This next bit is quite jumbled by my thoughts and what people told me later. I’m still going to order my medical records to see what those say as well.
From what I’ve been told, when the nurses moved me back to the transfer bed to take me back to the labor room, my heart stopped beating. They immediately transferred me back to the OR bed and intubated me and started chest compressions. They told Jesse later I had been without oxygen for maybe two minutes. They continued chest compressions for 10 minutes and in the meantime Life Flight came and picked me up to take me to the Shock/Trauma center at a nearby hospital.
I dimly recall being in the helicopter because of the rumbling noise and choppiness of movement, but I don’t remember anything about them working on me. I do recall it was raining and I remember the feel of rain on my face as I was wheeled into the building, but my eyes were closed and I was very out of it.
Time lost a lot meaning for me at that juncture. I know they had given me ketamine as a sedative and I could hear people talking and I kept trying to make sense of everything that was around me but my brain could not make it mesh.
I was able to open my eyes but I couldn’t focus on anything. The doctors kept yelling, “ASHLIN! CAN YOU OPEN YOUR EYES? CAN YOU SQUEEZE MY FINGERS?” I couldn’t squeeze anything and it really freaked me out, as much as I had the capacity to feel fear.
I could see the U-shaped curtain molding on the ceiling and I tried to concentrate on making it stay still in my vision but it kept moving around. Then Jesse was there and telling me I was ok and that the baby was ok, and asking if I could squeeze his fingers. I’m not sure if I wasn’t coming out of the sedative fast enough or if it was normal procedure for them to repeatedly ask me to squeeze fingers, but I do remember getting irritated that they literally kept yelling at me, “ASHLIN! CAN YOU HEAR ME? CAN YOU SQUEEZE MY FINGERS?” I remember thinking, bitch, I’m not deaf, quit yelling at me! I was able to blink at them to let them know I could hear them, and pretty soon I was able to weakly squeeze fingers to their satisfaction.
In my head, I had the trippiest visions. It was like sound waves turned into images and they kept meshing and blending and turning into other things. I had to try and remind myself as much as I was able that most likely I wasn’t brain damaged and it was just the drugs but it was still extremely frightening. I couldn’t make sense out of anything. I could hear people around me and on one level I was able to understand what they were saying but on the other hand had no idea what they were saying.
I tried to ride it out as best I could and had major sensory motion pictures going on. I cannot figure out why people would voluntarily take drugs to have that kind of experience. When I had a little more sense I remember thinking that when Jesse told me he was there and that Leo was ok that 25 years had passed. I thought I had missed the boys growing up and that Jesse had moved on with another woman. I thought I had been in a coma for years and I couldn’t figure out why he would be there.
Then I tried to tell myself that I was being silly and that it had only been 9 months in a coma and I was trying to figure out which relative would have taken on the boys (because Jesse would have had to get a job and for some reason wouldn’t have been able to look after the boys by himself). That’s when I remembered that I had always told Jesse that if I was a vegetable to just pull the plug because I didn’t want to live like that. I started really internally panicking because like most people I wanted to live and I was starkly afraid he would sign a DNR because I wasn’t coming out of it fast enough. In reality it had been *maybe* a couple hours, I’d have to check with Jesse.
Leo had been left in the Riverton hospital in the care of the nursery, and over the next couple days we were very lucky to have friends and family go over there to hold him and love on him while we were apart.
In the meantime the sedative was wearing off and I really hated being intubated. It went through my vocal cords so I couldn’t make any noise. Whenever I coughed or gagged or vomited, the tube would shut of air and then somehow the stuff got suctioned out by another device? But it still felt like the solids were there in my lungs. I was convinced the doctors were using alien technology to test out on me and that they were trying to slowly cause me to aspirate. I thought they were trying to give me brain damage by denying me oxygen. I’m sure I was getting adequate oxygen, but it felt like I wasn’t getting enough. I wanted to take a deep breath but all I was getting were these shallow puffs. That is a super panicky feeling, thinking you’re not getting enough air.
Because I couldn’t speak, I reverted to clicking my tongue to try and get someone’s attention, anyone’s attention, but I guess people thought I was just making random noise because even though I know they heard me they ignored me for the longest time. It’s horrifying to be trapped in your brain with no method of communication. Eventually a nurse figured out I was trying to communicate and I asked to have the tube removed but she wasn’t having it. She explained that it needed to be in there for safety so I could breath, and that was that. My wrist were strapped down to make sure I wouldn’t remove the tube on my own, and I felt ignored after that.
I tried the tongue clicking over and over but no one responded after that. I tried it at Jesse when I could see him but he didn’t know I was trying to communicate. Eventually it hurt to keep my eyes open. My eyes had been streaming constantly and were so salty they burned and stung whenever I tried to open them again. My face was sweaty and salty and scummy but no one would wipe off my face and I couldn’t tell them what I needed.
I would gag and then not be able to breath because the breathing part would shut off while the suction part did it’s job. It was a hellish limbo just feeling like they were trying to slowly kill me.
Jesse’s mom came to visit while Jesse was away and during that time a doctor came in to try and put something in my wrist. I think it was a monitor of some sort but I kept thinking they were trying to implant me with more alien tech so they could track me. At this point my hands and wrists were swollen like a blown-up plastic glove and he was not able to implant whatever it was he was trying to do. Mary said she had to look away because it made her sick to try and watch him work.
I had IVs all over me, tubes down my nose to my stomach, a line in my neck that ran down to my heart. Mom wanted Jesse to send her a picture but he told her she didn’t need to see me like that. I’m glad because I know it would have frightened her more than she already was.
