Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Day that Changed our Lives Forever

It is amazing what can change in 2 years! Two years ago today I was faced with a fear that I had dreaded and never wanted to think about (even through a tour in Iraq and endless dangerous missions). I was faced with the possible or questionable events that included the outlook on my husband's life.

February 20, 2009 was like every other Friday. Except the 2 weeks leading up to that day Michael had been sick. He had gone to the Dr. and was diagnosed with Strep throat and given antibiotics along with our kids and one of our best friends Eve. They had all been sick but it just seemed that Michael could not kick the cough. The night before I had joked with him that since he was off the next day he needed to go back to the Dr. because it sounded like he was going to cough up a lung and I just simply didn't have time for him to die on me. In hindsight wow I wish I had not said that.

Friday I was at work heading into a meeting that I had called together and I received a text from one of my best friends (and she is a RN) and she said hey by the way I wanted to let you know that Mike is on his way to the hospital. I thought maybe he had just decided to go because the cough was so bad. When I texted back she quickly called me and so the journey began for me. Michael was already about 30 minutes to an hour into this life changing event.  She told me he had been working outside on our grill and he coughed really hard and went down. He couldn't breath and she had come over and thought he collapsed his right lung.

If you know me you would think I would have immediately freaked out! Eve is so good with her calm nature I had done the calculation and figured that we lived far enough out of town that I had time to finish my meeting and still get to the hospital at the same time ( I don't know what I was thinking!!).

I did finish my meeting quickly and I headed to the hospital. I pulled in and parked just as the ambulance pulled in. After about 20 minutes of pushing and flexing my wife muscle I was able to get back to the trauma room just before they placed a chest tube in Michael chest.

With a little bit of fibbing we were able to get 2 of Michael's friends back in the trauma room with me. We just said they were his brothers because only family was allowed in that room and thank goodness because I think I was just still in shock. A collapsed lung? I had seen ER, Grey's Anatomy, Trauma Life in the ER -I knew about collapsed lungs, I knew they had to insert a tube into his chest after they cut it open.

This is my husband - the strongest person I knew physically, medically, mentally. He is laying in a bed in front of my out of it, in and out of sedation, I could tell you the moment the morphine started wearing off because he would go from conversing with us to moaning in terrible pain. I just kept telling myself to hold it together. And THANK YOU to all my friends!! Eve had my kids and it allowed me to focus 100% on Michael. After sitting in the ER for 10 hours we finally got in a room for Michael. We were told that he had a spontaneous pneumothorax which is when you have a hole in your lung and it collapses. Again we were told that these types of holes will normally heal within 24-48 hours and then you can go home.
As you can tell they were really giving Michael some good medications to help control his pain and I was so thankful because I have never seen anyone in so much pain! The first night we were in the hospital I don't think I slept more than an hour all together. The heart monitor kept going off all night long because his heart is so healthy it really beats effectively and so it is much slower than the majority of us. But I was so scared his heart was going to stop beating. 24 hours turned into 72 hours and we were starting to be told that his situation was a bit different and the hole in his lung was quiet bigger and therefore still not healing and it took a while but they were able to get him transferred to a different hospital because they were telling us he was facing lung surgery.

All of a sudden about 9 p.m. they walk into Michael's room and tell us he is being transferred. They transferred him via ambulance with a RN and paramedic. I closely followed and after many hours of settling in and seeing a multitude of Dr.'s I think I finally hit the pillow at home about 2 am. I decided not to stay since he was in a step down ICU unit and knew he would be taken well care of.

So many things were happening and we were talking with so many Dr.'s. Really so much is a blur of what was going on. I made sure I knew who had my kids and then I let it go and knew I could focus on Michael. I don't know what I would have done without Eve, Jen, Teresa, Mindy, and countless others (sorry if I forgot your name). I don't know what I would have done without Michael's friends and coworkers and their words of encouragement, visitations to Michael, and continued support.  Bottom line - it was a fog and I was just trying to get through everyday and support Michael the best I could.

The Dr.'s were saying he had a hole in the bottom portion of his right lung the size of a small orange, it wasn't healing, and he was going to need to have that part (about 1/4 of his lung removed). 31 years old and he was facing have a quarter of his lung removed. He called his dad and told him he would like for him to be here. His dad hopped on the next flight he could get and flew to Arizona. During this time our Pastor, Ashley Evans, was visiting at the hospital and prayed with us before Michael went in to have a bronchoscopy, which is basically where they go in, clean out your lungs, and take samplings for testing (they thought he had Valley Fever- never heard of it? look it up- it's not pretty). He prayed the normal things pastors pray and he added that he prayed for a miracle that Michael would be healed without explanation from the doctors.

The next day his father had arrived and we were going to the hospital to see Michael. He was going down for one last CT and we were meeting his with Pulmonologist and Cardio Thoracic Surgeon.  We noticed they were taking Michael back to his room quickly and were told to get back because both doctors were in his room waiting for us. When we spoke with the doctors they told us they didn't know how to explain it but the outside of the hole had sealed and so no air was leaking from his lung. They were going to pull the chest tube wait a few hours and hopefully release Michael. After 8 long days in the hospital and without answers (thank you God!) Michael was going to get to go home.

February 20, 2009 changed our lives forever. I look at things differently (sometimes forget but refocus) and know that some things are so much bigger than ourselves.  The support we received from our family and our friends was unparalleled and I still can't express my thankfulness enough for having these people in our lives.  Friends we haven't seen in years (thank you Michael and Heather Labadie) sent well wishes and balloons, we received so many cards and phone calls to support us, it was amazing!

It was crazy, emotional, exhausting and I wasn't the one fighting to get better! After a couple of scares over the last couple of years we don't take symptoms for granted or hesitate if something doesn't feel or seem right.

It is amazing the difference 2 years can make!


  1. me too thanks! I had a lot of other pictures but they were kind of pitiful and I knew I was pushing it with the ones I put in. But I do have them all on my FB under one of my mobile uploads. I think this is one of the scariest things we have ever gone through.