For the next couple of days following Nathan's Big Scare, we were both more than a little scared and nervous to leave Nathan alone, for even a little amount of time, for fear of having a repeat episode from Wednesday.
And then, to make matters even scarier, Nathan started to develop a very worrisome cough, which seemed to get harsher and wetter as the days went by. It was like he was trying really hard to cough up a lot of mucus, but that he could never clear it out.
By Monday morning, Nathan's condition had worsened quite a bit. He was throwing up more again. And every time he coughed, it just sounded horrible. His breathing became heavier, yet shallower at the same time. And he was getting very sweaty, pale, and clammy. So we cranked up his oxygen, but it didn't seem to be helping at all. We were at a total loss for what to do to help him and it looked like he was on the verge of going unconscious. With no other recourse left, we called 911 again.
Fortunately, Monday was my day off. So I was home this time, which meant that Bekah didn't have to go through it all alone again. So while I was on the phone with the 911 dispatcher, Bekah was doing the best she could to tend to Nathan and make sure that he stayed awake.
Within a few minutes, the EMS were back at our apartment and we were discussing options of what to do. It didn't take much more than a quick glance between us to agree that needed to get Nathan to the hospital...and fast.
Since it was snowing outside, I quickly grabbed a blanket, wrapped Nathan up, and ran out the door. It was a few short steps down the stairs and then a few more to the waiting ambulance. As soon as we were on board, one of the EMTs handed me an oxygen mask with the rate going at 10 liters per minute and we were headed off to the hospital.
I held the mask over Nathan's face so that he would get as much oxygen as he could. Nathan seemed so very close to unconsciousness. His eyes would start to roll back in his head and it looked like he just wanted to relax and let go. Each time this would happen, I would yell at Nathan really loudly, calling his name, and telling him to stay with me.
In my head, I just kept half saying to myself, half praying "It can't end this way. Heavenly Father, it can't end this way."
At times when I'd shout Nathan's name, he'd briefly focus his eyes, but they would quickly go back out of focus and they'd start to roll back again. When he wouldn't respond to my yelling his name, I would put the oxygen mask as close to his face as I could and give him an intense shot of pure oxygen, which would serve to bring him back for a few moments.
"It can't end this way. Heavenly Father, it can't end this way."
After what seemed like forever, we arrived at the hospital. We rushed into the ER and I handed Nathan over to the ER team and got out of the way. As much as I wanted to be with Nathan, I more wanted them to be able to do what they needed to do without me being in the way. They were able to get Nathan stabilized on high amounts of oxygen as Bekah arrived at the hospital.
To get a better idea of why Nathan was having such problems breathing, the ER doctor ordered a chest x-ray. And he was confused by what he saw:
The doctor asked if I had seen any of Nathan's chest x-rays before and if I could explain everything on it. So I walked over, looked at it, pointed out the metal loops that they had used to close his sternum after chest surgery, identified, the NG tube that was running down his throat and into his tummy, identified the tube from his oxygen cannula that was draped over his chest and abdomen, and identified the shunt tubing that was running behind his ear and into his chest.
The doctor mentioned that he also was able to identify all of those, but his main question and concern was the big white cloud taking up most of the left lung area (on your right in the image). I replied that I didn't know what it was as it had never appeared before in any of Nathan's chest x-rays.
Having said that, he decided that it was in Nathan's best interest to be transferred to Primary Children's for further evaluation. So they prepared him to be transported and then loaded him into the ambulance again. This time Bekah rode up with him while I followed behind in the car.
After we made it to Primary Children's and the ER doctor had a look at Nathan's x-ray, he called for Dr. Riva-Cambrin, the neurosurgeon. Dr. Riva-Cambrin ordered a CT scan to double check what was going on inside Nathan's chest. As it turns out, as you might have expected, Nathan's body was not absorbing the CSF fluid the shunt was depositing into the pleural cavity.
As a result, the fluid had built up and filled the cavity, which was then pressing against Nathan's lung. In essence, it was almost like Nathan was drowning, but from the inside.
So the shunt had to come out and come out soon. The problem, again, though, was where to put it...
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