When I walked into the laundry room and saw those blue flannel pajama pants with little foxes on them, the feelings overwhelmed me. Those were the pajamas my best friend gave me to keep warm in the emergency room. I still get images flashing in my head that create fear and a deep hurt in my heart that makes it uncomfortable to breathe, and sometimes I start to cry. I guess maybe I still have trauma, or maybe I’m just overwhelmingly grateful to be alive.
My mom and I were together in February 2023 laughing, sharing gossip and enjoying the days together. Just like all moms do, she asked if I was drinking enough water, eating enough, and asked if I had gone to the doctor for my yearly exams.
All the questions were easy to answer because I love working out and eating healthy, but it had been a while that I had seen a doctor. I know I shouldn’t have skipped my yearly exam, but I had been feeling GREAT!! However, my mom was not impressed with me!
HOW IT ALL STARTED
On March 2, 2023, I made an appointment with a doctor for a physical exam, and she sent me for tests. On March 13, 2023, the tests found advanced endometrial hyperplasia and a baseball sized ovarian cyst; I would need a hysterectomy immediately. I asked if we could wait six weeks to have surgery so I could get through April’s tax season and make some money to pay for it, because the surgery cost was 60,000 pesos ($4,000 CDN$). She agreed that six weeks was okay but no longer.
Two weeks after I saw her, I started bleeding a lot which was not normal and I had some pain, so she sent me again for tests to see if I was still okay to wait six weeks for surgery. She said we could not wait because my hemoglobin was dropping very low and the cyst most likely ruptured. She was worried and booked me in for surgery. On April 6th I had the operation, and what was supposed to be a routine hysterectomy turned out to be SO MUCH more…..
The day after surgery, I was told to start walking around to get my legs moving. In Mexico, someone must always be with the patient at both the private and public hospitals because there is a big shortage of nursing staff for patient care, so I had someone helping me. The nurse came in to give me some pain medication intravenously so I could manage walking better. As soon as the nurse left, I felt dizzy, I started to see a lot of little stars. I said, “I can’t see, I’m going to fall. I can’t see!!” As my vision went black, I could hear the person with me yelling in panic “Ayúdame!!!” (Help me!!!)
When I woke up, I was laying with my upper body on the bed and my lower operated body hanging down to the floor. I was shaking, confused and scared. I was breathing fast and asking where I was. There was a bright light in my right eye. The emergency doctor was over top of me dressed all in black asking the nurse in Spanish “did you give her the reversal drug?” They lifted me onto the bed and laid me down. I had overdosed on the medication.
A few hours later, my kids were visiting, and I asked my daughters to help me walk. As they were helping me to the bathroom, I started to feel dizzy and weak. Suddenly, I lost my strength and I fell into my daughter’s arms. Barely being able to, I whispered, “call the doctor”. My other daughter ran to get the doctor. I stayed in the hospital an extra night until the doctors could keep my body stable.
I THOUGHT I WAS OKAY
I was released on April 8, 2023, in the evening to go home for rest and recovery. On April 14, 2023, I took a cab downtown to get my stitches out at the hospital. I came back, my son had made some lunch around 1 pm. About 10 minutes went by after eating and I started feeling very nauseated. I went to the bathroom because I felt that I was going to be sick. I kept walking around and breathing but the nausea got really bad really fast.
At 3:52 pm my daughter text the doctor,
By 7 pm I couldn’t take the pain and I had uncontrollable nausea. I asked my friend to take me back to the hospital.
BACK INTO EMERGENCY
When I got to the hospital, I could not lay down or sit or stand because I was so sick, I was weak and shaking, felt really cold but sweating. The on-call doctor was the same doctor who performed the surgery on me and he seemed to be having a really bad day. He said very aggressively “Roll over if you want me to look at you and stop being a baby!” He tried to grab my body and push me, but then hesitated. He said angrily again “Give her more pain medication” and he started packing up his stethoscope. I said “No, I don’t need more medication! I am sick and throwing up too much! Something isn’t right! Please help me!” He told my friend to take me by wheelchair to his office upstairs for an ultrasound. When we got there, I tried to climb the two little steps he had to get onto the exam table, and he said aggressively “Get up on the table! Don’t be like that, you can get up!” He performed an ultrasound and found nothing. My friend got me off the table and helped me back into the wheelchair. He took me with him in the elevator and told my friend to meet us downstairs. In the elevator the doctor said, “There is nothing wrong with you!” at which point I had enough of his abusive nature, and as hard as I could yell at him through my weakness, I said “Yes there is!! I’m not being a baby! Do you think I have money to pay you if there’s nothing wrong with me just so you can give me emotional attention? Something is wrong!!” We got downstairs, he gave me the pain medication and sent me home. At that point, my body was saying something was severely wrong, but I started foolishly doubting myself thinking “Am I really being a baby?”, but I knew it wasn’t right because I knew I had something so much bigger than a flu!
