“A Breath of Fresh Air” (Part 2)

I was consumed by panic, my heart pulsing in my throat, but I needed to regain control and focus! I had to find a way to let someone know that my suction machine was still turned off. My eyes darted around the room, as I tried to think. Finally, with the little strength I have, I slammed my left forearm against the side of my suction, alerting my nurse Xin to the fact that the machine was still turned off!

“Jerry! The machine! It isn’t on!” she shouted.

Jerry (my respiratory therapist) looked perplexed, as he double checked the machine, realizing that it was indeed still off. Just as this genius discovery was being made, the emergency team arrived in an effort to try and gain control of the situation. Within seconds, I was rolled onto my left, a cold hard plastic transfer board shoved under my backside, and I was immediately lifted over to a stretcher. I then felt the edge of a cold scissor blade run up my stomach, as Xin cut open my white t-shirt. She then placed several cold heart monitor leads on my chest along with two large cardiac paddles. This was not good!

“Preparing to deliver shock. Please step away from the patient,” a robotic voice coming from a portable defibrillator repeated over and over .

“Vitals?” yelled the attending in charge, “and what caused the bleeding?” he asked, turning to Jerry and Xin for answers.

“I don’t know Doc. I just came over and seen him like that, and suddenly he was sayin he can’t breathe!” explained Jerry, while Xin rattled off my vitals.

“I’ll need a CT scan to see exactly what’s going on inside, but in the meantime, we have to get this bleeding under control or else he will go into cardiac arrest! Let’s try suctioning him again! Nurse, please prepare him for emergency transport to the ER!

I frantically shook my head “no” when I heard the mention of suctioning again. My fear was that removing my ventilator tube would stop the little air flow that I was receiving. They removed it anyway, and tried to suction me once more (this time remembering to turn the machine on). However, the strength of my tiny portable suction machine just wasn’t doing the job. I couldn’t breathe at all now. I slapped Jerry’s hand repeatedly, signaling him to stop. This was not helping, and if anything made me feel worse. The suction catheter was immediately pulled out of my lungs, and my vent tube was reconnected; a tiny stream of air still all I was able to get. My lack of oxygen now had me flailing all over the stretcher—involuntarily kicking two other staff members standing by me in the process.

“We are trying to help you Christopher! You need to calm down!” shouted the attending, pinning both my shoulders down as he stared directly into my eyes. His entire face was laced with vexation.

“But I can’t breaaaaaathe,” I tried to mouth out, as tears streamed down my face, my eyes pleading for the attending to do anything to help me! I felt like no one was understanding how terrible this was.

“He’s clearly not getting enough oxygen, we need to bag him!” shouted the attending.

Within seconds, Xin handed the attending an *ambu bag, and once again disconnected me from my machine. Being bagged is awful, but there was no other choice. They had to act fast. The ambu bag was attached to the end of my trach, as Jerry then proceeded to squeeze the bag repeatedly in order to give me breaths of air, similar to a CPR fashion. It is so uncomfortable, especially when you’re still alert enough to know exactly what is happening. There is also a degree of claustrophobia that comes into play if the person controlling the breaths isn’t doing so with a consistent rythym. Jerry was having issues with that as well, forgetting to squeeze the bag every so often. Although when done correctly, the bagging was actually helping a little. However, I still felt like I was sucking in air through a tiny straw. I was trying my best to stay calm, but I honestly did not know how much longer I’d be able to tolerate that feeling.

An *Ambu Bag is a hand-held device commonly used to provide positive pressure ventilation to patients who are not breathing or not breathing adequately.

The build up of gurgling in my lungs caused me to cough, blood once again spurting from my trach into the ambu bag.

“We need to move people! We don’t have time here!” yelled the attending impatiently, as Xin grabbed the last of the emergency supplies needed for transport to the Emergency Room.

“Are we ready?! Okay, LET’S GO!”

The emergency team stampeded down the hall with me as fast they could. The trip seemed to take forever. Each bagged breath I took, feeling as if it would be my last. I couldn’t stand one more second of feeling like I was suffocating. I closed my eyes, and for the first time in my life, I asked God to just take me. My eyes shot back open, a light slap on my cheek bringing me back to consciousness.

“Chris?! Stay with me hunny, we’re almost there,” reassured Xin as she rubbed my head, “ we’re going to ‘Room 18’ doctor,” she directed.

