It was 2:30 AM on Sunday, June 6th when I was awaken by a sharp pain in my shoulder. I had a small procedure done on Friday and a pain started in my right shoulder almost immediately after. I thought it was my back so I somewhat ignored it. This time, it was no joke. Something was wrong and I wasn't sure what to do. I sat up, checked the time; why would this wake me up like this?
I decided that there had to be some sort of stretch I could do so I stood up to find a place to stretch. Immediately my legs gave away to the most intense, shooting pain I had felt in my life. It started with a ring-of-fire on my rotator cuff, then made sharp pains descending to my middle-finger tips. I had never, in my life, felt that pain before. But again, I thought it was my back so I was trying to adjust. With my legs not being able to hold weight without excruciating pain, I had to think quick. Get to open floor.
I tried crawling over to an open area of the room I was staying in to try to see if I couldn't resolve the pain. With each pull my body screamed in pain like it was being sent through a crash with a Mack truck. I eventually made it to the middle of this space but I was starting to have an incredibly hard time breathing. Almost immediately after getting positioned in this space an elephant arrived and sat straight down on the middle of my chest. I felt like I was going to be pulled apart or explode. It was so weird for back-pain.
Once this happened, my breathing became labored. It felt like a knife was stabbing my side with each breathe and then I was only able to take very short, very shallow breathes. Hyperventilating and starting to freak out as this was not my typical throwing out of my back, I rolled over, crawled a few feet, and pointed my face toward a fan in the room to get air.
I had started meditation a few weeks before to help with calming myself and working on my inner peace. It was a journey I was very thankful to start and I was learning a lot about myself. One of the biggest lessons, live in the moment. I was working so hard on redefining that for myself that it was always on the forefront of my mind. I will forever be grateful for the teachings of Jon Kabat-Zin, to stay calm and mindful in the midst of turmoil. As I was laying on the floor feeling like suffocating, I could only focus on that.
Thoughts of my life came to mind. They say that your life flashes before your eyes in moments of near-death and as I was gasping and trying not to freak myself out to death, I could only think of my family. My new daughter came to mind. My young boys. What kind of life would they have without me? I felt like I had so much to teach them and so many laughs that were undone. As I laid there hoping to have more air, I thought of what their futures would hold. Would they be ok if I didn't make it through this?
Without scaring myself too much, I focused on the positive. That I was still conscious and I was still breathing; no matter how little it was. With each breathe I focused on being thankful that I was able to take another. And that if I didn't focus on that next one, I wasn't going to make it. So I stayed focused. I pictured being able to walk my daughter down the aisle. I pictured being able to teach my boys how to camp and fish. I pictured growing old with them and their kids.
After what seemed like an eternity, I was able to start taking a little deeper breath. Then another. Soon my shoulder started to release the pain. Then I could breathe a little deeper yet. Soon I was up on all fours, confused. How in the world did I get a back that hurt that much? I discovered once I could stand and walk again that the event lasted 45 minutes. On the floor. Alone. I went back to bed confused as to what this back was doing.
The following day I was in the shower and started coughing. It was weird, I felt like I was in a swimming pool with too much chlorine, like there was too much gas in the air. Then blood started coming up. First in little sprays, then in big deep red globs. Over and over for about 20 minutes. I decided that maybe I broke a rib and hopped in the pickup and drove to the Emergency Room. On the freeway I started a coughing fit again. Over and over. Glob after glob. I caught it all because I needed the doctors to know something was up, and when I walked in to the ER waiting room, the nurses definitely felt the same way.
In a matter of 5 minutes I was hooked to an EKG, in 10 minutes I was being wheeled to a CT. Never have I heard of a patient getting treatment that fast in Central Ohio, so I knew this was not good. They scanned me and the woman running the scan refused to answer my questions. I definitely knew there was something up now.
The doctors soon came in to the room and broke it down for me. Something showed up on the scan and they needed to do some further testing. It ended up that my blood was thick and there was a blockage somewhere in my vascular system.
When they finished reviewing everything, it was clear that I had a Pulmonary Embolism (PE) with Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), but they couldn't find the clot from the DVT. They had discovered that I was in Atrial-Fibrillation when I came in, but the clot was more of a threat in their eyes. They mentioned that there would need to be some serious follow up on my part, and my life needed to change. Permanently.
I made another trip a week later for the same exact symptoms and discovered that I had a lung infection that filled up with water, and that I had a dead section of lung associated with the PE. My recovery? 6-9 months.
In my follow-up appointments I discovered that my Non-HDL Cholesterol was also in the Very High category and that Pulmonary Vascular Rehabilitation was in my future. If I wanted to survive, I had to make some huge changes in both my exercise and eating habits. I had to kick alcohol, never smoke a cigar again, and do everything I can to reduce stress in my life.
Since April 4th, I have lost 50 lbs as of July 4th. I am so incredibly proud of the support and focus my wife, family, and my team have given me over the last month. What started out as a fun weight-loss challenge turned in to a life-saving mission to keep me going. While I still deal with severe lung pain, and I do not fully know the full gravity of this situation, what I do know is I still have these days and each breath is a gift.
Knowing this, we decided as a team to jump with both feet and start a Project X team for the 2021 American Heart Association Heart Walk here in Columbus, OH. Our Branding Team has put together a really cool team T-Shirt and we have set up a couple activities for the day of the walk, to include our very own Italian Village Coffee Co coffee debut before the walk. We are encouraging all of our family and friends (human and furry) to join our team and walk with us. It should be a great day and lots of friendships to be made.
To join our team, please visit the button below or call Silvana Hildebrandt at 614 - 270 - 7792 to get help. We want to see all of you at our event and walking with our team in fellowship!
Should the event get cancelled by the City of Columbus, our team will be organizing an alternative route starting at our offices located at Budd Dairy and will lead a walk from there. We will do this come hell or high water!
In the mean time, stop in and see our team and grab a cup of coffee or have a beer on us!