Just Breathe

 In the last 5 days, I was stabbed in the chest while fully awake, but we will get to that. I am going to tell you why some days are just about being thankful for your next breath.

Job 33:4 The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life.

 I’ve been having a pretty crumby 6 weeks. A friend of mine passed away last week, I’ve had a severely raw throat, from reflux, I found out I need 3 major surgeries on my ankles and foot, and my husband broke his arm at church camp, and I’m about to lose a best friend to a state across the country. It’s been hard to eat and miserable to sleep. I thought that was enough misery for the time being, but the universe had another short straw in store for me. A collapsed lung lay on the horizon. (Just a side note, this story will still be filled with miracles, but bear with me while I lay the ground work.)

I love my Physical therapist. Jeff is a brother of my heart, and he is fantastic. His wife is a precious friend of mine. His father, Jack, was the good friend, that passed away. I had the honor of speaking at his funeral last week. It’s been a rough period of time for all of us. It was hard to walk back into the clinic last Wednesday. Jack was there 90% of the time I was, and now he wouldn’t be. I held back tears as I entered, and tried to proceed as normally as possible. This isn’t easy stuff for anyone. We chatted about life, and he did a procedure called dry needling. We have done this umpteen times over the last year and a half. He is liscenced and certified to do this procedure, and quite frankly it’s helped me tremendously. It is essentially, putting needles down into muscle trigger points, and it relaxes the muscle spasms. Neither of us saw this Mac truck coming. Unbeknownst to him, he’d also been issued a short straw from the universe, and our misfortune was about to converge in an awful situation for both of us. When he pulled out the last needle in my thoracic area, I started to have pain. It started as a dull ache every time I took a breath in, and grew worse and worse. It’s not unheard of to experience muscle spasm, so I excused it as terrible muscle spasm for the next few minutes while they hooked me up to heat and a TENS unit. A few minutes passed, and I knew I had to get out of there and away from people. The pain was growing so intense I couldn’t breathe. I flagged a tech down and told her to unhook me. She kept asking if I was okay, and I told her I just needed to go home and lay down. Jeff was working with another patient, and I didn’t want to worry him. He kind of overheard what was going on, as I was just excusing it as a spasm. I basically tore my gown off in the bathroom, threw my shirt back on, and fled the scene. As I scurried out the front door, Jeff yelled for me to call him and let him know how I was doing. I could barely talk, so I gave him a thumbs up and left. I fought for air my whole way home, I started profusely sweating and grunting prayers out loud to God. When I got in the door, Aaron knew immediately something was very wrong. He said, “Uh oh” He jumped up and chased after me down the hallway to our bedroom. I could barely explain the problem as I lay down on our bed grunting and writhing holding my chest. Aaron asked if I needed to go to the ER. I told him I didn’t know, but needed to be administered to. Aaron ran next door and grabbed two ministers from our church who happened to be there, and told them what was going on. They came immediately to my bedside and anointed me with oil like they do in James chapter 5 of the Bible, and began to pray. As they took turns, the pain eased, and I began to breathe easier. I could feel the Holy Spirit seep into my body, and it was a wonderful relief to my desperation. The difference was drastic. I think it really amazed all 4 of us. After they left, I summoned the courage to carefully sit up. I felt so relieved, I told Aaron I’d go to Costco with him and the kids, like we’d planned before I’d left for therapy. He was like, “Are you sure?” I thought at that point, Maybe this was just the kind of muscle spasm behind my shoulder blade that hurts awful when you inhale, but I’ve dealt with many times before. I said I wanted to go. I fully expected this would ease further, and I would give this awesome testimony of relief at church that night for Wednesday prayer service. Well…that didn’t pan out. Walking through Costco exhausted me completely and the pain grew more intense. I was still having trouble breathing, and even wondering, Is this just in my head because of the intensity of the pain?

