Survivor Spotlight : Kathi May Barrett

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I’ve been asked “what would you want others to know about you”. Obviously there’s probably a lot of things I wouldn’t want people to know (like how much I REALLY weigh!). However, I would like people to know I have a wicked sense of humor, bordering on sarcasm (hey, I’m from New Jersey, what can I say) and I am an avid crocheter. I love being creative and I love reading about the Elizabethan era of British history. I have been married to my best bud for 34 years, have two dogs and we all love going camping. I live in the foothills of the Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee. This is me and what I’d like you to know. We’ll those things and this,  I’m also a two time survivor although I never would have used that word to describe myself prior to my PEs three years ago. However, when I was 15 years old, I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism for which I was prescribed propylthiouracil. Unbeknownst to anyone including my doctor, I was allergic to the drug and my thyroid was wildly out of control for five years until at 20 I developed a thyroid storm. Only because my parents told me afterwards did I know what I went through. I had glimpses that I could recall: laying on an icy cold mattress in ICU because of a raging fever, riding in an ambulance with my mom to a hospital in New York City, hearing my doctor tell my parents I was dying. Experimental steroids got my thyroid under control enough to attempt thyroid surgery only to have two episodes of cardiac arrest while under anesthesia. I survived, married and have two babies. I didn’t dwell on that episode in my life but understood after the fact it could have turned out badly for me very easily. I was lucky. I figured it was just part of my story and everyone has a story. Then three years ago out of the blue I was overcome with a feeling I can only describe as dread, a feeling that I was going to die. Absolute, abject fear for no reason. As a psychology major and college instructor I tried to understand this feeling, where it came from, what did it mean. Suddenly in my mind I was 20 years old again, trying to come to terms with how close I came to dying and I was afraid. Why? I had survived! Why did that come to mind after all those years? I journaled about my feelings and stayed close to my husband while not telling him what I was feeling and after a while it eased. The next day I woke up with pain in my back and shortness of breath. By that afternoon I was in the hospital being treated for pulmonary embolisms and pulmonary infarction and I think I was the calmest person in the ER. I wasn’t surprised I was seriously ill. The feelings of dread had been a warning, a message. I believe because of that I became a survivor .. again. So what would I want people to know about me? Just this…I may be a survivor but that doesn’t make me strong. It makes me lucky. At times it makes me weak, sometimes it makes me mad. It makes me unable at times to do what I want, go where I want, eat what I want. It makes me sad, it frustrates me. It scares me.

I SURVIVED and that sure beats the alternative.

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Survivor Spotlight: Laurel Al

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Not sure how to start my story….but on August 13, 2016 I felt like I had pulled a muscle in my back. By August 14th , my pain kept getting worse. It even hurt to breath deeply. Still thinking I had a pulled muscle I called my regular doctor who couldn’t see me until Tuesday. Sunday and Monday night I would wake up going “Oh Oh Oh” and couldn’t hardly move or breath. Me, still thinking I just had a pulled muscle. Up until this happened I had been in pretty good health. So, on Tuesday I drive an hour to my doctors office. I advised them I couldn’t take a deep breath. Well they wanted to do xrays in the office just to check. Needless to say that during the 4th set of xrays and having to take a deep breath during each, I passed out. Apparently I was out for about 15 mins. I remember coming to in a wheel chair being rolled back to my drs room. Doctor said she didn’t like what was happening so she took my blood pressure. BP was 80/50. So then she did an EKG and my heart rate was 47. At this poing she advised me I was going to the hospital. Me, being a hard head and when I somewhat came to my senses, drove myself to the hospital. I was admitted immediately.  Approximately 10 minutes after arrival I passed out again. I don’t really remember much of that night. I know my BP got down to 60/? and my heart rate dropped down to 44. I also found out that my PE was in my right lung and was very large and while this was going on my left lung partially collapsed. I needed 5 bags of Potassium and a bag of Magnesium. I was given Warafin while in the hospital and sent home the next day. Three weeks later I caught pneumonia which was really bad. I still have a problem keeping my Potassium up so now I am on Potassium pills daily along with Folic Acid. I am also on Xalerto for life. With that,my hair kept falling out so I have cut almost 9 inches off. I do miss my long hair, but if that is all to complain about, well, I will take it. My PE was considered unprovoked since they don’t know where it came from, which causes alot of anxiety. I have good days and bad days. I still get tired easily but I am so thankful to be a Survivor! I am a SURVIVOR!

Survivor Spotlight: Karen Hogan

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I am Karen Hogan, wife, mother and daughter of The King, GOD Almighty. I met my husband through an April fools joke personal ad in a local newspaper. We foster adopted our 3 kids, they have been with us over 10 years and legally adopted for 5 years. I homeschool, eat organic, I go to church, and I love being at home.

