Emergency Vehicle

How My Friend Came Back From Death

My friend Pauli and I have been friends for over eight years. She recently had a brush with death and this article explains it from my perspective.

“You’re so stupid!” I said in almost a yell. My friend Pauli couldn’t operate the Roku remote. I was frustrated. She had been short and crabby with me all night. Little did I know the bed she was sleeping on was almost her death bed.

Let’s go back in time for a second. The year was 2011 and I moved to Oklahoma City. I went to a karaoke bar and sat by myself. This chatty older woman sat down next to me and bought me a few shots. She was an intelligent conversationalist, and that kinda threw me. We became friends, and after a few side-steps, we’ve pretty much hung out together since. She’s now what I consider my BFF.

She put up with me through my manic and depressive episodes. She encouraged me when I didn’t know where rent would come from that month. “You’re not a loser.” she would say when I was let go from yet another job.

She took care of my apartment and bought my car when I moved to Norway for two and a half years. She welcomed me into her house when my Norway job fizzled out. I eventually moved out and got my old apartment. She could come over often to watch movies or TV shows with me. We continued to be friends, and she still would babysit me through my manic episodes.

It wasn’t until recently that I pseudo-moved into her house for the second time. I’m still paying rent on my apartment (at least until the lease is up), and she helped integrate my two cats with her five cats.

As a result of my pseudo-move-in, she decided to clean out her office so I could have a place to work besides her bed and living room couch. I helped her dust and clean the office, but she did the majority of the work. I have a bad back, and (something I didn’t know beforehand) she had a bad neck.

After cleaning the office, she was in immense pain. She asked me to take her to the ER, which I did. We were only there for an hour and they didn’t do too many tests on her. They gave her some narcotics for the pain and mentioned that she should see a neurosurgeon for her neck pain. We did go to the neurosurgeon, but they deemed her not enough of a risk for any additional treatment.

It was a Friday when she went to a doc-in-the-box for the pain and they prescribed her some muscle relaxers.

During this time, she was barely eating, would lay in bed all day in pain, and was slowly growing malnourished. She was in bed all that weekend, and I could tell she was extremely out of it. I assumed it was the pain meds she was taking.

Finally, on Monday, I woke her up and asked, “You have a doctor’s appointment today, right?” She replied, “How the hell would I know?” She was being short and rude to me. I told her several times I was going back to my apartment to escape the verbal assault. She begged me to stay and promised she would treat me better. That’s about when she asked for the Roku remote, and in my rude and selfish state, I called her stupid. It was the last thing I said to her before she asked to go back to the ER again.

I helped her put on her clothes. She could barely move. I somehow got her into my car. We drove to the ER and I explained, “You’re going to have to spend the night in the ER. And I don’t think I can mentally handle this.” She told me not to worry.

We arrived at the ER. I parked right by the door and ran in to get a wheelchair. I wheeled it to the passenger side of my car and tried to get her into the wheelchair. She couldn’t move. One of the nurse assistants saw my struggle and came out to help. We couldn’t lift her. The nurse assistant radioed for a lift assist. We finally got her into the wheelchair and they wheeled her to the welcome area where they take vitals. I parked my car and went in. She was still at the welcome area. Then suddenly, they wheeled her back into one of the rooms. I asked if I could come and the nurse assistant said I could. She was put in a room and placed on the bed while the nursing staff started to place instruments on her to monitor heart rate, blood pressure, etc. There were at least seven people attending to Pauli.

It was at this time that they told me they needed to intubate her and I was asked to return to the waiting area. I had no idea what was going on. I had her phone and purse, so I decided I needed help. I couldn’t remember her passcode, but luckily she had some contacts on her emergency list. I called every number (granted, this was about 12:30 am Monday night, technically Tuesday morning) and left a message.

One of her sons called me back and I informed him of the situation. He was in Tulsa, about 2 hours away from Oklahoma City. He told me that he was on his way and asked which hospital. I gave him the hospital address, gave him my cell number, and waited. I must have visited the vending machine half a dozen times for food and drinks. There were Friends re-runs on the TV, so I watched several episodes.