I think it was early the next day (Sunday 17th) and I was able to get the attention of a nurse and pantomime asking how long I’d been there. It was reassuring when she told me I’d been there for a few hours. Jesse said that’s when he began feeling better, when it was apparent I was cognizant and thinking.
Later on Sunday one of my wrists was unlatched from the wrist restraints and I was able to indicate I wanted to write something down. I was feeling fairly decent, all things considered, and I wanted that breathing tube out! A nurse brought over a pen and paper and I wrote, “Nose tube, out!” and “AMA” and she was like, “AMA? What does that mean?” and I was thinking, how does a nurse not know what AMA means? (It stands for Against Medical Advice.) And she says she’ll have to talk with the doctor about the tube so I shook my head and wrote, “Tube out now! AMA. Will sign papers.” And she says, “Oh! AMA! Are you in the medical field?” I didn’t have it in me to explain that I had been watching a ton of Nurse Jackie episodes in the prior days.
She wanted to restrain my hands again until I mimed that I wouldn’t take out the tube on my own. She went to talk to a doctor and when they came back he was like, why isn’t her hand restrained? And the nurse explained that I said I wouldn’t take out the tube myself. He didn’t seem impressed but shortly after that they decided I was well enough to get the tube out. They also took out the nose feeding tube. I wanted them to take out the neck IV as well but they didn’t want to take it out yet. It was such a relief to get out that breathing tube and take deep breaths!
At some point I was given a sponge bath and they washed my hair for me, but I cannot recall when that was. They also rolled deodorant on my armpits. It was an interesting experience.
I stayed in the ICU for another night and on Monday they decided I was well enough to get moved to the regular maternity units.
In the meantime, Leo had been discharged from the Riverton hospital so Jesse had been caring for the baby all by himself. Ezra had moved on from Velvet’s house to my mother-in-law Mary’s house.
The stay in the maternity unit wasn’t all that “exciting”. It was mainly nurses coming in every few hours to check vitals. I got meals on a regular schedule. They took out the catheter so I was able to walk to the bathroom by myself but I sometimes needed assistance which was somewhat embarrassing but at the same time I figured they dealt with that kind of thing all day so I didn’t let it bother me too much.
I had doctors come around fairly frequently to let me know what they thought about my prognosis and progress I was making. I had some weird blurry/double vision when I looked farther away than about a foot or so. This worried me a bit but I was hoping it was just a side effect of how much water I was retaining.
Jesse brought Leo to see me a couple times and Ezra was at the hospital too for a hand-off so that’s where Ezra met Leo for the first time. Ezra seemed to approve and kept saying what a cute baby Leo was.
I was still so swollen with fluids that I really had no dexterity at all. I could hold Leopold but I couldn’t manipulate him at all, it was really frustrating.
At first they thought they’d discharge me on Tuesday, but then they decided to keep me another night and maybe discharge me on Wednesday. What I really wanted was to go home and recover there. I had a couple therapists come in and see how I was doing. I was ambulatory enough for the one, I could walk and sit and stand on my own. Another therapist came to see me, one who specialized in lymph edema (because of my swelling) and she gave me some compression tubes for my arms and hands. She didn’t think the swelling would last long and that it was most likely caused by the bunch of fluid they had pushed through my system.
The doctors decided they wanted to do an angiogram, so on Tuesday night they gave me some pill that was supposed to slow my heart rate, then Wednesday morning they were going to give me valium and then do the angiogram. The trouble was, the pill they gave me boosted my blood pressure, so they were thinking about giving me something for that as well. They kept me on the monitors the whole night to keep an eye on it.
Also, earlier in my transfer to the maternity unit, they had had to remove the IV that was in my neck, and the one that was in my hand was excrutiating to use so they removed that one and placed one in the crook of my left arm (after multiple jabs/tries because my arms were so swollen.) They had to have a Life Flight crew member come do the IV because no one else could place it. This was on Monday night. Well, an IV in the crook of an arm is very uncomfortable. And it was leaking fluid. They decided that they couldn’t use that IV for the angiogram because they had to push a dye through the IV and needed to make sure the dye wasn’t just going to leak out.
So sometime Tuesday they had Life Flight crew come back in and this time they tried to place an IV in the right arm, unsuccessfully. They determined I was too swollen for them to do it, and they had to have a different Life Flight crew member come in who used ultrasound tech to find a vein. Many hours later the crew member came in and determined that the crook of my left arm was the only option so she removed the current IV and then placed another in the SAME PLACE. It was horrible.
All Tuesday night I researched angiograms and if it was really necessary for me to get one. I didn’t feel like I had blocked arteries or that me crashing on the table was a result of an ongoing heart issue, so when the nurse came in in the wee hours of the morning, I told her I didn’t want to get the angio. She was a little surprised and talked with me about it for awhile and then said she’d let the resident know. The resident came in and spoke with me for awhile about why she felt it was important I get it done, and how much work had gone in to making me ready for the scan, but that she would let the doctor know and he would come in to speak with me.
A couple hours later a doctor came in, not the cardiologist, and *he* told me all about it, but I remained pretty firm on why I didn’t want it, so he said he would speak to the cardiologist. The angio was supposed to be done at 9:30am, and just barely before that the cardiologist came in and said he agreed with me, that looking over my charts there really was no reason to think that I had existing heart issues and really there wasn’t a pressing need for me to get the angiogram. He ordered another echo and ultrasound but everything checked out so they decided to discharge me on Wednesday.
I called Jesse to give him the good news. A few hours later we were on our way home.
Part three coming soon.