She spends a majority of the night up, unable to sleep. Rocking, tossing back and forth and pacing; at one point even breaking into sweat and vomiting.
“What’s wrong?” He asks, worried.
“Nothing is wrong. I’m sure it is just normal stuff associated with the routine surgery I had this morning.”
“Maybe you should go back to the hospital or take the pain medication the doctor gave you.”
She responds dismissively, “None of that is necessary, I’ll be fine in the morning. Go back to sleep”. The morning comes but she is not fine. He finds her lying on the living floor, listless and in a semi-fetal position. “Oh my GOD!” he yells,”Talk to me, what’s wrong?”
At this point her pain is so excruciating it renders her unable to speak. He immediately grabs the phone and contacts the office of the attending surgeon. “She’s burning up and can’t tell me what’s wrong,” she hears him explain. He hangs up, gathers her into his arms, and heads for the hospital; a short one and a half mile drive from the home.
Upon arrival, he tries to explain that she has been in this state since being discharged the day before. The medical staff asks what hurts. She can only reply with a faint voice… “Everything”.
She has a fever of 109. She is quickly ushered to an intensive care unit room and those who accompanied her to the hospital are made to wait outside the room. Her breathing becomes labored. She hears many voices.
“Her organs are starting to shut down, start oxygen.”
“Get the IV started, I want a catheter put in and blood from each arm, every five minutes.”
Her head feels as though someone is striking it with a hammer. It even hurts to blink, so she shuts her eyes.
“Stay with us.”
An oxygen mask is placed over her nose and mouth, the air is cold. The nurse begins to insert the needle into her arm but blood sprays out. This happens twice before someone suggests the use of a butterfly needle. A short time passes and a Doctor delivers a diagnosis of sepsis to her family. Surgery may be imminent following other consults. And so begins her hospital stay.
Eleven days she lies in her hospital bed, weakened by medication and entangled in self-pity. Face stained with the residue of tears cried the night before. Her pillow blackened by the hair that once contributed to her beauty.
The longer she stays at the hospital, the more her positive outlook and self-confidence begin to fade. Gone is the nonchalant attitude; she wasn’t just a little sick and wouldn’t be out and back to life in no time. Slowly introduced are new thoughts of the possibility that she may not leave the hospital alive. She questions herself.
“I can’t die here, can I? A 29-year-old, who won’t get to watch her daughter grow up. Whose fear of the vulnerability required for true love kept her from her calling as a wife. I have never seen the world.”
Confusion and fear simultaneously fill her body.
“I don’t want to die, I haven’t even lived yet.” A defeated whisper. As she contemplates the things she viewed as accomplishments, tears began to roll down her cheeks. She feels a sense of emptiness and wonders if, in fact, this was all she was to be to this world.
A sharp pain in her upper right inner arm quickly reminds her of the emergency surgeries she’s had. She looks at the five or so needles affixed in her skin, serving as gateways for vital lifesaving “stuff”, with complete amazement and gratitude. Although broken, pained, and facing surgery that would forever remove her ability to give life, she was still very much alive.
This thought brought a sense of calm and humility.
Her dry, cracked lips part to form a smile. That smile, likely invisible to others, resonates in her mind and spirit; igniting hope and becoming the foundation for her non-acceptance of defeat. “I have so much life left in me,” she declares, speaking life into her soul.
She realizes that she has to own the fact that she misunderstood her previous state of existing for LIVING; and if given a second chance, she would choose to live and not merely exist. That smile, oh how she needed that smile.
With every fiber of her being, she prays, promises, and forgives the hands that placed her there. Most importantly, she forgives herself. She commits to change and declares that she would no longer accept existing as her truth.
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