I was so out of it. All I knew was that we had made it to the Emergency Room. There was now even more commotion around me as the urgency to save my life continued. I could suddenly hear my mother screaming in the hallway, as staff members fought to keep her outside.

“What’s happening to him?!” my mother cried out, “Chris! Chrissss!”

“Ma’am he’s okay. You cannot be back here. Please wait outside and give us a chance to take care of your son,” said a security officer.

“Chris, I’m here okay. I’m right outside! I’m not leaving you! Stay strong Chris!” My mother’s voice fading as the officer led her away.

Due to the restrictions in place because of the pandemic, no one besides Mishka was allowed to accompany me inside the hospital. Everyone in Room 18, was dressed in head to toe protective gear, resembling full on radiation hazmat suits. I looked over to notice a hospital ventilator quickly being setup on my left, as a new nurse entered the room and began to prep my arm for an IV.

“You can’t use that arm,” I tried to whisper while pointing to my ligated fistula.

It’s a good thing I still had some sense about me in order to guide the staff and avoid any further mistakes. My case is a complicated one, and so I often find myself in position of assisting those taking care of me. I’m rare, that just comes with the territory. As the nurse relocated to my right side, I grabbed her wrist tightly, digging my nails into her gloves, begging for some air.

“I know sweetheart, we are here to help you,” she said gently covering my hand with hers. “Just give us a few minutes. All your vitals are stable. I know you feel terrible, but I promise, you are okay! We’re gonna make you feel better, we just have to set everything up.” There was a certain comfort and confidence in her voice that instantly put me at ease.

“My name is Meena, and I’m going to be your nurse. James is going to be your respiratory therapist. He’s here to help you with your breathing okay. But sweetie, I need you to relax for me, just for a second. I need to take a look at your veins so we can try to get an IV in you. Then we can give you some medicine to help you relax. Sound good?”

Hell yes! That sounded amazing! At this point, I just wanted them to put me out. I was also thrilled that someone besides Jerry was now in control. It took about eight tries before they were finally able to get a working IV, but not before blowing out my anticubital (vein located on the surface of my inner forearm). My veins are shot, therefore not their fault. I was so busy trying to focus on my breaths, that I did not even care anyway. Once fully setup, James proceeded to explain his plan of action.

“Okay Christopher, I’m sure that you realize that you have a lot of blood accumulating in your lungs, which is why it feels so hard for you to breathe. In order to get that blood out, I’m going to need to disconnect you from the vent for about thirty seconds just so I can suction you properly. Now, for that thirty seconds you’ll probably be very uncomfortable, but I need you to bare with me here buddy. I promise you’ll feel much better in a few minutes. Can you do that?”

James looked like he knew what he was doing. That type of assertiveness is so important in these situations. I trusted him, and so I gave him the go ahead to proceed. Both of my hands clinched the sheet of the stretcher as I prepared to be disconnected from the machine again. Once the tube came off, my breathing once again completely stopped. I focused my eyes on the ceiling as I counted to thirty. Everything around me seemed to suddenly slow down as I awaited relief. A red rubber suction catheter was threaded down my airway and began to pull out all the blood that I had been drowning in for the last forty-five minutes. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched the suction canister fill up beside me. There was just so much blood!

GASP! A surge of fresh air rushed into my lungs, returning life to every cell of my body. Oh my God! I could breathe again! My chest heaved up and down as I desperately tried to catch my breath.

“You still got some more gunk down there pal. I’m gonna go in again okay?” advised James.

Another couple rounds of suctioning, and I finally started feeling like things were under control. Thank God! James looked at me with a proud smile on his face, realizing that we were in the clear.

“Oh man, that was a close one. You’re okay…you’re gonna be okay,” said James as he looked at the monitor watching my numbers begin to stabilize. “You have an angel watching over you Chris, never forget that! Let’s get you over to Cat scan, see if we can figure out what caused this mess!”

My CT scan later showed that there had been a small tear in the lining of my lung tissue, which was most likely caused by a new suction catheter that I’d been using. My preferred catheters are no longer being manufactured, and so I’ve been left using a much harsher brand. This new catheter could have easily nicked some tissue in my lungs causing me to start bleeding.

