Have you ever thought that you were going to die? I have, and that was the most terrifying moment of my life.
In 2004 I had a herniated disc in my cervical spine (neck) at the level of C5-6 and therefore needed to have surgery to repair it with a plate and screws. Then in 2005 I had another herniated disc at the level of C4-5 and needed another surgery. In 2006 I developed bone spurs from the surgeries which were very painful, and my surgeon recommended that I have cortisone injections to relieve my pain. This is when all the trouble began.
The first injection proceeded smoothly, although I must say that it was quite uncomfortable. I was worried about an allergic reaction, but no such event occurred, and I was scheduled to return for a second procedure a week later.
The next week came, and for some reason I was feeling very apprehensive about the second appointment. I did not want to go to have the procedure done again, but my husband kept telling me that I must go. I changed the time of the second appointment to an earlier time, although I didn’t have a good reason to do so, but I did it anyway; something told me to do so. At that time, our daughters were in junior high school and needed to be picked up after school by me.
I also had my husband, Mike, accompany me, even though the doctor had told me after the first time that he didn’t need to come with me. For some reason I really wanted him to be with me and insisted that he take off work, and he did so, reluctantly.
We arrived at the office, and when it was my turn, the nurse brought me into an empty room and told me that the room in which I would be receiving the injection was not quite ready yet and that she would return in about ten minutes for me. As soon as she left the room, I heard this voice say to me, “Pray.” I was shocked, to say the least. Then the voice urged me again, a little bit louder this time, “Pray.” So I began to pray. I prayed the entire time until the nurse came back for me.
She brought me into the procedure room and positioned me on my stomach on the narrow table.Then she washed off the back of my neck. This procedure is carried out under x-ray, to be sure they are shooting the injection into the correct spot. It has to be very exact. It was at this moment when the doctor entered the room and greeted me. I could hear him put on his sterile gloves and talk to the nurse about the medication. Being a registered nurse myself, I could understand what they were talking about. Soon he came over to me and was ready to proceed with the injection.This time I knew what to expect, having had the procedure only a week before. So I braced myself for the discomfort I was about to undergo. Only this time I was pleasantly surprised. The injection was not as uncomfortable as it had been the week before, but I still had a feeling that something was not quite right. He finished the injection, told me to make another appointment, said goodbye to me, and left the room.
Then the nurse began to wash off the back of my neck, but all of a sudden I began to feel hot inside and dizzy. I remember saying to the nurse, “I feel dizzy. . . ,” and then everything went black. The next thing I knew, I woke up and was lying on my back. I had a blood pressure cuff on my arm and an oxygen mask on my face. There were three nurses buzzing around me, and the doctor was standing anxiously over me.
I didn’t feel very good at all as I asked, “What happened?”
The doctor took my hand as he looked at me and said, “You had an allergic reaction. You were unconscious and stopped breathing. We had to resuscitate you. The paramedics are on the way.”
Just as he finished saying this, the paramedics came rushing into the room. The next thing I knew, they were transferring me onto the stretcher. After this, everything went black again. As I became conscious again, I noticed that I had an IV started in my arm and EKG leads on my chest. Apparently I had been resuscitated for a second time.
“I want my husband,” I said.
As I was waiting for my husband to be brought in, I noticed that I couldn’t feel my legs, nor could I move them. I thought for sure they were paralyzed from the injection I had.
“I can’t move my legs,” I said, panicked.
“It’s okay,” said the paramedic. “It’s from the epinephrine we’ve been giving you. That’s normal. Don’t worry about it.
Then my husband arrived. All of a sudden I had difficulty talking. My tongue was swollen, as were my eyelids, my arms and my legs. It was at this moment that I felt terrified. I felt as though I was going to die. After all, I had passed out twice and stopped breathing twice. Who was to say what would happen next to me? My throat was swollen. They were talking about putting in a breathing tube; I was finding it difficult to breathe. As I looked at my husband, I could see a worried expression on his face.
“Are you scared?” I mumbled anxiously as he held my hand.
“No. Don’t worry, Honey, you’ll be alright,” he said as he tried to reassure me.
The next thing I knew, the paramedics were wheeling me out of the procedure room and through the waiting room. I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the people sitting in the chairs waiting to have their procedures done. I’m sure they were terrified, wondering if something like this would happen to them. The paramedics wheeled me outside and put me into the ambulance. My husband told them he would follow behind in our car. I remember him saying at some point that he was glad that he had taken off work to be with me. I guess my premonition had paid off after all.
The ride in the ambulance was a scary one. The sirens were blaring and I had never before been in a vehicle that was moving so fast. We zoomed down the freeway as I was jostled from side to side. This frightened me even more, although the paramedic, who was a female, kept reassuring me, telling me that everything was going to be all right, but I was still worried.
We made it to the hospital in no time flat. The hospital was about fifteen miles away from the office but I think we arrived there in about seven minutes. I was relieved that I couldn’t see out the windows while we were driving. I’m sure I would have lost my breakfast if I had. As they wheeled me into the emergency room, my husband had not arrived yet.
The hospital had called a Code Red ahead of time when they knew I was coming, which meant that they needed to be prepared in case I would need to have a breathing tube placed. There must have been ten to twelve people in the room to take care of me — doctors, nurses, anesthetists, x-ray techs, lab techs, and then finally my husband arrived. After taking x-rays and blood work, and right before they were going to put in a breathing tube to help me breathe, the medication began to work, and my breathing became easier. I didn’t have to have the breathing tube after all.
After a long while, they finally sent me up to ICU to spend a few days. After I arrived in ICU, I remembered that the girls needed to be picked up from school, and Michael was able to arrive there just in time — only because I had changed the time of my appointment. If I had kept the original time, he would never have arrived there on time and the girls would have been waiting at school for a few hours, wondering where we were. So you see, there was a reason for me changing the appointment time, even though I didn’t know what had prompted me to do so.
As I laid in ICU that night, I thought over the events of the day, and I marveled at how good God had been to me. First, He moved me to change the appointment time so that Mike could pick up the girls on time. Then He had me insist that Mike come with me. Next, He had sent an angel to tell me to pray.
Then I thought about how important my family was to me and how I needed to spend more time with them. I knew that before long my children would be gone to be on their own and that I needed to enjoy them while I could. I also thought about how I needed to show my husband how much I loved him because I thought sometimes he didn’t really know. I also thought about all the things that I wanted to do and that I shouldn’t put off because the events of the day proved that you never know what tomorrow will bring.
But most of all, I thought about enjoying today and not worrying so much about tomorrow because tomorrow might never come.
“Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think.” ~Horace ~