January 8, 2015 I had surgery, at home 3 days later on January 11, I woke up midday feeling like someone was standing on my chest, heart racing, and knowing something was wrong. I went to the ER late that night. Early the next morning tests were run, a d-dimer blood test that measures a substance that is released when a blood clot breaks up, a ventilation-perfusion scan (similar to a CT scan, but I’m allergic to CT scan dye), and an ultrasound of my legs checking for further clots.  They also checked my heart to evaluate possible damage. All were showing I had a “clot shower”, I had so many clots they stopped counting. My heart showed signs of weakening, but there was no permanent damage. I stayed in the hospital for 4 days on a heparin drip. They ran multiple blood vials to check for a reason to my clots. It was discovered I have a genetic clotting disorder called factor V Leiden heterozygous (inherited from only 1 parent not 2). Once I was released from the hospital I had to heal from major surgery and the pulmonary embolism. To make things worse, I don’t metabolize medication well, and had to be on 6 months of an anticoagulant. By the grace of GOD and many prayers sent up on my behalf, and by my stubborn nature I was able to recover fully by the 1 year mark. It was hard to be so limited in that year. I swam to build up my cardio and strengthen my heart, and worked out with a trainer to build strength and restore my endurance. I now take nattokinase, a natural supplement, for blood clot prevention. I am fully aware of triggers and take measures to prevent clots. I have a new appreciation for my life, and try to live it to the fullest, enjoying every moment I have while I have it.

Some of my family has since been tested, my father is the carrier, and one (out of 3) brothers said he was tested and negative for factor V Leiden.

My plans for the future are to watch my kids grow up, continuing to laugh with my husband, grow in my relationship with the LORD. Last year I started to mark things off my bucket list, Hawaii was on top, I highly recommended going. I plan on running a spartan this year. And in the next few years I hope to take a cruise to Alaska marking 2 things off the list at once (cruise and Alaska). And I look forward to being a grandparent in the distant future.

Survivor Spotlight: Pat Fey

Who am I?

That’s a powerful question.  There has only been a few times where I have put my feelings down on paper.  I use to love to journal, but I seem to have stopped a long time ago when it seemed my life was not too exciting to write about.  Just a typical Mom doing things what Moms do.  But now, looking back, maybe I should have never stopped.  I love to write, and I always thought “someday, I would love to write a book”.  Maybe I will put that on my “bucket list”…..funny, I haven’t even started a “bucket list” yet. Hmmm

I first married my childhood sweetheart at the age of 19.  I was in an abusive marriage for almost 7 years.  Knowing what I know now, it shouldn’t even have lasted more than a year….but love is blind and you truly believe people will change.  Of course, I was so embarrassed that I never shared it with anyone for quite some time….and only very few when I did.  I remarried a wonderful man and had two beautiful daughters.  After the girls started school, I decided to go back to work.  I truly missed my work in accounting so I answered an ad for a part-time job in a non-profit agency.  I was called for an interview, not knowing anything about the agency I was applying to.  What a surprise, it was for a domestic violence shelter.  I was offered the job and from that day on,  I learned more about myself and my past than I ever thought possible.  It was my blessing in disguise as I learned to heal myself, no longer being embarrassed or blaming me for my past.

Moving on, after 26 years of employment to a job I just love and never want to end, my life seemed so perfect.  My youngest daughter married and gave us two beautiful grand-daughters who are now ages 3 and 6, who I just love with all my heart.  Being a Grandma is the best profession ever.  They remind me so much of my own daughters at their age and sometimes I have to pinch myself to realize they aren’t and I’m not living in the past.

I love the sun and we have a cabin on a private lake where we swim and fish.  That’s my idea of a very relaxing vacation.  Just sitting on the deck reading and catching the warm sun rays is heaven.  We have our family reunions at the Lake and the little ones just love it….just like our daughters did when they were little.  It’s our very special place.

So, how did I find myself on a website called “Surviving A Silent Killer”?  (I wish I could just pinch myself and realize I’m not)  But I’m here and I found it quite by accident.  I always considered myself quite healthy except for having a weight problem.  I was a yo-yo dieter for many, many years which is why I have a huge weight problem now.  I have a closet full of clothes that range in size from 10-22 and shoes from size 7 to 9. ( I keep them all praying that I will soon get back into them, and if I wait long enough, they will even be back in style for sure.) The only time I was ever in the hospital was when I gave birth to my daughters.  As I got older, I fell and broke my arm….the first time I ever had to have surgery, and I was scared to death……now a broken arm seems so trivial.  Then a few years later, I went in for emergency gallbladder surgery, which resulted in two separate surgeries a day apart.  I guess I was making up for lost time.  But I healed and felt good and even started to drop weight again by going to the gym. 

