A Dedication to A Faithful Friend #1
THE DAY BEFORE MY BIRTHDAY
In the clinic, I was the only patient. The nurse called me in to the consultation room just as I managed to drop my bottom on a bench nearby. Jamie was with me. I went in to see the doctor, (he would be the same doctor I requested Nixon and Abu to bring my twins to; when they had fever over a month later. Less than two months old and sick. Both men were scolded by the doctor.) his name was Dr. Chong.
He asked me what my problem was. I thought, "Couldn't you see that I am so weak to even take a small step? Everyone else can see that. I couldn't even walk a few feet without stopping to catch my breath." I didn't say that.
"I have difficulty breathing. It has been like this even during my pregnancy. Doctors that I see during the time I went for check up said it was due to my carrying twins. I am petite with a huge distended stomach. They say it's normal. But it has become worst after giving birth. I feel something constructing; like a stick in my chest pressing. " Yup.. my usual articulate self.
He took out his stethoscope and place it to my chest, listening to my heartbeat for awhile. The normal procedure. He did the same behind. Then he checked my blood pressure (I can't remember, I think he did). Asking me questions as he did his job. "How long has it been since you delivered your babies?"
"Sixteen days. Oh yeah.. I almost fainted a couple of times within the two days after the operation."
"Do you have asthma?"
"No. But, one doctor asked me that too."
"You had caesarean?" He asked and nodded towards the narrow bed near the wall. A nurse who was standing beside him all that time, came to assist me.
When i was lying on the bed, i went on to tell him about my swelling legs, I still think it's the usual pregnancy 'water retention' thing that got carried away. Poking at my calves, he asked how long has it been like that. He asked if I pass urine as many times as usual. I told him the truth, no, it didn't bother me because I was avoiding the moving around that tires me a lot.
"Did you went for check up after that? What did the doctor said? Did you mention your SOB (shortness of breath)?"
"I did. One doctor said Anaemia." I peered into his face, he seemed to be concentrating on something in his mind but at the same time he was also focused in what he was doing. And I continued, "I am afraid that they might have accidentally left something in there." I patted my bloated tummy. "You know, maybe.. during the operation they forgot. I heard It happened." Completely ignoring what I said about doctors leaving behind surgical instruments (Now that I think of it; I must have sounded daft to him, but I had to think of the cause for my breathing difficulties. So I am imaginative..) He rubbed some gel over my tummy and proceed with ultra sound procedures. Always curious, I tried to look at the monitor, Not that I know what I was looking at and he didn't offer any information. Serious fellow.
Finally.. "Ok. you see this one here," he pointed at an image that looks to me resembles every thing when scanned- uterus (because it's the only time I go for it), this one, minus foetus. It is not uterus.
"That's your liver and it is dilated, there's fluid in your lungs and your heart isn't doing very well from the sound I heard" Then he gestured for the nurse to help me get up and down the bed (believe me, even that simple task is strenuos at that time).
I forgot Jamie was with me. She said "Ginger, what have you done to yourself? isn't it enough trouble you're in?" I really have no comment there. I think I asked the doctor something else and he explained. Can't remember much.
Walking around his desk towards me, he handed me an envelope. "I want you to go to the hospital right away. Check in through emergency case department. Give them this letter, they will know what to do. You are having Heart Failure. Don't go home, go straight there NOW. You may collapse at anytime."
He even refused payments for consultation, which makes me feel like I was about to die anytime soon. Jamie mumbles some more. This is Jamie, hyper. Anxious and on the move all the time, she grumbles, she talks endlessly on the phone except when she is chatting online. She always makes connections. She must have talked non stop during the consultation too, I don't remember. When you go from one doctor to another hoping that they give more attention and capable of answering your questions and prescribe medicine to cure you; they didn't. Then you meet one serious doctor that tells you that he is 90% sure that you are having heart failure. Nice.
Jamie took me to the hospital. It was a long wait. I'm trying to fast forward the story. Leave out some details about our registration chaos. Irritation with the officers and Jamie's demanding of better service standards. A doctor that told Jamie to stop disturbing with her speaking loudly over the phone. I was keeping mum a lot during this time. When I had a doctor available to see me, she was the same doctor that had problem with Jamie earlier. She was told to wait outside. I was put in a cubicle earlier while I was waiting for the doctor. It was freezing cold in there. Even with double blankets (the best they can do), my teeth were chattering, and I had goosebumps underneath it. Another thing that Jamie complained about which i have no objection to.
