I’m going to deviate a little from my normal cancer blog since so many of our friends & family would like updates on my husband’s health. If you haven’t been following along that’s okay….here are the cliff notes (pics below)
Wow. A lot has happened since Sunday evening. If you read through the social media posts above, you get the idea. I assume the people reading this blog would like a little more detail than a social media post, so here are some of the FAQ’s I’ve been getting:
Question: “Did Mark fall out of the bed? What happened that made you call 911?”
Answer: We went to bed around 10pm on Sunday. I woke up a couple of hours later and Mark wasn’t in bed anymore. I assumed he had gone to the bathroom…..but I heard rattling like he had fallen or run into something. I yelled down the hall and asked if he was okay. When he didn’t answer I got out of bed and didn’t find him in the bathroom so I ran to the living room and turned on the lights. It looked like he had fallen in the corner of the dining room and hit his head. He was soaking wet because he had fallen into the cat’s water bowl. He was obviously in distress and was making scary noises and moans. He looked like he was in a lot of pain and confused. He said he felt like he was going to throw up. (He’s been known to sleep walk and run into things but this looked different.) I had never heard him make noises like that before so I called 911. When I was on the phone with 911, Mark said “It’s okay, I think I’m feeling better don’t call them” but I just stayed on the phone and told them to send the paramedics immediately. They asked me to stay on the phone and while we were on the phone, Mark’s face turned purple and he stopped breathing for a few seconds. I started screaming at that point (from what I recall). I just remember in that moment telling the 911 operator “oh my God… he isn’t breathing… he isn’t breathing….where are they?!?!?” I remember just telling her they needed to come NOW. Right after that, he started moaning again and she said “if he’s making noises he can breathe” (that was a relief but I didn’t care- something was NOT right). Maybe because of the low oxygen to his brain, he seemed disoriented/drunk to the paramedics ….because they kept asking if he had been drinking. I told them no he wasn’t drunk or on drugs and we could talk about that later ….we needed to get to the hospital. I remember them commenting that he was resisting and not letting them put him on the stretcher. I remember telling him “it’s okay it’s okay, let’s just go get you checked out, please let them take you”. I asked if I could ride in the ambulance with him but they said to follow in my car. I was separated from him after that and didn’t know what was going on until the ER doctors came out to talk to me around 2:30 that morning. The only report I had before that was “they are trying to get him stable”.
Question: “Where did the blood clots come from and where did they go? What the actual F happened?”
Answer: Apparently he had clots in both legs which travelled to his heart and lungs. It’s called a Pulmonary Embolism or “PE”. It’s rare to have clots in both legs from what the doctors tell us. Especially someone who is in good shape (and young) like Mark. (What can I say, we are a family of unicorns🦄🤷🏻♀️) Keep in mind, I’m not a doctor, so I’m just repeating what they have told me- but it seems like the clots went to the “saddle” of Mark’s heart. His heart was working so hard to try and pump the clots through, that it stopped beating for 2 minutes. I think they call that “coding”. We are so lucky and grateful that Mark was already in the ER when this happened. The doctors did CPR right away and shocked his heart to get it back into rhythm. (The cardiologist told me that he had two cardiac arrests in the ER). At this point, I was in the waiting room and had no idea what was going on. I just remember one of the doctors coming out a couple of hours later and kneeling in front of me. My heart dropped. (It is never a good sign when they give you that look.) She said “your husband is very sick and he’s on a machine that is breathing for him called a ventilator…..we think he might have had a PE or a heart attack. We are running tests and doing our best to save him.”
My next thought was “EXCUSE ME?!?” She had to get back into the room with Mark so I called my friends Wendy and Jeramiah (they came right away which was so helpful). About an hour later they let me go back and see him once they figured out it was a PE. That was one of the hardest moments of my life. It was worse than my diagnosis. Seeing my amazing, handsome, and strong husband laying there with a machine breathing for him broke my heart. His body was limp and his eyes were open but it he wasn’t asleep …..or awake. Just this weird in between. In that moment, I felt so many things. I knew didn’t want to live in a world that didn’t include Mark. He’s my rock and my best friend. I held his hand and started praying at his bedside. I asked God to guide the doctors who were working on him. I prayed and asked that Mark be healed completely. I definitely told him “I swear I’ll never get mad at you EVER again if you just wake up”. (My friend Jeramiah informed Mark of this promise when he DID wake up and Mark fully intends on holding me to that)😉 Ultimately, a fast thinking team of ER doctors, critical care doctors, and cardiologists gave Mark a strong medicine called TPA which breaks apart blood clots. They gave it to him early and from what I’m hearing from the doctors now, that decision saved his life. The cardiologist who gave him the TPA medicine said “it’s one of the biggest PE’s I’ve seen in my whole career”. (Again, we don’t do things half a## in the Stars household).
Question: “What was it like for you while he was on the ventilator?”
Answer: In a word, heartbreaking. He looked so uncomfortable and I hated it for him. They had to restrain his arms and the whole setup was just scary (but necessary). The good news is that the next day (even while he was on the ventilator) he started responding to commands with hand and head gestures. When someone’s heart stops beating there is always a concern about brain damage (lack of oxygen to the brain), etc. Thank goodness Mark’s brain wasn’t harmed at all. He was answering math questions shortly after the ventilator tube was removed.
As you can see from the social media posts, Mark has since been taken off the ventilator and we have moved out of the ICU 🙂 #ByeFelicia
Question: “Did Mark have a COVID Test? Covid can cause blood clots.”
