DECEMBER 2014 and JANUARY 2015
About a week or so before Christmas, Isaiah and I were sitting in the living room watching some TV while dinner was cooking. He nonchalantly mentions "You know... I have been getting some tightness in my chest lately... Like I can't breathe very well." Cue major freak out by the preggo lady! "What did you just say?!" He then carefully reassured me "Oh, don't worry. It's not like a heart attack or anything." To which I snapped back with "Ya, because of all of the heart attacks you have had, you have plenty of experience to relate it with?!?!?!"
After googling every medication that he had been taking since his surgery to remove the cancerous tumor back in September, I calmed myself a bit by realizing that a TON of medications have side effects that sounded like what he had described. While I began pleading my case that he needed to notify the doctor ASAP, the tightness in his chest seemed to have gone away.
Christmas eve, we stayed out much later than normal (our new normal) and didn't get to bed until like 1am or maybe even later. That night Isaiah woke up suddenly, feeling unable to breathe and with a strong tightness in his chest. Just as quickly as it had started, it was over. We were exhausted Christmas day but he seemed to be feeling fine. And it didn't seem to come back. Until New Years Eve. Again, we stayed up later than normal. Well he did. I fell asleep on the couch at my parents house on and off until we went home. This time, I helped him sit up pretty quickly because he was starting to panic. Who could blame him? The guy couldn't breathe. I seriously started wondering if he was having anxiety attacks. It's not like he wouldn't have valid reasons to feel kind of anxious.
And again... nothing more. After this happened the second time we started to really talk more about it. He was having more difficulty breathing in general lately. Granted, he wasn't allowed to use his right leg still so he was literally jumping up and down the stairs on one leg. And walking? What was that? The best he could do was hop. Still, it didn't make sense why he would be having more difficulty breathing than he was back in November, doing the exact same things.
At his doctor appointment on January 6th, he begrudgingly mentioned it to the doctor that he'd been having tightness in his chest and difficulty breathing here and there. This had the doctor worried that he might have a blood clot in his chest. After the appointment, I took him to an imaging center for a chest CT scan and an ultrasound of his leg. As we were leaving town, we received a phone call from the orthopedic doctor that had ordered the scans notifying us that the scans seemed to show that he had double pneumonia and a blood clot in his right leg. He would need to see his primary care doctor to treat these 2 things. Ugh... He hates doctor appointments. He was absolutely THRILLED about this. Especially since he didn't sound like someone with double pneumonia, even according to the nurses.
The following day we took him in to his primary care doctor. This was the first time that he'd seen him since he had his physical a year prior. After a bit of catching up, we filled him in on what had been happening lately as he'd already been notified of what was on the scans. We left with a prescription for blood thinners and antibiotics. Cool. Done. Taken care of. That was easy...
Well, the antibiotics came and went. But there was NO change in his breathing. In fact, it was getting a lot worse. He was coughing like crazy. He felt like he couldn't breathe if he laid down. He wasn't sleeping. He truly was a mess. I begged him to call his doctor to let him know that the antibiotics didn't work. He refused. I was past my due date and wasn't exactly in the mood after work to attempt to drag him out to the car and off to the doctor.
On January 14th, the contractions started. I was at work and definitely was getting some contractions. Boy do they feel different than Braxton Hicks. I had already talked to my boss the day before about the 14th being my last day before I went on maternity leave even though I'd hoped to work until I had her. I ended up leaving work early that day because the contractions were getting more intense and closer together. I timed my contractions all night. I didn't sleep at all. Other than the 8-12 min between contractions. Isaiah was in such rough shape that he wasn't sleeping either. We were a mess. By morning, my mom had decided that she wasn't going to work that day and came over early to hang out and wait until it was time to go to the hospital. I had a doctor appointment scheduled for later that morning anyway. I'd hoped that I would be far enough along, that they'd just admit me.
My contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart by the time we went to my appointment. I came prepared to have my baby. I brought my hospital bag (left it in the car though, I did not want to jinx things). Mentally, I was as ready as I was ever going to be for labor. Let's DO this!
You can imagine my disappointment and past-due-preggo-lady anger when they sent me home after another membrane sweep and a mention that I was only 3cm. They don't admit until you are 4cm. SAY WHAT?! I was only 1cm away from being admitted AND I was having regular contractions. GRRRRR...