A few years later, I came down with a horrible cold and cough which I just couldn’t seem to get rid of it.  The cough seemed to linger on, but other than that, I was feeling ok. Then, a week prior to my near death experience, I felt shortness of breath when I climbed the stairs at work.  I got dizzy and felt like I was going to pass out. I even had to loosen my dress slacks so I could catch my breath.   I got into the Dr. the next day with a very high blood pressure.  He took an EKG and a chest x-ray, and couldn’t find what was causing my sob.  The next day we took a four hour drive for Easter weekend to spend with family.  I was fine, walked up and downstairs with no problems at all and played with our grand-daughters.  Two days later, I left a finance meeting to head back to the office and for some reason I ended up stopping at home on the way back, going into the house and telling my husband that I couldn’t breathe.  I don’t remember any of it….not even the drive home through traffic lights and all or let alone walking into the house.  My husband immediately called 911 and I was on my way to the ER.  I lost five days of my life that to this day, I don’t recall any of it.  My Cardiologist explains it as trauma that my brain won’t let me remember, and he said it’s a good thing.  My brain is protecting me!  (Thank you dear brain)  When I first woke up, two nurses were by my bed chatting and all I remember was the lights above my head.  They explained that I was in the hospital and my daughters were in the waiting room.  I couldn’t figure out why my daughters were there and I figured I must be dreaming and dozed back off.  The next time I woke up, I was told I had a breathing tube down my throat and I was hooked up to many machines that were keeping me alive. And this gigantic pain in my chest.  My team of Drs. came in and explained all that happened.  I had a saddle block blood clot and massive blood clots in both lungs and DVT’s.  And I was a miracle for being alive.  I had coded 9 times in ER and they could not stable me enough to get a CT-scan.  But somehow they did and found the lungs blocked with the saddle block that had already crystalized and wasn’t moving without surgery or I would die.  So I was scheduled for surgery the next morning if I made it through the night.  I had open heart surgery to remove the clot, which is a very rare procedure.  Then they did some kind of backflow and flushed out all the clots in both lungs which I am told just plopped out into a surgical pan.  I’m not sure what all was done the next four days since I was out, which I truly believe it was a blessing because I would have been scared to death.  They finally removed the breathing tube and I could talk to my family and ask many questions.  A few days later, they had me up and walking and days later, I was removed out of ICU on to the heart floor.  I was there for about another week and learned how to use my hands and get some strength back and walk, walk and walk more.  Then I was released to rehab and I lasted three days and I made my husband get me out of there before I died.  It was more or less an assisted living facility with very little assistance….especially caring for a patient that just went through what I did.  We scheduled home health care which was another blessing.  Being home was the answer and I can’t say enough about what a caring husband I had taking care of me being sure I got my meds, ate and walked/exercised.  He healed me faster than anyone thought possible and I even surprised the Drs. how well I was doing andtwo months later I was able to go back to work and I’m still working to this very day.  My clots were unprovoked and I am on blood thinners for life.  I do know my weight and laziness was a big factor in my clots and I am so ready to turn that all around in the coming new year.  I have to, because I never want to go through this ever again.

It took me some time to google DVT/PE’s to find out exactly what all this was about.  I read one site that said saddle blocks are rarely discovered until an autopsy is performed.  That stopped me cold and I didn’t want to know or read anymore.  But I had so many questions and somehow, later on, I found these two sites that helped me explain what I was feeling, what all I had been through and so many survivors that knew exactly what to say and express how I was feeling.  I finally have some validity of what I had gone through and how I was feeling.  And not a day goes by that I don’t post or just read what everyone is sharing.  It’s like my lifeline that I need a daily dose of.

So….that’s me!!!  I told you I love to write…..now you understand.  I was 62 when this happened to me and my 3 year anniversary of survival will be in April.  It’s a day of celebration that I made another year and I look so forward to many, many more anniversaries to come.  When you experience a near death experience, it makes you wonder why you survived.  I often wondered how many more times I could have coded until they just gave up.  Thank God he was watching out for me and had a team of professionals doing what they do best….saving lives.  My purpose now is my family, they are my entire life and I want to spend as much time with them as possible.  My other purpose, is to get the word out about DVT/PE’s.  People that haven’t experienced it, or had a family member or friend go through it haven’t a clue what it is.  I didn’t until it happened to me.  I just want more awareness about this through the media and let people know why it’s called “A Silent Killer”.

Thank you each and every one of you for reading my story and for supporting us all on these wonderful websites.  Being survivors is what this is all about.  Love you all!                                               

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