The plan for this day was to take me off the meds that have kept me paralyzed. The goal was to wake me enough so she can respond, but the respirator tube stayed in my throat will stay so I had to stay sedated to a degree. They hoped to have that tube removed by the next day, and backed the oxygen mix down to 30%.
Meanwhile, many people continued to pray and send love. Lara, Billy, and Chris continued to post on my progress.
The paralytic medication is OFF now and should start wearing off within an hr. She is actually INITIATING her own breaths. Ventilator is set for 16 breaths per min...her breaths are 21!!
Go Annie GO!!!!! You can do this!!!!
Billy continued sharing, too.
Annie opened her eyes (albeit briefly), and has coughing and gagging reflexes. After a pin-stick, she also reacted by drawing back her arms, so she obviously can feel pain (but then we knew that since she's married to me!). We're still waiting for better response from her eyes, but that's going to come soon, I know.
Anyway . . . wanted to share. These are all terrific signs. Thanks for your continued support.
More great news…She's responding to pain stimulus and even opened her eyes briefly when asked to! May not seem like much, but this is huge! Her lungs are operating on their own faster than the respirator is set to breathe for her. They still plan to remove the tube completely by early morning.
Late that night, Billy continued to poor out his heart.
Going on 11 p.m. and it's fairly quiet in Room Annie. My new friends Logan (RN) and Katie (Registered Respiratory Therapist) are schooling me on lungs, AICDs, and Ejection Fractions. Fascinating stuff. I used to want to be a doctor when I was a small kid; wonder why I never pursued that.
Annie's had a glorious day. She got off the Nimbex (paralyzing agent) and, for the first time, actually moved. It was simultaneously heartbreaking and fascinating. The movement was odd, like a robotron/automoton coming to life with year-old batteries. But it was awesome. She's fighting, and she's winning!
In just a few hours (Sunday morning at 4:00 a.m.) they are going to wean her off the ventilator to test her reaction. It's not dangerous, rather a simple test of how she reacts. If it's not a positive reaction, then they will turn the ventilator back on and try again in 24 hours. She's passed every test with flying colors; this one could go either way, though. She's very weak, so I don't know how long she can fight straight out of the gate. (They told me for every day you're laying in bed, it takes two days to recover! Wow.) They've asked me to be here so that if she does fully awake, she might enjoy a familiar face. (I asked them if they had really looked at my mug; she might awaken to think she's passed on and wonder why the hell Don Rickles is in her heaven!) I've never even been put under for an operation, so I can't imagine how frightening it might be to wake up after five days. So . . . I'm going to catch a few winks before the big moment.
As for prognosis . . . looks like this could be a 2-3 week recovery. And that's without knowing any of the neurological part of this puzzle. Thanks to ALL of you who have shown such tremendous support.
My sister-in-law, Genny, and her husband, Scott, are driving up tomorrow, and my Best Man, Mike Blankenburg, is flying in from NYC on Monday. So . . . it looks like Annie and I are in for a mid-western Fourth of July and more time to explore Lincoln. I miss Austin, but it's okay because, really, my home is wherever Annie is.
Again, thanks to all who are sending positive energy our way.
As the doctors and nurses were working diligently to move me off of the ECMO Machine, my husband, Billy, was beginning to put his thoughts into words.
Annie Dragoo update.......Ann had another good night. Her lungs continue to get better and her blood oxygen levels continue to improve in spite of them scaling way back on the ECMO machine yesterday. The plan today is to remove her from it completely and all signs point to this procedure going well. This will take place at 1 PM today and could take a few hours because they will be doing it very gradually to make sure her body is ready.
There is still no indication as to why this happened in the first place. I talked to Billy about this today and he said the doctors told him yesterday that we may never know. I'm praying also that they will be able to pinpoint a cause so that she can have the best treatment and chances that this will NEVER happen again.
It was moved to have the procedure to remove the ECMO machine now! They decided to move it up. It took twelve doctors and nurses to move me so that the tubes, machinery, and IVs would not come out. Although the procedure did not take long, it was very stressful for everyone involved. This is when Billy began using Facebook to blog about our journey.
I am sitting in a Lincoln, NE, hospital (Bryan East) watching over my wife's paralytic body. Her eyes are swollen, and her body is "puffy". It is frightening, and sometimes hard to keep dry eyes. However, I am amazed by the PHENOMENAL care she is receiving from this first-rate facility.
For those who might not know, my lovely wife, Annie, suffered cardiac arrest on Monday evening. We had arrived only two hours earlier, after making the long haul from Denison, Texas. After putting our bags in the room and having a few appetizers, she and my daughters decided to go for a walk around the University of Nebraska campus. At about 7:15, without any warning other than a simple, "Uh, oh", she fell to the ground. My girls were heroic. Haley (16) dialed 911 and sent Sadie (7) to run for help. Their quick thinking resulted in a first-responders' arrival time of only 6 minutes. Ultimately, they saved her life!
