Friday, January 05, 2007

Part 4: The ICU & beyond

I wrote about my ICU experience back in September, but I am going to cut and paste a portion here, just to keep everything in order timeline wise.

I remember how completely abandoned I felt by God as I awoke in the ICU and the reality of the severity of my condition came to light. The ICU at Northside is in the basement. There are no windows. I would literally look at the clock on the wall and know it was 2:10, but not have any idea if it was a.m. or p.m. I was not completely aware of how sick I was until a couple of nurses from the floor where I had spent 2 months on bedrest came in the room and stood at the foot of my bed, looked at me and cried.

I remember short visits from my family, my mother-in-law bringing countless Scriptures, the weary, worried looks on everyone's faces, being annointed with oil for healing, the video clips my husband would bring me of the babies in the NICU, and the hours of laying completely upright in my bed staring at the clock trying to figure out what was happening to my life. I scarcely slept for days once I was concious and extubated...I was deathly afraid of falling asleep and never waking up again. So, I passed the time by watching the clock and watching my heart monitors, as if I could will the numbers to improve.

On the 3rd day, the NICU nurses brought the babies down in isolettes in the middle of the night, so I could actually touch them and see them. My heart rate improved dramatically while they were in the room. I had to have a Doctor's order to allow me to see my own children. I was allowed one visit a day.

Two days later, I finally was weaned from my oxygen and was allowed to travel by wheelchair to visit with them in the NICU. That night, I spiked a 105 temperature and was diagnosed with an MRSA pneumonia, which meant I was on isolation & unable to see the babies for the next few days. It was the last straw. I remember crying out to God: "WHAT!?!? You have my attention. What do you want from me?"

I was released from the hospital 8 days after the babies were born. I was exhausted mentally, spiritually and physically. My heart function (EF) had improved to 35%. The doctors considered it miraculous how quickly my function had improved. There were still lingering questions about my long term prognosis.

The babies spent 4 more weeks in the NICU, which allowed me to get my energy back in preparation for their homecoming. As any mother of a preemie can testify, it is odd to know that your newborns spent their early days/weeks in the company of someone other than yourself, but 2 1/2 years later, I think it is safe to say we have made up for lost time!

I was denied life insurance last year (then later granted insurance by another company), but truly, my daily life is not really impacted by my health. There is an issue with one of my heart valves that we are keeping an eye on. I am on a couple of medications that I will take for the rest of my life to reduce the likelihood of a recurrence. I was also very strongly advised to have a tubal, as another pregnancy would mean a 50/50 survival chance for me. I follow up with cardiology twice a year. My heart function is now at the low end of normal. I feel great. I am able to live life fully. I am a success story.

The truth of what prompted this series of posts is that I saw my cardiologist Wednesday. He was pleased with my condition and invited me to participate in a research study that will hopefully help physicians predict outcomes in the future. I agreed to do it. I then came home and read my new Triplet Connection magazine. At the conclusion of the editor's letter there was mention of a family in California who delivered healthy triplets this Summer. The mother experienced heart failure the following day and went into a coma. Six months later, that woman is still unable to speak or care for herself. She is awake and alert and can laugh, cry, smile and read--but she cannot care for herself or her children. As I read it, I sat and cried.

How dare I whine and complain about bad days and trivial things? Why was I spared? Why wasn't she? Only God knows.

I have no idea how to conclude this story, because it is still evolving. I am still processing this all 30 months later. This is the first time I have actually put it all to paper...and that is a start.

