We have had a busy few weeks. The last day of July was to have been the culmination of a dream that was six years in the making. Our youngest son was entering the Navy. And, as is usually the case, all of our best laid plans went out the window.
For the last several months, my husband had been having low O2 saturation readings, with no clear explanation. His primary doctor gently suggested that this may be “where we are” in the progression of his illness: not the APS itself, but the complications from his earlier pulmonary embolisms, namely the pulmonary hypertension and congestive heart failure. That was a low point: although we have always welcomed and appreciated honesty with regard to his prognosis, when the words hang in the air, trying desperately to penetrate our unwilling ears, it is as if we are hearing them for the very first time.
And so we ramped up our strategy: in addition to the extremely low sodium diet, he was now on oxygen day and night. The cough was ever-present. When he complained of tiredness and generally not feeling well, we would check his O2. One Saturday, he was especially tired, and his O2 was in the 70’s, even on oxygen. So I increased the liters on his oxygen condenser. Over the next few hours, we steadily increased the liters on his machine…his O2 sats would rise into the 90’s, only to fall again. I checked his O2 sats at 5 liters, the highest the machine would go, and they seemed stable, so I had fallen into an exhausted sleep.
A couple of hours later he woke me, and told me to listen carefully, because he could not talk for long: I was to get his ER backpack (yes, we have a backpack in his closet, ready to be stuffed with a couple of pairs of clean underwear, t-shirts, socks, toothbrush and pajama pants), hook him up to his portable oxygen tank, and take him to the emergency room.
Tests showed that he had more pulmonary embolisms, or blood clots in his lungs. For some reason, this news shocked us in a way that was much worse than our first experience in 2008. After all, he had a VC filter that prevented any clots in his legs from traveling to his lungs. He took his blood thinners daily. How could this have happened? There were no clear answers, no way to tell how long he had had them. Once again, another low point….another moment of feeling helpless in the wake of this mysterious illness. Not even our regular treatment was status quo right now, and it shook us to the core.
For the first day or so, he felt really bad…so much so that I was afraid to leave him to go home at night. I think we both thought this was “it”. It is so hard to describe that sick feeling of sadness and dread. You don’t take an interest in anything. To be honest, you don’t understand how the rest of the world could dare to go on when your world is imploding. All we could do was pray that this was just a valley in our journey.
Prayers were answered and he began to feel better. On the day before he was discharged, our youngest son was visiting. He suddenly left the room to take a phone call. When he returned, I knew something was going on. He told us that he had to be at the recruiter’s office on Sunday, four days earlier than we had expected.
Suddenly, time was of the essence…we only had a couple more days with our baby son. Thankfully, my husband was discharged in time for us to have some at-home time before he set out on his own.
That Sunday morning when our youngest began his journey as a recruit was bittersweet. We were excited for him to realize his dream, and at the same time it made us remember our early days in the Service. With each new move or job, the world and all its potential was open to us. We embraced each new adventure.
This provided an excellent opportunity for us to revisit our years as a couple, both before kids and during our parenting years. I don’t know how much time remains for us. None of us knows what life will send our way. However, we should not wait until a medical crisis to say what we need to say. There’s no time like the present to let our loved ones know how much they mean to us. And that’s “where we are”.