Sunday the 12th of February was meant to be an ordinary day. I was due to work at an international cricket game between Australia and India as floor manager for the super screen camera and MC. I love my days working at the cricket, as it’s my public transport day. I can catch a train and bus and not have to drive.
I woke with pain in the left of my back and shoulder and hoped that it would quickly go away. You would think that when I coughed up blood, I might realise something was wrong, but I decided to book in to see my doctor in the morning. By the time I caught the train I had presented blood from my lungs three times. Though worried I soldiered on. Having lost my footing going up a flight of stairs, I realized I felt light headed and dizzy. Now I was concerned and did what every modern thinking person does –Googled it!
So, there I was, in a hotel lobby diagnosing myself.
There were so many things it could be, but one thing that stood out was that coughing up blood AND feeling dizzy warranted immediate medical attention. I was now in the city and thought I’d better report for work. The possibilities seemed a little dramatic.
I arrived at the oval and reported to my employer and friend of many years how I was feeling. He was concerned. I attended a briefing to bring me up to speed with my responsibilities and then get kitted out with communication devices and all else that was needed by a floor manager on the day. Then my cameraman had a stroke of genius. He suggested that while he set things up, I call in and see the First Aid people. This was a good idea. Sitting in the First Aid room I didn’t feel too bad and was concerned that I was making something out of nothing. The St. John’s volunteer was a young woman who was very reassuring, yet quietly concerned. The team doctor was called but I ran out of time and had to report in for my first round of duties. I said I would call back later and went to find my cameraman. I arrived tired and out of breath and didn’t feel right, but we had to be live on screen in just a few minutes.
The first ball of the game presented me with a couple of hours off until I would be called upon again. I decided to go and see if the doctor was available – a decision that would end up saving my life. The doctor was available. We spoke for a few minutes and then he announced that the combination of my symptoms had him concerned, – shortness of breath, coughing up blood, fast heart rate, a little sweaty. He wanted me to find a replacement so I could go to hospital. He needed to be sure.
His determination was the next lifesaving factor in my day.
Having found a replacement, the next issue was how to get to the hospital. I had no car so I told the doctor I would walk there. He looked at me slightly amazed and suggested it was not a good idea. Within minutes I was on a bed in an ambulance with oxygen mask and heart monitors. All I could do was go along for the ride.
It didn’t take long for the doctors and nurses at the Royal Adelaide Hospital Emergency Department to start the process of diagnosing what was wrong. Many questions were asked and I made sure my story was as entertaining as possible. Following a chest x-ray that revealed nothing I was sent off for a CT scan of my chest. I don’t like injections but I had now experienced a few and was ready for the special dye they put in your veins for the CT scan to work.
They told me it would feel hot, I would have a funny taste in my mouth, and I would feel like I had wet my pants – now THIS was going to be interesting. All their predictions were accurate.
HOW I NEARLY DIED BUT DIDN’T
Following my CT scan a diagnosis was made. I had multiple Pulmonary Embolisms, blood clots on both lungs. This was serious, however the doctors felt confident that a couple of days on a ward would stabilize and improve my condition. A course of treatment was planned.
I was kindly offered an evening meal, which I accepted for two reasons; firstly, I was hungry, and secondly, I love hospital food. Shortly after this wonderful meal I was to move to a ward. My nurse advised the orderly to wait while she went to get some medication. This delay was another amazing act of God’s goodness and perfect timing. I started to feel very unwell; I thought I’d eaten too much dinner. I was very lightheaded and couldn’t sit up. My nurse found me looking the colour of a white wash basin.
Within seconds she had laid my bed back and called her friends with their crash carts who were very promptly around me like ants at a picnic.
I had never felt this bad in my entire life. One of the clots had moved lodging in my heart, causing everything to go wrong. One doctor announced that my heart rate was 30 and I had no cardiac output. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to reassure the doctor that though this sounded bad, I was still here. The words I was thinking never came out. My nurse firmly held my face and looking straight into my eyes reassured me I would be OK. I believed her – it’s all I could do.
I heard words like Atropine – wasn’t this the stuff that Nicolas Cage had to inject into his heart at the end of the movie ‘The Rock’?
I was wheeled into another room with a flurry of activity. I was in extreme pain. A man asked me about the pain on a scale of 1 to 10, I didn’t know how to answer because I didn’t know what 10 should feel like. Because I sounded like I was in a lot of pain he worked out I would be closer to 10 than 1. He announced he had given me some morphine and asked about the pain again, by now it was 15. People were undressing me, trying to remove my Mack steel cap boots, not an easy feat even for me. I offered instructions through my oxygen mask. Regardless of my confused directions they were successful. One dear lady commented during this process that I shouldn’t worry I was covered. Was she referring to clothing or perhaps hospital insurance? Either way it wasn’t my top priority.
‘It is good to say, “Thank you to the Lord… Every morning tell him, “Thank you for your kindness,” and every evening rejoice in all his faithfulness.’
Psalm 92: 1 – 2
Thanks to God, the clot dislodged all on its own just prior to my nurse needing to start CPR, which could result in broken ribs, or at least significant pain in my front and my back. The danger had passed – I was stabilizing. During this ordeal, my wife and children had arrived to bring me some clothes for my 2 day stay. They were waiting in a nearby room unaware of what was happening.
They were surprised by my condition and my close relationship to a series of machines, masks and other medical equipment. Later at home, my wife realized how fortunate we were that I was still alive. My GP confirmed that had I not been IN the hospital when the clot lodged in my heart, my chances for survival were small.
Following my experience in the Emergency Department, I spent 3 days in Intensive Care and a further 6 days on a ward. I was diagnosed with Factor V Leiden, a hereditary condition that affects the coagulating ability of the blood. I’ll be on blood thinning medication for the rest of my life. I’m quite impacted physically by all this, but strength and stamina will return.
I am so thankful to God for what He did to ensure I was in the right place at the right time.
‘He will shield you with his wings!… Now you don’t need to be afraid of the dark any more, nor fear the dangers of the day; nor dread the plagues of darkness.’ Psalm 91.
Was it right of me to go to work coughing up blood? Probably not, but had I stayed home, I may not have survived. Was it a good idea to go back and see the doctor and for him to insist I went to the hospital? Absolutely! Otherwise I might not have survived. Oh, and that St. Johns volunteer I mentioned earlier – I saw her later as an Intensive Care Unit nurse. She was glad she had insisted calling the doctor.
I made sure that being in hospital was a good experience. I met many wonderful people, nurses, doctors, cleaners, cooks, fellow patients, people I will never forget. The one I will remember the most is Annie, the nurse who, when I was facing death itself, placed herself in front of my eyes and gave me hope and reassurance. I will always be grateful to God, my family and friends and those who helped me both on Sunday the 12th of February and at the Royal Adelaide Hospital. I am blessed