It all started a few months ago when I went to the doctor with chest pain and coughing… actually to 3 different doctors in a 4-week period.
The first doctor was a locum, because my doctor was on leave. She prescribed pain tablets and cough syrup. I was 18 weeks pregnant at that time and there were not too many options available.
After a week the second doctor prescribed antibiotics as I was not getting healthy and my doctor was still not available.
Another 2 weeks went by and I went to my doctor. She prescribed a different kind of antibiotics. I had to sleep upright in a chair by that time because I struggled to breathe.
A few days later I went for a follow-up at my obstetrician and I burst into tears, I was feeling so bad that he admitted me to hospital for stronger antibiotics and pain medicine.
I remember telling my mother how much I enjoy the hospital-experience on my second day there. You can sleep the whole day and they even bring you food in bed.
After 5 days of not-getting-better they moved me to high-care and the next day to ICU. My oxygen levels, which should be above 90, were in the 70’s and the chest X-ray didn’t look good.
I spent the next 19 days in the ICU, most of them sedated and on a ventilator breathing on my behalf.
I only remember a few things from the first few days in ICU before the sedation and ventilator. Firstly, I had no appetite, which is very abnormal for me. Secondly, I still struggled to breathe even with oxygen. Thirdly, they drew a lot of blood.
They tried another machine before the ventilator, a mask they put over my face with straps around my head. It blew oxygen out with a force and I was terrified. It felt as if I was suffocating with that big machine blowing in my face.
The last thing I remember was opening my mouth to put the ventilator pipe in.
There were times that they didn’t know whether I was going to pull through or not and they told my husband that, if I don’t get better soon, they will have to give me stronger medicine, but that will increase the chances of me losing the baby.
I woke up after 12 days in ICU. The sister told me the day and date and I didn’t understand the relevance thereof. I had a pipe in my mouth for breathing, one in my nose going to my stomach for eating, a drip in my neck, another one in my arm and a catheter.
Then the struggle began to get me off the ventilator, the frustration every time my lungs were not strong enough, the long lonely days with only one hour in the afternoon and one at night to see my family. I was surrounded by many people with no privacy, yet I felt so isolated. I couldn’t talk, eat or drink with the pipe in my mouth and my throat hurt.
By the time I was off the ventilator they struggled to stabilize my blood pressure and my visit in ICU was extended with another two days.
I had two different doctors depending who were on leave and the nurses worked different shifts, the only constant was the physiotherapist. She came twice a day and I started to look forward to her visits. I communicated by pen and paper and she is the only thing I miss from ICU.
After ICU I went to the maternity ward. I was already 26 weeks pregnant. The only thing they could check was the baby’s heart rate. After all the medicine and trauma his heart was still beating.
In the maternity ward they didn’t quite know how to handle a weak patient from ICU, so they just left me alone for the first few days.
In that time I remembered all the stories the sisters told me about how sick I was. Even the sisters from the pathology lab knew about me… the pregnant lady from ICU. The one almost dying…
The highlight was seeing my 2 year old son for the first time in 3 weeks. I was very emotional and just held him as tight as I could.
After 29 days in hospital I went home with a portable oxygen machine and a walking frame. My muscles deteriorated while I was in ICU and I lost 9 kg. One month later I went back to work.
Through this all the Lord was (and still is) so faithful. Many people prayed for me. I experienced two miracles in a short time. Being alive was the first miracle and the perfect little baby born few months later the second one.
The one doctor dubbed me “miracle lady”, not because of anything I did other than survived. My medical report said I had influenza A, ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and pneumonia while being pregnant.
When something like this happens, your whole life changes. You realize the value of faith, hope and love… not only for yourself, but also for your family.
Your outlook on little things changes. Petty things that upset your day somehow just doesn’t seem to be worthy of getting upset over anymore.
Today, I thank God for the miracle of life, for the privilege of waking up and being able to breathe, and to know He will never leave us.