Forty-six year old Emma Johnson, who lives in a small, southern town in Georgia, has been married for twenty years to Jack, and has two dogs, who are spoiled rotten. By the way, she is an ARDS Survivor.
In late March 2002, she was healthy, albeit overweight, and planning a surprise 50th birthday party for one of her three sisters. At the party, everything went great on Saturday, but on Monday morning, Emma felt like she was coming down with the flu, which she gets quite often. Immediately, she went to see her doctor on Tuesday and began medications. A few days later, Emma was worse. The doctor told her to give the medications a full week, but the following Thursday, not only was Emma not better, but also very lightheaded.
Emma’s mother took her back to the doctor, where she felt like fainting while waiting to see him. The doctor changed her meds, but on Sunday night, Emma’s oldest sister, a nurse, made her go to the emergency room. There she was told that if she had waited one more hour, she would have been dead.
The next morning, Emma was intubated and taken by ambulance to a larger hospital, Phoebe Putney Hospital in Albany, GA; her family was told that had she not been intubated, she would not have survived the trip. For the next two and a half weeks, Emma remembers little. She pulled the ventilator out after a few days, even though her wrists were tied down. Her doctors decided to leave the ventilator out and monitor me closely. Then her lung collapsed and Emma was intubated again for another 6 or 7 days. The chest tube came out, her lung collapsed again and in went the chest tube, again.
At the hospital, Emma was tested for everything to determine the cause of her illness; finally, the diagnosis was made: ARDS? No one in Emma’s family, except her sister, a nurse, or any of her friends had ever heard of this nightmare. Emma spent two months in the MICU, a week in a regular room, and two weeks in a rehab center. Emma lost forty-five pounds, and was extremely weak when she came home in June on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Emma was dependence on others for everything initially. Eating a meal was an ordeal.
Initially, Emma improved her oxygen, was down to 2 1/2 liters of oxygen, but then her breathing worse and she went back to the emergency room. After that visit, Emma’s oxygen level has gone up to 4 liters, and she has had numbness in her fingers and hands; her ankles, feet, and hips aches all the time and she has gained all of her weight back and then some… Emma has daily cravings for sweets, which she had never had before, her hair was also falling out by the handfuls. She told Jack, her husband, to start looking for wigs…
At times Emma feels very guilty because she did not feel like she was as appreciative of life as I should have been. She felt that she still took things for granted. She was so focused on herself and how this illness affected her life, not considering what it had done to her loved ones. Her mother, who is a saint, has been Emma’s lifeline, and she really doesn’t know what she would have done without her, she husband and her sisters.When Emma wonders if she would ever be well again, feel normal, and if so, how long, she again feels selfish. I felt very selfish at times, wondering if I would ever be well again, normal again and if so, when? But it is hard not to wonder if this will ever happened?
Since Thanksgiving, things have improved dramatically. Emma is on the oxygen on an “as needed” basis. All the aches and pains have gone. Her hair stopped falling out and she can see little tufts growing! There are still a lot of things that Emma cannot do, but “hey, I’m alive. I was here to celebrate Christmas with my family, and I have a new year to look forwarded to.”
Emma has corresponded with a few people whose stories were listed and it has helped her a great deal. She no longer felt so alone and afraid.
Emma wants to help anyone that feels the need to talk with someone who has been through this, any questions they may have or just wanting someone to listen to them.