I do know that the words to Nichole Nordeman's song "You Are Good" really resonate with me these days.
"When the sun starts to rise and I open my eyes You are good--so good.
In the heat of the day, with each stone that I lay You are so good.
With every breath I take in, I tell You I'm grateful again.
When the moon climbs high before each kiss goodnight, You are good.
When the road starts to turn around each bend I've learned You are so good.
When somebody's hand holds me up helps me stand, You are so good.
With every breath I take in, I'll tell You I'm grateful again
because it's more than enough just to know I am loved and You are good.
How can I thank you? What can I bring? What can these poor hands lay at the feet of a king?
So I'll sing You a love song. It's all that I have, to tell You I'm grateful for holding my life in Your hands.
When it's dark and it's cold and I can't feel my soul You are so good.
When the world has gone gray and the rain's here to stay, You are still good.
So with every breath I take in, I'll tell You I'm grateful again
and the storm may swell, even then, it is well and You are good."


Sarah said...

Jennifer, when we email, or when I read your other posts, I forget this whole world you lived through! What an amazing, amazing story you have--I wish we lived closer, so you could tell me more, in person! You and Gwen are both equally blessed to be near each other--incredible women, both of you!! :)

Erickson 5 said...

WOW! What an increcilble story. I am so glad that you are healthy and strong. It makes me so happy to hear that you are doing so well. I myself have health problems that I have not yet blogged about but after reading your posts I might try and blog some of my own stories. After all I blog for my children and someday they will want to know it all. Thank you for being such an inspiration. May God continue to bless you over and over again!

Stephanie said...

What a wonderful testimony that this will be to your kids (and those of us privileged to read it). God has worked in your life in an amazing way. Thank you so much for sharing!

Teresa said...

You are truly a living breathing miracle! I read your "about me" section months ago when I first stumbled across your blog, but reading all of this truly puts into perspective the severity of what you went through. Thanks so much for sharing.

It's a lesson to all of us to treasure the precious time we have with our loved ones. It REALLY puts things into focus and shows how much God is truly in control.

Barbie @ Mamaology said...

What an appropriate way to end such and incredible story. It's touching how tender your heart is to the Lord through all of this. I am so thankful the Lord was gracious to you and healed you. May He continue to grant you healing and a tender heart to live for His Glory!!!

keri said...

thanks for sharing this jen. it just really helps all of us to appreciate our lives so much more. i pray some day your children will be able to praise God for sparing their mother and understand the miracle of their story and yours!

this may just be too nosy and you don't have to answer, but i'm curious to know if this heart condition was caused from the stress of your pregnancy or was it something that was already there but you were unaware of (and the pregnancy made it worse?)?

Jennifer said...

Keri- You are not being nosy. It is a good question. There are no good answers for why it happens. They think the stress of the pregnancy, the large amount of fluid I had from 3 babies and the 8 weeks of Terbutaline probably all contributed--but of the 4 other stories I know of severe peripartum cardiomyopathies, 2 happened to people with singletons (1 is a cardiac cripple, one died on the way to chest x-ray). The other 2 happened to triplet moms--1 had surgery and has fully recovered, the other is described above.
The stidy I will be participating in at Piedmont Hospital hopes to answer some of those questions.

Anonymous said...

Amen and amen.

The Amazing Trips said...

I'm glad you wrote your story down. This will be wonderful for them to read, one day. And what an incredible story it is!

There is no doubt that God was leading Ryland back to the hospital that night to be with you. There is no doubt in my mind that your husband, with God's grace, is who saved your life ... and is the reason you did NOT die, or become a cardiac cripple.

May God continue to bless you, Jen. And many blessings for those little babies that you waited so long for, and then had to fight for your life so you could see grow up.

(Blessings for Ryland, too. Gosh, what a guy. I hope you never forget his birthday!!) :)

Deidre said...

What an amazing story. I'm so glad you posted it, not only for us to read, but for your children to have one day.
You're an amazing mom - I can tell by your posts. You post about the simple, everyday stuff, but you also post honestly about the tough days. That's such a blessing to so many.

Anonymous said...

Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow.....It was incredible to watch that sweet video and read their birth story in the same day. You are a true testimony that we should take nothing for granted. Thank you for sharing all of this and I pray you and your family will have much health and happiness always.

katie said...

Bravo Jen. Thanks for sharing! I love to see your soft heart for God from all He's taken you through. Be encouraged...He is surely using you to bring Him glory.

