Life changing moments don’t happen that frequently, but when they do it’s crazy how much can literally change and flash right before your eyes. Priorities can shift in a split second. Shock and emotions can swoosh in and become overpowering. You may have to make a life altering decision on the spot. You may also have to be courageous enough to put your own life in someone else’s hands.
The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday. – Mary Schmich, Wear Sunscreen
One of my favorite songs/speeches was written by Mary Schmich, which you’ll probably recognize in it’s popular remix form to Rozalla’s song “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)” by Buz Luhrmann. I’ll post the video below.
Little did I know how spot on the above lyric would ring true in my own life last week, except in my case it was at 4:30pm on some idle Thursday.
I had absolutely no idea when I went to work Thursday morning that later that same evening I would wind up in Operating Room #4 at UCSF hospital for emergency surgery. I’m not going into the details of my condition because 1) it isn’t relevant to the point of this post and 2) I’m saving my strength during my recovery. It takes a lot of time and energy to write blog posts folks!
But I will say that if it wasn’t for the incredible technology of medical scanners, tests, and experienced doctors I might not be alive today. If I hadn’t gone in for testing and seen my doctor on Thursday, I literally could be dead right now or in very serious condition.
Thank You UCSF For Saving My Life
My heart goes out to the team of doctors and nurses that diagnosed my condition on Thursday, prepped me for surgery, performed my operation, and helped care for me over the next 24 hours.
This was the first time I’ve ever been admitted into a hospital. The only other surgery I’d ever had before was getting my wisdom teeth out and that doesn’t even seem like it should count after what I just went through. So I had a lot to process in a very short amount of time.
I guess it’s good I didn’t really have time to think about my surgery. I didn’t have hours or days to get scared or freak out about what they were going to do. I just had to tell myself, “I want to live,” and let them prep me for the OR all within 15 minutes of the doctors telling me I needed emergency surgery. Everything happened very fast.
I have so much respect and appreciation for the good men and women who work in medicine, especially in the OR. It brings tears to my eyes that my life was literally in their hands during my surgery. I’m the type of person who faints at the sight of blood, so it really astounds me how incredible doctors and nurses are. Their jobs and skills really do matter and it’s amazing how much they accomplish every single day.
Dr. C – I owe my life to your close eye, diagnosis, and guidance of getting surgery. Dr. L – thank you so much for your kindness, patience, and gentle bed-side manner. Dr. R – thank you for your leadership and incredible skills. Danessa – you are a rockstar; thank you for helping me get through my first night. Thank you to all the donors who helped make the new UCSF Mission Bay hospital an amazing place to be when people like me are at their worst. And thank you to all the doctors and nurses who save lives every day!
Lessons From A Life Changing Experience
Before I go back to rest, I just want to write down a few things I want to remember from this experience.
1. Take good care of your body and trust your gut if you think something is off. Sometimes things can go wrong that are entirely out of your control, and you can’t blame anyone or anything for that. Do your best to stay in good health at every age. If you don’t feel right, trust yourself and get to a doctor.
2. Find good doctors and stick with them. Even if you have to travel a little farther to see them, it is worth having the best doctors possible. At first I wanted to switch doctors when I moved across town because I wanted convenience. I’m glad I didn’t.
3. Take all of your tests. Things like blood tests are a pain in the rear and are not fun at all, especially if you have to travel back and forth to get them done. But it’s important to trust your doctor and follow through every time they order you to get lab work. It could literally save your life. Thank you Susan and Stephanie for your persistence, encouragement, and patience.
4. Do not underestimate the importance of health insurance. If you are in between jobs or can’t afford Obamacare, at least consider an affordable short-term plan through AgileHealthInsurance. I ballpark estimate my hospital bills are going to be about $15,000-20,000 before insurance. I can’t imagine having to pay something like that out of pocket, especially because it was completely out of the blue!
5. Hug your family and loved ones. You will need them way more than you realize if you ever wind up in the hospital like me. Take care of each other every day and cherish the time you have together. To my family – I love you so much!
6. Work and play as much as you can while you can. I believe this now more than ever. We just never know what tomorrow could bring. Since I’m a freelancer, I don’t have any paid sick days. Thus, every day I’m unable to work, I’m not earning any income. I’m grateful I was able to work almost the entire month of January before my surgery happened!
7. Financial independence is a top priority. No matter how young or old you are, please don’t ignore your finances. Eliminate your debt and build an emergency fund asap. I had absolutely no idea I would face an emergency last week. Fortunately my health is recovering and I’m financially able to handle the unexpected expenses and loss of income.
8. There is no rewind button in life. Don’t let any bad procrastination habits from your youth rob you of your potential today. We literally do not know what tomorrow, let alone a few hours from now, could bring. Do your best to make the most of each day!
