I was traumatized and disoriented as my husband, Bill rushed me to the emergency room in Greeneville TN, on Friday, October 9, 2009. I was too weak to talk, could barely walk, and It was very difficult to breathe.

My diagnosis was double pneumonia, early stages of kidney failure, and possible blood clots.

Laughlin’s Memorial Hospital admitted me into ICU, however, by Sunday, my body was sepsis and I was dying.

Family members that had already passed away came to visit me. They constantly hovered over me and never left me… It was like looking at a picture slideshow.

Bill, my children, and other family members became very concerned when I told them about the dead family members that I could see but I was too far gone to understand their fears.

On Monday, I had a somewhat lucid moment when my doctor managed to get my attention to tell me that he had been trying to get a hold of Bill because my condition had deteriorated and he needed permission to put me on a respirator (life support) because my lungs were failing.

I gave the doctor permission but in that moment I didn’t realize that I was dying. I just thought it was a medical test the doctor needed my permission to perform.

My hospital room flooded with hospital staff in surgical uniforms that quickly went to work putting me into a medically induced coma, next I was put on a respirator, and later that day I was airlifted to Holston Valley Hospital.

I never saw my dead family member again after being placed into the coma.

Being in a coma seemed mystical to me because one part of me could occasionally hear and see my family but my soul was somewhere else.

I didn’t see a bright light at the end of a tunnel like we hear about… but I was in a peaceful place- free from pain- as my body did the work of struggling to survive. I had somehow managed to disconnect from my body.

Body and soul reconnected on October 31, 2009. I left my peaceful haven and was sent to the bowels of hell. Well, at least, it was as close to any hell on this earth that I have ever experienced. I know far worse things have happen to other people but this was my hell.

The coma lasted three weeks and while in the coma I was given a medication that caused paralysis to keep me from fighting against the respirator. When I finally woke up I couldn’t move my body.

I had tubes in every orifice of my body with the exception of my ears! That was terrifying!

I was diagnosed with “ICU Dementia” because I couldn’t understand what had happen to me, or where I was at.

I couldn’t remember any of the doctors or nurses who had constantly taken care of me. However, I was reassured by both that it was a “blessing” that I couldn’t remember them.

A doctor that provided medical care asked me before he discharged me from the hospital if I ever remembered him. I felt so bewildered when I told him no.

Feeling terrified, and confused by not being able to understand what was happening was a horrifying experience and It is a constant prayer that God will spare me from ever having to experience that again.

I have so much empathy when I see someone who is suffering from dementia and confusion now because it’s like being trapped in a nightmare that you can’t wake up from.

My final diagnoses were Arterial Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS-lung failure), sepsis, blood clots in both legs and left arm, and an acquired brain injury. All of this was caused by a weakened immune system and the H1N1 Virus.

When I was released from the hospital I was 100% debilitated. Bill never left my side and there were many days when he would lift me up to transfer me into a wheelchair, give me medications, changed my dressings (picc line), give me a showers, dress me, and fed me.

There is no way in this world to repay my loving husband for all that he unselfishly did for me.

My recovery is an ongoing journey. It took me two and half years to walk again without a walker or a cane. Rehabilitating atrophy muscles is a long painful process.

The ability to talk again came back fairly quickly; however, my cognitive skills were at a level of someone who had suffered a major stroke which was caused by the acquired brain injury that I sustained.

My neurologist put me through extensive battery of tests and after the conclusion of all those tests I was told to quit my job, go home and do nothing for the rest of my life because my brain injury was so extensive.

At this point in my life I began grieving over all that I had lost and my self-esteem hit rock bottom but I began working toward picking of the pieces of my broken life and mending it. For some reason I don’t have a give up spirit.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is now a part of my life since my battle with ARDS. I have flashbacks and when I dream it is the same dream over and over- I am struggling to walk but I keep falling down. This dream plays over and over until I wake up and realize it was just a dream. This is one little side effect that I wish would go away!

ARDS has taken an enormous toll on my body and I am disabled now which is another little side effect that I wish would go away!

But for some reason God chose for me to live which I really don’t understand because this disorder has taken so many young lives. Why did they die and I live?

Everyone tells me that God has a plan and is not done with me yet. That maybe true but I wish God would tell me exactly what it is I am suppose to do? Maybe it is something as simple as making me ask what the plan is over and over is God’s plan for me.

If someone would have told me in September 2009 that I would almost die from a virus, I would have told them that they were crazy!

My fourth year anniversary of being an ARDS survivor is on October, 9, 2013.

Donna Faye, CDP

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