I SPENT THE NIGHT ON THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR
April 15 and 16, 2023, I spent the days and nights laying on the floor of my house, crawling on my hands and knees trying to find a comfortable way to lay because I was so weak, in so much pain and had so much nausea. My kids did not know what to do, they did not know who to call; the doctors were not helping me, and I didn’t have the strength to fight. I stopped taking the pain medication because nothing was working. I felt defeated and that I couldn’t do anything more for myself…..I started to cry. During the night of April 16th, I crawled across the floor of my house and made it to the entrance stairs. As I laid there looking down the stairs at the front door, I thought “Okay, I’ll try once more for help”.
I managed to grab my cell phone off the counter and get myself down the stairs to the front door. As I laid on the floor quiet not to wake my kids, I looked at the time and it was 3:12 am. I said to myself “Okay, I am going to wait for Eliana (my friend) to wake up and then I’ll ask her to take me back to the hospital.” But at 7:01 am on April 17, 2023, I couldn’t handle it anymore and I called her to take me.
I went back into the same private hospital, and this time, my own doctor came to see me. But she was very confused as to why I was in so much pain and nausea. All she could think of was that the blood from the large cyst was irritating my bowels because of the rupture before the surgery was performed, so she gave me medication to calm that.
TIME IS WHAT DETERMINED MY LIFE
When the medication wasn’t working, she called in another doctor for advice and he sent me for a tomography on April 18, 2023, around 10 am. But when the doctors tried to prepare me for it, I was so dehydrated that they couldn’t get a needle in me to inject the die for the tomography. They said if they couldn’t get a needle in me, I would have to be prepped and come back in a day or two. My doctor was beside me the whole time during the procedure. I looked at her and said, “I don’t care how they do it, please just do something to make it work”, so they kept poking me and poking me until they were able to find a spot to barely get the dye injected.
The results came back that night around 7 pm and I’ll never forget the scared look on my doctor’s face when she swung open the curtain and said “Lisa, you need to go RIGHT NOW for surgery! Your intestines are ruptured from a blood clot that wrapped around them, and you are very infected, you could die and it’s only a matter of hours that you have left. You need to go NOW Lisa; this is your life on the line. I am sending you to the public hospital!”
I looked at her and started to panic. Emotional confusion came over me. I said “No, no, no! I can’t go back in for surgery. I just got out of surgery and I’m so sick! Wait! My kids!! I have no one for my kids!” She said, “I will talk to them, but you need to go right now!” The doctor went to the other room and sat down with my kids and said “Listen. I need you to be calm. This might be tough to hear, but your mom is going in for another surgery. I will take good care of her, but right now I need you to really pray for her and give her lots of love”.
THE PUBLIC HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
Once I got inside emergency at the public hospital, I will never forget it.
I was told to use the bathrooms to change into hospital clothes, but when I walked in, it looked like the sewer had exploded; there was dirty toilet paper, dirty paper towels, hair, and water everywhere!
Then I was told to get my blood taken. I entered the lab room; the walls were painted a dark ocean blue, and the floors were very dirty. Along the back wall was a folding table full of blood test kits, a box of gloves, an open orange Fanta pop, an open and half full plastic Coca Cola bottle, greasy empty paper food wrappers, two cell phones and crumbs from something that was just eaten. There were two young men sitting there listening to music on their cell phones and laughing in conversation. They were very kind but the man taking my blood was eating food, didn’t use gloves and didn’t clean his hands before taking my blood sample. In that moment, after seeing that, and seeing the bathrooms, I said to myself “I am not getting out of here alive”. I was so worried about all the mistakes that could happen, but I had no other choice; it was my only hope because I was getting too weak.
“DON’T WORRY, I GOT YOU!”
I went back to lay in my hallway bed when one of the surgery team came to see me. He introduced himself, asked how I felt because my body was infected, and they needed to constantly make sure I was okay. He said he was going to be the one who operates on me. I looked at him and said “I’m so scared. I have three children that need me!” He got close to me, grabbed my hand, bent down, and like a best friend he said “I’m with you and I will take care of you. I will do everything to make sure you are okay…I am with you!”. He squeezed my hand and told me that he’d be back. He kept coming to the hallway to check on me through the hours that I needed to wait for surgery. I was very scared because time was passing and the only thing I could do was put my faith in him.
I FELT A BIT OF HOPE IN THE FEAR
It was my turn finally to have surgery. The hospital staff moved me into another bed, and I heard someone say, “Why can’t she move her legs?”, and someone else replied, “Because she just had surgery 12 days ago”, and I heard, “Oh wow! This woman is going through a lot.”
I was wheeled past all the other beds in the hallway and down to the surgical ward. I could see that the hospital itself was not very clean, there was a lot of dirt and hair on the floor, a bit of blood spatter on the walls; it seemed that the public healthcare system was also lacking cleaning staff but doing what they could in that chaotic environment. But when they wheeled me in, through the tiny half door of the glass wall, the other side of the glass wall was amazingly clean. The technology was brand new, the entire area was spotless, everyone was protected head to toe with sanitary clothing and no one touched anything without gloves and sanitary slippers…..I felt a little bit of hope again.
