My Trip to the ICU and a Pragmatic Approach to Coping

Logan and I never really explained what complications led to the trip to the emergency room, the ICU, a 3 day hospital stay, and the impetus to finally put me on the organ transplant list.

Warning: This is not for the faint of heart nor the weak of stomach.

One of the complications of liver disease is varices in the esophagus. Varices are kind of like varicose veins, but on the inside. I have been taking blood pressure medication to help lower the chances of bleeding. On Wednesday, October 30th I threw up blood which instigated a journey for Logan and me to Catholic Medical Center. After being admitted to the ER and transferred to the ICU, a GI doctor performed an upper GI procedure to look for the source of bleeding and stop it by applying rubber bands. Seriously. Only after the procedure and a follow up with my liver doctor, did I learn the true severity of this event. Variceal Bleeding–Treatment: “Bleeding must be controlled quickly to prevent shock and death.” Mortality Rate is anywhere from 14-50%, and on average patients receive a transfusion of 4 units of blood. (Note:  I did not require a blood transfusion, but the hospital was ready.)

Derek snoozing in the ICU.
Derek snoozing in the ICU.

I think about what I went through and it frightens me how clueless I was. I’m clueless about the transplant – I really don’t know what to expect and I’m not sure I want to know. It’s easier for me to ignore how serious this whole situation is than admit I may not be alive next year. The one thing I try to remember is one of the first conversations I ever had with my liver doctor; I asked whether I could donate blood.  His response was–I’m paraphrasing–“You’re sick. You’re the one that needs help.” That really drove the point home–no matter how good I feel, my body is still sick. My job, both mentally and physically, is to keep myself healthy for as long as possible.

The progression of this disease is out of my control. I can eat as healthy as possible, keep active, and try to contribute to society. When I get the phone call for a transplant, I have the easiest job of everyone involved: I just have to lie down on the gurney and get wheeled into an operating room. I trust the medical profession will do their best for me. I can’t control what happens during the operation and I can’t control what shape I’ll be in when I come out, but I can control my recovery and my attitude. I need to have confidence in others–friends, family, medical professionals, insurance, drug companies, others that have gone through similar situations–that everyone can and will take care of me to the best of their ability.

4 Replies to “My Trip to the ICU and a Pragmatic Approach to Coping”

  1. Jeez buddy. Feeling pretty clueless as well, had no idea it was that bad/scary. So glad you got there quickly. Hugs hugs hugs hugs hugs hugs HUGS to you and logs!

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