Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Feeling Grateful

Shortly after we moved to Nashville, I realized I was short of breath. Friends and family would tell me that I was wheezing on the phone. As a former marathon runner, I sometimes felt a panicked lack-of-air during dance parties with the kids, and I would have to stop and take breaks during a morning stroll pushing the double stroller. I saw a doctor of internal medicine. He did a physical and told me maybe I had GIRD (I knew I didn't and moved on). Then I saw an allergist for six months. He told me I had asthma, so I tried five different medications; none of them worked. He told me subtly that the problem was psychological and has since written a kind and very humble note expressing regret.

In November, when I found out I was pregnant, my OB was alarmed by the sound of my breathing and referred me to a pulmonologist. Within minutes, he was sure the problem wasn't my lungs, but in my throat. He consulted his partners and sent me to an ENT. A week later, that doctor threaded a scope down my nose and pulled it out with a fascinated expression. "I've never seen anything like this in my 25 years of practice," he said, and referred me to a Harvard-educated specialist at Vanderbilt.

Last week, I had surgery on my throat. Scar tissue had closed 75% of my windpipe; it needed to be removed quickly while I was still in my second trimester to avoid the possibility of an emergency tracheotomy during labor or throughout the remainder of my pregnancy.  Andi dropped everything to watch the kids during my surgery and help me with my recovery. As I was wheeled into the OR, I was admittedly scared; scared for my baby of undergoing general anesthesia while pregnant; scared that I could be aware during the procedure (pregnant women don't receive some of the anesthesia drugs that other patients get); and scared of needing a tracheotomy during the procedure (the surgeon's parting words were that he hoped we wouldn't need one). The cause of the fibrosis is unknown, but the doctor thinks it's a fairly rare autoimmune disorder; it will continue to grow back every six months to two years.

But the operation was a huge success! The before and after photos are staggering; I was breathing through a straw and now my windpipe is wider than a quarter. Every breath I take feels deep -- I'm drawing so much more air and oxygen than I have in years. Breathing is exciting! I love going for walks and singing lullabies to the kids. There are so many silver linings that I feel incredibly grateful for. The greatest is that this experience put a mirror up to our lives and showed me what incredible and deep friendships we have made here in a short amount of time. People's generosity -- meals, flowers, cookies, babysitting, even popsicle deliveries! -- has affected us deeply and I hope I have the opportunity to repay everyone's kindness.


The Morris Family said...

I am so happy to hear that all went well with your surgery and so grateful that your OB was so on top of things! Enjoy every breath! xoxo

The Kearns Family said...

Oh my goodness Meg, so glad you are okay and the surgery was a success. Take care!

The Stucks said...

So that was it! I haven't forgotten our conversation over the summer when we were there, I'm so glad you got the real answer and that the surgery went well. Wish I could've been there to help or send you some sweetness in person!! I'm so glad you feel better.

The Brown Family said...

SO glad the mystery was solved and you are feeling like your old healthy self. Thank goodness for attentive, relentless doctors (and patients). Big hugs!!!