It was at this time her son arrived. He asked what was going on and I could just tell him what happened that evening. I finally went to the welcome area and asked if we could see Pauli. She informed me that we could. It was at this time that the doctor informed both me and her son that her heart had stopped, they had to CPR on her, and inject her heart to get her heart beating again. I assumed she overdosed on the pain meds, but in my mind, I thought that she had run out of the meds days earlier. The hospital staff informed us that they were transferring her over to the heart hospital and putting her in ICU.

I walked out to my car to drive over to the heart hospital. It was at this time I started crying. Pauli was in critical condition. The last thing I said to her was that she was stupid. It weighed heavily on my conscience. And even though I don’t really believe in God anymore, I pleaded with him that I would be nice to her from now on if she survived.

Her son and I arrived at the heart hospital and he asked if she had an advanced directive. I told him that I didn’t think so and that any decisions should be made by her children and not me. The doctor came to the waiting room and explained the situation of her heart. The doctor asked if she might have mixed pills and alcohol. Her son explained that she does drink quite a bit of wine. And I’ll admit, she’s a bit of a wino.

The doctor then explained that they were going to check her blood vessels around her heart and that it might affect her kidneys. He was not confident she was going to make it. This brought another round of tears for me. I forgot I had that emotion.

After several hours, we were finally able to see her. She was unconscious and had so many lines going out of her, I was astonished. She was intubated, so she couldn’t speak even if she was conscious. I gave her a kiss on the forehead as her other children arrived. This was about 6 am in the morning. I called my mom as tears streamed down my face. She answered. I explained the situation as the emotions flowed. Then my sister called me. She told me to remain calm and do anything to support Pauli. I told her I would.

With her children there watching over her, I decided to go home and get about two hours’ worth of sleep. I then went back to the ICU where she was being held. She was conscious at this point, and they removed the tube from her throat. The nurse told me not to make her talk. Pauli was upset. She exclaimed that she wanted to go home. The hospital staff explained that there was no way in hell that would happen.

The next few days were a blur. Pauli slowly regained consciousness, but she was suffering from what I call dementia. She didn’t know where she was. She thought she was being held captive. She couldn’t recall her address, phone number, what car she drove, and who I was. I was again brought to tears. My best friend didn’t even remember who I was. Bad thoughts entered my mind. Is this permanent? I didn’t care. I still visited her every day. Since I’m currently a freelancer, I can work anywhere with an Internet connection. I would simply connect to the Internet, turn on my VPN, and began my regular work.

Finally, on about day four in the hospital, I walked in and she exclaimed, “Ronald!” The nurses were shocked. She finally remembered who I was. I felt relief. My friend was slowing coming back. She still could not recall her correct address or phone number. I asked her what car she drove. She responded: “A Toyota.” I asked her children, “Did she ever drive a Toyota?” They responded in the negative. In reality, she drives a Miata.

The doctors and nurses ran test after test. She wasn’t able to get out of bed, so a catheter was installed basically since day one in the ICU.

Let’s fast-forward a few weeks. Her blood pressure was very high. She had a high temperature. She developed pneumonia. It was found that she was septic and malnourished. Her being septic affected her kidneys and heart. The doctor warned that if her kidney functions did not improve, she would have to undergo dialysis. Her right arm refused to function. Doctors loaded her with anti-biotics and pro-biotics.

Due to the intubation, she had a hard time talking and swallowing food. She was fed a mostly liquid diet. I continued to visit her daily and worked from a bench in her room. The nursing staff in the ICU were fantastic. They brought me pillows and a blanket. They even alerted me to their secret stash where there were free snacks and drinks. They offered me complimentary meals.

I’ve had very bad experiences with other hospitals when I was committed after attempting suicide. The nursing staff and doctors helped me regain respect for nurses and doctors.

On one visit to Pauli, she said to me, “I’m so stupid now.” She still had bouts of dementia. But day-by-day, she started getting better. Her right arm still refused to function and she wasn’t allowed to leave her bed without a nurse or nurse assistant present. She kept saying she wanted to go home. She was with a nurse when she said she wanted to be checked out against medical advice. We all ignored her. She came back from death’s door and she was still in pretty bad shape.

