Due to my Cerebral Palsy, I have spasticity which makes me have involuntary contractions that cause stiffness in my muscles. When I was 8, I had a pump device surgically implanted in my lower abdomen that delivers a medication called Baclofen directly into my spinal canal via a shunt line. Baclofen relaxes my muscles giving me 24/7 relief.
After many years, the shunt line became clogged, making it hard to get Baclofen to the appropriate place in my spine. With the ease from my doctor saying it would be a simple surgery, I set the surgery date to be July 26th, 2021, with no worries in mind.
The actual surgery to unclog the shunt line was successful. However, I turned a dark corner when I apparently aspirated during or after surgery which led fluid to go into my lungs. It became serious when I developed pneumonia in my lungs leading me not being able to breathe enough on my own. I was in respiratory failure leading me to have to be intubated with a ventilator to breathe for me. I was on heavy medications to keep me asleep known as a medically induced coma for 3 weeks in ICU while my lungs recovered.
During this time when I was in a medically induced coma, my blood pressure was all over the place reaching big highs and scary lows as well as my organs shutting down. At one point, it was my heart that was beginning to stop causing me to need immediate CPR.
Once my lungs were better and my organs were stable, the next challenge was weaning off of the drugs that kept me comfortable while I was in the coma. Having extreme delirium, paranoia, short-term memory loss, and ongoing panic attacks were the most difficult part of the actual illness. I also had muscle weakness making it hard to eat and sit up in my wheelchair. My jaw even would lock open. A scarf needed to be tied around my jaw and head to make it not come out of socket.
I usually have 5 personal care assistants that assist me with my physical needs. However, the hospital stay was during the Covid pandemic. Texas Children’s Hospital didn’t allow visitors other than my parents. After my parents discussed with my doctor that I really needed my assistants so that my needs would not all fall onto my parents, I finally was released to go home on August 25th.
The medications I was on created more complications with how I communicate. I usually use a computer with eye gaze technology to communicate due to me being nonverbal. However, my eyes could not focus on my computer to communicate with the outside world. I used a paper with the alphabet that I would nod when someone pointed to a letter. Within a month of using that, I finally got frustrated and spelled out “C-O-M-P-U-T-E-R”! It took a minute for my family to think what I meant. My mom just laughed and ran into the other room to get my computer. She put the communication software on a simple page with only the alphabet. Something clicked in my brain when the computer was placed in front of me. I immediately went back to my own communication pages all by myself with 150 buttons on each page and started typing. My mom just laughed and said, “My Megan is back!”
Being in a coma for a month, my muscles were very weak. Now that I had my voice back, I was eager to get back to myself and how strong I was before the coma. I started doing physical therapy twice a week. I was so dedicated to my health having my mom help me with the exercises every day. I even had my counseling sessions twice a week due to me still being slow with typing on my computer and facing my trauma.
I was so lucky though. I was originally supposed to be enrolled in the upcoming fall at the University of Houston. When my mother called the University in tears saying I would need to take the fall semester off to allow me to fully recover, they said absolutely without charging me a cancellation fee. They even ensured us that my handicap dorm would still be there when I returned to school in the spring. My boss even kept my job after hearing what happened.
By the time the spring semester rolled about, I was ready to move into my dorm and resume my place at the University. I was able to get back to my regular activities such as horseback riding. I even went skiing again!
YEP, I HAVE DEFINITELY BEATEN A COMA AND DEATH!!!!!!!!