**Originally published Jun 16, 2012.**
Three months ago I started coughing. I took my daily allergy medications and cough medicine and chalked it up to high pollen rates that were affirmed on the news.
Progressively, the coughing got worse, more intense and started to interrupt my days. So I took myself to Urgent Care. After a quick check, they ascertained that I had inflamed bronchial tubes and I was given an inhaler and steroids to stop the coughing. I had orders to come back in a few weeks if things did not improve.
They did not.
The next time I went to Urgent Care, they put me on a breathing treatment, took a chest X-RAY and said I had pneumonia. They gave me an antibiotic, more steroids, an extremely expensive cough medicine and then sent me home. I went home, took my 5 days of antibiotics and seemed to be improving.
On day 6, after my antibiotics were gone, I started coughing so violently that I could not breathe at all. I called Urgent Care and they prescribed more antibiotics – especially after I told them they seemed to help the first time.
It got so bad that I was sleeping upright in a chair for maybe one hour a day.
Finally, on Tuesday morning, after coughing until 5:30am, my ex-husband convinced me that I needed more and took me to the Emergency Room. As I kissed my sleeping little girls good-bye, knowing I might be gone the whole day, I teared up. The guilt of not taking care of me, being more proactive, and the complete fear that I had no idea what was wrong with me was all to much to take.
I arrived at the Emergency Room – see my 10 Tips if you are unexpectedly headed to the ER on your own – purple, coughing, crying and beyond scared. I did not even have to sit in the waiting room. They opened the door, no questions asked and immediately took me in. That is how badly I think I looked and sounded heading in.
My husband stood helpless as I answered questions between coughing, got a wrist band and completely lost it on the poor employees. I just don’t think he knew what to do. Helplessness is a futile, frustrating feeling and he and I both were engulfed in it.
Once I got to the ER things were a blur. I had so many people in working on me. They were drawing blood and inserting IV lines in three different places on my hands and arms, waiting in between fits of coughing so that they would not cause damage, talked quietly to me as I coughed up things and gasped for breathe. They put me on oxygen, discovered my heart rate was in the 140’s (should have been in the 60’s), attached heart monitors, and started a breathing treatment.
My ex-husband stood in the corner watching all of this, playing on his phone, and I cried feeling incredible guilt that I had let it get to this. He had been telling me for weeks to seek better care and I kept saying, “But the Urgent Care Center is taking care of it.” I knew better. I knew that I needed more. But I had to take care of the kids, work, try to do it all. That was my job as MOM, wasn’t it?
After an X-Ray that came back clean, the Doctor’s ordered a Cat Scan. The Doctor who ordered it was honest with me. She thought that since the X-Ray’s came back clean that I had blood clots in my lungs or worse… like a mass. As in Cancer.
I could not let that word absorb into my psyche. I couldn’t.
The Cat-Scan in itself was trying. Having sent my ex – husband on his way an hour before to work and tell his mom about the kids – and to partially relieve my guilt at watching him watch them work on me – I coughed and wheezed as they tried to get me to sit still and take the test. Pulling all the strength I had in me, I got through the test.
As I waited for the results, I played on my cell phone and sucked in my breathing treatments and oxygen. I replayed how I got here. How I let it get here. I played back the warnings I ignored, the knowledge that I knew better, and the many MANY times my husband begged me to go seek additional medical attention.
I had justified it all. I had things to do. Kids to take care of. A blog to write. A house to clean. Deadlines to meet. Meals to cook. Bills to pay. Dogs to feed. Activities to plan. A bad marriage to deal with.
Things to do. Things to do. Things to do.
I did not have time for me. I was last. And despite declaring after the pneumonia diagnosis that I would take care of me, I was too engulfed in the dysfunctional spiral of maintaining the lifestyle I had made a habit to really make a dent.
I failed. And as a result, I sat waiting on a diagnosis that could change my life forever.
The Doctor came back in after she got the results of the Cat-Scan so visibly relieved to tell me that the test revealed scarring on the back of both lungs but no mass or blood clots that I felt like I actually witnessed the color coming back into her face.
And as the tears streamed down my cheeks, getting caught in the oxygen line, dripping down to the heart monitor leads, and further trailing to the IV line, I realized just how close I came to changing my children’s lives forever.
As the next week in the hospital played out, the diagnosis changed and progressed to include pneumonia, bronchitis, GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), and an incredibly low level of potassium causing increased heart rate which they still have not gotten below the 100’s, I replayed the last three months and what I could have done differently. How I could have avoided this. How I could have not put my family in chaos by an unexpected hospital stay, extra medical bills that we simply can not afford. How I could have prevented my children from seeing their mother like that – hooked up to machines – and watched them cry as they left, leaving their mom behind because she was not well enough to go home.
I have admitted that I can not do it all. I just can’t. It is impossible. Doing it all has lead to my being able to do nothing. And added more strain to my family, relatives and children.
I need to eat better (the Cinch plan from Shaklee could not have come at a better time!), get some SLEEP – no more blogging until 4am – get some exercise, spend more time with those I love – my kids, my friends, my pets – and spend more time talking to God and enjoying the things he has blessed me with.
I might miss a deadline, my house might not be clean, I might not be able to make enough to buy that new outfit I want that month. But I will be healthier, happier and living the life that I want to live! And my children will have a better mother, my husband will have a better wife and I will recognize the person I see in the mirror every day.
I can not do it all. But I can do some things to the best of my abilities. And the things I can not… well… they really are not all that important after all, now are they?
I am still weeks from out of the woods. The heart issues and the scarring on the lungs are scary things to deal with and the Doctor’s are being cautious. I still have some testing and such to go through, a lot of Doctor’s appointments coming up and I am on a myriad of medications. But I am home. And, having learned my lessons, I am taking full advantage of people’s offers to help, am taking naps, keeping off my feet and taking my meds like I am supposed to.
And realizing that admitting my limitations has actually afforded me more freedom than I could have ever imagined.
**My ex and I separated a month after this stay. I realized a bad marriage contributed a lot to my condition. Now I am a happy single mom and proud of what I have accomplished!**
Find more Motherhood Posts at My Recent Writings