Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dazed and Confused

I’ve recently learned all the difference that a just few minutes and hours can make in someone’s life. Today as I sat by my husband's hospital bedside I am so grateful he is alive as I am reminded I could have easily lost him due to serious complications from the terminal liver disease he suffers from.

Eric had slept in later than usual, and I had difficulty trying to wake him. When he did, I notice he wasn’t his usual cheerful self instead he was in a very odd mood, doing things he typically wouldn’t normally do, and saying phrases that didn’t make any sense. That was another warning sign something was just off.

Within minutes, I detected his whole demeanor was very strange, and immediately began suspecting that he was having complications from hepatic encephalopathy causing this behavior. This can happen when your ammonia levels get too high, and the bloodstream isn’t filtering out the poisonous toxins, and they go directly to your brain. I had previously learned about this dangerous condition, and knew to be observant for any symptoms as this.

Eric kept insisting he was ok, but was just extremely sleepy. A few minutes passed and he was becoming more lethargic, and his speech was slurred. Suddenly he wasn’t oriented, and couldn’t remember my name, the correct date, year or even his whereabouts.

I made an emergency call for help right then and starting praying.

A few minutes later we arrived at the Emergency Department at the hospital where an EKG revealed bradycardia, as his heart rate was beating erratically and abnormally low at only 35--39 per minute (the doctor wanted it at a minimum of 80) and his oxygen levels were dangerously low at 84. At times he had low blood pressure along with shallow respirations. As suspected his lab work confirmed that his ammonia levels were highly elevated. Below is a photo of his monitor readings.

The doctors were getting concerned as Eric was getting worse by the minute and becoming more unresponsive. Within seconds; the medical staff began working on him trying to increase his heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure. I could see Eric was fading fast, and for seven long hours he was completely oblivious to the world around him.

His two doctors said they feared Eric could fall into a hepatic coma as his failing liver could not filter his blood. One explained that most patients who went into a hepatic coma did not wake up, and would not survive. He explained that at this time Eric was too sick to survive a transplant should one become available. Witnessing this was frightening, and my heart broke seeing Eric being attached to the many machines, tubes and wires but I knew they were helping him live.

I was so thankful for my cell phone, and for having friends and family members calling, texting me, while others on facebook were starting prayer chains supporting us, and keeping me sane during this difficult time. My family members were over three hours away, and I felt so weak and helpless, but was comforted by remembering 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

Even though he was non-responsive, I sat by his side holding his hand, whispering to him begging him to fight, to pull through this and praying for him. By the God's grace he did.

I am humbled and grateful for answered prayers as today. He is awake and alert. His MELD scores have increased from 17 to 22, therefore raising him higher on the transplant waiting list, hopefully getting closer to a transplant. We were visited by two additional transplant surgeons who explained more about what we can expect in the future.

I know it’s truly by God’s mercy that Eric is alive today. It’s been emotionally draining, and physically exhausting past few days. We’re counting our blessing and not taking a single day we have for granted. Make sure you tell your loved ones how much you love them today, as life is so fragile and you may not have the opportunity tomorrow. We are learning this first hand.

Most importantly we know that God answers prayers in our darkest hours and he is always there waiting for us to come to him.

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