Back on the home front, I gathered her mail. I fed and cleaned up after her cats and dog. I wasn’t used to taking care of a house. The house was in bad shape and I did my best to clean up, but I realized I needed help. I was also sleep-deprived, so I scheduled an appointment with my psychiatrist to go on a sleeping med (I was in danger of going manic due to lack of sleep). He advised me to take a break. I called the nurses station at the ICU and asked them to have Pauli call me. She did. I informed her that I wouldn’t be visiting her for a couple of days. My sister said I needed rest. In those two days, I basically just slept.

Week three… her cognitive functions slowly returned. She now knew where she lived, her phone number, details about growing up, and even what car she drove. She was still in pain, but she was talkative and I visited her every chance I could get, often co-working from the bench in her room. She was aware that she technically died.

I alerted the Pokemon and Wizards United community about Pauli’s situation (she is an avid player). Several people from the community visited with Pauli. It was such a nice gesture.

Pauli was finally better enough to be moved from the ICU to another hospital room. Again, the nursing staff was top-notch. She could now walk with the help of a walker and able to use the bathroom mostly on her own. The staff even allowed her to take a shower for the first time in weeks.

I continued to visit her, but one day I overslept. She frantically called me and said she was going to undergo surgery. I drove frantically to the hospital. Her heart had stopped again, but this time it was only for a few seconds at a time. The doctor explained she needed surgery to put in a pacemaker. I was informed to go to the front desk at the hospital and get a pager in order to be alerted when she was out of surgery.

One of her sons and an old colleague showed up at the hospital. They joined me in the hospital’s cafeteria where we awaited the results of her surgery. After a few hours, the pager went off. We were directed to a consultation room. I feared the worst. All of these negative thoughts entered my brain. What if she died? What would I do? Finally, the doctor entered the consultation room smiling. He informed us that the surgery went well and that she was back in her room. We all visited her in the room, but she was cranky and sleepy. I decided to leave the hospital and go home since she would be out of it for the rest of the day.

The next day after having her pacemaker installed, she was released from the hospital. The doctors recommended an in-patient rehabilitation center so she could be monitored 24/7 and could begin physical therapy. She was transported to the new facility and I met her there. She was still wheelchair-bound and still could not move her right arm.

Members of the Pokemon community continued to visit. Her friend, a neurologist, came to see her. Her friend read through her test results. She said it was amazing Pauli was still alive based on the test results. She was septic when she initially arrived at the second ER visit. This may have caused Pauli’s heart to fail.

Pauli spent two weeks in the rehabilitation clinic. She was slowly getting better. Her memory returned. She could speak intelligently. I visited her every chance I could get. I brought her computer, chargers, and clothes. I would take care of the laundry she needed washed and tried to bring her fresh clothes every day. During one conversation, she explained that she needed panties. I ran to Target and got her some. It was a bit embarrassing for me as a guy to shop for panties, but I got over it. My friend asked for help, and I was going to give it to her.

Thanksgiving came. Pauli and I had Thanksgiving in the hospital. She was in tears when she told me it was the first time in years she didn’t cook Thanksgiving dinner. I told her not to worry about it. The hospital food for Thanksgiving was on point.

She was finally given a release date. She counted the days until release. Each day she was given physical therapy, with the exception of Sunday, which was her rest day. I continued to co-work from her room. She had visitor after visitor, which I was thankful for. She had some great friends.

On her release date, I picked her up, went to Walgreens to drop off her scripts, went to Target to pick her up some firm pillows, and finally took her home. She crawled into bed and fell asleep immediately. She was exhausted. She could walk on her own now, but it was an ordeal for her. She spent more than a month in the various hospitals, and walking was still tough for her.

Fast forward to the present. Pauli’s right arm is still non-functional. She is going to see a neurosurgeon for them to look at her spine, which is likely what’s causing her pain and her right arm to not function. That being said, she is glad to be home and sleeping in her own bed. She still has a long way to go for a recovery, but I will continue to help her.

So that’s it. This was my perspective of what happened to my BFF Pauli. People keep claiming I saved her life. But there were so many if’s in my head. If anything different happened, I would be going to her funeral instead of a hospital.

Here’s to Pauli and her full recovery. Thanks for reading.

Pauli Loeffler
Pauli Loeffler

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