Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Back from a near fatal anaphylactic attack

On January 6, 2017,  I experienced an almost fatal anaphylactic episode.  It was an uneventful day and nothing out of the ordinary.  I had celebrated my birthday the day before and looked forward to a great year.  Around 10:30, I began to itch around my lower back.  I didn't think much about it until I  began having a little trouble breathing.  Within minutes I began itching around my stomach area.  I went into the bathroom and took off my shirt.  I looked in the mirror and saw what appeared to be welts.  Several around my stomach about the size of a candy bar, reddish, swollen and slowly growing.  I turned around and the mirror revealed what was on my back.  Four or five more welts approaching the size of a dollar bill and spreading up my back.  The swollen, reddish welts on my thighs were even bigger than a dollar bill.  

I knew what was happening.  I was having an anaphylactic attack.  I had an episode several months earlier.  The first time I thought it was a spider bite causing the welts.  I took a picture of it.  I fought through the breathing difficulties by using the training I had learned in the military on how to breathe for chemical attacks.  A little painful but I made it.  The next morning I saw my primary care physician who took one look at the picture and said it was not a spider bite, but rather hives and I had an anaphylactic episode.  She had been taking care of me medically for a couple of years and knew that I tended not to take things very serious.  She tried to make it clear that these episodes can be dangerous and life threatening.  Also, that the next one will be more serious than this first one.  She wrote out a prescription for epi pens (Epinephrine Auto-Injectors 0.3 mg).  She told me how to use them.  I told her I had used them on myself in military training.  I knew she wasn't impressed and she warned me again that I could die.  I picked up the epi pens at the pharmacy.  There are three in the box.  Two are real and one is for practice.  I did a practice one and it all came back easily.  Nothing to it.  Pull the blue cap off, plunge it into your outer thigh for three seconds, and pull it out.  

I was aware that I was sweating and itching and having a little more trouble breathing.  This went on for awhile and I expected it to stop like the last time and go away.  This was a little bit more difficult, so I continued to get on my knees next to the side of the bed, like a child praying, and breathed slowly without increasing my heart beat, and no fear, so adrenaline was not entering my blood stream.  I was doing everything right.  I knew I could beat this.  It was now a little after 1:00, and I was having more difficulty breathing.  As I look back on this, I cannot to this day understand why I didn't just use the epi pen and drive to the hospital.  I can only rationalize this by believing that the lack of oxygen was affecting my reasoning ability.  (I hope that it was not because of an out of control bravado that believed I could conquer anything.)  

At about 1:45, I was having great difficulty breathing and I actually crawled to the bathroom where the epi pens were.  It seemed to take a lot of my strength to open the cabinet and take the box out.  I got to my knees, took an epi pen out, flipped up the blue safety release and jabbed it into the side of my leg.  Nothing happened.  I looked at it and it was the practice pen.  I actually laughed to myself.  I had to catch my breath and reach for another pen.  Jabbed that in my leg.  It went in well, but there was no effect.  I had waited too long to use it.  It was rendered useless.  It was now almost 2:00.  I thought about calling 911.  It had now been 3 hours.  The nearest phone was in the master bedroom about 25 feet from where I was on the bathroom floor.  I couldn't stand up, but I could crawl.  I crawled into the bedroom.  Now I was at the point I couldn't breathe.  I stood up.  I knew I was not going to make it.  At that moment, I knew I was going to die.  I knew I had made the biggest mistake of my life.  Why didn't I call  911 before this?  Was this some kind of macho game?  Is this how I die?  I'm going to die for nothing?  I called out, "God save me!"  I then had a Grand Mal Seizure.  

When I came to I noticed that I was all wet.  Why am I so wet?  I then realized that I had lost control of my bladder and my organs were shutting down.  I was only less than 10 feet from the phone.  Incredibly, I was wondering if I should really call 911.  I made the decision I must and I must go now.  I crawled because it was impossible to stand up.  I could breathe again, but just barely.  I dialed 911.  The operator asked my situation.  I told her I could not breathe and needed to get to the hospital.  She asked my address.  I gave it to her.  She asked if I had pets.  I said no.  She asked if I could turn the outside light on the ambulance could find it easier.  I said I will try to do that.  She said if the front door was locked.  I said yes.  She asked me if I could unlock the front door.  I said I'll try.  

I then crawled as quickly as I could trying to control what little air I could inhale.  I reached up and turned the light on.  Rested for a few seconds and with literally the last of my strength, I turned the key to open the door.  The door opened, and I lay on the floor on my back.  I could't move.  I only had my bottom pajamas on.  I did not have a shirt on.  It was 2:30 in the morning.  A full moon out.  I looked up at the sky.  All was silent and calm.   It was very pretty.  But it was so cold.  All of a sudden a man showed up at the door.  He looked down on me and said he was my neighbor down the end of the road and he had heard the situation on his emergency phone.  He called the ambulance and gave them directions but it seemed like they were there quickly.  

The ambulance crew looked briefly at me and got me into the ambulance quickly.  They put a mask on my face.  I was driving in and out of consciousness.  I heard on guy say, "It's not working.  He's not breathing."  The hospital is only five miles from my home and we were there very fast.  I remember the ambulance driving into the building and nurses coming out.  I was then in what I thought was he ICU but I'm not sure.  I remember the nurses were roughing me up.  I wondered why they were treating me so mean.  They would put one mask over my face, and then suddenly rip it off and put another one on.  Whatever they were doing, it wasn't working.  They then began shooting me up with what I can only guess, because I didn't ask, was massive doses of epinephrine.  I could hear several doctors say, "Look how red he is.  Like a lobster."  I then remember being in a hospital chair with a mask on and I could see several nurses.  One in particular watched me constantly and she seemed to have a mean look on her face.  I looked up and saw a sign of some kind which had only one word on it, "BREATHE."  Then an ER doctor, who was very pleasant, came by my side and seemed to whisper, "We may not be able to help you."  (I didn't know what that meant at the time but I do now.)    

Obviously, the nurses weren't being mean to mean as they were doing their job and  I lived through this.  Three ER doctors were involved.  Unless they were just trying to scare me, they told me I was the worst case they ever treated where the patient lived.  One doctor told me that my oxygen level was below 70 when I got to the ER.  He didn't say how low and I didn't ask. 

I have almost made a full recovery.  I am no longer anemic, although still a little low and a little low in D3 and a few other things, but basically I'm back.  I only did one article in April of 2017, so this is really the first of many articles to come in the last two years.  I think it is also rather obvious that God, for the third time, has intervened again and saved my life.  For that I am eternally grateful. 

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