Two years after a medical emergency that almost cost him everything, Jordan Bateman reflects on grace and good fortune.
The anniversary surprised me. But there it was, tucked in my Facebook memories feed, between last year’s photo of my son and I enjoying the Canucks’ young stars tournament in Penticton and an obligatory back-to-school photo from a few years earlier.
Friday morning, Sept. 8, 2017: I woke up to incredible, terrifying pain in my right leg. A leg I didn’t even recognize: it had swollen up three or four inches around, turned bright purple at the thigh, and grey at the toes.
I panicked. Knowing something was seriously wrong, Jenny helped get me dressed and somehow I got downstairs. She went to pull the van around to the front door, while the kids tried to help me with shoes – shoes that no longer fit.
Adrenaline and terror got me into the van and Jenny drove us to Langley Memorial Hospital. I could barely stand the pain. The ER was virtually empty, and she put me in a wheelchair. Within 10 minutes, I was in a hospital bed – leg elevated, IV in my arm, and pain meds flowing.
It didn’t help much. The week before I had been experiencing some back pain, so I kept mumbling about a pinched nerve as a possible cause. This was no pinched nerve.
Those hours at LMH are a blur of pain and medication and me internally bargaining with God. I think they gave me a CT scan in late morning/early afternoon. It must have been bad – within a few minutes of coming back, they were loading me into an ambulance to take me to Abbotsford hospital.
I don’t remember anyone saying the words blood clot to me, but I suppose they were waiting for the vascular expert at Abbotsford to make the diagnosis. Lights and sirens all the way to Abbotsford, but we made it.
Jenny and her mom were in the room with me. More meds. A grim-faced doctor came in, and told me he had reviewed the film from Langley. He said it was very bad, that the blood in the veins of my leg had completely clotted. Nothing was moving.
It got worse: I could lose the leg, he said. I broke down. I couldn’t believe it – I have never felt such fear or despair as I did at that moment. Everything had been fine and then it wasn’t and I wasn’t prepared to handle anything close to it.
He immediately ordered me a transfer to Vancouver General Hospital. He explained that the vascular surgeons and radiologists there had access to special clot-busting equipment. It would be my best chance, the one he would want if he was in my predicament.
I had been at Abbotsford for less than an hour when I was loaded into another ambulance, this time with Jenny in the passenger seat, and taken with lights and sirens to VGH. The morphine kept flowing, as did my pain and fear.
Within a few hours of getting to VGH, I was taken down to the interventional radiology department where a team of two doctors and two nurses came in, on call, and performed the first of five procedures on me. The nurses helped me roll from my back on to my front for the procedure. It was excruciating. I would lay, face down, in this room, as the four of them worked on the back of my leg. I was on pain meds, but I was awake.
It was kind of like being on the TV show House. They would talk. The nurses, one older and one younger, were always kind. The doctors included an older, more experienced one who seemed to be in charge – I called him House. The younger was perhaps his resident, the one tasked with the actual procedure. He had a British accent. They would talk and ponder different treatment options. What was scary at first (did they know what they were doing?) became almost comforting.
Four times that weekend, those four people came in and treated me. They pushed five perforated tubes into the veins in the back of my thigh and pumped them full of blood thinners. It started Friday night. Saturday morning, they brought me down for procedure two, and started with a test to see where my blood was flowing. The night before, the result was a dark scan. That morning, it lit up like a Christmas tree. “Wow!” shouted Dr. House.
It was the first bit of good news. They kept it going, more blood thinners, and eventually got me down to a few pesky clots. In procedure four on Sunday night, the longest procedure, they used a special machine to take three of them out. There was only one left; they decided to give it another night of blood thinning to see if they could make it easier to remove.
Basically, my leg was a dirty pan they wanted to let soak for a night.
Procedure five, Monday morning, I was brought into the same room, but everything was different. The radiology department, which had been silent for the first four procedures, was chockablock full of people waiting for various tests. I was rolled past all of them. Two new nurses and two new doctors got me ready. I panicked again: who were these people? Did they know what I needed?
Out of the blue, my younger nurse from the weekend came in to see me. As she had prepped me for the other procedures, I had told her about Jenny and the kids and how scared I was and how grateful I was that this was working. But she could see I was scared today. She held my hand for just a moment and told me this would likely be the last procedure; that everything was looking great.
It was a moment of kindness I’ll always be grateful for.
The new doctors started talking. And then it happened. Dr. House arrived, and he started giving suggestions and instructions. If I could have limped off that table and kissed the man, I would have. Just his voice brought comfort and confidence to me. House is here, I thought. He’s got it under control. They removed the last clot, and that was my last visit to radiology.
I spent a full week in the hospital. It was, again, a blur of pain and emotion. I was in a room of four patients, with two nurses, 24-7. Some of those patients got worse. Some, like me, got better.
Visitors came by. I cried with Uncle Brent. I cried with my sister. I cried with my wife. I cried with my mom. My boss and friend Chris brought me a Packers hat – a godsend as I could use it to cover my eyes at night. The kids came in and I tried to be brave and strong, even though I felt anything but. At one point, I counted ten tubes or lines or wires attached to me. Blood tests came twice a day. I watched too much American Pickers and Ice Road Truckers and M*A*S*H.
Jenny was with me every day, and it had to have been boring for her. I’m not sure I was much of a conversationalist, and I felt such sadness and shock. She’s the optimist, at a time when I felt anything but.
I got better, but two years on, I still carry some of the wounds of that experience. My right toes are constantly tingling with pins and needles as if they are asleep. Dress shoes are a painful experience. I’ve had more blood tests than I can count and I take blood thinners every single day. I wear a special necklace in case I’m in an accident. I protect myself from cuts and nosebleeds and bumps to the head. Electric razors instead of straight edges.
But I’m here, and so is my leg.
Two years on, it feels almost surreal to think of those days, of the walker and shower seat and toilet bar and cane and compression socks and physiotherapy that followed in the weeks to come.
When the Facebook memory popped up, so did my gratefulness to the family, friends, doctors, and nurses who took such good care of me.
My life changed that day, but things are amazing. My kids are healthy and happy. I have a great wife who is pursuing her dreams full-tilt. My job is fun and challenging and I work with kind, caring people. I can protect my health without letting those precautions steal the good things. And I can keep fighting for the causes and ideas I believe in, the things I think will make life better for people.
Am I lucky? It’s far more than that.
“People think you’re lucky, but you know it’s grace,” sings Garrett Hedlund.
That grace is what I want to remember every day – not just when a Facebook memory app suggests it.
Thrombosis Canada has a great guide to knowing the symptoms of blood clots. Click HERE to read it.
Jordan Bateman has a long history of public policy work, championing small business and fiscal responsibility. Currently the Vice President, Communications & Marketing for the Independent Contractors and Business Association (ICBA), Jordan also served six years as the B.C. Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, and was a two-term Langley Township Councillor.
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