When the song Live Like You Were Dying by Tim McGraw came out on the radio years ago, I remember thinking it was kind of morbid. Why on earth would someone need to be told they are dying in order to start living? Well, like most things, I suppose it is one of those things that you need to experience in order to fully understand.
At 20 weeks of pregnancy, I was told I had preeclampsia. This diagnosis was made off of protein in my urine and nothing else. My blood pressure was fine and I felt fine. I had gone to the emergency room after a day of binge eating Burger King. My blood pressure was slightly elevated, but not past the 140/90 threshold needed to diagnose the illness. That, along with a headache I was having (likely due to the immense amount of fast food I had consumed) and the leaky protein earned me a stay in the hospital. While they were getting everything ready, I vomited everywhere and immediately felt amazing and ready to go home. However, they weren’t willing to send me home.
Over the next few weeks and months, we were on a roller coaster. Some doctors were certain I had the disorder while others were on the fence. At the end of the day, they knew something was wrong, but what? Frantic, we cancelled our highly anticipated Christmas trip to Texas in fear that my “preeclampsia” would worsen and I would take a turn for the worse.
That is the thing about preeclampsia. You can have it and feel fine, but wake up one day on the verge of HELLP Syndrome, both you and your unborn baby barely hanging on. This is how serious pre-e can be and it is scary when you are told you have it. Am I going to wake up in the middle of the night with my blood pressure near stroke levels and need to be rushed to the ER? Will I still be alive tomorrow when my husband gets home from work or will I be passed out on the floor due to this?
These were the questions that ran through my mind and it didn’t help that every doctor I visited told me something different. Why didn’t I see the same doctor each time? Well, my hospital just doesn’t work like that and it is a shame. They do the best they can, but with so many patients, it makes it difficult to be able to see the same doctor each visit. I was classified as high risk so that did help my case in that, near the end of the pregnancy, I was able to see the same doctor almost regularly, and if not her, someone on her team , so that was comforting.
With pre-e, they like to induce you at 37-weeks. I had not had one high blood pressure reading the entire pregnancy and pushed to go naturally. Luckily, my doctors agreed and saw no reason I could not go to 39 weeks on my own, barring nothing major came up in that time (remember when I said pre-e can take a turn for the worse instantly? Yes, we were still watching carefully so that wouldn’t happen.) They scheduled my induction for April 15 and I prayed that my son would come before then, but as the date approached, it seemed that wouldn’t happen.
On the morning of April 14, I woke up with my husband who had to leave for work at 4 am. I felt strange, but thought maybe I just hadn’t slept well the night before and went back upstairs. A few minutes later, my water broke and my husband had to turn around to come back home and take me to the hospital. The delivery went smooth and my son was born in the early afternoon , healthy.
I had made it through the pregnancy without developing worsening symptoms of preeclampsia, but the rollercoaster ride wasn’t over. The hospital insisted I stay for several days so that I didn’t get postpartum preeclampsia. This is rare, but does happen, and requires a blood pressure of 160/110 in order for them to worry. My blood pressure was normal the entire stay, so yes, I did fight them on keeping me longer than I needed to be there. I went home after staying an additional 24-hours and, guess what… I didn’t develop postpartum preeclampsia.
Did I ever have the disorder? I will likely never know, but this experience has opened up my eyes. Perhaps that is why it happened, because doesn’t everything happen for a reason?
When I was going through the uncertainty and being given worst case scenarios, I sat down and took a look at my life and realized that if I were to die then, I was not happy with the person people would remember me as. I was not a terribly mean person, but I was selfish and not always as kind and loving as I should have been. It literally took me being told I could potentially die for me to realize I needed to turn my life around. I became a better person, not only for those around me, but for myself. I made a will, I wrote letters to my loved ones, and I cried myself to sleep thinking of the things I may never get the chance to do and the things I wish I would have done differently.
My husband was shocked to the change in my personality and he wondered if it was going to be long-lasting and, I can’t blame him for feeling that way. He was upset that it took something so serious for me to open my eyes and for a while was angry that I couldn’t be this person sooner in our relationship or in our life.
Yes, it is a shame that people often don’t make a change until they live like they are dying, but it is simply human nature for us to feel that we are invincible and nothing will happen to us. When we are faced with mortality and realize it is a real possibility and could happen at any moment, suddenly we see things differently.
Is it fair? Not exactly, but now the lyrics “and I hope someday you get the chance to live like you were dying” make perfect sense to me.