8. When The Ones That Are Paid To Help You, Instead Nearly Kill You. Part 2:
Put That Finger Anywhere…
Melissa took some pictures along the way that she keeps in her phone. The picture above is while I was still in the hospital before the first rehab (#6). There are some I can share and others I can’t.
After a few weeks back in the hospital to get over the pneumonia which put me back and the new strain of bacteria in my body, it was time to head on out to rehab again. There wasn’t a chance I was returning to the previous rehab even if I was offered millions of dollars, so while I was back at Tufts the discharge case manager found a new place for me.
We arrived at the new rehab and I was put in my room. I was happy to see that it was a private room and that there was a second bed for Melissa to sleep in. That was a huge relief because I knew that she still had no place to go except a hotel room or a three hour drive back to our home in New Hampshire. After being introduced to nurses, physical therapists and the doctor on staff, I was concerned. There was a sense of doom that I felt inside. I never told anyone this before but I was terrified of the place and for good reason. A couple of days in (I don’t know the exact number) therapy began and let me just tell you that when you’ve been laying in bed for more than three months, sitting up is the hardest work you can do. The therapist sat me up in bed and within seconds, I was physically exhausted. My heart was racing upwards of 140 beats per minute and my breaths were shallow. It was like I had a pickup truck sitting on my chest pressing against my lungs, compressing all of my internal organs. Needless to say that was it for me. Two minutes tops and I was spent. It was clear that just getting me to sit at the edge of the bed was going to be all the therapy I’d be able to handle for a while.
Oh but that wasn’t the end of it my friends, no, no, no… then came the whole weening off the ventilator. I had depended on this tube to breathe for so long, I couldn’t think of being without it. I had a therapist who tried to work on it every day. He came in and each visit he would exhaust me with the exercises to build me up. The day came when he was to remove the tube from my neck. This would allow me to be capped off in the neck to breathe by mouth or nose. I freaked out thinking I couldn’t breathe and would not let him. Melissa stood next to me and said, “Think about it this way, you were born without this to breathe, so your body knows how to breathe without it.” He took it out and after they both reminded me to breathe, I could. It was a shock to me at that point. I was just afraid to let go of something I had depended on for so long. At this time, I developed a cough that hurt so badly, they gave me a pillow to hold over my stomach. I was to press it into my body when I coughed to help support my healing insides.
I know this might be confusing but after I wrote the last paragraph I had to stop for a while. It’s really hard going back and thinking about what I went through and separately what Melissa went through. I may have said this before but I don’t remember; when I was in the coma, as much hell as I was going through with my dreams and trying with all my might to wake up and stay awake, Melissa was always awake and very aware. She couldn’t be unaware like I was. So I try not to ask her too many questions about specific details and timeline because it’s still very real within her. She is the strongest person I’ve ever met. There really are no words in the English language to describe her. So anyway, it’s been three weeks and some days since I wrote that last paragraph because it brings back so much within me and at that point I have to do what’s best for me and Melissa and just put it down for a while. It’s nothing to anyone else except reading from one paragraph to another but to me in my world it represents three plus weeks of clearing my head and focusing on Melissa. But I’ve rambled enough and I’m ready to get back at it so as I said ending the previous paragraph: onward!!!
So at this point, I was in probably about two weeks. Melissa didn’t get much sleep because she watched anytime someone came in the room which was sometimes several times through the night. She did her head to toe checks. One early morning around 4:00 AM, a nurse came in to do her routine, empty the drains, etc. Melissa woke up and the nurse told her she could do her check early so that way, we could sleep until the next shift arrived around 10:00 AM. Melissa got up and told her she would take this chance to shower quickly as she would not leave me unless someone was in the room. Melissa put the television on for me. The lights were on and the nurse started her routine. The nurse; though she was given specific instructions by doctors and Melissa not to touch or fuss with any of the drains (called JP drains), moved them around somehow. These drains that were implanted in my left side that drained excess bile and fluid from my body were just to be emptied and measured. The nurse was careless with them so I told her to be careful, that she was being too rough. I was correct and would find out the absolute worse possible scenario that could happen did.
