I was reading some of the ARDS stories and came to my own version of events in the life of an ARDS victim. I thought, the ending is no longer current, and so I have amended it, brought it up to date. I offer it to you, the reader, as a light to those who may need some encouragement in their own story, may need to know that, if they are prepared to do battle with the negative forces in their life, then the power of Possibility Thinking brings new Hope and a new vision of the future.
On November 27, 2000, a fit Pastor Ian Robb entered Oshawa Lakeridge Hospital, Ontario, Canada for “day surgery” to remove his gall bladder. Within 24 hours, Ian was back in the emergency room with severe pains. He was admitted. After approximately five to seven days, Ian was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit, where he was intubated while critical, and his family was given the ARDS diagnosis; ten days later, he was given a tracheotomy.
Ian spent eight weeks in the ICU, where he was treated with approximately thirty different antibiotic drugs, as well as steroids which some think helps prevent damage to other vital organs. Ian had become septic, probably due to the site of the gall bladder operation having leaked bile. A drainage shunt was inserted in his abdomen and remained there for several weeks. At one point Ian went without food for almost a week after his nasal feeder tube blocked. Weight continued to tumble and Ian was so deconditioned that he was unable to stand.
Ian was transferred to another ward, where he spent another four weeks. During this time, Ian was placed in isolation for 2 weeks when one of the physicians suspected his condition might have been caused by exposure to Hanta Virus. He then spend two weeks in rehab until he suffered a hydropneumothorax, putting him back into a regular hospital ward for another two weeks. Then, Ian again went back to rehab for another five weeks.
On day of discharge from the hospital on May 4, 2001, Ian weighed 145 pounds; he was 60 pounds less then when entered the hospital over five months earlier.
When Ian left the hospital, he was on oxygen twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Post Traumatic Stress was a term which Ian and wife, Irene, came to know quite intimately in the months following hospitalization and discharge. Ian, who is married to Irene, had been an active fifty-seven year old boater, 5 handicap golfer, enthusiastic walker, and traveled extensively. Ian ministered at two churches prior to having ARDS.
However, after his experience with ARDS, Ian’s and Irene’s life dramatically changed. Ian ended up on long-term disability, requiring oxygen 24/7 but was committed to weaning himself from the supplementary oxygen. Ian tried to build muscle and stamina, which was a constant challenge. Ian’s motto always was “Remember, every set back is a set up for a come back.”
And as Ian’s story continues to unfold, he says that those last last few words, “Remember…“ are prophetic words, although Ian did not realize it at the time of writing. The story unfolds: Ian continued, week by week, to grow a little stronger, and commenced the course of physical rehab, which helped greatly. During the fall of 2002, still on oxygen 24/7, Ian continued working out 3 days a week at the rehab centre in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, which is about an hour from his home. Then one day, progress halted.
And in the space of a few short days, Ian felt worse than before. He could not exercise to the same extent. Extensive tests and a scan were ordered, and a few days later, Ian and Irene were given the bad news. Ian now had Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibroses, which was advancing rapidly. His life expectancy was short, and his only hope of living was to apply for, and hopefully receive, a lung transplant.
Once that information had sunk in, Ian considered the options; he thought about living and he thought about dying, and felt somehow that this was not yet his time. Ian thought, “Surely, if I go ahead with the operation and survive, then I will know that God has more for me to do in this world.” Irene gave her total support and Ian moved forward with the application for transplant.
The University of Toronto is one of the leading centers in the world for transplant surgery, and in particular, lung transplants. The application process is long and involves a week long stay in hospital for a multitude of tests, scans, consultations as well as other visits, making the process, one that is not entered into lightly. The information which is provided to the candidates leaves them in no doubt as to what they are letting themselves in for, and that is as it should be. Many months later, Ian learned that the panel of health specialists who review each and every application, had approved him.
He was then placed on a further course of rehab which he attended three times a week in the Toronto hospital. Ian was assigned an electronic beeper and told to carry it at all times. If and when it sounded, he was to arrive at the hospital within two and a half hours. Ian had no idea if or when he would be called, as this depended on the availability of suitable organs for transplant, depended on a match, depended on his place in the priority list of candidates.
One evening at 6:00 p.m. the call came, and Irene and Ian raced to Toronto, their minds in a haze of thoughts of so many things. “Was this the last time we would see each other? Would the operation be successful? How would Irene manage on her own? What about our family? How would they take it?”
They arrived in record time, the highway patrol would not have been impressed with Irene’s somewhat ‘urgent’ driving, only to be told several hours later that the transplant could not go ahead. (They had been warned that this does happen and is unavoidable) They returned home at 1:30 a.m., the conversation muted, and their minds again confused with what had transpired, figuring that “it was just not meant to be.”
Two weeks later, strangely enough, also at 6:00 p.m. the call came again, and they repeated the journey, although this time a little slower, a little wiser. The conversation during the journey in the car was strangely hushed, as they had said it all before. The questions had been covered, the prayers had been said, the love that bound them together remaining unspoken, yet so strong they could touch it and know it.
Four hours later, Ian went into surgery, which, he was informed some weeks later, lasted twelve hours. Complications caused an eight week stay in ICU which was less than enjoyable, yet due to the dedication of nurses and doctors, Ian recovered.
Learning to walk for the second time in three years, this was beginning to become a nasty habit for Ian, and yet, it was the walking activity that brought Ian’s strength back sufficiently to allow him to leave hospital, and commence a three month period of intensive rehab.
The first time Ian realized he could breathe without the need for an oxygen tube in his nose was quite a revelation, and as his confidence returned during the next three weeks or so, Ian dispensed with any supplementary oxygen assistance. According to Ian, “My miracle was for real.”
He began this by saying:
“Remember, every set back is a set up for a come back.”
He would like to add these words that kept him going over the weeks of recovery in hospital:
“The task ahead of us is never as great as the Power behind us.”
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