We're living through a reminder that life is uncertain and I thought it would be a valuable reminder for others as well.
My wife came very close to dying over the last month.
Five weeks month ago my healthy, 48 year spouse looked at me and said "I have a chill." It was the day after her birthday. She had an ACL reconstruction a week prior so she could get back to full speed tennis.
Over the next 5 days her chill turned into a fever which got worse and nastier chills. We figured it was Covid. It was getting worse and worse. When the Covid test came back negative, we knew we had a problem.
Took her to the ER on Sunday, her blood pressure crashed and kidneys shut down late Sunday. Fluid invaded her lungs. She was put to sleep and placed on a ventilator on Monday.
After several twists and turns, the docs concluded she had gone into Sepsis as a result of an un-identified bacterial infection.
My daughters and I stood by her bedside to say goodbye on Tuesday night, one week after blowing out birthday candles. She was expected to die in the next 6 hours.
Because she was strong and otherwise healthy, the NHS (god bless them) authorized her to be placed on an advanced lung technology called ECMO. This isolated her lungs and allowed them to treat the other issues more aggressively.
The odds were very much against her. At this point she was in multi-organ failure with her lungs, kidneys, bone marrow, and digestive organs malfunctioning and in jeopardy. There was also questions about possible brain damage.
Over the last four weeks the UK NHS (and God) have walked her back from the brink. At one point she was on five forms of life support.
After 4 weeks of searching, they finally got a hit and discovered the bacteria that triggered all this. With the right antibiotic, they've gotten it under control.
Her organs and, thank God, her brain are all coming back to life and appear poised to recover.
Today, we're down to the ventilator and she's working her way off that. Her recovery will take months but we expect her to make her way back home over time.
A few take-aways:
1) The next time you hear someone complain about the UK NHS, please tell them that the NHS fought like hell to save my wife's life and appear to have won. They've been brilliant and the fact that we are American expats in the middle of a pandemic never entered the equation. She was sick, they cared for her and threw their best and brightest into the fight. I'm in their debt.
2) 2020 sucked big time and her getting ill was a kick out of nowhere. Please allow her recovery to serve as an uplifting story amid the wreckage. She's a fighter who beat the odds because literally hundreds of people helped in some way.
3) As we all do our FIRE planning, please remember to use this calculator:
Rich, Broke or Dead
We all need to hedge the risk that we live to be 100. But its really not likely and those early mortality stats are real. It can and does happen.
The money in the bank took a major worry off my list over the last several weeks. Nothing in this post should be construed to say "Life is short, bet it all on red in Vegas." If I thought this was going to banktrupt us and keep our kids from going to college, it would have been even worse.
But what's really kept me going was knowing that my wife and I had lived life well. We have fantastic daughters and 30 years of wonderful experiences. If it had been the end of our story, I was devestated but I had no regrets.
Thankfully, its doesn't look like the end of the story afterall.