PTSD and Me: How a Myasthenic Crisis Changed My Life
Some events in life are like a door hinge: They are so transformational that they cause you to swing entirely in a different direction.
For example, years before I began dealing with the first symptoms of myasthenia gravis (MG), I suffered the loss of my father. That was the first major “door hinge” that changed the direction of my life.
About seven years later, my life swung again when I was diagnosed with MG. It was distressing, but I dealt with my feelings at the time by focusing on getting better. I didn’t truly experience trauma and all of the effects of MG until I later had a myasthenic crisis. That experience became the metaphorical door hinge to rival all of them.
I’d been taking the synthetic hormone prednisone since being diagnosed, and about a year later, I started to slowly lower the dosage. But as the number of pills I was taking decreased, my MG symptoms worsened. My muscles grew weaker at a rapid pace, and I was taken by ambulance to the hospital because I couldn’t walk.
Hospital staff tried to insert a feeding tube up my nose and down my throat, but I couldn’t swallow it due to muscle weakness. As I aspirated into my lungs, several doctors and nurses rushed into my room.
As they pushed and pulled my body around, I gasped for the little air that could make it into my lungs. I was quickly moved to the emergency room. The last thing I remember before losing consciousness was a doctor pulling my head toward the end of the bed, and then seeing some kind of metal instrument above my face.
When I woke up, I had a feeding tube down my throat and was intubated so that I could breathe. I was still in shock, but I decided to focus my energy on getting better.
Two years after that experience, I was strong enough to undergo a thymectomy. Because I was focused on the mechanics of the surgery, I didn’t realize it would be the first time back in a hospital since my myasthenic crisis. I should have known I would be unprepared to be in a hospital setting again.
After I changed into a hospital gown, my blood pressure surged. Tears welled up in my eyes, and I couldn’t get my breathing under control. The nurses tried to calm me down, and even allowed my mom and sister to sit with me while I waited. They discussed the possibility of giving me a mild sedative to relax me, but they were nervous it might trigger my MG.
I eventually calmed down enough to have the surgery without further complications. Years later, after ruminating on it and recalling the events in the ICU, I realized that the panic attack wasn’t a random experience, but rather a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
I’ve previously written about that experience in the ICU, but I avoided thinking about the ramifications of it for too long. Perhaps I’m more mature now, but today I accept that I have PTSD. Other things have occasionally reminded me of that day, which has caused me to freeze up. It’s like a part of me will always be stuck in that ICU.
While not everyone experiences PTSD, it’s important to know how it can affect people. PTSD Awareness Day is June 27. I encourage anyone who is still coming to terms with something that has happened to them to do some research about PTSD. I want you to know that you’re not alone.
We all have burdens. Although it has taken me a long time to learn this, I now know I can share those burdens with my loved ones, just as they can share theirs with me. We all experience those door hinge moments, but we don’t need to do so alone.
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