Patsy Fowler, right, sits in her living room in Albany with her daughter, Lorraine Ingram. Over the course of several months, Ingram has been enduring the lasting impacts of congestive heart failure — including the buildup of fluid in her body.
ALBANY, Ga. -- Patsy Fowler's family has had their share of ups and downs, especially over the last few months.
It's safe to say they consider themselves blessed.
Fowler's daughter, 27-year-old Lorraine Ingram, has been sick for a while. At age 18, she was diagnosed with diabetes.
"She almost died then," Fowler said.
Several months ago, Ingram began to have blood clots in her legs. Last year, Fowler said, both she and her daughter went on a diet -- which proved at least somewhat effective.
"She actually beat me, she got so small," Fowler said.
By January, Ingram had landed in a doctor's office after experiencing some swelling. Fowler said she was initially told it was excess fat, even though she did not believe that was what it was.
Over the course of a month, Ingram had managed to gain 200 pounds in excess fluid while on her medications, Fowler said. She was eventually sent to Emory University Hospital to get the fluid out, and according to her mother, she got to the point where she could walk and carry on a conversation with her doctors.
As it turned out, she was suffering from congestive heart failure.
By May, Ingram was beginning to get weak again. She was put on medication for hypertension. At around that time, an ambulance had to be called to the family's home -- and she had apparently gotten heavy enough to where emergency medical technicians had to call for help from the fire department to load her in the ambulance.
"We found out she had pneumonia," Fowler said. "She was put in an ICU (intensive care unit). At one point, she went out and nobody could wake her up for five hours.
"I was frustrated because I had never seen her like this."
She had been put on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help her breathe until she regained consciousness.
The moment Ingram came back is something her mother still remembers vividly.
"The nurse was standing over her and taking her off of CPAP," Fowler recalled. "She was smiling as she was coming out of it.
"As she came to, she said, 'God was healing me.'"
Ingram ended up staying in the ICU for a week, during which time her vital signs began to improve. She ended up spending a month at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital before a bad upper respiratory problem prompted a transfer to a facility in Tallahassee, Fla., Fowler said.
She was in Florida for most of June. With her vital signs relatively stable, she spent most of that month being trained how to walk again.
Now, she moves around with the assistance of a walker and is on oxygen, Fowler said.
She later underwent a rehabilitation program in Camilla. During this time, she was functioning on an 800-calorie diet. "The fluid was just coming off of her," Fowler said.
With the rehab, she was able to stand up -- and she lost the majority of the excess fluid that had built up as a result of the heart failure.
"She's walking much better on the walker, and she's lost so much fluid since she got sick," Fowler said. "There are 20 medications she is on right now.
"She has been coming down greatly. She's been in good spirits."
From hearing this story, Fowler said she hopes parents will be motivated to watch medications -- as well as their children -- more closely.
"As a retired nurse, I'm glad I had the knowledge to know what was wrong," she said.
She herself has learned to adapt to a healthier lifestyle.
"I learned to cook for a diabetic. I have lost 100 pounds myself," Fowler said. "I don't buy junk food.
"I watch sodium in food, because sodium can take in water. I read food labels. A lot of times you think you are buying healthy food..."
Even for someone who has a background in health care, it was an eye-opening experience.
"(It helps) to know when you are healthy and when you are not. You may think you may have been doing it the right way," Fowler said. "I learned what I thought I knew while I was taking care of others.
"It's paying off."
She indicated that she has also learned to appreciate the little things in life more.
"Whatever goes down, don't give up," Fowler advised. "Behind every cloud is a silver lining."
With the numerous visits back and forth from the hospital, the experience took a toll on the family. Ingram's father and stepmother pitched in when they could -- as did Fowler's then-boyfriend and his sister, she said.
Glaucoma has left her blind in one eye, so if nothing else, Fowler needed help driving home when it was rainy or dark outside.
"It's been a test with me," Fowler said. "God was the one that kept me through it."
It has also helped that Fowler's other daughter is close with Ingram.
"I couldn't get her (Ingram's sister) to leave her for nothing," she said while reflecting on her daughter's hospital stays. "I had a lot of help (at that time)."
When one talks to the 27-year-old herself of the experience, she credits her mother for helping her get through it.
"She has taken care of me," Ingram said. "Without her, I don't know what I would do. She inspired me to start walking again as well.
"She is my biggest inspiration. I thank God for bringing me out of what I was in."
Before her downward spiral, Ingram was involved in the music program at the family's church. Fowler said her goal is for both her and her daughter to eventually get back into that outlet.
"I miss church also. I am the choir leader," Fowler said. "I can get back to singing and she can get back to playing."