The past four days have been very taxing, but we are making it. Annie's body has responded to every single challenge presented, and today she was taken off of the ECMO machine that had been used to oxygenate her blood. She still has pneumonia, and is still under heavy sedation and paralysis-inducing drugs. However, all her vital signs are good, and the cardio-thoracic surgeon and pulminologist believe she will continue to improve over the next two days. They hope to "wake her up" sometime during the course of the next three days.
To say I am frightened would be a gross understatement. However, four days of sitting here looking at her reaffirms my faith in God, in my friends, and in the power of a strong marriage. She WILL get better!
To all our friends: thanks so much for all you have done! We will be here a while, but I believe we will roll into Austin victorious and with a more profound understanding of what it means to be loved. Keep sending us positive energy!!!
Billy & family
P.S. If you have never been to Lincoln, you just need to know that its citizens are the friendliest, most genuine folks I've ever known. Two different police officers have called to inquire about Annie's progress. Wonderful people.
So it was on this day, June 28, that they decreased the oxygen mix and were decreasing the amount of oxygen from 75% to 35%. At this point, they began to plan to allow me to wake up, at least to a point where I could be semi-conscious. They wanted me to be able to hear and respond.
Although a work had begun in me, the doctors, nurses, my family and my friends were still trying to determine what was going on.
Later that day...(June 27)
Annie Dragoo update. Tomorrow is a big day. The doctors are going to start weaning Ann off the machine that oxygenates her blood, hoping her lungs are ready to start working again. This will be a big step towards her getting better, so we need this. Her vitals are good and she's stable. Keep praying!
Chris was Billy's voice to the world, so he continued to get updates from Billy and Haley.
Annie Dragoo update. Ann had a GREAT night! They did a CAT scan on her brain last night because when they first brought her into the hospital, the initial CAT scan indicated some swelling in the brain. This swelling is now gone. Her color is much better today and her pulse is much stronger. They will start the process of weaning her off the machine that's helping to oxygenate her blood today. From what I'm hearing, the doctors are pretty optimistic that she will respond well. Keep on praying and look for more good news as the day goes on!
All we know is that her heart stopped. We have no idea why and the docs told Billy yesterday we may never know the reason. I'm praying that they will be able to find a cause so that they can treat her effectively. But that's all we know at this point....The kids are better. They are seeing improvement in her condition and so they are feeling better about things. Their grandparents are there with them helping them understand what's going on. We're starting to have conversations about possibly bringing them home as well.
Later that night...
New info just in on Annie Dragoo......the lung specialist just visited. New x-rays of her lungs show marked improvement from yesterday. They have decided that 1 more day of rest is the better solution for her right now, so they are going to keep her on the machine that she's been on 1 more day. If this gives her better chances once they do take her off, I'm all for it!
Apparent change of plans for Annie Dragoo. They have decided to go ahead and start weaning her from the ECMO machine today instead of waiting til tomorrow. They have decreased the output of the machine by 50% and so far so good! Her lungs seem to be holding their own at this point. This is GREAT news!
My mother and step-father drove to visit…
It's been a long day; but a good and encouraging day. Annie Dragoo is receiving excellent care! There is at least 2 nurses in her room at all times, and numerous specialists. I feel so much better after seeing Ann and the care she's receiving. I guess the only discouraging thing is that we were told that Annie will be in the hospital at least two, maybe three weeks! THE GOOD NEWS...From head to toe: Ann's eyes are responding to light; she is still medically sedated and paralyzed so she came be treated by the medical staff and the ventilator and the ECMO machine. Her kidneys are working! They started weaning her off the ECMO machine this afternoon and she did well. They started raising her temperature from the 80s back to normal. Tomorrow, Friday, they hope to continue the process of weaning from the ECMO machine; this will be done in the OR and may take 2-5 hours. Her potassium is now normal. Her EF (its my understanding that this is the rate/force of the heart ventricle to push blood out of the heart) was 15 when she was admitted (normal is 50-60); her EF today was 15-20! I can't think of anymore; except her toes! My granddaughter, Haley Wilson painted her mom's toe nails with red glitter nail nail polish! And I thank God for Billy and his attentive love and care for my daughter. Thank you Billy. We are counting all these small victories as blessings from above! Thank you everyone for you continued prayers!
I continue to be amazed at what was begun in me, even as I was unaware of it.
Late in the evening on June 25th, Chris wrote,
Not a lot new to report on Annie Dragoo at this point. The machine that they are using to oxygenate her blood is running and her vitals are good. To my understanding, her kidneys are functioning, which is good news. They are keeping her medically paralyzed at the moment while she's intubated. Will update more as I hear more.
While they were trying to figure out what was going on, my best friend from college posted this.
Dear Facebook friends and family, please pray for my dearest friend and sister Annie Dragoo. She is in very critical condition right now and she and her family need prayer. I don't know what else to do. All I can do is pray. Ann, I love you so much!!! My Sister, My Friend, My Heart!
Annie Dragoo update. She is still stable and because of the machine circulating her blood, her blood gas levels are back to near normal. This is good news, but she can only be on this machine for 3-5 days, so her lungs are the primary concern right now. Antibiotics and time are really the only treatment for this, so please continue to pray for that to happen quickly. That's all I know for now. I'll continue to post updates as I know them.