Well, I'd made myself an appointment for later that day to get my hair cut, since I was long over due and when I made the appointment the previous morning, I hadn't yet started having regular contractions. Some people have them for DAYS before they go to the hospital. I'll be fiiiiiine. Wrong again. I was too uncomfortable and having to stop and breathe my way through my contractions. No way would I be able to sit there and get my hair cut. I knew that once I was admitted, I wouldn't be allowed to eat... so we picked up some pizza! I still vividly remember sitting there in my chair, eating my pizza, and stopping every few minutes to hold my belly and breathe...
I continued to track my contractions so that I'd know when it was time. Hours passed and contractions continued to progress. I was having contractions every 4-5 minutes consistently for nearly an hour and then it would be like 9 minutes. And you know, they say that you need to have them 5 minutes apart, lasting one minute long, for one hour. Everyone told me, "That counts. Go to the hospital." I refused. I was NOT about to go to the hospital too soon and get sent home. The roads were terrible and I was so not in the mood to hear that I had to go home again until I'd had that baby!
Finally, after about 3 hours of 3-5 minute contractions, I finally agreed that it was time to go to the hospital. I waddled my way back to labor and delivery to check in, signed all of the random forms, and changed into my lovely hospital gown. They hooked me up to that machine thing to measure my contractions. I was only supposed to be hooked up for 20 minutes, but instead I was stuck on there for 45 minutes. Which thoroughly sucked because laying flat on my back made the contractions MUCH worse. The doctor came in to check me again, and I was still only 3cm. SERIOUSLY!? I'd had my doctor appointment 6 hours earlier and since then my contractions had intensified significantly, and I hadn't dilated any more? The doctor sent me off to wander around the hospital for 2 hours to try to get things to progress a bit more.
Since Isaiah was in such rough shape, my mom pushed him in his wheelchair while I walked. We walked everywhere and eventually ended up in one sitting area where they sat down and I walked in circles around them. I'm sure it was quite the entertaining sight. My fat feet were killing me. They were so swollen that they didn't fit in my shoes, so they were rubbing the sides of my feet in a not fun way and I was thirsty. So we went back to my room, before the 2 hours was up so that I could take the shoes off, get some water, and march in place to finish out my 2 hours. I figured that was just as good as walking, right? I believe I may have even bounced up and down for awhile since that still felt better on my feet that walking around.
|Last picture pregnant|
My 2 hours was finally up so the doctor came back to check me again after they left me to lay down for 30 min hooked up to the monitor again. I was BARELY 4cm. I think she was being nice because she knew I might cry if she still said 3. She told me that I had two options. 1 - I could go home. Which she highly recommended. She thought that if I went home and got some sleep, that I'd probably stop having contractions and I could get some rest. 2 - I could insist on being admitted and have my water broken.
I could tell she was leaning (heavily) toward me going home but I knew that if I went home, I would not get any rest, which was the whole reason that I'd go home in the first place, and I would be back to the hospital in no time. What was the point in that? So after over 19 hours of contractions, they sent me to my delivery room (which was quite spacious and comfortable actually) and my water was broken.
Boy did that feel weird! It was such a huge relief though. Throughout my labor, I continued to plead with Isaiah to go get himself checked out since we were already in the hospital and he was feeling so terrible. Big surprise... he refused. I spent about an hour and a half, maybe two, hanging out in the shower on a birthing ball. That felt decent. The contractions were getting far stronger and I had to hold onto the metal bar to make sure that I didn't fall right off the ball. Wouldn't that have been a mess?!
After awhile I decided it was time to dry off and go back into the room with my mom and Isaiah and the nurse wanted to hook me up to the monitor again. Just like before, the contractions were much more difficult to deal with when I was laying down. For this reason, I hated that dang monitor. The contractions had become SO intense and completely on top of one another. I wasn't getting any sort of break between contractions (seriously, ask my mom or Isaiah... it was nuts).
The doctor came in to check me again because due to the intensity and frequency, she thought that maybe it was time to push and I just didn't know it. I was still only 4cm dilated. HOW WAS THIS POSSIBLE?!?!?! I am pretty sure that I cried when she told me.