9. If you think your job is stressful, imagine being a surgeon. All I could think about was how incredibly lucky I was to have a fantastic team of doctors and nurses in the hospital. Surgeons have to be on their A-game every single second they are working. They can’t slack off like so many people do in office jobs. Chances are your job isn’t anywhere near as hard as theirs.
10. One day that damn 1-10 pain scale will make sense. I always wondered how the heck are you supposed to know how to use that 1-10 pain scale you see in hospitals. Well, the short answer is you learn the hard way. I experienced a pain of 10 twice in 24 hours and now I know the real difference between a 5, 8, 9, etc. Uncontrollable tears, uncontrollable shaking, involuntary moaning and searing pain = 10.
Man I hope I won’t have to go through that again. It is sheer agony being at a 10 on the pain scale and waiting for the on-call doctor to instruct your nurse how to proceed in the middle of the night. The good news is most severe pain is temporary and it can help to get through it by focusing on breathing and believing that relief is on the way. Someday I very well might have to go through that level of pain again. But at least now I know that I was able to get through it before so I feel more prepared for the future unknown.
The last 48 hours have been a whirlwind and I am incredibly grateful to say that I am alive and in recovery.
Untemplaters, have you ever had to go to the ER or get emergency surgery? Have you ever experienced a pain level of 10? What have you learned from your life changing experiences?
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Brian Robben says
Thanks for sharing that vulnerable part of your life. I’m glad you made it out and gained a greater perspective because of it.
Your experience definitely goes to show the importance of balancing living in the moment while preparing for the future–as you said you don’t know what tomorrow brings. And on the bright side, your week can only go up from here!
The Fire Guy says
I’m glad to hear you made it through and had great caregivers there to take care of you.
I am a complete wimp when it comes to pain tolerance, but I can honestly say that I have never experienced the “10” pain that you reference. My wife is a nurse in an ICU. In many cases, she is seeing patients & their family members on one of the worst days of their life. Her job and daily encounters with life & death situations helps to keep things in perspective for me. It help keeps me grounded and remember that sometimes we just gotta enjoy life and not ONLY look forward to the future.
Glad to hear you are okay. Its amazing how fast things can change. Things that stress us out and seem so important in our daily routines can suddenly fade when something like this happens. Its a good reminder that health and happiness should always be at the top of our priority list. I wish you a full and speedy recovery!
Preston @TheDrunkMillionaire says
Wow! I hope you continue to gain back your health and strength. I can relate to the sudden ER trips and subsequent surgeries. I can’t say enough to express my respect towards those who selflessly devote their lives to the medical field.
Wow, sorry to hear about the scary hospital visit.
Hope you will recover quickly and fully. I enjoy your site and perspective on personal finances. Best Wishes to you.
Ray @ Squirrelers says
Wow, glad you’re okay. It sometimes takes serious events to put things in perspective and have us even further appreciate the good things we do have. Get better!
I’m a big fan of that song – each line has so much value to offer. I’m really shocked you got rushed to emergency. Medical emergencies are something that none of us expect to face because we like to stay optimistic. I was really hoping to learn what caused the emergency, purely for informational purposes. There are so many things that can go wrong with our bodies. It really is a blessing if we find ourselves safe and healthy in our beds at night. Get well soon!
Money Beagle says
Glad to hear you got to the right team at the right time. Hopefully when you’re feeling better you’ll consider writing your symptomns and the diagnosis, as you never know, someone going through it or seeing someone around them have the same emergency could look it up and end up seeing the magnitude of what is happening.
Wishing you a speedy and event free recovery!
Financial Samurai says
I’m glad everything is OK!!! What an experience where the worst has certainly passed. I have so much respect for all the nurses and doctors out there.
The great thing about experiencing a pain level of 10 is that for the rest of the 99% of the time, you will never be in so much pain again! As a result, I think you’ll naturally appreciate everything so much more. I went through a couple 10s before, and I remind myself of them whenever I’m feeling uncomfortable or grouchy to suck it up and keep going! The zombies are coming! 🙂
It’s amazing how little work, money, etc means when we lose our health. I hope this experience energizes you to do many great things!
Wow I’m sad to read that, luckily you made it. Unfortunately us humans are so set in our ways that often only a life changing event can change that. Each day we hear how people die too young because of bad driving, smoking or being overweight. Yet each day we race home picking up hamburgers on the way. Till something bad actually happens to them or their family many just can’t change.
The ten-point list is great, I’m sure all of us can improve or two or three of them.
Luckily for you that financial independence can be pretty much checked off. Or at least it is a good thing you don’t need to worry about that at the moment. So please focus all your time and energy on recovering.