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My Brush With Death…

Posted by on November 8, 2015

 

November 8, 2015. 2:20 PM.
Gulf Shores, Alabama. Bella Terra Resort.

MY BRUSH WITH DEATH. We pulled into Bella Terra Class A Resort at exactly 2:20 pm. on November 8, 2015. I parked our rig and that, literally, is the last thing I remember about the next six weeks. I’m told I just slumped and lost consciousness.  Florence got me to the nearest hospital by ambulance. All of my organs had stopped functioning. My temperature spiked to 105 degrees and I was placed on an ice mattress. I was breathing only with a ventilator. A tracheotomy was performed on my throat  and I was fed with a tube into my stomach. My heart stopped beating and I was paddled back to life three times. I was in the Intensive Care Unit for about six weeks.  On the first day of my stay, Florence was told I had about 12 hours to live. Bullshit! The hours passed and I was still alive. Days  passed and I was still alive. Weeks came and went. Once I was able to understand what was going on, I decided I wasn’t going down without a fight! To hell with the doctors and their predictions of gloom!

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After about five weeks I opened my eyes and the doctors told Florence I’d probably live.

CRITICAL CARE HOSPITAL. My second stay was at a specialty critical care hospital where I remained for another seven weeks. Florence wasn’t satisfied that hospital #1 was doing all that could be done, so  I took a $5,000 ambulance ride across town, about 10 miles, to the critical care facility. (Who needs to practice law when you can drive across town and make $5,000?) My third and final hospital stay was at a physical rehabilitation hospital, where I began to learn the basics: wheelchair and bathroom use and other activities all of us take for granted. I’m now home (see below) and in an outpatient physical therapy program  because after 3 1/2 months in a hospital bed, all my leg muscles atrophied. I’ve lost 60 pounds. I’m not tempted by food and I’ve developed an aversion to food. I go days without eating even a mouthful. I’m unable to walk on my own steam. I use a rolling walker and a wheelchair. I am learning how to use a bathroom without the use of my legs.  My kidneys have failed, so I have dialysis three days each week for about three hours each session. It remains to be seen if my kidneys will ever recover enough that I won’t need this time consuming and unpleasant treatment. Probably not and I’ll need to continue for the rest of my life. For the first time in my life, I’ve developed a heart condition which requires medication and monitoring. I’ve had a tiny little monitor surgically inserted under the skin above my heart. You can’t see it and I can’t feel it. But it works 2-7, via wi-fi of all things, to alert my cardiologist if problems occur. My lungs were seriously damaged. I often need oxygen. The lung damage is the result of severe pneumonia which caused respiratory failure. My eyesight has been affected. I’m hoping the nerve damage that’s altered my vision will repair itself if I’m just patient. I have peripheral neuropathy and my feet tingle constantly as if “asleep.” When I bear any weight on my feet, it feels as if there’s gravel underfoot. I spend hours every day with a physical therapist building strength in my legs and learning to walk again. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I can’t climb the steps to our coach nor live inside it. I certainly can’t drive it. So we’ve rented an apartment for a year in Pensacola, Florida. We’ve got oodles of furniture in storage in San Diego, but we’re here and it’s there. So we’ve also rented some cheap furniture and a washer and dryer. I’m determined not to let this get the best of me, but it’s not going to be easy. If I’m not careful, it’s easy for me to slip into a “why me?” and “poor me” place. It’s hard to resist it, but resist it I must.

COULDN’T HAVE DONE THIS WITHOUT FLORENCE. Florence was with me 24/7 in the critical care hospital …she had her own bed in my room. She comes to my physical therapy sessions and “roots for me.” Without her help and encouragement, I couldn’t have come as far as I’ve come. I honestly don’t know what would have happened if she’d not been there every step of the way. Today I walked 150 feet with a rolling walker, three times! Florence cheered as if I’d run a 4 minute mile!

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Taken from the patio of our temporary apartment home.

FEBRUARY 27, 2016: OUR LITTLE APARTMENT. Just today we “came home” to our little apartment. We’ve put our motor home in storage. I haven’t yet read even one email message from you guys since November 7, nor have I listened to any voice messages on my phone. Many, many email messages and voicemail messages are there for me to review. It’ll take a while. I trust you will now understand why I haven’t responded to you for all this time. This is the first attempt I have made to use a keyboard, and my hands shake so much that it’s almost impossible for me to type. Nerve damage. I used to type about 85 words a minute with no mistakes. This evening, it has taken me over two hours to type this post. It’s difficult for me to use utensils when I eat, although that’s not been much of a problem since I’ve developed stomach problems and an aversion to food.

MY DIAGNOSIS: Legionnaires’ disease and severe pneumonia coupled with septic shock which shut down all my organs: brain, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs…you get the drift. Sepsis is a  life-threatening complication of an infection. Sepsis occurs when chemicals released into the bloodstream to fight the infection trigger inflammatory responses throughout the body. This inflammation can trigger a cascade of changes that can damage multiple organ systems, causing them to fail. If sepsis progresses to septic shock, blood pressure drops dramatically, which usually leads to death. Recently Muhammad Ali, “the Champ” passed away. The cause of death: Septic shock. And I’m guessing he was far healthier physically than I am. Why was I spared and why did he pass?

Fine one day and on my death bed the next. When’s the last time you heard of Legionnaires disease? I think I was in about the fifth grade. It is an infection caused by a bacterium. It is often fatal. I beat the odds. I’m sure there’s a reason. Time will tell.

WHY THIS POST? I wrote this post not to whine or complain to you about how difficult my life has become. Rather, my message to you and the reason I’ve written about these events is:

 Enjoy today, because you just never know what tomorrow will bring! Please, please heed my advice!

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I‘m not really a bird watcher, but the Cardinals in the trees by our patio are really beautiful. Watching them has kept me occupied.

OUR FUTURE PLANS. God willing, and with a lot of hard work on my part, I’ll be able to walk on a limited basis in six or seven months and be able to handle those three big steps getting inside our RV. If that’s the case we’ll continue with our Adventure, in a vastly different way because it appears I’ll be tethered to dialysis three days a week but, regardless, where there’s a will there’s a way. I’m looking into home dialysis, which I’m told is a safe and effective alternative to regular attendance at a clinic. Whether it would be possible to use this method in our motorhome so we could continue our Adventure is something I don’t yet know.

Our Great American Adventure, even if it’s over in its current form, has already proven to be the most enjoyable thing we’ve ever done. We have memories that will last a lifetime. Don’t hold your breath for much blog activity any time soon…I’ll post what I can, when I can. Even during this difficult time I’ll get out in my wheel chair when I can, to post the sights of Pensacola, Florida.  There’s much to  see and do in this area. For example, it’s home to the Blue Angles who practice in the sky over the shoreline frequently. Museums, such as the famed National Naval Aviation Museum, restaurants, live theater and beautiful beaches abound. I can see all of these things still, even if differently. The more I think about it, there will be lots of interesting post possibilities around here if I create them. I’m sure not going to just sit around the house feeling sorry for myself, although that would be very easy to do. And, for all of you who have called and written to me, a big “thank you.” Knowing that I have so many folks supporting me is special.

UPDATE: Since writing this post, a miracle has occurred! I’ve re-gained my health beyond the doctors’ wildest expectations. God has blessed me! And He has plans for me on this Earth. See my post dated March 18, 2016 for details and for the lessons I’ve learned as a result of having been spared!

(NOTE: I was not able to write this post until March 1, 2016. However, to keep it in chronological order with all the others, I have had to indicate a publication date of November 8, 2015.)

I’LL CONTINUE MY STORY NEXT TIME.

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