After checking everything, blood test, blood pressure, heart beat, she confirmed Doctor Chong's suspicion. I was ordered to stay in the hospital but I refuse and sign my first AOR(At Own Risk) letter. I said, I promised to go to a hospital the next day but I need to go home then. They gave me a letter of referral to a bigger more equipped hospital in town. I was missing my twins so badly even when I was gone for only a few hours.and I don't want to be sleeping anywhere but with them.The news was still a shock to me. It wasn't what I expected and I wouldn't have dreamt that I have this health problems. Everything aside. I just want to hold my babies. I want to get home asap.
Light of Knowledge
In the hospital, I underwent a lot of procedures, registrations done while I was on a wheel chair. Later I was transferred on a gurney, lying there and they were going to assist me in taking off my clothes and change into a patient's.. what? Uniform? I refuse the help firmly when the nurse persist. I can't help it if I'm shy. I was sent to the emergency room where they insert a tube through a vein in my arms and direct it into my heart., it is called Cardiac Catherization. I really feel uncomfortable and very scared, but the nurses and medical officers are truly amazing, they have a soothing and calming way of handling me. But that's not all. In the days and weeks to come, I would learn that there is no privacy whatsoever with the medical team. They're so used to it, it doesn't bother them. But it does bother us, I mean me, I am not exposed to strangers everyday, let alone different one's each time. Except, yeah..In an emergency case I would really appreciate the speed and all the help I can get from them. Exposed or not.
ECG (Electro Cardiogram) monitor that takes time, more blood test and insertion of IV lines. X rays taken of my lungs etc organ there is. That is the one thing I dread so much. And the daily blood test-means being poked with a needle a few times a day. My wrists,were sore and hurting. Some times they alternate veins, months after I left the hospital, the needle prick scars were still visible. I remember the time when they need to pump more potassium carbonate into me; they use the quickest way- IV dripped and it is so PAINFUL. I was in tears the whole time; praying a moment and cursing the next. And the nurse that held my hand couldn't stand it when I gripped her wrist too strongly, my nails dug into her skin. Both she and Nixon alternate. Nixon of course got hell from me physically and verbally. That substance feels like mercury entering your veins (Err..I guess, don't want to try).
There's the thing about lying down, I think I lost my bum lying in a hospital bed for over three months. It wasn't really lying on your back; more like lying on your bottom. The bed has to be adjust to a half sitting position. That was the only position I could take to sleep in order for me to be able to breath easier and get much needed oxygen supply into my starved body. I was thirsty.. I was told to control my fluid intake. No more than 500ml within 24 hours. Everything including soup, water, fruit juices that you take as food. A nurse was always checking on my consumption. All those, 500ml. Imagine that. I was on low salt diet; which is great with me. I dislike sweet and salty unless it's chocolates. But not water. My doctor was Dr. Mia. She said that it may be Peripartum Cardiomyopathy and Dilated Cardiomyopathy; a disease with symptoms that shows between period of giving birth to two weeks, which is fatal and many results in deaths when their heart did not recover to normal function within six weeks. They need to transport me to a better equipped Hospice. National Heart Institute is the best. But I didn't end up there.
To make a long story, short..
I had stayed in a number of hospitals. Being transferred from one to another when they couldn't find what was causing my heart failure. Towards the worst condition, i can barely get myself to the washroom without someone pushing me in a wheel chair. I couldn't shower myself and it took me about twenty minutes to put on a shirt, pant and under wear. In the last hospital where i was admitted, i had some friends coming to visit me. I remembered a friend who just looked at me and shed tears. I think it's not easy to see with your own eyes, a vibrant girl was suddenly so helpless. I only had twenty seven percent of heart function. Young and cheerful: Dr.Guru had jokingly told me that an eighty years old granny functioned better than me. It was a surprise to them since i was too young to contract heart failure. Did I forget to mention that they also found out that I had a hole in the heart? ASD(Atrial Septal Defect). It came as a surprise to me; I was born with the defect.
I hated the 'echo' session. Since i had lost weigh too, the device they use to press onto my chest are hurting, because he was using so much pressure and bruised my ribcage everytime. He said he needed to. But later, when i saw another specialist for Echo cardiogram, he was gentle and effective. I became a popular subject to all medical student who came in every day to study and practice on me, some couldn't be bothered about my feelings and flipped my clothes to reveal my bossom, while a dozen pair of eyes peered down at me. It made me want to scream but in the end i just lost the will to fight the privacy invasion and inconvenienced. There are some very kind students. I remembered one that brought me a box of chocolates the next day and tell me how sorry she was about how they had poked at me. She was the one that saw my tear drop during their practical.
