and sent him away so I could find the perfect card, which I did, and get a Snickers bar (he was famished, and it's his favorite candy bar). I was still wearing my hospital bracelets, including the "Fall Risk" one as I bent down to write on the card. I think I gave a few people around me a scare. At the time, I thought it was because of the most impressive bruises on my arms, but later realized it was probably because they thought I fell and couldn't get up. But, I was able to assure everyone I was fine, didn't need to go back to the hospital, and was simply trying to be a good wife and sign a card for my amazing husband.

Pharmacy now depleted, we went home. Bailey was over the moon to see us, though I still seem to freak her out. We cuddled with her and were able to take a short nap before our friends Rach and Chris arrived with dinner and dessert. We were winding down around 10 when Bailey started getting sick and made a mess all over the floor...in several places...which a couple of us discovered by stepping in it! So we realized that all is back to normal chaos at the de Jong house and our dog likely needs puppy counseling!

Many, MANY thanks to those who helped us out, especially the Lipfords and Busches for their help with Bailey and meals. Thanks to all the friends and family who called to check on us (or attempted to visit us!). And most of all, thanks for your prayers which changed a potentially life threatening situation into a very reassuring time for our little one.

With lots of love and appreciation,
Jen & Niels

Here I am shortly after arriving home. This picture actually doesn't do justice to the bruises on my arms. Trust me, they are quite impressive! Note the yellow "Fall Risk" bracelet. It's the fashion statement of the season. And that beer gut look I've got going on is actually my growing baby bump!

No comments: