My name is Natalie Van Hecke and the week before Christmas, I almost died.
As some of you may know, I was scheduled for surgery on December 19th. I was having a right colectomy and the whole point of it was to see if my carcinoid tumor had spread. I went in that Thursday, and a lot of people came to see me pre-op. My grandparents came, Aunt Gina came, and some other family friends, the Earls, came to pray with me.
The colectomy went great.
I don't remember waking up in recovery, and I don't remember being transported to my room. I really don't remember anything until late the night after surgery. I remember my nurse was really sweet, but I don't remember her name. I remember her trying to get me to get up and go to the bedside commode, or she said she'd have to get the bedpan. I remember shooting up like a rocket, through all of my pain, and telling her that I would get up. I remember the edges of my vision being black and I couldn't see very well. I remember my nurse and my mom helping me to the bedside commode. Then, when I was on it, I remembered I was wearing special surgical underwear and bent over to take them off.
Then, I woke up surrounded by nurses and doctors, lying flat on my back on my bed. I started to cry because I couldn't see my mom. I kept crying out for her, I spotted her in the doorway and I was crying. I don't have the words in my vocabulary to describe the level of fear I felt. I was so confused. I was scared for my health, for my life. What was going on? Why were the so many doctors and nurses? Where was my mom? I wanted my mom, I needed my mom. She came back into the room and came to hold my hand.
At some point, Mrs. Gina and Rachel were there. The nurses tried to get a hold of my surgeon, and they did. I remember going to get a CT scan, and getting mad at the staff because they moved me and it hurt. I almost screamed when they moved me. Then, they took me to the ICU and my Grandma Sharon was there. The bed was so big, it was so big. It was too big, and I was in the middle of it and it didn't make sense because if it was that big then how did it fit through the door? And I was so small, so so small. And my grandmother was holding my hand and talking to me.
I didn't know what was going on around me. But, I remember saying, "I'm going to Italy."
My grandmother said, "Right now, child?"
And apparently, I said, "Noooooo" and started to talk about my happy place.
I could feel the sunshine on my face, standing in the middle of a field of yellow flowers. The wind blowing in my hair and the yellow of my sundress.
Remembering that now, it scares me. I was delusional, and I was dying.
Then, I passed out again. Around six on Friday morning, I was taken to the operating room again. I remember the anesthesiologist getting six inches from my face and asking me a ton of questions that I wasn't coherent enough to answer. I was rushed to the OR, but passed out in the elevator. I woke up in the operating room. They moved me onto the table and I was begging them not to. I cried out in pain when they moved me, and then they laid out my left arm as the anesthesiologist was putting an oxygen mask on my face. I took it off with my right hand. He put the oxygen mask back on and I tried to take it off again. He looked at Dr. Lamont, my surgeon, and told him, "You need to hold this." and Dr. Lamont did, and then I was unconscious.
When I woke up, I had a ventilator on. My mom and grandma were there. Mrs. Kala and Mrs. Starla showed up too. I panicked because they wouldn't take the ventilator out. Hot. I was hot. I tried to communicate that to Mom. It didn't work because I was restrained and my hands were tied down by my hips. I used sign language to finger-spell "H-O-T" and Mrs. Kala and Mrs. Starla understood. The respiratory specialist threatened to throw everyone out of my room because my heart rate was too high. Mrs. Starla came and stroked my forehead and Mrs. Kala rubbed my legs and feet to calm me down. It worked, and felt so nice. I think I fell asleep. I'm not sure.
After two hours, they finally removed the ventilator. I had lots of visitors and I slept a lot. The people from church brought me a prayer blanket. I convinced my day nurse to remove my catheter on Sunday. I had the best day nurse, her name was Joanna and she was my absolute favorite. We joked around a lot, and all of the nurses thought I was funny. I was the youngest in the ICU, and all of the nurses thought I was fun. Joanna was such a great nurse, and I couldn't be more grateful to have had her as my nurse.
And, I was lucky enough to be released on Christmas Eve. I was home for Christmas, though it was not the Christmas we had planned, but it was still a good one.
It is a miracle I'm alive today. A miracle from God.
I had internal bleeding and lost half of my body's blood. I had a total of eight blood transfusions. My blood pressure was 50/20. I was in kidney failure, and going into liver failure.
It's a miracle that I'm alive.
It's by God's grace that I'm still able to walk this earth and to be where I am today. I will still be in recovery for a while, but I am so so lucky to be here. I don't mind the recovery. With all of this, I've learned that I need a break. I'm going to slow down in my life and really evaluate things. I don't know what the future holds, or even what tomorrow holds, but I'm alive and that's all that matters. This has taught me how to live for today, and I'm happy to be alive and kicking. Well, mostly sleeping.
I've hit my 300 (explanation in this post), and God is doing His best work in me right now. I feel myself becoming a better woman every day I'm alive and I'm so excited to see where things go from here.
Mrs. Kala and Mrs. Starla are shown in the top photo, and my mother took these other ones. I have a lot of photos from when I was in the hospital. I have several photos of my IVs (I had two full IV poles) and several with some of the people who came to visit me too.
There's a photo where I have a Buc-ee, which was given to me by Mrs. Kala and Mrs. Starla, and the other bear I have is from when I was really little. I don't know if he remembers it, but it was given to me by Aaron Sword. I think I was five? Maybe a little bit older. But, it's my favorite bear and I love it so much.
Written: December 30th, 2019 at 2:00pm
Current Read: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
One Thing God Has Given Me: My life, and the wonderful friends and family around me.
Current Watch: Gilmore Girls -- Again. <3