The surgical team came to talk to me; there must’ve been eight people there. The main surgeon asked how I was feeling. I asked him “I’m very scared, am I going to be okay?” He said, “It’s been many days since you’ve had an internal infection, so we don’t know anything until we open you up, but we can tell you that you need this surgery right now or the worst will happen”.
BREATHE DEEP AND PRAY FOR MY LIFE
The team got me on the operating table and strapped my arms down. Above me was a little window where the sun was shining through onto my face. All I could see was the sky and the clouds. A nurse came to me and said, “Okay, are you ready? Breathe deep!” and she put a gas mask over my mouth….but instead of breathing, I started to pray instead. In that exact moment is when I came to terms with whatever God’s decision was for me, and as I cried, I said out loud:
“God, I am asking you right now to allow me to get through this and give me the opportunity to be with my children again. I am all they have, and they really need me. If you decide that I cannot be with my children, I will understand and accept your decision, but then I ask that you please keep my children safe and protected in your hands. Please God, take care of them for me. Let them understand your decision if that’s what you choose. Please protect them from harm and hurt for me and let them grow up to be amazing people. They are all I have, and I love them so much. God please keep them safe for me…”…..then….
Everything went dark.
THE HEALING PROCESS WAS VERY HARD
Somehow, someone had gotten ahold of my mom in Canada to tell her what happened. She was so afraid and desperately texting me, wanting to hear my voice. I saw that my phone was beside me on the table. I was the weakest I had ever been in my life and I was too weak to even lift my arm to answer; I just watched her name repeat over and over as she was trying to text and call, and I couldn’t do anything.
I laid for days with no strength. I was not allowed to eat anything for three weeks because the surgeons didn’t want to re-infect me. I was very thin, the skin on my arms started to sag but my stomach was the size of being 6 months pregnant. At one point, the nurses told me that I had to start walking. I remember trying to lift myself from the bed, but I couldn’t. I was half on the bed and half off and I just laid there and stared at the half-closed white curtains around me.
IT WAS TOO HARD, I CHOSE TO GIVE UP
It was at that point that I had gotten so far but it was time to give up. I didn’t want to walk anymore, or talk anymore, or lay down anymore. I didn’t even feel hunger anymore. I had hardly seen my kids in a month. I had overcome so many very hard situations in life and it was the very first time I had decided that I was going to give up. I was so tired of being strong in my life and this was the final fight, so I just laid there and stared at that curtain, replaying all the memories I had in my head of my kids and my life. I was not thinking anymore about what I was going to do tomorrow or what the kids needed.
The person who was helping me arrived at the hospital and saw how I looked. He asked what I needed. I said “Nothing. I’m done fighting. I don’t want to do this anymore.” He had never known me to say that before and said “You’ve never given up on anything Lisa. You’re so strong, so don’t give up now! You’re at the end of the fight, just a little more push”. He had text my doctor and said “Please do something. She doesn’t want to fight anymore, please help!” My doctor had text the general director of the hospital and told them to cut all medications, cut all fluids and leave me alone for a bit. I went to sleep for the day.
RENEWED STRENGTH FROM THE SURGEON
The surgeons came in for their rounds in the morning and the surgeon who held my hand in the beginning asked how I was feeling. I told him that I’m tired of fighting. He said “If you weren’t as healthy as you are, you wouldn’t have made it through the surgery. It’s only because you were very fit and strong that you survived”. His words gave me a bit more fight.
The days passed slowly, and little by little I was walking, then showering. I was finally able to talk to my mom and kids…I missed my kids so much! I called them and started to cry. I said “I’m so sorry you had to go through this. I’m working hard to come home to you”.
THE MOST GRATEFUL DAY OF MY LIFE!
I’ll never forget the day I was wheeled out the front door of the hospital. I heard all the birds, I saw the trees, the sky; people were standing in front of the hospital singing prayers in song, I felt the sun on my face; it was so warm. As I waited to be put into my truck, I started to cry. The nurse who was with me quickly started wheeling me back into the hospital thinking something was wrong. I said “No, no!! I’m okay!! I’m just so grateful to be alive and to be in this moment!!”
I’M DOING SO GOOD AGAIN….
STRONGER THAN BEFORE!!
FEELING BETTER THAN BEFORE!!
HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR YOU…
Had I not fought for myself. Had my unrelenting voice not been my force for help. Had I not had great people to rescue me from the ground. Had I not had the love of the ones close to me. Had I not had the skilled supports of the hospital, I would not have been here and able to tell my story.
THE LOVE OVER ME
Eliana, Ricardo, Jaston, Hudsyn, Aevyn, Mom, Dr. Malis, and all the highly skilled surgical staff and nurses at the general hospital, thank you for carrying me through the storm. To that one surgeon who held my hand through it…..may you be blessed in all you do! Love, Lisa
Yeah, my life is what I’m fighting for, can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore, and my voice becomes the driving force, I won’t let this pull me overboard. “Head Above Water” – Avril Lavigne –