Answer: Yes. His test was negative and they have also given him an antibody test which was also negative. The doctors who have seen Covid patients with blood clots said that those patients have all been very sick with extreme symptoms by the time they have blood clots…. so they seriously doubt Covid has anything to do with it since Mark never had any symptoms. #NoRonaHere
Question: “Why isn’t anyone allowed to visit at the hospital?”
Answer: The Rona. (Not to make light of a very serious situation). But really, thats the reason. Because of the current COVID19 situation, the rule is one “patient advocate” per patient- for the whole hospital stay. Sooooo it’s just been me and Mark.
Question: “How are you doing emotionally with all of this?”
Answer: Honestly, this isn’t about me….I really just want Mark to be okay. But since people are asking, here are my current feelings. Several Doctors have come in our room and said “you came back from the dead man!” (Not in an irreverent way- just in a wow- I’m so glad you are here kind of way). It’s crazy to think about because that is actually true. I have a new level of empathy for what Mark has been through with me over the last 2 years. Caring for someone so deeply and not being in control of what is happening to them medically is something I’ve never experienced. I’m mostly feeling relief that it looks like he is going to be okay. I’m still nervous because we still don’t know for sure what caused this (I know everyone wants answers….I do too). The good news is that he will be on blood thinners going forward and those will keep him safe if he has some sort of genetic clotting disorder. I’ll discuss more about that later.
Question: “What’s going on with Mark currently? Do they know what caused this?”
Answer: His right arm started bruising and swelling significantly the night before last and he can’t lift it at all…..so they did an ultrasound yesterday to see if there is a clot. He also had an ultrasound of his heart yesterday.
(I’m putting the dates now because I started this blog yesterday and did not have time to finish)
Thursday June 18, 2020: The doctors just came in to speak with us. The radiologist reported a 6cm mass on the ultrasound that looked like a cyst. They aren’t concerned that it is cancer or a blood clot at this point fortunately. It could be a number of things. The vascular surgeon said “think of it like this, you’re body basically got hit by a car….let’s watch this overnight. If it gets worse, we’ll do another ultrasound in the morning.” So, mark is elevating his arm and resting for now. In the grand scheme of what Mark has been through, the arm doesn’t seem like it’s a huge deal (as of right now). Thank you Lord!
Friday June 19, 2020: The vascular team said that they think his arm is just a really bad hematoma. He’s still in a lot of pain and he can’t lift it, but we’re glad to know what it is. Keep scrolling if you don’t want to see some nasty bruises 😉
Question: “Is he able to walk yet?”
Answer: Yes, but just a little but at a time. He walked for the first time the day before yesterday so that’s very positive. He walked again yesterday but his oxygen went down (which is normal considering what he has been through).
He is making progress but it will be a slow recovery, one step at a time. He was walking better today and his oxygen was better, but he gets winded really quickly (again, absolutely appropriate for what his body has been through, but still such a foreign feeling for him).
We will be going home with oxygen, but the good news is we think we might get to go home tomorrow afternoon! Praise God! The doctors said he will be very weak for at least 6 weeks but will improve a little each day. There is no doubt in my mind that we both will come out better and stronger as a result of this. God gives us challenges or a reason. So we can learn, grow, and to trust in his plan.
Question: “But you still don’t know what caused this?”
Answer: No.The hematologist tested for various kinds of cancer tumor markers and so far they have all come back normal. His “factor five” test came back negative and we are still waiting on the results re: the other genetic clotting disorders. (It’s not normal for someone like him to have a massive PE like this.) The doctors do not think the cause is cancer for a number of different reasons, but we will continue to be diligent and try to get to the bottom of this so we can have peace of mind.
Question: “Do you have any of the scans?”
Answer: “For my medically trained friends out there….here you go.” (No sound on this video…..but the conversation that was happening while we looked at the video was “Mark, this is a giant clot in your Pulmonary Artery. This is bad. You are lucky to be alive.”) (Again, giving Mark full on miracle status in my book)😊
Fun fact, yesterday was our two year wedding anniversary! This is not the way we had planned on celebrating….but we are in good spirits and have so much to be thankful for. We have each other, our friends, and family. That’s all we need. My bestie Elizabeth INSISTED on making us an anniversary cake from scratch and delivering it to the hospital. It’s hard to be discouraged when we are surrounded by so much love and hope.
Sorry for the long post, we had a lot of ground to cover over the last week! Mark says hello and thank you for all of the support 🙂 If you’re still reading, thank you. I said this after my diagnosis and it’s worth reiterating: please do not take your health for granted. You never know when you’ll have to go to battle, and you want to make sure you are taking care of your body and are ready for the fight. No one would have ever expected that something like this could happen to Mark, but somehow it did. Please take care of yourselves and make your health a priority💛
Speaking of heath……with all that has happened I forgot to post the article that came out last week on Health Magazine’s website (Health.com) about Mark and I. Here’s the link to the article if you’re still reading😊
To everyone who has reached out and helped us this week- THANK YOU. (If I haven’t texted/called you back please just text me again. I’m way behind!) Thank you so so much for all of the wonderful people that continue to support us. Keep the prayers coming. We appreciate it so much. (Blog title courtesy of the fabulous Cherie Arkley)👑
⭐️Holly Hollis Stars⭐️
p.s. Do we qualify for our own lifetime movie yet?😉 #YouCantMakeThisUp