Most people will never climb Mt. Everest, and I, definitely will never make that trek. But I did experience a journey, which in my eyes, was equivalent to the amount of stamina, courage, and faith that would be required to climb such a mountain.
I became overrun with headaches and body aches on February 17th, 2015. I went to urgent care and was diagnosed with moderate dehydration and was sent to the ER three days later. After numerous blood and urine tests, it was unclear as to why I was feeling sick. I was treated for headaches and was given muscle relaxers to ease the tension and pain in my body. About a week later, my headaches finally subsided but I was still facing cold like symptoms and body aches. My fever spiked to 103.6 around March 5th and I was worried that something was wrong. I called ER and was told to take a cold bath and use wet clothes to help the fever come down. It finally did and I felt a little better. I was unable to eat regular meals and started having inconsistent bowel movements. Instead of rushing to the hospital, I sang at Miss Tustin and participated in a Vocal Competition that weekend. Of course, I did not feel I performed well and during the competition I thought I was going to pass out. It was the worst I have ever sung and I was embarrassed by how sweaty and out of breathe I became after singing Come Scoglio and Porgi Amor. I walked out feeling disappointed and defeated.
Four days later, my life would change completely. It was a normal Wednesday morning. I made myself breakfast and at the first bite, my stomach immediately began to hurt. It was the most excruciating pain I had ever experienced, but tried to push through. I went to class and I could barely pay attention to the lesson because I was in so much pain. After class I threw up and went home. I tried to calm the pain by drinking water and sprite and eating saltine crackers, but nothing seemed to work. All evening I had diarrhea and the vomiting did not stop. Around 9:30 pm, my diarrhea turned into pure blood and I knew something was wrong. My roommate rushed me to the Emergency Room and I was immediately admitted. It was initially thought I had appendicitis, but the test came back negative. There were so many blood tests done that night and all my numbers were normal except for my white blood cell count, which suggested there was an infection somewhere.
I was moved to the Intensive Care Unit and a drainage tube was inserted in my stomach to collect all the fluid buildup that resulted from the inflammation. I was in horrible shape and as the days progressed my health declined. About a week later my entire body went into a sceptic shock. The doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me. I had numerous CT scans and an MRI before they found a blood clot in one of the major veins in my small intestine (known as mesenteric venous thrombosis). I developed every complication imaginable. My heart rate raced up to 150, my pancreas became inflamed, my lungs began to weaken, and my body became extremely swollen. I know many more complications developed, I just don’t remember them. I had every specialist exam my condition and none of them could pinpoint exactly what was wrong. They sure did do everything in their power to solve the problem to my worsening condition. The first week of April, on of the surgeons came into my room and told me I needed to have surgery within 48 hours or I would die. I had developed perforations in my small intestine and the infection was going into my blood stream. I was transferred to UCLA-Santa Monica Medical Center and was rushed into an emergency surgery within 48 hours. It was said that I had a 50% chance of surviving the surgery. In the surgery report (which I read after I got out of the hospital) my condition was very poor. Upon opening me up, it was very clear my intestines had developed gangrene and it was necessary to remove a large amount of both the small and large intestine. Three surgeries later and I was finally done with the necessary procedures. Dr. Charles Chandler saved my life. He is one of the most amazing doctors/surgeons in the world and I was so incredibly blessed to have him as my surgeon.
I was sedated for 18 days following surgery and my mother told me my fevers would reach up to 105 some days. I had numerous PICC lines in my arms and one in my upper thigh. A machine was inserted into my lungs to help me breathe because fluid had built up. I had drainage tubes in my nose, my stomach, and a Wound VAC in my wound. Blood tests were drawn daily and I went into septic shock at least three or four more times before my time was done in the ICU. I was unable to eat and ice chips became my “food” of choice. Upon waking up, I had horrible dreams and they all involved water of some sort. I remember being confused and feeling a sense of hopelessness. But, I know that I was surrounded by endless love, support, and prayers from my family and friends. I don’t think I could have handled this experience without the support from loved ones.
I was finally released from the hospital on May 7th, 2015. I was a patient in the Intensive Care Unit for 47 days and was in a regular hospital room for 13 days. During this time many other things happened, I met wonderful people, had good and bad days, had some great times and not so great times, and learned more life lessons most people take a lifetime to learn. But, these are all stories for another blog.
Today, I am finally getting better. My hair has stopped falling out, I am able to eat normal meals, and I am living life with a completely different view. Life is so incredibly precious and I hope I am able to inspire others to slow down and appreciate every facet of life. These days, I am so happy to just be able to make it to the bathroom without the assistance of my mom, to take the steps and sleep alone, to be able to pour myself a glass of water, to sit outside and enjoy the sunshine. These are all extremely simple things, but these are some things I definitely took for granted. Today, I am grateful I survived the climb of my Mt. Everest. Now, it’s the trek downhill to base camp. I’m almost there, but it will take time.
Thanks for reading and if you feel like helping me get back on my feet, please donate to either paypal (firstname.lastname@example.org) or donate through GoFundme.com (www.gofundme.com/sarahsrecoveryfund).