I always wondered how I would react on my death day. Would I be scared? Would I regret the things I didn’t yet get to do? As it turns out, I found my answer when I was only 25.
Just after Christmas time, I got sick. This wasn’t unexpected; the Christmas hustle had just died down and the second-day-of-rest-sydrome got a hold of me. But it escalated pretty quickly; all of a sudden I couldn’t get up off the couch, I couldn’t eat, and all I wanted to do was sleep.
A few days went by and I felt progressively worse. I couldn’t eat, so I would try to drink juice just to get some nutrients and fluids, and I was sleeping almost non-stop. My doctor was on holiday (why is it that we get sick on weekends and holidays?!) so I went in to the walk in clinic when I started to feel a little pressure in my chest. I figured I had pneumonia. The doctor gave me some antibiotics and sent me for a chest x-ray.
I walked into the x-ray clinic feeling pretty weak and by the time they took the x-ray, I wasn’t able to stand up for it so they gave me a chair. But then I couldn’t get up to walk so they gave me a wheelchair. I was so embarrassed. Maybe I was just so weak from lack of nutrients that I needed an apple juice. I felt like a child in the back room sipping on my juice. In a wheelchair. I even needed to be wheeled back to the car.
When we got home, I got a call from the doctor confirming there was fluid in my left lung so I popped my first antibiotic, tried to eat some cheese with it, and distracted myself with a little Pride and Prejudice. At this point, my body completely rejected what I was putting in and I was on the floor because I couldn’t hold myself up while vomiting. Zach helped me to the bathroom and that’s when I fainted. Poor Zach, just finished his first aid course and who would’ve guessed I’d be his first patient!
The heaving started coming in regular interval waves accompanied by profuse sweating to the point of soaking towels. I think I was nervous of going to the hospital in case I wasted their time, but at this point I said to Zach that if I had one more wave then we’d have to go in. Sure enough, 20min later (on schedule) the next wave hit. So Zach got me dressed - literally putting my clothes on for me - and we headed over to Lions Gate Hospital. I figured I was so weak from not eating for 4 days straight and I was probably dehydrated so I would need an IV to build my fluids back up.
When we got to the hospital, it was 9am on New Years Day 2013. Zach pulled the car up to the emergency room entrance and a 90 year old lady helped me through the doors to triage. I thanked her but felt so sorry that I wasn’t helping her in. I could barely pass over the ID cards Zach had put in my fingers and I had to keep putting my head between my knees to try not to faint.
They took me to the ER right away. The waves weren’t stopping; I was dry heaving, sweating and fainting while lying down. WHILE LYING DOWN. I knew something was terribly wrong.
I was so thankful to be in the hands of our medical system. I knew I was in the hands of God. I didn’t really have the energy to think or feel much, but I felt calm. My body was breaking down, but my spirit wasn’t. I kept seeing medical personal that looked like people from our church family and these were encouraging little moments from God to help me pause and hear
“I am with you”
I had blood tests show really weird levels, portable x-rays because I couldn’t sit up showed fluid in my right lung now instead of the left, and the specialists couldn’t do an arterial line because they couldn’t even find my blood pressure with the stethoscope or cuff.
I was still having the waves and Zach would try to cool me down with cold towels. That night, I was sent to the ICU. While in intensive care, I got the works; every test you could imagine. I was so thankful for the CT scan because they inject you with radioactive fluid and it makes your mouth taste metallic. This was great because I wasn’t allowed to drink any water (in case I needed a breathing tube) so my lips were sticking to my teeth because my mouth was so dry. I BEGGED for ice chips. I PROMISED I would spit out the water. Sometimes I was able to get the nurses to feel sorry enough for me to bring a couple ice chips, other times they’d hold me off until I fell asleep again, forgetting the thirst. When Jesus said “I thirst” while he was on the cross, I get it now (John 19:28).
It got to the point that I could no longer breathe for myself and I coded blue. Zach was not allowed in and prayed in tears while he waited to find out if I would survive the night. He was told that it didn’t look good; they weren’t sure if I would make it. I can’t imagine what it would’ve been like for Zach in that moment.
When the head doctor came out to the waiting room the next morning, he told Zach that I scared the **** out of him. They needed to drain the fluid that had built up around my heart and ended up draining 500ml of fluid under my pericardium (which is a sac kind of like a balloon that is around your heart).
I had a few visitors come and pray over me. I couldn’t always keep my eyes open, but I was listening. They asked how I was. How was I? I don’t really know, I couldn’t think very well. But I wasn’t scared. Not at all. Really, I wasn’t scared. It was supernatural. I had this overall sense of peace blanket me in the most traumatic of experiences. My physical heart had failed me but my spiritual heart would never waiver, and was healthy as ever. Trusting in God’s plan was such a gift from way beyond myself and I stood firm in my faith.
One of the nurses commented that I never complained (well, except over ice chips); I didn’t find myself in a place where I was sad about the possibility of missing out on my new marriage, future children, a home, my new career. How was I not even mourning these things? My sights were focused on Jesus. I saw him holding my hand, I felt his presence like a warm hug, I saw his love in the eyes of people helping me. I was just so thankful. I don’t know how to explain it. Even now, people say to me: “You had heart failure? That must have been so scary!”. But it wasn’t and it’s such a testimony to God and his love and the power he gave me because that peace was from beyond myself. I didn’t muster up that courage. In my weakness, God showed his strength!
That night, I was transferred to St. Paul’s Hospital - the leading heart treatment centre in the province - because I had maxed out on the medicine that kept my heart beating and I may need mechanical help (ie. a pacemaker).
When they were preparing me to leave, I needed to get a new central line in my neck. I’m not great with needles and I’m certainly not great with anything touching my neck! I remember telling everyone as my body went into shock that I was seeing stars; they were blue and white and red but not like the American flag, they were little and twinkly. And then I was unconscious.
From here, I was thankfully on the road to recovery. You’ll have to stay tuned for what happened next :)
I know this was a loaded story, but what do you think? Have you ever felt that supernatural peace, joy, or courage wash over you in an otherwise terrifying situation? How did you react?