Thought it was nothing.

3 min read

I gave birth to my daughter August 24th 2007.  She was my third live baby, delivered via scheduled c-section.  I had had several miscarriages and she was my 6th pregnancy.  She was a very healthy 9lb 15oz bundle of energy.  I felt better than ever after delivery, stayed the normal 3 days in the hospital and was released home.  Once I brought my little one home to meet her 8 year old brother and 4 year old sister I noticed I felt a little tight in my chest.  After my oldest one was born I got pneumonia, so I just figured I needed to cough, deep breathe and ambulate more so I fought off the post-surgical pneumonia.  We had a great deal of company on our first day home so when I was feeling overly tired on day 2 I really thought that if I got more rest I would be just fine.  My husband noticed I was sleeping a lot and my feet were terribly swoolen.  By August 29th I was unable to stay awake for any significant length of time and just getting up to the bathroom was almost imposible.  My husband convinced me to see my doctor.  He had been encouraging me all along, but being a nurse and a stubborn woman I didn't want to go because I was sure I could shake it with just enough rest.

I saw my family physician, who thought I could have a pulmonary embolism.  He sent me for a STAT CT of the chest to rule that out.  As I was in the CT machine things began to spiral out of control.  I felt like I was drowning and I couldn't breathe.  The CT staff sent me to ER immediately where I was put on a heparin drip and given A LOT of lasix.  In the midst of the rush to get me stable I stopped breathing and was intubated.  The ER staff was trying to get my medical history from my husband who kept saying, other than being overweight she is completely healthy.  They asked what kind of drugs I had taken.  At this time they had no idea what was wrong with me.  They told Tim to get my family together and to start thinking about what arrangements they wanted to make.  He asked them point blank what my chances for survival were.  The doctor replied that I had about a 20% chance of making it through the night.

My family came to the hospital and I was rushed to ICU, where I remained for 5 days.  By day 3 they finally were able to get enough fluid off of my lungs to see that my heart was enlarged and not functionong properly.  They continued to pull fluids off my me and kept me sedated and on the vent.  My family and friends took care of my kids, so that my husband didn't have to worry about them and he never left my side.

Being a nurse makes me a terrible patient.  On the 5th day the nursing staff was in the midst of a crisis down the hall and my diprovan bag needed to be changed to keep me sedated, but they were unable to get to it before it slowed down enough that I was semi-conscious.  I was able to get my hand around my vent tube and I pulled that thing out and tried to hand it to someone because I had no idea why I had it, what it was for or even where I was.  My husband yelled for help and nurses came running.  They were shocked to see that I had extubated myself and was breathing on my own.

Once released from the hospital, I still felt like I was going to die, but I knew if I just followed my cardiologist's orders and focused on getting myself into shape I would survive this.  I was the youngest member of my cardiac rehab class.  I have brought myself down to an average weight and I am back to working full time.  I feel that I have been truly blessed!

My Details

  • Date Diagnosed: 01/09/2007
  • Child: 6
  • Initial EF: 25%
  • Current EF: 60%

Story By Tammy VanOchten

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