Sunday, March 5, 2017

Definitely not how this year was planned


Hard to believe that the first quarter of 2017 is almost over. When the new year starts, many people partake in the making of New Year's resolutions. Mine certainly would not have looked like what has happened so far, if I would have made any.

Most of the these resolutions are made in an effort to improve one's life over the next year. Things like lose weight, stop smoking, stop drinking, find a mate, get married, etc. None of them involve a 6 day stay in a hospital. Yet that is where I found myself the month of January.

It becomes easy to not take care of yourself over time and then find yourself in need of a medical re-boot. It also is quite likely that a person will experience something that they never saw coming. And that is exactly what happened with me.

Now, I 'm pretty confident that you are thinking this has to do with the loveliness of Meniere's, but it doesn't. But it does have to do with my life, and really, the fact I am still living.

As usually happens in winter, there are bugs that go around. Some worse than others. I thought I had one at the beginning of January. Cough, chills, tired. It had to be a virus, so I blew it off. It will pass.

As this winter had been progressing, Tuesday had become the day of the week for winter weather. This year was more ice than snow, but if it came, it was on a Tuesday. Tuesday, January 10th was no exception with a round of freezing rain. As has happened more times than I care to count, my wife ended up staying at work and pulling extra shifts. I guess it is better than having to be concerned about her driving home on the ice. Staying safe is a good option. It also gives the road crews a chance to get out and clear or sand the roads to make travel safe. Since our driveway is a bit, well, quite a bit, of a slope, I figure I should get out and sand it before she headed home so she could get home.

So out I went and I grabbed a bag of barn lime to sand the drive. As I carried the 50 pound bag, I developed intense tightness in my chest and by the time I got to where I needed to sand, it felt like the bag was on my chest after I set it on the ground. Then I started coughing. Remember the virus thing? It had to be a virus, so I continued to sand. When I finished, I broke into a sweat and was extremely tired.

The next morning I couldn't breathe after getting dressed and decided a trip to the Dr. was in order to confirm the virus thing, or maybe bronchitis, or at worst, pneumonia. My primary care thought otherwise and ordered a full work-up of my heart. Everything came back negative until the very last test. This was a test to see if I was at risk for blood clots in the lungs.

Are you kidding me? Blood clots in my lungs?

After the radiologist confirmed that was indeed what was going on, I found myself a resident of the local hospital for the next 6 days, and I find myself on blood thinners for six months, minimum.

Being the information junkie I am, I looked up pulmonary embolisms and was greeted with the statement that 33% do not survive without immediate medical attention. I waited 24 hours. Talk about a reality check.

As the week in the hospital went on, I learned more about the clots. They seemed to have started in my calf. I thought I had a cramp, I guess it was the clots. I didn't just have one clot in one lung, I had several in both lungs, and they were pretty big. On my follow up with my primary, I got a big hug and was told I should be grateful I was still here.

Trust me, I am. Yet at the same time, I never really felt as though I was in a life threatening situation. I kept up on all of my homework for school while recuperating, I started working immediately after release. Really, other than being told I had them, and the one day I had trouble breathing, I did not feel like anything was wrong.

After release, my next concern was a trip I had planned to Cochlear Americas Celebration! 2017 in Orlando. I had resolved that if I got medical clearance, I would go and have a blast, but if I could not go, that was the way it was. My health was more important. Thankfully, I was cleared to travel. And I did have a blast. This was my second Celebration, and it was much more relaxed for me.

The thing about these gatherings of 1000 or so people who have benefited from Cochlear implant technology, is that you laugh until your face hurts, then you meet someone new and hear their story and cry with them, both tears of joy and tears of empathy. Then you laugh with them until your face hurts. It is an emotional 3 days surrounded by people who become your lifelong friends, and by staff that are more than employees for the manufacturer, but also friends.

And this, finally, leads to the picture. On the last day of the Celebration, at the closing session, they honor a few of the recipients from the previous year. This year they awarded 8 young ladies scholarships. They awarded a couple with the Lifetime Volunteer Achievement award, and they awarded me with the volunteer of the year award.

Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever thought 2017 would start out like this.

I'm thankful I am here to see it, and how the rest of 2017 goes.

'til next time

Dennis

Just a guy trying to live with an invisible, potentially debilitating illness

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