Survivor Spotlight with Suzie White Korte

This journey for me all started in 2005 when my back went out. I was literally in bed for two and a half months before they could get me in for surgery. I could not walk and had to have my son, mother- in- law, sister and my husband assist me to the bathroom and back to bed.

My first back surgery was August of 2005. During this surgery they took the bottom two discs out and didn’t put anything in their place. Another surgery came in 2008 where they removed another disc above where the other two were. At this time, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, severe nerve damage in my left leg, irregular heartbeat, severe depression, anxiety, panic attacks and several other medical conditions.

In May 2011, I had a spinal cord stimulator put in. It is supposed to help with the chronic back pain.

In January 2014 ,I started swelling in my face, legs, hands, etc. The then put me on a water pill.   It worked for a little while.

Then in September of 2014, my legs swelled so bad they looked like tree trunks.  I couldn’t see my knees or ankles and my face swelled up enormously.  That evening I started having heart palpitations and really bad chest pain. I honestly thought it was a heart attack. I took my blood pressure and it was really high.  I told my husband that I needed to go to the ER.   He stated to me that he didn’t have the gas to take me there and still be able to go to work in the morning.  By this time, my chest hurt so bad I was crying.  I told him I was going to call 911 and he said “No don’t do that. What if someone has a life threatening situation?” At that point, I didn’t care. I called 911.  The paramedics came and took my BP.  It was 175/110, my pulse was 168 and my O2 was sitting at 87 .  I was then placed in the ambulance.  By this time, I was wheezing really bad and so they gave me a total of 3 Nitros in the ambulance.  It didn’t change anything.  I got to the hospital where they took me straight to a room.  They did the IV and several other things.  Then they rushed me for a CT scan.  When the results came back the doctor came in and said you have massive bilateral pulmonary embolisms and a DVT.   I had never heard of it before now.  He said to me that usually when he places this type of diagnosis on someone they are already deceased.  I spent 3 days in ICU. I don’t remember much. I do remember my husband came to see me in ICU.  He walked in crying.  He said he was so sorry and that he had no idea I was that sick.  After 3 days I was sent to a regular room. I spent a total of 6 days in the hospital.  They had me on Lovenox injections and Coumadin. I went home with a script for Xarelto for which I am still taking.  

A few weeks after all that,  I went back in and had another DVT. They kept me a few more days and sent me home.  I finally got in to see a hemotologist and asked him to run tests for blood clotting disorders.   He said there were too many to test for but he did test for a few it came back I had MTHFR.  I had to do some reading to find out what exactly it was.

After I came home from the hospital I was afraid to even move.  I had many panic attacks and I was scared to death.

Now, 2 years later, I got a second chance at life! I never take not a minute for granted because it can all be gone in the blink of an eye. I want to say I don’t know what I would have done without this group.  You ALL got me through the scariest time in my life ever and for that I can never EVER repay you all! I love each and everyone of you ❤

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Survivor Spotlight with Gary H. Steadman

                                       Half Marathon Finish Line Photo
At 54 yrs of age, I was more healthy than I’d been in decades. or so I thought. What I didn’t know was my life was at greater risk than ever before. Four years earlier I’d made significant changes to improve my health and quality of life. I began exercising consistently, changed my diet, lost 50 pounds and transformed blood test results from ugly to spotless. It all worked fabulously and yet, my life was in grave danger with every breath and heartbeat. I had no idea what was happening, none.
The end of October marks my one year anniversary from the moment my world suddenly changed. I should say my awareness suddenly changed because what was happening in my body took time and developed slowly. It was late October of last year that I found myself desperately short of breath. I couldn’t climb stairs. I’d been fighting for what I thought was a cold for weeks, over eight weeks to be exact. The cough I told everyone would go away in time, was getting so severe I could barely breathe without having a coughing fit. I’d made three visits to the doctor, gone through every prescribed course of treatment and was only getting worse.
At the same time, I was limping along with knee pain. A pain I believed came from my running. I’d trained for weeks in preparation for an early September Half Marathon. With distance training, for me anyways, has always had some form of pain somewhere and the pain in my knee wasn’t new at all. This time it couldn’t be soothed in the usual ways with icing it down, stretching, foam rollers or even deep tissue massage. I completed that Half Marathon in early September. Knowing what I know now, I feel fortunate I made it to the finish line alive.
My wife had seen what was going on with my health but it wasn’t till late October, when I shared one more symptom with her, we decided I had to get to the hospital. The leg with knee pain was now swelling and the pain extended from my ankle up to mid-thigh. We were received at the hospital ER rather routinely, checked in and waited three hours till a room was available. The nurse ran us through the routine of questions and examined my leg and lungs for the coughing. From there, things got a little crazy.
This ER nurse was an angel. Although she wouldn’t say so directly, she knew what was going on right from the start. She pressed for quick action in getting specialists in to see me, tests ordered and processed. Over the course of the next few hours, I would see no less than five different specialists. They ran round after round of blood tests, x-rays, EKG, ultrasounds, CT scans, more CT scans. It was a long night and very much a blur.
My diagnosis was Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) in five separate major veins of my right leg extending from ankle through hip. On top of that, the CT scans confirmed extensive Pulmonary Embolisms (PE) in both my lungs and in all lobes. There’s not a lot of detail I recall from this blur of a night but a few things that I do recall clearly are numerous medical professionals reviewing my case and shared I was “very lucky to be here”. I don’t recall any doctor willing to state I’d be ok, just that they’ll do everything they can to help me. The Pulmonologist, reviewing my chest CT started to count the PE’s then stopped because there were too many to count. His comment was, “It looks like a snowstorm, this’s impressive!”. I really didn’t want to be, impressive.
For the next four days, I would be in Critical Care. I was administered Heparin by IV to stop further clotting. We reviewed numerous potential avenues to resolve the clots in my leg and my lungs. Ultimately, we were advised, my situation was so extensive any invasive action which could be taken would put me in even greater danger (of a terminal event).  We’ll use medication to stop the clotting and the rest is up to my body’s natural healing processes. In time, that’s exactly what has happened. My body has largely healed itself. My leg is still not what I would consider normal, but it’s 95% and that may be my new normal.
All that being said I have to be honest, this is where things actually got difficult for me. This was, and still is, an emotional roller coaster like I’ve never before experienced. For me, this was the first time I’ve been convinced I was truly facing my pending mortality. The challenge of this and the changes it brought on an emotional level have been something I simply didn’t see coming. This is very hard to share and something I’ve pondered countless times in the last few months. I don’t see many addressing this side of what’s happened to them, the emotional impact, and that’s part of the problem. You can feel very alone even though you’re not. So if you’ve been through this or something similar and that roller coaster is hitting you hard, know you’re not alone.
To survive a day you’re absolutely convinced was to be your last, profoundly changes your outlook on everything. EVERYTHING.
I can’t think of a better way to characterize the impact of this event. It can be a good thing. There are highs on the roller coaster I refer to above. You appreciate everything in new and more powerful ways. Your family, music, the spring air, fall colors, a baby’s cry (even if it’s in the airplane seat behind you). You have less time for things that waste your time and more time for things that don’t. There are countless cliche’s I could rattle off here but what I’ve come away with is this. At my one year anniversary of this life event, I can appreciate this year which might not have been. Better than that though, knowing my risks means I have a better shot at enjoying many more to come and I’ll be savoring every bit of it.
Learn the symptoms of thrombosis and your personal risks. One day it could save your life or the life of someone you love.
To Survive a Day...