This is a story of something that happened three years ago, in October of 2010. It’s changed me in so many ways.
That Friday morning began like most Fridays – rushing off to an early morning of work with a strong cup of coffee in one hand and a change of clothes in the other. I woke up exhausted, but that had become standard in this season of life. I was working full-time, then driving an hour to coach collegiate soccer, and then nurturing a three-week old relationship in the minimal free time that was available. But by mid-morning that Friday, the exhaustion had turned into a general feeling of being unwell. I was restless, fatigued, reacting mechanically, moving in slow-motion cognitively and not feeling like myself. And without knowing why, I sent a text message to my friend Jen, who is an ER nurse, telling her I didn’t “feel right.” Within seconds, she told me drive to the ER because she was in triage that day and would be able to put me in a bed immediately. And without truly having a reason, I left work and drove to the ER.
Jen immediately triaged me upon arrival, and I remember not being able to make extensive conversation with one of my closest friends. I felt dazed, exhausted, or just confused. After taking my vitals, Jen walked me back to a room and sat me in a bed. This is where my own memory stops and everyone else’s accounts fill in the next several days for me. Soon after being placed into a room, I began having a massive seizure. And not the slight twitching kind of seizure. I was experiencing a massive grand mal seizure, to the point that multiple ER nurses and “big guys” (or so I’ve been told) had to hold me down in order to place multiple lines. Jen found my phone and called Isaac, my boyfriend of three weeks. All she told him was, “Chrissy is in the ER, you need to come now.” She also called my parents, who were away in Virginia to inform them that I was very sick. My Mom, being a nurse, told Jen to keep them updated and they would decide if it was necessary to come back home that night.
The major problem was that the seizure wouldn’t stop. Tests were ordered quickly – bloodwork, a CT scan in which people were holding me down in order to get a clear picture and prevent me from injuring myself, and many other tests. There was no readily obvious reason I was seizing. But the longer I was seizing, the more at risk for permanent damage I would become. I was quickly becoming unresponsive. And despite trauma usually intubating with a glasgow coma scale rating of 8, Jen asked them to wait longer to see if things would improve. Eventually, with the situation continuing to destabilize, Jen called my parents to inform them that I would be intubated and that they should make the five-hour drive back to Pennsylvania. I was intubated, and Jen manually breathed for me with an Ambu bag. Despite the ED pushing as many medications as possible through several lines, my seizure would not stop. And so they called the MICU team to come and help put me into a medically induced coma. At this point, physical and emotional exhaustion hit Jen. She stepped out of the room and collapsed in tears on Isaac and two other friends who were sitting outside of the room. For a brief moment, they thought I had died. But Isaac snuck a peek into the room and still saw the monitors on and knew that all would be well.
The MICU team came down and put my ravaged body into a glorious coma, ending the seizure activity. While I was unconscious in the ICU, friends and family began to gather in the waiting room, taking turns sitting beside my bed. In all, over sixty people came to visit me and pray for me over the course of a few days. It wasn’t until late into Friday night that my parents arrived and talked some of my friends and boyfriend into going home to sleep. While the ICU team did more tests on Saturday to determine the cause of the seizure, they had my Mom do some research. They had her call the two pharmacies I used to see if I had been put on any new medications. And with one phone call, a medication was found to generally be the culprit. With other tests being negative, the doctors decided to “wake me up” on Sunday.
The process of coming out of a medically induced coma is slow, and I was talking to people before I remember being able to talk. There is a distinct memory stuck in my head of Isaac running into the room and flinging his arms out wide while shouting “you’re awake!” He then bent over and kissed me for the first time. That same night we told each other we loved one another, just three weeks into our relationship. And it was during that week in the hospital that I knew Isaac would be the man I would marry, in part because he wasn’t scared by the medical uncertainty that my life brought with it. Over the next few days, people gently and slowly told me the story of what happened so that I wouldn’t be overwhelmed. I didn’t learn most of the details for months. But I was told enough to be overwhelmed by Christ’s faithfulness in my life, as evidenced by the fact that my life was spared when there was no explainable reason I should have lived.
I almost didn’t go to the ER and almost went home instead. I would have had the seizure at home, where no one would find me for hours. And I almost decided to drive to soccer practice that day, in which case I could have had the seizure on the road. Jen didn’t have to answer her phone at work, and was almost never in triage – but that day she happened to be available to put me in a room when I needed it most. And why did I text Jen in the first place that I didn’t feel well? I never did that! There are so many what-ifs. The only thing of certainty is that I serve a great God who protected me and saw fit to prolong my life. His grace is amazing!
The next three months of recovery were difficult and frustrating as I was unable to work, and even ended up in the hospital again. And I still suffer some effects from that seizure and its damage to my brain. But now I am married to that boy who wouldn’t leave my bedside. My family is closer and more precious to me than ever. And my friends hold a dear spot inside of my heart. Most importantly, life has been a continuing lesson on my need for and dependence on God. Life is good. God is greater still.