For all that I went through. The pain, the shame, the inconvenienced, the sympathy that I received in an instant that I caught the nurses' and other patients glancing at me during visiting hours and there was nobody coming to see me. All aside, in my mind, I picture the faces of my newborn babies. I worry about them without me by their side. I can smell them. My newborn.They both have different scents. I can tell each one apart.
When the yearning gets too much to bear..
I call out to my true friend and pour my heart to him. His presence consoled me while I weep for my babies. And I told him of my worries. He didn't say anything. But I felt the comfort and strength. The easy comfort of someone that knew you and someone that you rely on all your life. And I went to sleep with tears streaming down my cheeks.
Then my thoughts turned to God. I sobbed.
The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
He leads me beside quiet waters, He restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for His name sake
Even though I walk through the shadow of the valley of Death,
I will fear no evil for you are with me; Your rod and staff, they comfort me
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
A Change Of Heart
I was feeling like a wilted flower during my stay there, i wasn't allowed to go anywhere on my own. I cannot leave the ward unless I was wheeled out by a nurse for more tests and observations. I want to breathe the air outside so much. I learnt to be sneaky, and pull off the oxygen tubes and pull off the sticker and clips wired from a heart monitor, then i would try to walk at a snail's pace holding the IV drip 'stand' with me. There is a wall to wall glass window in the room where i sometimes stood to watch the world outside, It never lasted for very long, the nurses liked to look in on me. But they were very kind and understanding. I would joke and sometimes chat with them about their families and job.
During those months of being admitted in the hospital, I had some change of heart. I recall the things that I have done when I hadn't known about my heart condition. The strength and vitality that I took for granted. The nights of partying until dawn. How i loved dancing and walking. I couldn't do that anymore. I have always prayed when I wake up in the morning and before turning in for the night. Remembered to pray before meals and before taking on a difficult task. Always speaking to God in my mind too. What I didn't realize was, it has become a bit of a habit; until the time I was at the hospital had become my home, my prayers became earnest. I did not feel the emptiness that I usually feel when I was out there, even though I was pretty much lonely and missing my babies. As it turned out, my condition doesn't seem to improve, my adopted father told me that I must accept the changes; that I will never have the lifestyle i once had. I feel very depressed about it because I have an active side of me that wants to do things. Adventurous, crazy stuff. I didn't want to believe it even when I was in the process of accepting what I thought was the inevitable. Since then, i would speak to God like I was negotiating. I am sure He wasn't negotiating with me. I now, know that he never intended for me to die or give up on any of my dreams. I remember telling him that if I can have one more chance at life, I would be a better person, I wouldn't repeat the reckless way I had lived it. I just wanted to see my children grow and when I am sure that they are well and doesn't need me anymore, I will be ready to go. There are times when I prayed and say, "It's really up to you, God". Later I would start negotiating with him again. Strange, I really think he was looking at me like his naughty child that needs to be rebuked now and then. When I was beginning to be out of control, he had to remind me, 'who's the boss'. I truly felt him working into changing my attitude.
Dr.Ravi, a heart specialist advised me to change my activities, that i shouldn't walk more than twenty minutes a day. When I told him I wanted to go climbing one day, he evaded my question and instead he said, "You have to follow up with your regular check ups, take your medication and promise to undergo the surgery we discussed. Not immediately but after two years. You need to recover some before we can proceed." This is when we had a serious 'doctor to patient' talk. He was clearly unhappy because i had insisted to sign yet another AOR to be released. I still had water retention up to my hips when I left the hospital but I was so excited about holding my twins again. They were in my thoughts constantly and knowing I would be holding them again makes me the happiest person.
But that's not all, I was grateful to have my second chance.
I did recover quickly after I left the hospital. And less than a year later, defy doctors order and went off my medication. Eversince I left the hospice, I tried walking thirty minutes the first time and increased gradually until I was walking an hour a day. I thought if we should exercise our body to strengthen our muscles, I could do the same with my heart too. That wasn't smart but I got away with it. I didn't think I should a second time. I took care of both my twins, that made me happy and we all know feeling happiness helps.
-Jill Ashley Tkl