Not too long after I got re-married to an amazing guy, we and my ten-year old son decided as a family to have another baby. We were ready, but just decided to let whatever happened happen. Three days later I conceived.
I remember thinking, “Wow. Alright, let’s do this.”
Early in my pregnancy, I was riddled with sickness. Almost fainting spells, non-stop morning sickness that lasted well into the evening. The pills I took to help did nothing more than make me able to claw my way into work. I looked like a walking zombie. I wore the same 5 outfits on rotation.
In December, I was around 5 months pregnant when we decided to visit family in Dallas, Texas. On the drive there it became clear- I had the flu. The flu is a bad enough virus on its own, but having it while pregnant was another animal. I spent the 5 days there sleeping, exhausted, and horribly, scarily sick. In order to take the edge off the symptoms, I took medicine (approved by my OB of course). I felt like I was dying.
Traveling wasn’t great, but I made it back home. I spent the next two months still feeling super run down. I couldn’t get enough sleep to feel rested. My lack of energy was worth noting to my OB, but nothing to be too concerned about. I chalked it up to being an older pregnant woman. The high schoolers that I teach call me old, but at 31 this wasn’t actually a good reason to feel how I did.
The start of my almost-death began with a field trip to Chicago. I helped chaperone the Choir and Band on a competition trip. The entire time I felt overwhelmed, breathless, restless, had motion sickness with every little movement, and I could not eat well. My face, hands, feet and legs had started swelling increasingly in size.
I was urged to go to the Chicago hospital- but I was way too scared to do that alone. I should have gone.
Once I made it back home (barely), I drove straight from the high school where I teach to the Women’s Emergency Room. They checked me in and took my vitals. My blood pressure was 152/110. I was observed for two days, diagnosed with Pre-Eclampsia, and ordered bed-rest for at least another two weeks before returning to work.
My doctor prescribed some medicine to stabilize my blood pressure. When I went home, I took a pill and a bath and then settled in for the night.
The First Emergency
I woke up drowning.
I woke up choking on fluid and unable to breathe.
I didn’t understand. I couldn’t take a breath.
I was SO scared. I screamed for my husband, who had already left for work.
I screamed for my cat Hairy Pawter. Silly Jessica. What can he do?
I reached for my phone and grabbed it while running to the bathroom.
I called the Nurses’ line for my OBGYN and couldn’t make words happen.
Can’t Breathe. Jessica. Name. Is. Jessica. Air. Medicine. Breathe.
By this point, tears were streaming down my face.
The nurses didn’t understand, but they were screaming, “Come to the ER. Dial 911.” I could hear them yelling. I just sat the phone down.
It’s like I was embracing my current state. The room was spinning.
The doorbell rang. UPS man? I was confused.
My mother-in-law had come over to do laundry for me.
I pulled my heavy pregnant self across the floor and did my best to yell for her.
She helped me downstairs and into her car, and we tore across town for the hospital.
The Second Emergency
While signing in, I peed all over myself. Not being able to breathe in made me sound terrible. My blood pressure was well over 200. My lungs had collapsed. I was put into some sort of medically induced coma. I was screaming about mice getting into my IV lines. And for the nurses to stop using Dementor smoke in my oxygen mask. I was not lucid.
After 5 days of being unable to comprehend life around me, my kidneys decided they no longer wanted to fight the good fight, and went the way of my lungs. As a last resort, the doctors decided it was time to induce labor. I was 30 weeks, 2 days. In a odd twist of events, my 36-hour labor was going remarkably smooth. Until I got my epidural.
In that instance, baby went feet down, and I was prepped for emergency C-Section. During the thirty seconds they tried to locate the doctor, got my husband prepped, and shaved my stomach, the room overflowed with people. There were probably twenty-five medical personnel in the 12 foot by 12 foot room. I had never seen anything like it.
In the next thirty seconds, my nurse began screaming for me to stop pushing (uh lady, I can’t feel anything from the boobs down). She continued screaming for the doctor. Baby was out.
My little 3-pounder guy had decided vaginal breech birth was alright by him.
He was whisked off to NICU. I was put back on magnesium, the “Devil’s Juice,” as my nurse affectionately called it.
Later in my hospital stay, I learned I had around a 5% chance of survival at that point. Some odds.
Now it is more than a year later, and my health problems have mostly resolved. I still get shortness of breath sometimes. My anxiety has increased tenfold. I’m suffering from PTSD. But almost-dying led me to this moral: Unload your life.
Take away anything that doesn’t give you the life you deserve.
Friends, work, hobbies, etc…
Because of this almost-death, my life now has meaning.
And I’m going to be around to enjoy it. I’m going to embrace the uplifting, life-giving people around me. I’m going to embrace my children and family.