All night it was hard to lay down. The pain got a lot worse when I reclined or was laying flat. I felt anxious, and I could feel weird bubbles or crackling in the right side of my chest when I breathed. I wondered,  Is this my imagination? Until I could feel some sort of crackling when I felt it with my hand, and I knew it was real. The next day on Thursday, I stayed in my pajamas and intermittently gasped through pain. By the afternoon, I’d ignored 2 phone calls from my therapist and 3 text messages. I was afraid to make him feel bad for what was going on, and I was worried I maybe needed an X-ray. In the back of my mind, I knew collapsed lung was a risk, but didn’t want to entertain that possibility. I made Aaron listen to and feel the crackling when I breathed, and he also said he could feel something weird. That’s when I got truly worried. One of my close friends is a nurse for Mayo Clinic and has dealt with all kinds of stuff before. I called and asked her if she could come check me out. Thankfully we live diagonal from each other, and our backyard gates connect. She was at my house in a flash, and she listened to my lungs. She thought I sounded normal until I showed her where I was feeling bubbles. She leaned over with the stethoscope and listened. Her face changed, and it was a look of real concern. She told me she could hear some funny noises in there and I should probably go to the ER to get an X-ray.

I knew I needed to call Jeff, and tell him what was going on. I knew he’d feel terrible. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted to do less than call him. It would have felt less dread about pulling my own toenail out with a pliers. He did what I knew he would do, because he is a great guy. He told me right away to get checked out and re-itterated the concern about collapsed lung, and told me to please keep him posted.

Aaron and I headed to the ER. I checked in, and I was greeted by a nurse who must have graduated at the bottom of her class. In the most condescending tone you can imagine, she told me, “This happened yesterday? There is no way you have a Pneumo. It’s probably just a muscle spasm.” (Well thank you nurse, your X-ray vision and condescending tone are helpful. ) We went back out to the waiting room, where I questioned the option of just going home. I didn’t want to waste their time, but I was still feeling like I was having trouble breathing. I told Aaron I wanted to just go home. I didn’t want the huge bill from this if it was just a muscle spasm that nightmares are made of. I didn’t want the hours in an ER, or the awful bed with my achy joints. Miraculously my husband said, “You know babe, lets just get you checked out.  Let’s just go through with getting an X-ray and see what a Doc thinks. We are already here. Even if it’s a muscle spasm, maybe they can give you a muscle relaxer or something.” So we stayed. Huge blessing by the way.

I got a nice doc in the ER, who ordered a chest X-ray. A short time later, and with a surprised look on his face, he came to deliver my results. “Your right lung is collapsed. You need to have a chest tube and be admitted. Two Pulmonologist’s are having a hay day with your case, and acting like weathermen with a storm rolling in. They were excited to see something they don’t see everyday.” ( I live to be the medical communities entertainment.) At first they brought in everything needed to tube me, and then disappeared for 45 minutes. Evidently the Pulmonologists decided to wait till the next day to decide on the tube. They put me on oxygen, and planned to re-xray in the am. They were hoping some air would reabsorb and the lung would try to correct itself. 

I knew I had to make a call to Jeff.  I knew he would feel awful, and the last thing on earth I wanted to do, was to add to the grief to what he is already experiencing right now, with the passing of his dad. Sometimes the timing of things in life are just poop. I called him and told him. I could feel him deflate, and it absolutely broke my heart. I still feel worse for him in all this, than I do for myself. I knew he’d be beating himself up, and that’s the last thing I wanted for him. He apologized profusely, but didn’t need to. This was a risk of the procedure, and I chalk it up to both of us drawing the short straw from the universe that day. He is incredibly careful, and I think my back muscle tried to suck the needle in and eat it. My muscles hate to surrender and put up a fight, so I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility. The Doc at the ER and the pulmonologist, told me they see this happen in acupuncture about 10% of the time. It’s not anyone’s fault. I love Jeff and his family to pieces. He is seriously just one of the best people, and so is his wife. I spent some time praying for his heart, while I waited for a room.

