Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fight of My Life

Guest Post by Lindsay Conde

We’ve all been there, well many of us have. You know what I’m talking about, the “wake up and smell my reality” moment. The “whoa”, “ah-hah”, or “holy sh#t” moment. This is specifically the point at which, despite our most valiant efforts to ignore it, the truth about our health situation smacks us right in the face. I, personally, have had two of these. One happened when I was still a “child.” I mean I was 20, but still behaving like a juvenile. The other was more recent, in January it will have been 2 years. Two years since that instant, the smack.

Some choose to look at this experience negatively but not me. Although I do not remember the event fondly, I view it as somewhat of a turning point for me. Here is my story…..

At the time, I was 26 years old, had been married for over 2 years, and had my beautiful son. Life was good and I truly felt blessed. We lived about 30 minutes away from my parents. My CF clinic and doctors were in Nashville, but I had a local doc in Knoxville. I started to come down with something around the second week in January. My usual symptoms: sore throat, increased cough, coughing up more mucus, fever, and lack of energy. So I immediately made an appointment with my doctor. They saw me, prescribed Cipro for 14 days, and sent my sick butt home. After several days of being on the antibiotic, one night my fever spiked big time. I took my O2 sats, to find out that I was at 91, when I usually hover around 97/98. I was having quite a bit of trouble breathing, so my husband took me to the emergency room. On the way, he called my parents and they met us at the hospital. I remember feeling really weak, so much so that they put me in a wheel chair once we entered the ER. But, I had no idea just how bad things would get. In the ER, they took my blood pressure, 02 sats (89), temperature (102.8), all the usual stuff. They also did a chest x-ray and found “double pneumonia”. I was admitted right away and hooked up to an IV for immediate antibiotics and steroids. They put me on oxygen (4-6 liters if I remember correctly) and took a ton of blood. After 5 days in the hospital, my 02 sats had bounced back up to 96, so they discharged me. I was sent home with a PICC line and IV antibiotics and oral steroids. I went home, though I was not feeling much better. (And that was the last time that I ignored my inner voice, my gut telling me what I know is best for me) I was home with my husband and son for 24 hours.

The following evening, the same thing happened all over again. My fever spiked, my sats dropped, and I could not breathe. Once again, my poor husband rushed me to the local ER. Once again I was admitted immediately. Another chest x-ray was done, which showed the pneumonia consuming my lungs. Things were much worse now and my whole body felt it. I was barely conscious, in a lot of pain, and on 6 liters of oxygen. I had never felt so weak and scared. After 4 days in the hospital, I was still sleeping a lot. One morning I awoke to what I think was the sound of the doctor talking to my husband outside my room door. For all I know, I dreamt the whole thing. But in the conversation between a professional and my worried husband, the words “she is not responding to treatment” were mentioned. My husband asked about the options, to be given unappealing choices. It was then that I heard him beg the doctor for more time, more time on the antibiotics. He pleaded with the doc that “my wife is a fighter and is so strong, she can beat this!” I remember at that moment feeling unbelievable fear. This was the first time that oral and IV antibiotics weren’t working.

My health continued to decline and I was just feeling worse and worse. Was it possible that I was not going home? Was I going to die in here? What if I never made it home to hug my little boy again? All these thoughts and questions came flooding into my mind. I was desperately trying to remember the last time I told everyone I loved them, that I hugged them, and expressed how much they mean in my life. Every second spent with my husband and son was flashing before my eyes. The smiles, the laughs, and the tears all seemed so distant but beautiful. I couldn’t possibly say goodbye to my little boy, I had promised to always protect and be there for him. Realistically, if I left him now….he would never have any memory of me.

It was right then that I actually felt myself getting angry. I was angry at my situation and at myself for being so pessimistic. I was also indescribably furious at the idea of never seeing my son graduate high school, never dancing with my sweet husband on our 10th (or 20th or 30th, etc) anniversary, at all the things I would miss out on in my family’s life. Then came a moment of absolute clarity for me. I was dealing with this all wrong. I was looking at the big picture and trying to tackle this monster all at once. Individual’s rarely succeed with that type of strategy. I needed to take control of things one at a time, start with something small and build on that. I was going to beat this, to kick this pneumonia’s ass…but I needed to be realistic about it. It had wore me down, but I was by no means out. I decided right and there that I was going home to my son. I was going to hug him again, and kiss him, and play with him. No matter how much time it took, I was going to conquer this demon and find my way back to he and my husband and our (semi) normal life. So when my husband came back into my hospital room, I asked him to bring me something from home. It may sound silly or even trivial, but I asked him to bring me my makeup bag. My plan was to start feeling better on the outside in order to gain back my strength and heal the inside. So when he came back with that makeup bag, I asked him to help me take a shower. He so lovingly did, and then helped me blow dry my hair, and put on some makeup.

I was in the hospital for a total of 3 and ½ weeks, but I made it home. When I walked through that front door, I wasn’t 100% back to my old self. I still had my PICC line and my regiment of treatments and meds to do several times a day. But I was better and continuing to improve. I have never really been the type of person that allows other people to dictate my capabilities. Once I set my mind to do something, it gets done! That’s part of why I fell in love with my husband, because he is the same way. We sit around occasionally and talk about how hard that time was and how scared we both were. But I know, that with the right mindset, him by my side, and my family in my corner…..I can take on the world

Bio: Hello Everyone! My name is Lindsay and I am 28 years old and living with CF. I was diagnosed as an infant, after my older sister passed away from CF when she was just 5 months old. So, that makes me the oldest of 3 siblings in my family that deal with Cystic Fibrosis everyday. Life has most definitely been full of its' challenges, but also its' blessings. If you would like to know more about me, or about my "challenges", feel free to ask :) Until then, I am so happy to be here and would love to get to know you all.