Living with Hereditary Angiodema: My Life was Changed in an Instant, Part One

From birth until my mid-thirties I was a very active person. I loved dancing West Coast Swing, doing yoga, and cooking large meals for my ‘Ohana. The word “‘Ohana” describes those we are connected to by the heart, and not by blood. ‘Ohana had been a very important part of my life.

The words “I can’t” were not in my vocabulary, and I never ran from challenging situations. I dreamed of college and, against all odds, I was accepted into Pitzer College. I worked several jobs so I could graduate with a four-year degree. While in college I met my best friend, who would later become my amazing husband. In spite of all the mental, financial, physical, and psychological obstacles, I persevered, got married, worked, and eight years later became a mother. I loved being a mother and figured out how to keep my life balanced.

However, a dangerous medical mystery popped up for several weeks, landing me in the ICU. That airway-swelling mystery vanished as quickly as it appeared, and remained absent for over two years.

Thinking I was cured, my husband and I decided to have another child. I got pregnant very quickly this time – which was not the case when we first started trying to have a family. We were so excited, even though I had the worst morning sickness. For those who have been pregnant, you understand that calling it “morning sickness” is very misleading. Nausea during pregnancy can show up morning, noon, and night!

Daily, I struggled to keep food down and still parent our sweet little daughter. Besides nausea and insane Braxton Hicks contractions, the pregnancy was great. Since my body was not cooperating I had a planned c-section. The day was finally there and we were excited to meet our son.

Little did we know that day would not go as planned, and I would experience an additional life-changing event.

I walked into the surgical room and was greeted by a nurse and the anesthesiologist. He was an extremely tall man, with a sweet disposition that made me feel at ease. After the spinal block was done he informed the doctor I was prepped and ready for surgery. While waiting for everyone to finish scrubbing-in, I was entertained by the nurse and anesthesiologist sharing hilarious stories.

The atmosphere quickly changed as we all heard a grinding sound. The operating table started to move. They both looked puzzled and inquired if either pushed a button to adjust the table. Each denied touching the table and investigated what was going on. In a few moments curiosity turned into chaos as all efforts to stop the moving table failed. I saw panic in their eyes and I instantly knew something was horribly wrong.

The foot of the table started to rise, which also started pushing my head off the table. The nurse managed to get the straps off my right leg and scrambled to reach the left leg straps. By the time she could start trying to undo them, everything was too tight, making her efforts unsuccessful. Meanwhile, my head was being pushed farther off and the anesthesiologist was struggling to keep my head raised, fearing I would be pushed off head first. The other situation that concerned him was that the medication from the spinal block would go to my head. If that was to happen my unborn son and I could die.

The nurse yelled that she was going to get help. The alarm was heard by numerous medical personnel who came rushing into the room. By that time there was a loud thud; the bottom half of the table moved quickly and dropped with my left leg still strapped to it. The table was now in an “L” shape, with my left leg still strapped to it.

The staff froze in shock at what they heard and saw. We learned later it was during that time my left hip joint was damaged and my left kneecap was forced out of place.

A few seconds later everyone sprung back into action. Two nurses jumped onto the right side of the table, desperately pulling to keep me from being dumped off. If that wasn’t enough, all of a sudden, the table decided to stop and change directions. Instead of me going off head first, the table began tilting to the left as if to dump me off it.

The doctors and nurses finally were able to undo the remaining leg straps. They then wedged themselves between me and the fast-approaching floor. Other staff came in with a gurney and were able to get it under the tilting side of the operating table.

Suddenly, the operating table stopped. There was no grinding sound coming from the table nor any sound coming from anyone else in the room. It seemed like everyone was holding their breath.

After what seemed to be an eternity of craziness, they finally got me secured on the gurney. No one spoke a word for a good moment. Finally, I broke the silence with a joke. I told them I was sorry I created such a commotion, and I should have done something different to express my dislike of the operating table!

Everyone started to laugh nervously, and then their laughs turned into big belly laughs. I then asked if everyone was safe and uninjured, and thanked them for their heroic efforts to save me and my unborn son. They all looked at me in disbelief because I was concerned about their welfare. One nurse hugged me.

As I looked around the room I could see the fear and tears in everyone’s eyes. A couple of nurses wheeled the operating table out of the room. At that time you could heard the grinding of the gears starting up again. From that moment on it was referred to as the “possessed bed.”

Everything had to be re-prepped and it wasn’t long before my husband and I got to meet our beautiful baby boy. Miraculously, he was not harmed, and I felt a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. For a brief moment I thought about how the c-section was supposed to start earlier that morning. Thankfully, the doctor had been running late. If the procedure was on time, the chaos of the possessed bed would have happened in the middle of the c-section. The idea of trying to handle an emergency like that while I was open – I don’t even want to imagine what could have been.

While I was bonding with my son and the rest of my ‘Ohana in the recovery room, the nurses and doctors were talking about what happened and sharing their concern about me. I was numbed from the breast down so I didn’t feel any pain. Later on I was told they were terrified that when the numbing medication wore off I would be in severe pain, and feared I would feel the damage that occurred. All that was not on my mind, as I was just enjoying my son and introducing him to his big sister.

Hours later I woke up and started screaming at the top of my lungs. I felt enormous waves of pain and I started shaking terribly. The pain was so overwhelming. The staff was prepared and came running in with IV medication to calm me and help with the pain.

In that moment I realized that life as I knew it would never be the same, and this event was the key to opening the doors of hell.

This isn’t the end of Loukisha’s journey with Hereditary Angiodema! Check out part two here.

About the Author: I’m Loukisha Olive-McCoy, a mother of two and have been married for 22 years. I’ve been diagnosed with chronic pain and Hereditary Angioedema (HAE for short), which is an extremely rare and potentially fatal disorder. Even though I must do bi-weekly infusions and experience daily excruciating pain, I haven’t lost my appreciation for the simple things in life. I refuse to let my physical conditions define me. I love being a wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend. I want to show others that living with an illness doesn’t mean that life is over. Follow and like my YouTube channel, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook page called Loukisha’s Story. There you’ll find personal stories about the beauty and hardships in my life. On my page I encourage people that everyone has a story to tell, so don’t be afraid to tell yours.

To learn more about Hereditary Angioderma, click here.

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email