Once they transferred me, I texted and asked a minister from church who is also a friend, to come to the hospital. He brought a second minister with him. One of them, happened to be the same one who prayed over me when this initially began. He had witnessed that blessing of relief when I was in terrible distress.  I told both of them, “I keep thinking of the hymn, “Moment by Moment.”

We talked about the words of Paul, and how we are made strong in weakness. I believe I received encouragement for what lie ahead. After another long night of gasping and pain..; It didn’t correct itself.

In the morning, to my horror, a Doc I am not a fan of from my spine surgery hospitalization in December, walked in and was my doc again. Yeah, my luck. When I’d needed a blood transfusion after my spine surgery, he’d held off for so long that I was in a moderate amount of physical distress. I was told by several of my Docs, that they couldn’t figure out why he waited so long. He also refused pain meds and did a host of other weird things, like hold my hands and ask me to meditate with him, and told me to cut sugar and coffee out of my diet. Um…no. You’re crazy. I don’t trust you dude. He recognized me when he walked in. We were cordial, and he left. I prayed to God that this doc would not mess me up again.

I can tell you with confidence, that getting a chest tube placed is one of the most barbaric things I can describe. I was not put to sleep. They gave me Phentanyl to make me loopy and strapped my arms down so I’d be unable to punch them in the nethers. They numbed my skin with lidocaine. I kept waiting for the Versed they talked about giving me, to put me into a “twilight sleep,” and it never came. I was alert for the whole thing. They made a small incision into my numbed skin, and then proceeded to stab me in the chest and drive a tube with a curly hook, through my right breast, up into my high chest between my ribs and lung while I yelled in agony. To make things even more ironic, they kept saying, “Take deep breaths.” Are you stinking kidding me?! You just stabbed me slow mo in the chest, with what feels like the worlds largest rusty pocket knife’s curly bottle opener! Now you want me to take deep breaths?! Right! I’ll get right on that! Not! They moved me back onto the gurney, and rolled me into the hallway alone while I waited for transport back to my room. I cried quietly, as I contemplated the seeming alien abduction experimental torture I’d just been put through. Surely this was so inhumane, that only alien freaks would put a human through this. I cried and grunted pathetically while the terrified transport girl got me upstairs. The CNA that greeted me, told me ” Oh I know honey. This is one of the most painful things we do to people.”

For the next 3 hours, I cried while sitting on the edge of my bed. No one gave me any pain medicine.  I still had the unfortunate hospitalist Doc I talked about earlier, and I couldn’t get back into bed despite multiple tries. Each attempt left me in a cycle of uncontrollable weeping because of the paralyzing pain, and trying to stop weeping because it caused more paralyzing pain. This is where number two of the worst nurses in history, comes into the picture. (She probably would’ve been annoyed at the sight of my heart laying outside my chest still beating on the floor. I could picture her kicking it over to my suffering body, and telling me to “Stop crying, stick my heart back in my chest, and sew myself back up. I was leaving a bloody mess on the floor.”) Unamused nurse proceeds to say to me in a hoidy toidy tone, “I take care of lots of chest tubes, but they usually aren’t in this much pain.” I’m thinking, Um… okay.  Have you ever known someone to be stabbed through the chest, and enjoy it? How is this helping me exactly? What is your end game lady? Finally she did the only useful thing she’d done for me all day, and she called the Pulmonologist to check me out. Thankfully the grade A Pulmonologist countered the grade Z nurse, and ordered some Phentanyl and Toradol, and lessened the suction on my lung tube. She also reassured me that the degree of pain I was in, was normal. To be honest, I can’t believe we do this to other humans. I’ve been through a lot of medical procedures, but this one was truly an inhumane practice. We should at least be hitting patients over the head to knock them out first. To further expound on this blessing, she couldn’t get in touch with the hospitalist that stinks, so I’d gotten the good Pulmonologist instead of the yoga posing, sugar free, peace sign, granola doc again.