Since lying in bed during contractions was so painful, I was very happy that I was allowed to hang out on the birthing ball next to my bed. I held onto the bed (again to make sure that I didn't fall off) and my mom stood behind me. I think she was scared that I was going to fall too.
At this point, I hadn't really slept in nearly 48 hours. I was actually nodding off on the birthing ball during the few seconds that a contraction would start to subside. I had to get back into bed because it just wasn't safe anymore with how tired I was. There were numerous times where I just cried. It hurt so badly and I wanted to do it without painkillers. Women have been having baby for thousands of years without pain meds... so could I, dang it!
Then I remembered one of my appointments during my pregnancy. The doctor had asked what my plan was for the birth. When I told her that I wanted to be pain med free, she told me that that was fine but that sometimes they do end up recommending an epidural to help the woman's body dilate. Apparently some women have difficulty with that, and will not dilate in a decent amount of time without it. Here I was, exhausted, going on 40 hours of contractions, over 12 hours of pretty intense contractions that were only getting worse and more on top of each other, and I was only 4-5cm.
They were starting to get pretty worried that by the time I would be fully dilated, I wasn't going to have enough energy to push... which brings its own slew of issues. I gave in. I did the one thing that I always said that I didn't want to do. I agreed to an epidural. I was desperate for a brief time of rest so that I could build back some strength. It took what felt like forever for the anesthesiologist to arrive. He was done quickly but once it kicked in, I noticed that it was only really helping on my left side. Eh, I didn't really care. I mean, I never had any opposition to feeling the pain of childbirth. However, the right side was still feeling EVERYTHING. I was still unable to relax and get any rest so I notified the doc that I needed it to be fixed. A different anesthesiologist arrived and tweaked something so that both sides were less intense. I was finally able to close my eyes for a solid hour. I didn't sleep for more than 30 minutes, but I was able to kind of rest. Not to mention, Isaiah and my mom got some time where they didn't have to listen to me breathing heavily, moaning, or crying.
The nurse came in to check me before she went on her break. I was terrified that I was still only 4-5cm. She made a bit of a face. "Am I still only 4?"... "No, actually you will be ready to push any minute now. I'll come check on you after my break." I tried to rest some more but failed... The moment I'd been waiting forever for was almost here. This baby we'd prayed for for so long, was almost here. How could I possibly sleep?! Apparently, there was a miscommunication somewhere because I finally had to hit my call light. The nurse had come back from her break but thought that I was sleeping, so she didn't want to wake me.... UGH! I'd waited more for no reason? Let's get this show on the road!
The poor doctor had been working for at least 20 hours by now and didn't even hear the first few pages from my nurse. Finally, it was time to push. That is when my contractions suddenly changed.... to every 7-8 minutes. YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME...
I'd push... we'd wait the 7-8 minutes... I'd push... this was quite the long process. Once her head was out, I asked the doctor how many more until she thought she'd be out. She said probably 3 or 4 more contractions worth of pushes... HA! I was sooo not waiting another 30ish minutes. The next contraction came and I pushed... I got that baby out! The doctor was surprised for sure and was able to catch Audrey and put her on my stomach. On January 16, 2015 at 6:10am, Audrey was born - 9lb 2.6oz and 22in long. After crying, Audrey actually lifted up her head and looked around.
|Audrey - only seconds old|
Family and friends rotated through during the day. We convinced my mom to go home and get some sleep and just come back in the morning. Isaiah slept somewhat but spent much of the night coughing and trying to catch his breath. I spent the night, working on latching and changing poopy diapers in between trying to sleep. Audrey and I got a bit of sleep and then it was morning. Mom arrived with coffee for me. I hadn't had coffee, real coffee in FOREVER (about 9 months - though I was pretty much off of regularly caffeinated coffee the past 2 years due to our TTC journey and the previous 4 pregnancies). I was feeling pretty darn good. Audrey was doing great. We were ready to go home ASAP. We had to wait for all of the various people to stop by and complete their portion of the discharge checklist. Finally around 2pm, we were heading home!
