The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.
Three weeks ago to the day I stumbled into the emergency room. I thought I was having an allergic reaction to an antibiotic I’d started taking for a urinary tract infection. Little did I know that the infection had crossed into the bloodstream and had become septic.
At once I was put into a wheelchair, and before the triage nurse had finished her questions, I was in a room, being helped into a hospital gown with a team of physicians hovering around.
I was impressed. Ten o’clock on a Saturday morning was obviously the right time to come to the ER. Like Disneyland on a Wednesday—no crowds.
“Laura,” the head ER physician said to me, “you are very sick.”
“Oh,” I said, “okay.”
How else could I reply? I wasn’t in pain and I didn’t feel sick. Other than the fact that I was shaking and laboring to breathe, even with an oxygen mask.
“I don’t think you realize how sick you really are,” he added.
That’s me, Miss Shake-It-Off. The one who doesn’t get sick. The one with the high pain tolerance who just keeps going.
Nobody mentioned that my blood pressure was 40/10, and that I was going into shock. I do remember the doctor carefully explaining that I needed to be sedated, intubated, and put on a ventilator. Horrific-sounding procedures that never registered as scary.
“Oh,” I said, “okay.”
After that I imagine things happened very fast, though I didn’t know it. The battle to raise my blood pressure was on. My son Nathan, who basically lived at the hospital and followed the doctors whenever they went into my room (at times up to 14 people!), tells me I was given three different blood pressure medications—everything they had—and loaded up with antibiotics. Then came the waiting game, as the doctors had done all they could. For two days I was the most critical patient in ICU.
Talk about surreal.
God is gracious, and I am a scrappy fighter. I came out of sedation Monday morning, still on the ventilator but feeling okay—in other words, not sick. On Tuesday I began breathing on my own. Only once during my hospitalization was I truly scared, when they drained a liter of fluid from my right lung (doctors get excited about the strangest things). But that’s because all I could think about was the episode of Downton Abbey where the poor farmer has fluid drained from around his heart. Yes, I have an over-active imagination and a memory that retains images.
“I only write historical fiction,” I remember telling myself. “Thank God I do not live it.”
Thank God indeed. Many people were praying for me, including some of you. I thank you sincerely.
And the news isn’t all bad. Because my white blood cell count was high, the doctors ordered an analysis. Everything looked normal under the microscope, hooray. In other words, no evidence of cancer. (I was treated for Hodgkins lymphoma 16 years ago.) And hey, I lost 17 pounds!
The doctors are encouraged and the numbers look very good. My kidneys and my liver are functioning normally, and I am well on my way to recovery. But for Miss Shake-It-Off the road to full strength has been irritatingly slow. The rule of thumb is seven days for every day in ICU (5 times 7 is 35) plus three days for every day in the regular hospital (5 times 3 is 15). So it will be a while. I am sleeping on the downstairs sofa, using a walker to access the bathroom and kitchen. I doubt I’ll be able to return to school this year for more than just visits.
As for finishing my novel—those three elusive final chapters!—I hope to start working in June.
Thank you for your prayers and love. I tell my students that life is an adventure when we walk with God, and isn’t that the truth?