The Headache-Part One

The most terrifying crisis in our journey began on a day set aside for giving thanks.  Our youngest son had recently graduated from Navy boot camp and we were thrilled that he would have his training near our home, which meant he was able to spend Thanksgiving with us.  We looked forward to that day, followed by a fun family weekend at Seaside to kick off the Christmas season.  I was excited about spending time with my parents, brothers and their families during a weekend of Christmas shopping and activities, all while enjoying the atmosphere of the little beach town.

When my husband started complaining of a dull headache on Thanksgiving morning, I thought it was stress related.  He had just spent ten days in the hospital in New Orleans, where we had gone for a heart/lung transplant evaluation.  He had been admitted after doctors discovered fluid around his heart and had just been released the day before.  I was sure that once he had a chance to rest, he would feel better.  However, by Saturday he still had the headache.  I told him if it hadn’t gone away by Monday morning, we’d go to the doctor.

Early on the morning of November 30 I was startled awake by the weight of him collapsing onto me.  When he didn’t respond, I turned on the light and found my husband having a seizure.  Paramedics arrived quickly, and by the time my brother, my son and I arrived at the hospital, he was already undergoing a ct scan.  Then the devastating news:  there were three areas of bleeding in his brain.  I was fearful and broken-hearted for my son as he sat in the waiting room with my brother, unaware of the seriousness of the situation and that his dad could die.  Arrangements were made to have my husband airlifted to another hospital where they had a neurology department.  It was a shot in the dark, but I asked if he could be transported to the hospital near our home.  When I explained his complicated medical history, the doctor agreed to try.

Once we discovered the helicopter was grounded due to fog, they could only take my husband to the next largest hospital.  By then I was on the phone with one of his doctors, trying to keep him up to speed on the efforts being made to reverse the effects of the blood thinners my husband is on.  I was exhausted, terrified and praying that my efforts would eventually get him transported to our local hospital.

When we reached the second hospital, the neurologist came right in to speak to me, reminding me how serious things were.  I was eventually able to get the information needed for my husband’s doctor to speak to the neurologist.  After their consultation, for the third time that morning he was put into an ambulance for the final trip across state lines.  I felt we had won a big victory in giving my husband the best chance of survival by getting him back into the care of his regular doctors.  By mid afternoon he was in the Neuro ICU in the hospital we were so familiar with.

The next several days were very critical, as they had to be certain that the bleeding had slowed and would eventually stop.  It was an enormous relief when doctors determined that he wouldn’t need surgery for this.  I went through the motions of keeping family informed as I anxiously waited for the swelling in his brain to subside, giving him a bit of relief from the ever present headache.

There is no way to describe the sick feeling that lived in my soul in those days.  Every time my phone rang, the room would spin just a little.  Even times when I was right there with him could be terrifying, like the day my brother, sister in law and I had to be rushed out of the room when his blood pressure suddenly plummeted.

By day five I had started to feel a little more relaxed and more confident that my husband would survive when I received a call from the ICU…it was the nurse gently telling me to get there as quickly as I could.  When I walked in and saw two of his doctors, I knew it was very serious.  My husband was in acute respiratory distress.  His respirations were dangerously high and the only way to save his life was to put him on the ventilator.  Once we were told that he would not live through the night without this intervention, my husband agreed to it.

So with a heavy heart I said “see you later” to my husband and left the room, and for the third time in three years they put him on life support yet again.