Kim said...

Thank you for sharing all the is an inspiring story. I'm so glad your life was spared and you are so healthy today! It all goes back to God's sovereignty,like you have said before. We can only say Thank You God. What a wonderful perspective you must have on life now. The joy you exhibit(on your blog)is evident and a testimony to all you have been through and all God has done for your family.

terrible speller said...

ok I am sobbing! Wow. I feel like shouting out praises to God for your miraculous recovery!

Tara said...

Thank you so much for sharing this incredible story!

Kate said...

I remember reading the description on your side bar awhile ago, wondering what happened. This is such a testimony to how soverign God is and how precious our lives are. What a miracle - an abundant blessing! I appreciate you so much for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

I was given the link to your blog by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer. I briefly read through your story. Wow!

I have a congenital heart defect which, while severe, never really bothered me much. Seven months after giving birth to my third child, I had a heart attack which nearly killed me. Ironically, my heart defect probably saved my life. I then almost died in the hospital during an angiogram (which turned into an angioplasty) when I went into congestive heart failure. Like you, I don't have much memory of the couple of days afterwards, but I've been told my husband was a basket case!

I have so many questions I'd like to ask you, as I believe our heart function is about the same (mine might be somewhat lower)! I've noticed a big difference in my energy levels. While I don't have triplets (Oy! What a fun, noisy house you must have!), I do have three kids ages 5, 3 and 1. It's pretty chaotic around here, too! I look forward to reading more about your experience!

Blessings on you and your whole family, and thank you for taking the time to write about your life.

Pam said...


Thank you so much for sharing your story. It touched my heart in more ways than one, and I especially found the song at the end one I needed to read today.

Sure appreciate you.t

Grafted Branch said...

A very moving and miraculous testimony. I'm so blessed that you wrote it down for us to read.

The Lord bless you and keep you...

earthchick said...

Jennifer, I just came over here from Facebook and read your story. Wow. Now I'm in tears. Thank God for your miracle. Thank God, too, for your husband and your children. I'm glad you're around to enjoy them all! Thank you so much for sharing your story.

We had our own miracle last summer, when one of our sons nearly died in sand hole collapse at the beach. He was buried alive for 5 minutes (completely buried - 10 inches of sand over his head) and not only survived but had no injuries. Like your miracle, it has challenged me to think about life very differently. (I also can't help but think of the many parents I now know about whose children haven't survived this very same kind of accident).

Anyway - I didn't mean to write a book! I just am so moved by your story, and so grateful for the outcome. (And still think it's so cool that we each have multiple 4 y.o. children born 5 days apart!).

Blessings to you and yours.

Missy @ finding bright spots said...

I forgot for a moment how I got here (your David Crowder Band comment on Big Mama), but I just had to let you know what an amazing testimony you have. You can see God's fingerprints all through your story. So very cool.

abbie said...

Okay... I have been reading your blog and I can't stop. I had no idea you had been through all of this. Your story is amazing.. thanks for sharing it. My kids have been very, very quiet. Wonder what I am going to find when I walk upstairs. OH well, whatever it is, it is worth it.

connorcolesmom said...

Wow I just finished reading all of your abridged stories and have been so encouraged :)
Especially since the reason I am still awake is because I am frustrated and confused and seeking God's peace, wisdom, and comfort
Your story has shown me how extremely blessed I am :)

I also noticed that you were/are from Columbus
My hubby and I live there along with our 2 boys :)
We love it!
Great place to raise a family :)
BTW: was it Deanna and Shane that introduced you??
Just wondering :)
Many blessings

Kristin said...

o my goodness! i just came across your blog! your story brings tears to my eyes. i'm so thankful for you and your family that all is well now. God's hand were truly at work! I am a NICU nurse in Arkansas and see so many miracle and tragedies daily. i am truly amazed by God's Grace and what he can do for all of us! I am so happy for yall! God Bless you!