When The Sirens Come for You
It's not everyday this happens and there are countless people that can go through their life and not experience it. Finding yourself in a suspected medical emergency where EMS has to be called is a scary thought and I can say for certain, it's even scarier to experience. I found myself in this scenario on the 7th of this month and it's changed my perspective a lot.
For starters, my stress has been the absolute highest its ever been, before it was just grazing the stratosphere on a regular basis, but certain problems that cropped up catapulted it up passed the Moon and headed for Jupiter. As ridiculous as this sounds, I was braced for a situation to crop up and did the best that I could to avoid it, but it just didn't work out that way. That Monday evening, things just came to a head and something changed with my migraines that left me with no choice but to activate EMS.
My intention that evening was simple, put the dogs in the pen so I could work easily in the kitchen; the dishes were piled up and I couldn't take it anymore. I endured several long migraines the week before and my short temper got the best of me, so my kitchen literally looked like a bomb went off. I had felt decent Monday morning and afternoon, even though the weather had turned off overcast, misty with an occasional two minute rain shower here or there. The weather finally broke enough that I thought an hour or so in the pen for the kids were in order, so I was headed to the pen to get them inside when a heavy light-headed episode hit me hard enough I had to lean against the fence to catch my breath. I dropped my flashlight twice as I stood there and when I finally had it in my hand and felt more stable, I started to head back to the house.
I wouldn't make it, I ended up taking a detour to my car when the left side of my face exploded and went numb and I completely lost the sight in my left eye. I was just lifting my phone to call 9-1-1 when a friend's husband called out of the blue and when I answered, he could tell I was in trouble, asked if I needed an ambulance and told him that I did. The phone call lasted barely 30 seconds.
The dizziness was getting worse as the seconds ticked by, so I went to the driver's side of my car, intending to sit in the seat and wait for EMS but I found the driver's side door locked so I leaned against the car and waited again. One of my outdoor cats brushed against my leg which startled me and I jumped; before I could blink I was falling hard and jammed my left shoulder on my way down. Instead of risking another fall, I leaned against the back tire and did the best I could to self-assess my situation. I was once a CPR/First Aid Instructor and I knew they would need information from me. The problem was, I could practically feel things in my brain start to short-circuit and my anxiety ramped up to a full-blown panic attack.
While all this was going on, I could hear sirens off in the distance and it had only been maybe a minute from the end of the phone call with the husband. I am so rural that when I step outside in my front yard on a cloudy night, I can't see a thing before my eyes without a flashlight and sound carries for miles as it bounces off the hills near me. I suspect they were on the outskirts of town, seven miles away and I was able to pick up their sirens.
An odd sensation of fear and calm swept over me as I listened to them coming closer. Fear that they wouldn't see me since I have no yard light and it was dark; calm because they were on the way and I wouldn't be alone for too much longer. It took me a minute to get my flashlight in my right hand and turned on and not afraid to admit it, I started to cry. I lifted my flashlight to see just how bright my beam would be and I started to flip out when everything turned hyper 3D on me, everything on the left side was dark gray, no shadows, no light from my light, just gray.
I heard them turn onto my road and they cut the sirens but the engine was at full throttle as they came down the hill. I could barely make out red and blue lights and they stopped just past my driveway. I lifted my flashlight as much as I could, I made out one of them say that I was on the ground and they headed towards me a second or two later. I was able to see the shape of a truck and knew it was the Sheriff's Department that answered the call first.
The friend was the second to arrive and I don't know what to call this, but I had set her up not more than a week before with a series of cards, much like the Vial of Life that contains my medical history, current medications and emergency contact information. The favor was simple; “If I ever go down when I'm with you and need EMS, make sure they get those cards”. I barely heard her voice as my BP and heart rate were taken but knew she had them with her and I was able to relax a little more and try to speak to the two working on me as clear as I could.
The ambulance arrived just a minute or two behind her and before I knew what was happening, I had almost ten people in my front yard, but then the headache finally hit in spectacular fashion with all the flashlights and flashing reds and blues. Discussion and movement ramped up a little more when my friend revealed I had a stroke history and I was being put on a gurney and placed in the back of the ambulance. Twenty seconds later we were rolling.
I would endure an MRI (blessedly, it was communicated via my cards that I cannot handle closed MRI's and was placed in an open one instead), EKG, the stroke protocol and my shoulder X-Rayed. There was no evidence to support a stroke, but because I completely lost my left vision which had never happened to that degree, it would seem my hemiplegics may be transforming. Good news that it was not a stroke, not so good news to know my migraines may be shifting. Luckily too, I didn't break anything in my shoulder but it was deeply bruised and I am still feeling it.
I am so impressed with the response and humbled in the same breath. The friend, Sheriff's Department, the paramedics (one especially who managed to get a viable, working IV in me enroute no less. That guy deserves a medal as far as I'm concerned) and the emergency room staff but they commended me left and right for having such a plan in place. Had I become completely unresponsive, I've no doubt the deputies or paramedics would have found my Vial of Life on my fridge in the house but it saved them several minutes in being able to treat me had this actually been a stroke.
If you don't have an emergency plan in place, it's my strongest advice that you put one in place ASAP. I will be in Kansas City soon with my family, each household I visit will have a set of those cards in the event. Talk to your people and tell them 'this is what I need you to do if something goes wrong'. It may be an uncomfortable discussion, but at some point in time, it could be the most important one you'll ever have.
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