*I am currently in need of the BARD X-ray Opaque Red Rubber suction catheters with connectors.

That entire situation has traumatized me. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. For days after, I was left feeling fearful and anxious. I questioned everything, trying to make any sense of it all. Every time I saw residual blood in my suction tubing, it would set me off into a panic attack. I did not even want to be left alone the first couple days following the incident. Thankfully Mishka was very understanding about that. Physically, I am happy to be back to my base-line, feeling as if nothing ever even happened. But, I am still left working through the emotional toll that this has all taken on me. I have spent a lot of time writing and reflecting this past week which has helped me a lot. I’ve also had to really dig deep and remind myself of my fight. I am a warrior! As difficult as that may have been, I made it through. My message here is simple, sometimes in life we feel like we are suffocating. We feel as though we cannot bare one more second of the pain, but I am here to remind you that giving up is not an option, and we must FIGHT until our very last breath! 💙💙💙

*All names have been changed for privacy reasons.

About 1 Man, 3 Hearts

After collapsing in my NJ home one night at the age of six, due to heart failure, doctors were convinced that I would not live to see my seventh birthday. Three decades later, I have defied all the odds that were placed against me. I will be turning thirty-seven this summer. Upon discovery that I was in complete heart failure (age 6), I was rushed to the NIH research hospital in Maryland. At this time, I had an emergency dual chamber pacemaker implanted. Since then I have survived two heart transplants, a kidney transplant, gall bladder removal, lung collapse, pain medication drug overdose, and a tracheotomy. Unfortunately my transplanted kidney failed two years ago placing me back on dialysis three times per week. At the age of twenty-seven, I was diagnosed with a rare muscular disease known as Myofibrillar Myopathy. This disease progressively attacks the various muscle groups of a person’s body over time. In my case, it was discovered that this disease was also responsible for initially attacking my heart muscle at age 6. In the last two years, I have lost usage of about eighty percent of my bodily function to my illness. I am currently wheelchair bound, sleep with a ventilator every single night, and require the assistance of a full time (24/7) personal aide who resides with me. My life is full of challenges, it’s all I’ve ever known. I’ve had my share of dark moments. However, I refuse to allow this to keep me from enjoying life and living everyday to the fullest. I have gained a great deal of perspective and learned many valuable lessons over the course of my life. My goal is to be able to give back and share my story in a way that can help others who may be facing difficult circumstances and encourage them to keep fighting. I also believe it is important to raise awareness for rare diseases as well as the importance of organ donation. I have chronicled my life in a book, “1 Man, 3 Hearts, 9 Lives,” available for purchase on Amazon. I truly appreciate all your support, thank you! 💙
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10 Responses to “A Breath of Fresh Air” (Part 2)

  1. Laurent says:

    Oh Christophe. It must have been so horrific. Man, I cannot even imagine. Like in a nightmare trying to scream and nothing comes out, and you are drowning. Except that for you, it was so real. 🙏🏾🙏🏾

  2. gladys dorcilien says:

    Amen cous, amen…until the last breath! I hear you my love. May God bless you and continue to watch over you. Bisous 🙂

    On Sat, May 16, 2020, 10:12 AM Barely Walking is Better Than Not Walking! wrote:

    > 1 Man, 3 Hearts posted: ” I was consumed by panic, my heart pulsing in my > throat, but I needed to try and focus! I had to find a way to let someone > know that my suction machine was still turned off. My eyes darted around > the room, as I tried to think. Finally, with the little str” >

  3. Radame Perez says:

    You have an angel watching over you for sure…. God surrouds you with his shield of protection. I am so glad you always make sure to share with others that working through life’s big tests is often our biggest testimonies.. we can testify to God’s goodness because He doesn’t abandon you in the struggle, He lifts us up so we can breathe once again. How amazing is that- what a blessing!!?? And what a service you’ve done in writing those blog posts and your book in such a way to capture every detail in a manner that is so well written!! Excellent message!

    Allow me to pray the following: “GOD, remind all those who have read this blog, that in the world we are going to have tribulations, but to trust you and have faith that your son lived and overcame challenges so that we may remain in your hands… and under your plans, for your glory!”

  4. Rachel E says:

    Lord! Your strength! I think I know the name of the beautiful angel watching over you. She’s probably watching a little wrestling in her spare tome too! I love you.

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