While we waited for the pain medicine; Aaron said, “Hun, let’s pray together before we try to get you laying down again.” He bent his head till it rested on mine. He began to pray earnestly, for me to be able to lay down so I could rest, and for the pain to lessen. That man is my hero. He’d been trying to help in any way he could, while listening to me weep.  I’d been teetering on a mental ledge ready to jump straight off the nutty overpass into crazy town. Now he was pouring his heart out to God for me. While he prayed, I felt the Holy spirt come down and rest on us. It sent prickly swirling warmth through me. We prepared for yet another attempt to get me laying back in bed.  As Aaron helped me lean back, something shifted, and a horrible pain that I’m pretty sure was a huge air pocket, shifted up into my high chest shoulder area, and suddenly I felt a little better. Huge blessing! I finally got laying back into the bed, completely relieved to not be paralyzed on the edge of my bed. The nurse showed up with two different pain meds, and put them in my IV. Relief washed over me, and exhaustion took over. I hadn’t slept in 2 nights, and I had been struggling for air for two days. Finally I fell asleep.

Shift change brought a WAY better nurse, who told me, ‘All of my patients with chest tubes are miserable. They are absolutely awful things. Even after you have pain medicine, you will still be miserable till this tube comes out.” I decided in that moment that my awful previous nurse must be mentally twisted, or poorly informed. Maybe every one of her chest tube patients, had been in a coma and unable to voice their complaints. I finally slept in broken increments, between needle sticks and multiple pain med doses. The tube remained in for 24 hours. After another X-ray, the Pulmonologist decided to take the tube out. When the Pulmonologist came in, she told me to “take a huge breath in and then while I grunt out all my air, she would pull the chest tube out and quickly put an air and waterproof dressing on the hole. If I inhaled while they took out the tube, it would re-collapse my newly inflated lung. ” We did the nasty chest tube evac, while she told Aaron and I that, “Chest tubes hurt terrible. I hope I never have to have one.” Confirmation that nurse ratched, is some sort of sadist who ignores her patient’s suffering and withholds pain meds. Anywhoo…I’m forgiving her. She knows not what she do.

I lay there a few moments after the Pulmonologist left, relieved to have the tube out. I felt something running down my chest, and reached over and pulled my hand back up to see my fingers covered in blood. I told Aaron I was bleeding. He shot out of his chair, looked, and then went running out to find my nurse. (That poor guy, what he goes through with me, is not for the faint of heart.) My nurse ran to grab the Pulmonologist.  I’d bled all over my gown, dressing, bed and saturated a section of the pillow behind me. The Pulmonologist booked it into in my room looking pretty alarmed, and smashed her hand down on my chest, right over the tube hole. UM OUCH! She held pressure on it and said in a very sing songy Mr. Rodger’s soothing voice, “I’m just gonna hold some pressure on this while we chat like that didn’t just happen. I must have hit a blood vessel when I pulled the tube out” We chatted for about 10 minutes while the bleeding stopped. I got nauseated from the whole ordeal. I admit I was completely paranoid after that. I never ever want to do this again.

The last X-ray tech, asked me how a chest tube felt. I told him, “It feels like a pocket knife to the chest.” He told me, “that was exactly how his best friend described it when he had a chest tube. Pocket knife identical.” Boom. Confirmation again that chest tubes are a special kind of misery. I felt like I was becoming friends with the radiology department. I’d have a grand total of 5 X-rays and a CTscan, before I left the hospital. I thought I would light my own way like a momma glow worm.

So many pieces of this puzzle could have been way worse. The common comment I got from the Pulmonologist, all my hospital Doc’s, a few of my nurses, and my radiologist who did the tube placement…was, “I can’t believe you lasted a day and a half like this.” Well, I kind of can’t either, but I attribute that to God. I truly believe that every time we prayed, He answered. He didn’t take the trial away, but He got me through it. My husband witnessed these blessings as well. He’d only just gotten back from Missouri on Tuesday at midnight. I had the procedure that punctured my lung on Wednesday afternoon and he had his orthopedic appointment for his broken arm on Thursday morning. I went into the ER Thursday afternoon. My friend Amy, who listened to my chest and told me to go to the ER, was home that day. She often works, and was available, and because I trust her judgement, I actually listened when she was concerned. Aaron and I both have parents who were still in Mexico on a missionary trip, and we left our kids at the house to go to the ER. They are plenty old enough to be there by themselves, but I wouldn’t have wanted them there overnight. My sister, my brother and his wife, all dropped everything, and came and took them to spend the night with them when I was admitted. Aaron was still on vacation, and wasn’t scheduled to go back to work until after the weekend, and I was discharged Saturday afternoon. Even the timing of everything was good. We can’t discount these blessings. They are all relief, in a time of distress.