Melissa walked back into my room after the shower. She noticed the lights were off but the television was on. The white pillow was back on my stomach. I also had the pillow in place to keep me from moving accidentally and hurting my surgical areas if I moved my arms in my sleep, or pulling one of the drains or feeding tube. While doing her head to toe checks, everything seemed good. She noticed a little blood on the side of my gown which wasn’t out of the ordinary but then she lifted my pillow. What she saw was something out of a horror movie. Under the pillow was a pool of blood which soaked my gown and the pillow on it. I woke up and I saw a look of death in her face; she literally went pale. I asked her what was wrong and she said nothing, that she had to get the nurse real quick to check something. What I didn’t hear or know at the time was she was running down the hall yelling frantically to get me help. They arrived and she lifted the pillow off of my stomach and Melissa wouldn’t let me look. I asked her what was happening, she squared beside me to hold my face towards hers, and told me everything was good and the doctor is going to check on how well I’m doing. She kept my attention on her as I asked over and over what was going on. She was so calm for me, she didn’t show me the fear or tears she held back and she acted as if nothing was wrong with me when in fact, something was very wrong. Because the nurse was rough and careless with my JP drains, I now had a shredded artery in my stomach. There was a surgical opening and the doctors and everyone except me could see the artery bleeding out. Melissa later compared what she saw under the pillow to a murder scene from a movie. I had bled out so much but somehow; someway I managed to stay conscious. She never let me look at my stomach.
She remained calm the entire time as she said something along the line of we’re going to take an ambulance ride back to the hospital to check some things out. At this point I still had no clue what was happening so I went along for the ride and one of the paramedics finally said that my artery had been shredded by the careless handling of the drain. We got to the hospital and they put me right back in my old room in the surgical ICU. My two favorite residents, who I was still not sure if they were trying to whack me or not were there and immediately one of them; Dr Jim, stuck his finger in my stomach cavity to stop the bleeding. Melissa stood watching by the entry of my room. They asked her to leave so she didn’t have to watch. I wanted her to stay. Instead, she stood by the entrance looking through the window and made me focus on her eyes and together, we took deep breaths. He cut me to open the area right then and there. He said he had found the bleeder and I felt relieved. At this point I had lost so much blood (but somehow still awake) that they could only give me one milligram of morphine to somewhat help with the severe pain. If you assumed that it hurt to have a man’s finger in my stomach, you would be making the correct assumption. I can’t even describe the pain. Melissa. had to leave as they would not let her stay anymore. They did not want her to have to see them cut me anymore. Let me just state again that this was pure agony. One milligram did nothing except give me a quick head rush while they pushed it. I pleaded for them to give me more as I could feel Dr Jim’s heartbeat through his finger; or maybe it was mine. I was swiftly denied. That night with a finger in my belly I learned that any additional pain medication could drop my blood pressure and most likely would put me into cardiac arrest because I had lost so much blood.
I have no idea how long they worked on me. I stayed awake the entire time and as they worked to stitch the artery I was receiving a blood transfusion. It was only after they finished fixing me that I finally believed they were not trying to kill me. It helped that one of them said as he shook his head in disbelief, “Mr Allen, you are one bad*ss motherf**ker!” I just nodded my head in my own disbelief of what I had just endured.
The surgeon, Dr M. got Melissa from the waiting area they made her go to right outside the ICU doors. He said they closed the artery and while he walked her back, he asked if she wanted to see what was done. She did and he showed her the pictures he took on his phone and told her she had changed. That she was different from when he first met her just a couple months ago. He couldn’t believe she could actually stomach what she was seeing. He asked her why she wanted to watch. Melissa told him she didn’t want to but she would do anything for me thinking whatever she could do to help, she would. Since I didn’t want her to leave, she didn’t leave. He said they usually don’t allow loved ones to stand by but they let her as much as they could. I guess he didn’t come across many like her. She came in and kissed and hugged me and said everything will be okay. I didn’t know at the time, but she would let it out and cry once she left the ICU double doors.
So let’s count and recap real quick, not one rehab but two rehabs had almost killed me. I made it through the worst of the worst in the hospital. A diagnosis that kills over 90% of people (but lucky me I was given a 5% chance of living because of all the other great stuff going on) who get it hadn’t taken me out but two rehabs almost killed me. Oh but wait, I’m not even done; nope…