The next week was quite the blur of sleeping, feeding, eating, and mindless tv. Meanwhile, Isaiah was continuing to decline. After much nagging, he made an appointment to see his doctor again on Friday, January 23rd. We talked to the doctor. Described all of his symptoms. Blood was drawn and he had been scheduled for another chest CT on Monday since it was already so late on Friday. That weekend was terrible. Isaiah had declined so much more, so quickly. He was coughing so hard that it was making him throw up. He couldn't even hold down water. It was BAD. We called the doctor first thing Monday morning but he insisted that we just go get the CT scan before anything else.
It was rough, but we did it. We waited around in town after the CT scan to see what the doctor had to say. While I picked up some stuff at Target, the doctor called to tell me that his lungs looked even worse than before. He and the radiologist were, to use the doctors words, scratching their heads on this one. He'd decided we should get him in to see a lung specialist the following day. He'd already talked to the specialist and he requested additional blood work. More blood drawn. That night, Isaiah was too weak to even go upstairs. He got absolutely no sleep. I knew it was bad when he said "Shelby... let's go to the ER this morning." Uhh... this is the man that HATES hospitals. That meant it was BAD.
We decided that it was not a good idea for me or Audrey to be in the ER since she was only a week and a half old. So I called Isaiah's parents to see if they'd meet us at the hospital and keep him company. I don't know how we did it, but we got him into the car and into the hospital. I checked him in, filled them in on his history, medications, recent symptoms, etc. I waited about 2 hours and then finally went home. His parents were there with him, and it wasn't a great place for me or our newborn baby to be.
I went home, took a bath and shaved my legs. I hadn't done that in way too long. I could REACH my legs! It was incredible! haha. Audrey and I were having a lazy day at home, waiting for the call to come back and pick Isaiah up after they gave him some meds or whatever he needed.
Isaiah's mom called me to let me know that they had determined that Isaiah was sick enough that he needed to be admitted to the hospital, but they weren't sure if it would be a regular room or the ICU. ICU... That's terrifying. She assured me that I should stay home and she would keep me updated. Not too long after that, she called again to let me know that he was definitely being admitted to the ICU. They wanted to sedate and intubate him. He was so sick that they didn't even want to wait until he was in the ICU to sedate him. They were going to do that right away, in the ER. By the time I would be able to drive in to the hospital, he would already be sedated. She told me that she would continue to update me and would let me know when he was in his room in the ICU.
Isaiah was actually okay with this. He was excited at the thought of getting some rest. Shortly after my mom showed up at my house to hang out with me and Audrey, Isaiah's mom called me again. This time instead of her usual "Stay home. We will keep you updated." She said that I needed to come to the hospital right away. Once Isaiah had been sedated, he began to crash. His heart and liver were failing. I dropped to the couch as she told me this. I was in a state of shock. I knew that he was sick, but how had I missed it that he was THAT sick? How had he gotten THAT bad? I got off of the phone, and relayed the information to my mom. I shed a few tears on her shoulder but then it was time to work. What did we need for Audrey? Diapers, wipes, blanket, extra outfit, food, etc. While I ran around like a maniac, my mom called my dad because she realized that she wouldn't be able to drive. Any normal Tuesday, my dad would have been at work, but this Tuesday, he was at home (my parents house is only 4 min from mine).
He arrived by the time we were ready to go and we started the 30min drive to the hospital. During the drive, I knew that he needed prayers. As many as he could possibly get because I'd realized that he was dying. I used his phone to notify his boss and one of his co-workers with what was going on since I'd been keeping them updated all day since he wasn't able to make it to a big meeting that day. They quickly asked what hospital and told me they'd meet me there. I used the 5% battery that was left on my phone, to quickly text as many people as I could think of, asking for their prayers. Prayers that Isaiah so desperately needed.
I vividly remember thinking... this can't be it. This can't happen. Isaiah has always wanted a wife and kids. He JUST got his first child and hadn't been able to enjoy her at all since he'd been so sick. He was terrified that he might be contagious, so he hadn't spent much time with her yet. He had been in a living hell for the previous 6 months due to cancer and what the surgery (to remove the tumor) had done to his body. The past 6 months can't possibly be his end. He can't have survived cancer only months sooner, to have this be his fate. He can't be done at 35 years old. I can't be a 24 year old widow with an 11 day old baby. This can't be happening.
