Personal Tragedy (and Triumph!), with Some Lessons

Two mornings ago I awoke but my wife did not.  A mostly healthy 38-year-old woman went to bed at night and was unresponsive at 6 AM.  Before you read any further, please remember that John is the paramedic, not me.

I did the sternum rub and some light smacks to the face.  I called 911, put them on speakerphone, and they had me move her to the floor and perform CPR.  I did chest compressions for 4-5 minutes until the paramedics arrived.  And I cried the whole time.

When I got to the hospital (had to get my kids to school first), she was on a ventilator which was doing 100% of the breathing for her.  She was diagnosed with ARDS (Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and I was told that if I felt anyone should be there with her, they pretty much needed to get there NOW.

I am happy to report that, less than two days after all of the above took place, my wife has made what can only be described as a miraculous recovery.  They extubated her this afternoon and this evening she was eating ice cream!  Her doctor said he has never seen anyone make such a recovery so quickly.  Nurses in the Emergency Room–who were part of the team that worked on her upon her arrival via ambulance–got word of this and came up to see this Wonder Girl! 

I share this story here for a few reasons.

1.        If you are not certified in CPR, you are wrong.  There’s no other way to say it.  I favor even more extensive medical training, such as the class I took with  Dark Angel Medical in 2013, but CPR and maybe some basic first aid classes would be better than nothing.  I really, truly believe that each of us is MUCH more likely to require the services of such medical training than a handgun, carbine, or shotgun.  

2.       Make a plan with your significant other about what to do in such circumstances, no matter how young or healthy you both are.  Shit happens.  Have a file folder (a physical one and/or thumb drive or the like) with important information:  insurance, bank accounts, passwords for online bill payment, contact information for people at each others’ workplaces, etc.  Make sure your wills a) exist and b) are up to date, along with any advance directives.  Some of these issues came up or would have come up had the worst happened.  As with so many other things, be prepared.

3.       I know some people, such as some coworkers of mine, who could not possibly have performed CPR for as long as I did that day.  CPR is physically taxing if you do it correctly, but I must say that, as I look back on everything, I did not feel particularly winded or weakened from the experience, and probably could have performed it for a much longer period of time, despite the tears.  The cardio and pushups are paying off.  Get yourself in shape and stay in shape.  It’s not just about how you look or feel, but about capability.  See here for a little more information on this topic.

4.       We are unsure, as of this writing, what her recovery will be like.  Despite her rapid progress, her full recovery could take months.  So, at this point, I am anticipating a reduced output for blog articles from me (except for a few that were in the editing stage), and I may also need to postpone/cancel my plans for some of the training classes I had signed up for this year.  We shall see.  But with a wife and children, they are far and away my priority.

Those are a few of my takeaways.  Thanks for reading.  Comments are welcome below.

UPDATE 3/14/16

My wife was discharged from the hospital today; she literally walked out!  No wheelchair.  Will need to take antibiotics for a few days and utilize her inspirometer to work on her lungs just a bit.  Other than that, no real issues.  She’s lucky and she knows it.

Thanks for all the thoughts, prayers, and offers of assistance.  They are much appreciated.

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7 thoughts on “Personal Tragedy (and Triumph!), with Some Lessons

  1. I am sorry that you and your family had this happen to you, and I do wish you the best and I wish her the most hopeful and positive and complete recovery that can be possible.
    I am a little dumbfounded, however, about the part of you did CPR on your wife and she was taken by ambulance to the ER and then you got the kids off to school before you went to the hospital? Huh? I re-read that line in your post about four times to make sure I was not misunderstanding what you wrote. It does seem to say that you did CPR, she went to the hospital in the ambulance, and then you got your kids to school before you went to the hospital. I am absolutely dumbfounded by that.

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    1. I am not sure what it is that you are dumbfounded by, but I suppose my leaving out of certain details leaves room for reader questions, and I can respect that. So thanks for the question, and I hope the information that follows will answer your question.

      We have five-year-old twins. We have no nearby family (closest about an hour away) and neighbors I would regard as only pseudo-reliable. And, as the police officer who came by the scene said, and I will use quotes, though this will not be a perfect quote: “Take your time, figure out what you’re doing with your kids. Get that squared away, then get to the hospital, but take your time. Don’t go crashing your car in a rush to get there, when you know as well as I do that once you get there you’re going to be waiting an hour before you even know what’s happening.”

      By far, the best course of action was to take my kids to school (which is actually a day-care facility that was already open at that hour and does not close until 6 PM). It is five minutes from my home so I could get them there quickly. They would be safe there. I would not be relying on any ONE person to be their caretaker ALL day, since there’s an entire staff of teachers and assistants there. I would have family members arriving in town from all points of the compass to pick them up later if needed. And, perhaps most of all, their routine would not be interrupted. Indeed, we had so many family members arrive in town who spelled me from time to time that I was able to pick the kids up that night, get them to bed, take them to school the following day, pick them up the following day, and get them to bed the following day, all in an effort to maintain some sense of normalcy for them.

      As it happened, the police officer was correct. I was probably about 30 minutes behind the ambulance due to dropping the kids off (and given their teachers a VERY fast version of the situation) and lacking a siren to expedite my trip to the hospital. Once at the Emergency Room and confirming some information at the desk, it was at least 30 minutes before anyone came out to speak with me.

      So, although I chose not to present ALL of this information in the article, I hope now you can see my rationale for the decision. I’m not sure what you think I should have done differently (ride in the ambulance and leave my kids behind? Follow in my car, taking my kids with me to a hospital emergency room?), and, no offense intended, but I don’t care. It all worked out. When my kids are older, we can share with them how close to death mommy was; no need to cloud their minds with it now.

      My wife is home now and is doing incredibly well. Her lungs are still down in capacity a bit, but her recovery should be complete and be accomplished very soon!

      Thanks for the concerns, and thanks for reading.

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