The Heart Grows Stronger...Usually (Post #16)
The heart is one hell of an organ, constantly working, pumping blood to every part of your body, and doing what it needs to do in order to keep us alive. There really isn’t a dependable backup plan when it comes to the heart, if something goes wrong, we can be in serious trouble. In football, if your star quarterback goes down with a sprained ankle, you can always look to the sidelines and call in the second string. Sure, the backup may not be as experienced and you may not win the game, but you know at least you’re team is going to finish. When I woke up to the crushing pressure I felt in my chest, I couldn’t just yell for a backup organ to get in there and start pumping! As I was rushed down the long hallway outside of my hospital room, I felt myself constantly searching for my next breath; doctors and nurses were shuffling along side my bed as we raced towards the elevator, each of them attempting to relax and comfort me. The only thing on my mind was that I couldn’t breathe, in that moment I did not care that my leg was still healing (or so I thought), I knew there was no chance I would ever walk again if I first couldn’t catch my breath. As we made it to the elevator with my ever-so-caring team of medical professionals trying to keep me calm, the doors opened and I was pushed inside. Even though I was not sure what exactly was going on with my own body, I knew that I could trust the people around me, which was comforting. It is important to us to find comfort in what we do, having a sense of comfort can help make those really anxiety riddled moments feel a bit more tranquil.
When we made it to our destination, I was moved from the comfort of my hospital bed to the cold steel of the Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine, or better known as an MRI. If you have every experienced an MRI, you know that it is loud and can be very difficult to handle, especially if you have a fear of tight places! The magnets from the machine were making noises I had never heard before and all I could think was that this giant machine was going to zap me to another planet, not fix what was going on with my chest! After I calmed down and we received the results from the test, it was evident that I had a massive build up of fluid within the sac that surrounds my heart, or otherwise known as pericarditis. I didn’t care about the medical jargon; all I was concerned with was how in the hell I was going to take my next breath! Doctors put me on high doses of steroids and anti-inflammatory medication to assists in reducing the swelling and fluid build up. In the scheme of things, this wasn’t a huge setback, and it most certainly could have been much worse, but what this particular hurdle reminded me of was that this painful journey that began on a football field was no longer only about a broken leg.
The time after my bout with a swollen heart was tough; I was finally getting back to a place mentally that I could holistically understand the severity of the situation. The medication that was causing everything to seem blurry was scaled back, and it became an issue of when I could go home. It’s funny to think that in order to go home, something most of us do on a daily basis after we leave work or school, I had to follow a checklist. The first two things on that list were 1. Eat solid food on my own and 2. Go to the bathroom. Sure, that sounds like the easiest challenge in the world, go eat a pizza and then do your business and you can go back to the comfort of your own home and a bed without scratchy sheets! But it wasn’t that easy, as is life, I still had a feeding tube in my nose and I was unable to use the restroom on my own. I had already done quite a bit of fighting to stay alive, but now my fight had been taken to the dinner table. I remember sitting in my bed, and my mom reading off all the options from the hospital menu. Everything just sounded repulsive, I had no appetite and even the smell of food made me nauseous. Each day that I couldn’t have the feeding tube removed felt like a step in the wrong direction, but I had finally started some minor physical therapy so I could at least stand up on crutches by myself. I still could not put any weight on my leg, and it looked like something out of a bad horror film, but at least I was upright. Even though I started feeling the slightest bit like a normal human being, I still couldn’t eat, and that meant more time in the hospital. Waking up each day and wondering whether or not I could go home was a very tough time, I wanted to get back to some form of normality. If it wasn’t for my family and support system, I’m not sure I could have gotten through any of this entire ordeal, but the time I spent in the hospital wondering when I could return to my life as a 16 year old kid was especially emotionally devastating. If I knew what was to come once I left the hospital for the first time, I think I may have dealt with the scratchy sheets for a while longer.