Upon arriving at the hospital, we ran into his co-worker and boss that were meeting us at the hospital and we rode up the elevator together. I walked into the ICU waiting room where most of his family had already gathered. After hugging his parents, they took me back to meet the ICU doctors and see Isaiah. I talked to the doctors. Offered additional information. And learned that his heart was functioning at less than 10%. His heart, liver, kidneys, and lungs were in VERY bad shape. The left side of his heart was enlarged to twice its normal size. Something that they said didn't happen over night. Which made no sense to me... he'd JUST had a chest CT scan done the day before. LITERALLY the day before. Was it enlarged on that scan and no one said something or had it actually happened overnight?
I will never forget walking in to his ICU room. I'd seen him in an ICU room once before, in Seattle after his massive surgery to remove the large tumor from his pelvis. But that ICU stay was planned. We knew when we walked in to the hospital, that he'd be in the ICU for a night or 2. But THIS... this was not planned nor expected. He had tubes and wires coming out of every possible place. He was so far beyond pale that he was actually grey. He looked like someone who was teetering on the edge of death. Which is exactly where he was.
I spent a lot of time talking to the doctors and nurses, and holding his hand, staring at him. He was completely sedated for all of this. The poor guy went to sleep thinking he just had pneumonia, he had NO idea what his body had been going through since he closed his eyes. Over the remainder of the day, friends and family arrived in the waiting room. We had probably 40 people in the waiting room at various times. You could see how well loved he was. People arrived, hugged, brought food and drinks, prayed, cried.... Finally, we all went home around 11:30pm to get some sleep, after we were assured that they would call with any news.
The following morning, the family of zombies that we had become made our way to the hospital again. Audrey and my niece Natalie, kept everyone well entertained and pre-occupied. It was incredible to have a piece of Isaiah to hold and hug while he laid in the ICU, fighting for his life. Some of his test results showed improvement, but he was still very much in the danger zone. They had removed the sedation to see how he tolerated it and he was even breathing on his own. While still unconscious he was able to come out of sedation enough to shake his head "no" that he was not in pain, squeeze hands and wiggle toes on command.
After a lot of prodding by doctors and nurses, we left the hospital that night around 9pm. We knew that we all needed to try to get some sleep since we didn't know how long this was going to last. Audrey was particularly difficult to get to sleep that night. I'm sure that was perfectly normal for a newborn, especially one that was sensing so much stress 24 hours a day from everyone around her. At about midnight, she finally fell asleep. At 12:15am my phone rang. Instantly, I knew it wasn't good.
Isaiah's heart rate had become very rapid, they had to shock him, at which point his heart rate became very rapid and irregular so they shocked him again. He flatlined but was brought back with CPR. How do you even process that sort of information. I remember asking how awake he was when this happened. Did he know what was going on? Was he scared? I was assured that he was sedated again and would not remember any of what had happened. They told me that they didn't expect anything further, but would call if necessary. I knew that I had to call and let his parents know. They couldn't find out something like this in the morning when they got to the hospital. They deserved to know. That was NOT a fun call to make. Out of mere exhaustion, I fell back to sleep. At 2:30am, my phone rang again... NOT AGAIN. This time, I was told that the cardiologist wanted to do a procedure so I needed to come to the hospital now so that they could go over it with me and I could sign the necessary paperwork.
I was sleeping at my parents house and had no car. I would need to go wake them up to drive me back to the hospital. I tried my best not to scare them but as soon as they saw me standing in their room, they were up and moving. I called Isaiah's parents again to let them know what was going on so that they could meet us at the hospital. I arrived at the hospital by 3am. As the doctor explained the procedure, I could see Isaiah laying there in the hospital bed. The day before, I'd have said he couldn't possibly look worse. I realized that I was wrong... he NOW looked even worse than before. I nodded and told the doctor to do whatever he needed to do. I would sign whatever they wanted me to.
