Update: The current (November 2014) hypothesis among my doctors is that whatever they were called in my past posts — Dieulafoy lesions, Cameron’s erosions, or bleeding ulcers — all these bleeds have their source in the portal hypertension which comes from cirrhosis which is caused by my auto immune system attacking my bile ducts, that is, my primary biliary cirrhosis.
I know what I was doing a year ago this afternoon: throwing up copious amounts of blood. I posted about various aspects of my Dieulafoy’s lesion (a burst artery where the esophagous meets the stomach) episode last August, but here I go again.
I suppose this was the closest I’ve come to dying, but we never know, do we? I mean, how many times have we avoided accidents by being caught at a red light or leaving the house a little earlier than planned? Slipped and bruised our limbs when we could have smashed our heads? Etc.
But leaving the hypothetical, losing enough blood to need 4 transfusions, one right after the next, is serious business. Had I been alone, or in a remote area, or in most parts of less-developed nations, I would not have survived. I was lucky in my bad luck: the EMTs arrived quickly and started oxygen and IV fluids to raise my dangerously low blood pressure, and I got to a hospital where an endoscopy procedure stopped the bleeding.
What seems remarkable now is how little effect the whole event seems to have had on me — physically and psychologically. I’ve had colds it took far longer to recover from. And I’ve had other medical crises that took a lot longer to come to terms with.
I’ve concluded there were two factors in this case that, as horrific as the experience was, made it less traumatic than you might expect:
- I was so impaired mentally that as the crisis unfolded, I couldn’t process it.
- It was pure bad luck. There was absolutely nothing I should have done, but didn’t, or shouldn’t have done, but did, that had anything to do with anything.
I’ll explain. When I learned later that I had been losing blood all day, I realized the cause of some odd responses I had had that day. It’s about twenty footsteps from my bed to refrigerator, but each time I got up to refill my drink, I had to lie on the kitchen floor for a while before returning to bed. I didn’t think this worth mentioning to anyone, however. And when my husband told me that I had to go to the ER, I complained that I wouldn’t because I was too weak to go. How’s that for logic?
On the way out the door I said I had to rest, and so my husband went to get the air on in the car, and my son stayed with me. Then I started throwing up blood. I don’t remember seeing anything else until I was in the ambulance, although I am told my eyes were open.
So much I didn’t know. I thought my kids were stroking me gently as I lay still when in fact they were pressing on me with all their weight to keep me from rolling on my back and choking as I flailed about. I could hear, however (hearing is the last sense to go among the dying, interestingly). I was bothered by what sounded like a bell. Later I figured it was the metal oxygen tank.
I was in no pain. Moreover, in spite of all this drama I was not scared or worried. I was too mentally impaired, I suppose. Even when I came around in the ambulance, all I thought was, so this is what the inside of an ambulance looks like. Once in the ER, I was annoyed by the pain of the IVs and by not being allowed anything to drink, and I wanted the blood cleaned out of my hair. Only when it was time to be knocked out for the endoscopy repair job did I get upset. I guess on some level I feared not waking up.
Much later, I asked my kids what they thought when I got hauled off in the ambulance. They told me they thought I was going to die. That’s all that continues to bother me; I am terribly sad that they went through that.
But there is a difference between being sad for them and feeling guilty, and I know that there was nothing I could have done to prevent what happened. Nothing.
Pure bad luck. There is such a thing.
Today was an uneventful day. It was an anniversary of no importance to anyone — just another day. For that I remain grateful.