Forty-three year old Monique went to sleep on December 20, 2002, and when she awoke, it was January, 2003 and she was in another city. She was confused and terrified. She saw her sister, Patsy, who she had not seen in seven years, who lived in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. Monique lives in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada.
Monique could not talk as she was still on ventilator; she listened as her sister, Patsy, tired to explain her predicament. Monique was on the vent for about two weeks and when she got off, she could hardly talk; about two inches of the tip of her tongue, was numb for four months.
Monique later learned that she had been in the ICU in Whitehorse and put on a ventilator, but they decided to medivac her to a tertiary hospital in Calgary. She was flown to Calgary on Christmas Eve. Monique’s sister was at the hospital at 2:00 AM to advocate for her health.
Like many other stories, Monique also has memories of her time while in her coma. She still has vivid dreams of the dreams while in coma. When she first saw herself in a mirror, her eyes looked like a terrified deer in front of headlights. Monique was allowed out of hospital early as she had a sister in Calgary who could assist in her recovery. She would still be near a tertiary care hospital.
Monique was so weak, she could hardly haul herself up the stairs, and she still has trouble climbing stairs. She was and still is scared to go to sleep – she slept in the same bed with Patsy for three days after her release from the hospital. Monique wonders if that fear ever disappears.
Monique does not know what her precipitating cause was for her ARDS; she does know that before ARDS, she smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, and during the night, she would wheeze, but still, in the morning, first thing that Monique would do was have a cigarette. Although she knows it is the toughest way to quit, Monique has.
Post ARDS, Monique feels as though she is living in a body after trauma – like her whole body has been punched, and as though she is bruised from the inside out she is having total body exhaustion. Monique suffers from severe pain in her fingers, most joints, hands, back and feet, she could hardly walk due to pain in heels, which was diagnosed as “plantar fisciitis” which she is still healing from. She began to see a physiotherapist for her back and she is also teaching her how to breathe with “stiff lungs.”
Monique exercises her body every day; she stretches for two hours even before she has coffee, and then goes off to the gym doing a circuit using hydraulic resistance with aerobic stations between each machine. Monique cannot use weights as her hands and fingers are too stiff. Monique swims whenever she is not having digestive problems. She also developed a rash all over her body, which still comes when she is really stressed. Monique has no stamina, feels dead tired, feels weak even with working on her body for three to four hours a day. Monique also sees a dietitian to concentrate on her weight issues although she was told that the ventilator can sometimes disturb the metabolism.
Monique has lived with this chronic pain, yet manages to try to keep her sense of humor on most days. She has been unable to work since getting ARDS and as a result of what her doctors told her was “Chronic Pain Disorder” she has been on five different medications. Monique would like to connect with both other survivors who have dealt with similar ARDS situations and others ARDS survivors who are located in Canada.