I went back to the waiting room to sit with my mom, Audrey, and Isaiah's parents. After a few hours, the doctor came to the waiting room. He let us know that the tandem heart (temporary heart pump) was in place. They had to shock him again while they had him in the OR but he was tolerating the pump well and seemed to be stable. That was as far as they could go. He needed to be flown to the University of Washington Medical Center in Seattle. That was the same hospital that he had been to for his cancer removal surgery. The hospital he spent a month in. The place he said he NEVER wanted to go back to. Talk about ironic.
I asked the doctor if he'd ever gotten a copy of the chest CT that he had back on January 6th. I wanted to know how long he'd been in such bad shape, hoping it hadn't been that long. He confirmed that they received copies of the scans and his heart was enlarged weeks prior as evidenced by his CT scan on the 6th. I got mad, but he tried to make me feel better by stating that he had to measure to know that it was doubled in size, since Isaiah is such a big guy (he's 6'5")... In my mind I immediately thought, "What? Were all of the rest of his organs also doubled in size so that they wouldn't notice since he was a big guy? Isn't that the point of getting scans?" None of this mattered though. He was in bad shape and he needed to be medevaced to Seattle. It was currently 6am and we were notified shortly thereafter that the flight crew would be assembling at 7:45am. They were moving quickly.
We left the hospital to begin our preparations to fly to Seattle as well. We went back to my parents house, ate breakfast, searched for flights and somewhere to stay. Audrey was supposed to have her 2 week appointment the following day, I had to try to get that moved up. Some incredible friends of ours contacted me and insisted on booking our tickets for us (my mom's ticket and mine). We ran around town like maniacs all day. Audrey's appointment, pick up Isaiah's clothes and wheelchair from the ICU, stop at Costco for diapers, and other miscellaneous tasks. Since Audrey was so young, I hadn't yet started pulling out my pre-pregnancy clothes. Brilliant as I was, I had bagged up clothes as they stopped fitting, and put them in our crawlspace with the intention to bring them out as I began to lose the baby weight. Since I was packing and maternity clothes were now too big, I went to the crawlspace and grabbed a handful of shirts and threw them in my suitcase. We were on the 7pm flight out of Alaska along with many of Isaiah's family.
|Audrey's first flight - she did amazingly well|
Friday afternoon was the first meeting with the cardiologist at UWMC. It was Isaiah's parents, me, and my mom. It was a very bizarre meeting. Essentially, they had to confirm that Isaiah was cancer free. If he wasn't cancer free, nothing would be done. The pump that he had was only good for 5-6 days... Thankfully, as we continued to talk, another doctor popped his head in to let us know that the oncology team confirmed from his scans, that he was free from cancer. Thank you LORD! He continued to explain that Isaiah's heart as a whole, was not functioning properly. The right side was in bad shape, but the left was in FAR worse shape. Which is probably why his liver, kidneys, and lungs were doing so poorly. Since receiving the temporary pump, his liver and kidneys had begun to improve.
Since Isaiah had flatlined in Alaska, they would need to lift Isaiah out of sedation to ensure that there was not significant brain damage before moving forward. Since he had cancer just 6 months before, he was not eligible for a transplant. The plan was to remove Isaiah's sedation. If he was able to respond to commands like he had in Alaska (squeeze hands and wiggle toes on command) by Monday night, then an LVAD (left ventricular assist device) would be placed on Tuesday. If he hadn't woken up enough to prove he hadn't suffered brain damage, then a different temporary pump would be placed on Tuesday. That would give him possibly up to a few weeks to wake up to prove he was okay, and then the LVAD would be placed. We were told that his heart would not heal, at all, ever.
We needed him to wake up.
After that very ugly and difficult meeting. We went back to the ICU waiting room where many of his siblings were waiting (he's the oldest of 8, remember) and I had to fill them in on what the doctor had said. We talked. We cried. We prayed.
He had to wake up.
The rest of that day, we all took turns holding his hand, talking to him, asking him to squeeze our hand or look at us. Nothing. Saturday morning we all showed up at the hospital again to continue to try to get him to respond. As he came out of the sedation, he would cough and move around, but not on command. So it didn't count. While Saturday was a long and difficult day of waiting, it wasn't the last.
**After starting this post, I realized this HAD to be split up into a few parts because it is overwhelmingly long and I'm not even done yet.... I will try to get Part Two up ASAP.**
|Napping while mom got us packed up to head to the hospital|