Psalms 150:6

Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

I now know what it feels like to both be desperate for…and dread, the next breath. When your entire body craves the next gulp of oxygen, but it feels like a knife in the chest, a lot of strange things go through your head. I was in enough pain that I just wanted to be out of my body. Its not just the terrible pain of the collapsed lung, or chest tube, or my spine, or the rest of my joints. It’s the mental and spiritual anguish of never knowing when this medical roller coaster will ever come to a halt. This isn’t about Fluoroquinolone toxicity, or medical procedures, or chronic illness. This is about the one two punch, of a jerk devil that wants to extinguish my hope, my faith, and my trust, as well as my love for God. He throws distraction, suffering, and injury at us, to accomplish a burnout. He would be completely successful if it wasn’t for the loving and constant mercy of God. I kept thinking of this verse before praying and being administered to.

Psalm 121:1 I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

I know where my help comes from. My help comes from God. He has the power to deny or grant my next breath, and He is good. Even when we are suffering He is good. Even when my throat has acid burns, I mourn my friend, I struggle for air, I’m stabbed in the chest by aliens, or cry to Him in distress…He is still good. I write that now, as my throat still burns and aches and it hurts to swallow, I am tired and sore, it still aches to breathe, and I’m unsure what the future holds. Right now I will concentrate on the blessings I’ve already been given, including the deep breath I just took.

Sunday, I stayed home from church because I’m supposed to rest and take it easy, and I’d just gotten home from the hospital the night before.  My husband returned from church, to tell me that a friend of ours stood up and gave a testimony about the hymn, “Moment by Moment,” and what it meant for him in a time of trial. I feel it was another nod and reassurance from God, that He knows me, hears me, and is with me. God alone knows the future and can change the course of things at any point in which He deems. I trust Him to do that with more love than I can fathom and more wisdom than can be comprehended. For those of you who have prayed for me, you have done the very best thing for me. Nothing else holds more promise, than lifting each other up to the God of the universe. I pray for you too. I love you guys. 

Some day, when my voice is healed. I am singing this song at church. It’s special to me. Thank you JJ and Dave. You always manage to sing the words of my heart. Big Hugs you guys!


11 thoughts on “Just Breathe

  1. So glad to ‘hear’ you again…I’m so sorry…I pray and cry for you…I want God to heal you now…if anyone I ever knew deserved healing, it’s you. Many gentle hugs ❤

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  2. When I didn’t receive a blog of yours for quite some time I wondered if there was something wrong in your life. Obviously, I was right to think that and therefore prayed for you. What a horrendous experience you had, in and out of the hospital! I’m so sorry you had to go through this desert experience, I am aware just how scary it can be because of the wildernesses I’ve been through. Wow, you talk about a test of one’s faith hey? But in the end when the dust has cleared, we again understand Jesus’ words how NOTHING can separate us from His love . It would seem that it is usually in the dark, spiritually, that we must walk by faith and not by sight. Praise God that you are doing better. You can know that I will continue to pray for you and your husband.

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  3. I think it is extremely cool how the Lord used the hymn “Moment by Moment” and the story you told about it to remind you that you are on His heart. Thank you for continuing to share your journey … I add my prayers for strength and healing and for perspective.

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  4. Your strength inspires me. Your husband ‘s too. I am praying for you to have the pain reduced to a bad memory. Jesus help you get much needed sleep and healing. His healing peace surround you. Sending you virtual ((hugs)).

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