One afternoon in the summer of 1999, my family was at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City. As we walked toward the polar bear exhibit ("Hey look! Some sleeping bears!"), I suddenly felt an excruciating pain in the left side of my chest. As it continued to get worse, I realized that I may be having a heart attack, which seemed ridiculous to me as a 16-year old. I remember thinking, "What the heck is going on? I don't eat THAT bad!". The pain continued to intensify and my parents quickly decided to take me to the emergency room (sorry polar bears....next time). Once we made it to the hospital, the pain had started to subside. However, we still decided to get a chest x-ray and some other tests on my heart. To the doctor's confusion, my heart looked and acted perfectly fine and he could not give a reason for the pain I had felt (I promise I'm not a hypochondriac!), so we went home. Over the next two years, these unusual sharp pain in the left side of my chest would return for a few minutes every couple of months. I found that if I just laid down and tried to wait it out, the pain would usually go away. Eventually I got used to it.
However, on October 15th, 2001, as I was shopping at the mall, suddenly the obnoxious pain came back again. I thought, "Here we go again. Just wait it out." But this time was different. By the next day, the pain had not subsided, and I could hardly take a breath. When I leaned forward or backwards, it felt like something inside of me was actually moving around. My parents decided it was time to take me back to the emergency room. After another round of x-rays, I was informed that my left lung had collapsed due to a condition known as "spontaneous pneumothorax". As far as I understand it, spontaneous pneumothorax is a congenital factor (not really a disease) that will sometimes cause the lungs of tall, skinny, (good-looking) young men to collapse. Due to the skinny frame, the chest cavity grows too tall and the lungs don't develop quite right. Small air pockets called "blebs" (I'm not joking. Look it up!) develop on the outside of the lungs. The blebs will then sometimes spontaneously rupture for no good reason. I've long tried to find some correlation for why the blebs rupture, but in my case, I was never doing anything unusual at the time of a collapse. Typically, a collapse would occur when I was playing Nintendo (See? Video games ARE violent!), walking, or even just reading a book.
On October 17th, I went back to the hospital for emergency surgery. Dr. Collins (my all-time favorite Catholic) inserted a chest tube through my ribs and into my lung. The chest tube helped to keep my lung inflated while Dr. Collins performed a surgery known as a pleurodesis thoracoscopy, in which my lung would essentially be "roughed up" and abrased to the outside of the chest wall. I have always pictured the surgery as Dr. Collins using sandpaper to make the outside of my lung nice and bloody so that it would scar together to the chest wall (sorry to be gruesome). Therefore, in the event of a future bleb rupture, the lung would hopefully stay inflated since it was stuck to the chest wall. The surgery was successful, but I had to stay in the hospital for nine days to make sure my lung didn't collapse again. During that first stay in the hospital, more than 120 people came to visit me. I felt incredibly loved, and to this day, I am still extremely grateful for everyone who cared for and prayed for me. Throughout the entire ordeal, my mom was always right there by my side. She worried about me so much, and I knew that if she could, she would have traded me places so that I wouldn't have to suffer.
|Love ya, mom.|
|My mom made a cardboard cut-out of me so that I could be a part of the pictures at Amy's wedding.|
|I gave him my best missionary handshake.|
|President Monson visiting with me, my friend Melanie, my grandpa, and my little bro Matt.|
President Monson is the most wonderful example of Christlike charity that I have ever seen. With all his responsibilities as president of the Church, he still takes the time to visit "the one". He cares about every individual member. I know that he is a prophet of God, and I want to follow and sustain him every day.
After the wedding, I did my best to recover. I made it back to my first semester at the U of U, and things finally felt like they were getting back on track. Unfortunately, exactly a month later, the sharp pain returned, but for the first time it was on the right side of my chest. The pain was overwhelming, but even more overwhelming was the realization that I would have to once again go back to the hospital for another surgery. I bargained with Dr. Collins to let me wait a couple of weeks so that I could finish my finals (ironically, bad grades was more of a worry to me than the prospect of dying).
On December 11th, I finished my last final at 12:30 PM, and I was admitted to the hospital a half-hour later. That evening I ate my last meal before surgery the next morning (some jello and stale french fries) and then tried to go to bed. Sadly, my mind would not calm down. I got out my laptop and spent a couple of hours IMing one of my wonderful friends, Colin. Colin helped me to calm down and I was finally able to go to sleep.
The next morning Allison, my favorite nurse in the whole entire world, came in to give me some medicine to help knock me out before surgery. After getting the shot, my mom said that I told Allison, "I'm completely coherent! I can do calculus!"
|Allison: Best. Nurse. Ever.|
Fortunately for my mom (and even more fortunately for me), the incredible medical team was able to get me breathing again. I remember suddenly opening my eyes and feeling the most intense pain of my entire life. I was freezing cold and I was shaking like I have never shaken before. I frantically looked around the room and saw Allison and my mom above me to the left. There was a mask on my face to give me oxygen. Suddenly, I sat up and threw up.....all over my mom. She told me that although it was disgusting, the fact that I was alive completely made up for it. I have so much life to live. I feel like I still have work to do here on earth, and I am so grateful for the chance. Let me just say, I love you, mom!