At somewhere in this entire ordeal, the doctors wanted to do another CAT scan. My sister wrote,
Update on Annie Dragoo:
She's finally stable enough to have another CAT scan tonight so the doctors can check the swelling on her brain. I'm not sure if she's had it yet. Doctors have been keeping her body temp at 85 degrees so her brain can spend its energy on healing instead of keeping her organs going, but they're going to start warming her up tomorrow. They're also going to start weening her off the ECMO machine. Hopefully there will be good news tomorrow. Thank you for all the prayers and well-wishes.
My Brother posted...
A little update on my sister, Annie Dragoo.
They HAVE performed the CAT scan, and the swelling in the brain has decreased! Awaiting more good news tomorrow.
June 27 at 9:40 am
Update: Ann had a GREAT night! They did a CAT scan on her brain last night because when they first brought her into the hospital, the initial CAT scan indicated some swelling in the brain. This swelling is now gone. Her color is much better today and her pulse is much stronger. They will start the process of weaning her off the machine that's helping to oxygenate her blood today. From what I'm hearing, the doctors are pretty optimistic that she will respond well. Keep on praying and look for more good news as the day goes on!
As long as I can remember, I've been the classic overachiever. Doing the minimum was not accessional. My ESFJ personality always had to do more than was expected. This is not always, bad, but I've learned in the past three years that it can be detrimental to my health. At least, For the past 23 years, I've been a theatre arts educator and director, a job I really love. I'm a mom of three kids, Joshua - 21, Haley - 20, and Sadie - 11, and I love being married to my husband, Billy. For the last 13 years, we have directed together at Austin High School in Austin, Texas. (Working with your spouse will be a whole other blog post.) Like most of us, I could say that I've been a busy person. Along with the regular demands of being a theatre teacher, I direct musicals, which is an entire other set of responsibilities. What I’ve realized is that we classic overachievers are putting ourselves at risk of stressing out, and too much stress can lead all kinds of terrible things.
In January 2013, when Josh and Haley were a senior and sophomore in high school, I got sick during the musical. I was so sick, that a spinal tap was done and it indicated that I had viral meningitis. This is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known collectively as the meninges. The most common symptoms are fever, headache and neck stiffness. Eventually, I recovered, but it felt like the entire second semester was extremely difficult. I was weak and always exhausted. I had trouble focusing and just chalked it up to a hard semester.
In June, five months later, we took a group of students to a festival in Lincoln, Nebraska. I was really excited for my daughters to see the campus and be with us for the entire week. So, after a long drive we arrived on June 23, at about 7:30 pm, I got my coffee at Starbucks and headed out to show the girls the campus. While we were walking, Haley said, I sat down on the ground, and said, "Oh No!" She said I then lay down and stopped breathing. Realizing this was not a prank, Haley called Billy, but he didn't answer because he was in the shower. She called 911 and told them my location why Sadie held my head. When Haley did get ahold of Billy, he ran five blocks just to see the paramedics putting me in the ambulance. When he asked if I was alive, the police offer did not respond. So Billy had to ask him two more times. The police indicated that I was a live and a friend took Sadie back to the hotel, while Haley and Billy jumped in the the squad car and followed the ambulance to the hospital.
The next day, my mother posted this on Facebook.
URGENT PRAYER NEEDED! Please prayer for my daughter Annie Dragoo. She is in the ER at a hospital in Lincoln, Nebraska. Ann passed out while walking with her daughters, Haley & Sadie. We don't know anything at this time except the doctors are running tests a blood clot, and a possible aneurysm. Ann's husband, Billy Dragoo, and their children are all there.
Billy tells me now that when I arrived, the incredible team at Bryan Hospital North got busy. The lowered my temperature by icing me down. Then they began running tests. I had aspirated and the main problem at the time was my lungs. I could not breath and my heart was not functioning as a result of a cardiac arrest. The immediately put me on an ECMO machine. This provided me Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation. In laymen's terms, it was a heart and lung bypass. Fortunately, I do not remember about a week before this or a week after all of this happened. He was told that I could only be on this machine for five days, and if I did not begin to breath on my own at that time, I would not be returning to the hospital.
Then on June 25, my dear friend and ex-husband, Chris, posted this.
Please pray for Josh and Haley's mom, Annie Dragoo today. She collapsed yesterday while in Lincoln, NE in cardiac arrest and not breathing. Paramedics got her breathing again but she definitely is not out of the woods. We still don't know the cause of her cardiac arrest and she now has fluid on her lungs that's causing her not to be able to oxygenate her blood properly. She's being put on a machine that will circulate and oxygenate her blood for her. Pray for her today and her husband Billy. Also pray for the kids Josh, Haley, and Sadie.
My Facebook exploded with messages from friends and family around the world. They were messages of love, hope, prayers, and good thoughts. Facebook becomes a very important thing at this point, because it was Billy and my family's way to communicated what happened.
This was the beginning of a crazy journey and I'm amazed at the work that was begun in me.
My Journey from death's door to the miracle of life.
Annie Dragoo is a wife, mother, actor, singer, dancer, educator, and holistic health practitioner who lives in Austin, Texas.