near death

hospital bed

Last Monday I was feeling fine in the morning. I had my lunch, which I had brought from home. Nothing unusual – grilled chicken breast sandwich, carrots, chips and an apple plus some seltzer to drink. Shortly after I ate, I started to feel weird. My lips started swelling up and my throat got constricted.

I went back to work and kept on working, assuming it was just something minor that would go away. I felt worse and worse and then started to feel very, very hot even though my skin temperature was getting very cold. My blood pressure started rising and my pulse got very very fast. But I stayed at work and assumed it would pass. And it lessened slightly, so although I was uncomfortable I decided to grit my teeth and push on through.

That evening I went home and by the time I arrived home I was feeling – to put it mildly – awful. I checked my blood pressure and it had gone up to approximately 200 over 110, which is the point at which organ damage starts occurring. I took a leftover blood pressure pill (I have not taken them in months, and after my physical last week my doctor said it wasn’t necessary anymore). This was at 7 pm. We left Little Buddy and Pumpkin with our neighbors, who are good friends.

Bubelah and I went to the emergency room where they continued to monitor my blood pressure. I then saw a nurse and a doctor who told (lectured) me on the following: I had had a severe, near-fatal anaphylactic shock and failing to treat it immediately I had actually defied the odds in living long enough to get to the emergency room. Apparently my body managed to fight off the allergic attack at the cost of nearly giving me a heart attack/stroke. They said someone with a similar level of shock had died earlier that week at the hospital of strangulation. They were emphatic that the level of shock I had experienced was usually fatal. I was ordered to keep Benadryl accessible 24/7 and if similar symptoms started again to drop everything and get to an emergency room as fast as possible.  They monitored me until my blood pressure was back down in the 130s/80s which was normal. They released me around 10:30 and we went home, got the kids, and went to sleep.

So I’m in the dark as to what happened. Nothing I ate was unusual – I had eaten everything there before. The nurse told me I may have developed a new allergy – or somehow a peanut-related product had contaminated a container or something.  I have to assume that my peanut allergy is far more severe than I had assumed, OR I have some strange new allergy which can’t be determined without a visit to an allergist. Today I felt more or less recovered, although tired and sore all over from tense muscles, swollen lips and throat and a beaten-up psyche.

I’ve read a million articles, seen dozens of movies, read dozens of books, etc. where someone has a near-death experience or survives cancer or otherwise cheats death and goes on to tell everyone that they “cherish every day.” I’ve understood the idea while realizing you can’t ever really have that perspective until you’ve undergone some experience like that (or if you can, you have a great deal more emotional discipline than I do).  But I did realize, after being told how serious it was, that my last day on earth COULD have been leaving the house snapping at Little Buddy to calm down. And I’m sure I will again, of course. But you do get a tiny bit of perspective when you realize you could have dropped dead at a desk at a client at 2:00 pm on a Monday and that would’ve been it for your life story. Not a pretty thought, and although it didn’t prompt me to quit work or take some other drastic action, it does give me some food for thought. If you died today, would you be happy with your obituary? I wouldn’t hate mine, but I suspect I’d feel better with it being a little bit better and a whole lot longer.

photo Attribution Some rights reserved by markhillary