|Melissa Dolan's Survivor Story|
At 38 weeks pregnant my doctor decided that I had preclampsia because my blood pressure had been high for a month, my feet were still swelling and I was gaining 5 pounds per week even though for the last 6 months I had been unable to keep anything down. He sent me to the hospital to be induced. This was November 29th, 2004. For 26 hours they waited for me to dilate and have a vaginal delivery. My body did not dial ate an my baby refused to move plus he began to go into distress. I had two epidurals for the pain and when I was told they were going to have to give me a c-section, they gave me a third one.
Right after his birth, they put me in ICU because I was having renal failure. 33 hours later I got to see my son, Michael Alexander, but I was too weak to hold him for more than 10 minutes. The next couple of days I was sore and could barely walk, but my best friend stayed in the hospital with me and helped me get to and from the bathroom. My doctor came in and kept telling me I needed to get up, move around and take a shower, that I would feel better. I was in pain, but he said it was normal. I was constantly cold and one night got uncontrollable shivers. Still I was told this was all normal. The last two days of my stay, nobody even checked my incision. It looked bruised and a little swollen to me. Once again, no problem. I had to be assisted in getting from the wheelchair to the car and when I got home it was raining and I had to wait for help to get out of the car and make it inside. When I sat down I could tell I was swelling because my underwear were tight. I went to bed uncomfortable and unable to roll over. I couldn't lift my son at all without shaking. The next morning there was a horrible smell and when I called my doctor he said it was coming from my discharge and not to worry. By day 4 of being home I could see a huge black bruise creeping up my belly and the right side of the wound was obviously infected. I went in to have the staples removed. My doctor's nurse came out to help me out of the car, took one look at the incision and said it had gone necrotic. My doctor finally agreed and had an ambulance pick me up from his office.
I lay in the emergency room terrified and alone. A surgeon came in, looked at it and ordered me into surgery right then. My best friend arrived as they were prepping me and she never left my side. She saw what they cut away from me, she saw all the machines they hooked me to and she is the one who was told I might not make it. She was the one that had to make the calls and she was the one who made sure my son was safely with his grandmother. I was unconscious for 5 days and went through none of that. I awoke with a tube in my throat and my son's father (who had left me for another woman at 35 weeks pregnant) above me. I was horrified by both, but even more so when Beth (my best friend) told me it was 5 days later. I will never have those days back.
They had put me on the VAC to help close the wound. I was in the hospital from December 9th 2004 to December 30th 2004. I was hooked up to multiple antibiotics and proteins. I could not force myself to eat, I could not walk and had to have physical therapy. The wound was changed every other day and after the second change I requested no more pain medicine. The medicine was hampering the muscles in my legs and I was more terrified of never being able to walk again then of the pain from the wound changes. Beth stayed in the hospital with me every day. A friend from Orlando came up on his Christmas vacation and stayed too. While I was unconscious in ICU he had left school to be there for me and had confessed that he loved me. He saw the wound and was there every time they changed it and the lopsidedness it has given me means nothing to him. We are together now and I'm happy beyond words. I could not have gotten through the hospital without them. I cried a lot, I yelled alot, I freaked out one night because I realized I hadn't seen my face in weeks. I couldn't believe I was me because I had always been healthy. I was angry and for so long I couldn't go out the door that everyone else was doing.
Of course the worst thing was in 30 days I saw my son 3 times. His father was causing trouble in his family because he had a problem with his mother. They called me constantly with "he did this" and "she did that.". Finally one morning as my wound was being changed I got a phone call from his mom saying he had taken the baby and left. I got so hysterical that the nurse could not finish putting on the VAC. He called to tell me his mother was crazy and he and the baby were at his grandfathers. I couldn't go through not knowing where my child was anymore. I begged my doctor to send me home that I would heal faster there. But because medicaid won't pay for the VAC to be taken home and that my wound was so big still he wouldn't agree. He and Beth did try convincing medicaid to pay for it, but they refused. Beth even called the stat legislator, but nothing. At last my son's father did something unexpected and took out a loan that would let me have the VAC at home for 2 weeks. That was good enough for me and I convinced my doctor to send me home. This time he agreed.
It is now Feb. 17th and my wound is nearly completely healed. Everyone is surprised by the rate in which it improved. Being home helped. I improved the muscles in my legs, I can tend for my child without help, I no longer need the wet/dry bandages that came after the VAC, I no longer need the in home health care and three weeks ago when my doctor offered to stitch up what was left or let it finish healing on its own, I chose to heal alone. I never want to be unconscious again, I never want a scalpel touching my body again. I'm disfigured and I have moments of vanity where I hate myself and feel sorry for myself, but I can live with a scar and a belly that is lower on one side than the other. The only thing that matters is that I lived. My son will have a mother, my sister will have a sister, my niece will have an aunt and my best friend and boyfriend will have my love and gratitude for what they endured with me for the rest of my life.
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February 17, 2005