I didn't spend the last year in my thirties as planned. When I added it up in my ever-thinking brain, I spent about three months in the hospital and almost all of it laid up because of my hip. Four surgeries later and I finally have hope; sometimes that is what springs from the darkest of nights.
After my last surgery, the day after I came home, my temperature was 102.9. The following day it was 103.2 with a racing heart and difficulty breathing. When I said that I was hurting and couldn't breathe, I was met with disbelieving eyes, so I quit saying it. The next day I had an ache in my back that I said pain was radiating from. That was the same day that I had to promise the visiting nurses that I could get to the hospital faster than them calling 911.
It wasn't the emergency room that was so bad; it was what followed about six hours later when nurses and a doctor ran into the room. They told me I was being moved to a bed for more tests; when I got back, the doctor sat down on my bed and reached for my hand. "You're very sick, you are septic."
After initially joking that sepsis couldn't kill me (yes, I still joke at the darkest times; it's my coping mechanism of choice) I asked him if I was going to live. I expected him to answer yes, but instead he said that I had a big battle ahead of me. It was an odd sensation; like a whirling inside, spinning fast, yet slow; hearing voices, remembering moments, recalling regrets, all at once, with The A's wrapped around all of it.
I had to call my parents. I remember the conversation, asking my mom if my dad was home. I tried to sound casual, but my mother wasn't buying it. I told her that I was in the hospital and sick; that I was septic. "Are you going to die?" she asked. I can't imagine asking either of my daughters that question. I don't remember how I answered her. When I awoke, my friends were there. I had IV's in both arms and the room was dark. The fight began.
I asked for my computer; not out of boredom, but to type up letters to say goodbye. I did this periodically, between waking and sleeping. I worried about the A's. I worried about my family. I worried about my friends. I wonder now if I should just send the letters despite making it; that's the hardest part-the wondering.
I wanted to go home; I wanted to be with the girls, but at the same time, not let my family see me. I wept each day as the infection grew and began to compress my internal organs. Each time they tried to draw blood, it was an extremely painful process; it took an eternity as my veins rolled around inside of me and IV's blew out of my arms. I wept each time until they finally gave me a PICC line. It entered in by my elbow and ran to near my heart. When they pulled it out of me, I asked to keep it as a reminder of what I'd done, just in case I lose my nerve or hope again.
I had dreams; dreams of my grandfather, dreams full of light. Dreams that I was swimming deep within the ocean.
I wasn't afraid to die; I just didn't want to. Those are two very different things.
Each day my lungs filled with fluid. Each day I thought of the irony-that all my life I'd worried about open water and drowning in it, but the reality was that I would drown myself in a hospital. I would say the lung tap was the worst pain that I endured there, but truly, it was a visit from Big A that was the most unbearable. She had broken down and wept and wept and wept. I wanted to take all of her pain and place it within me. I know that this is not how it works.
I wonder now why I pushed her so hard to grow up. She's a freshman excelling in advanced classes with a 4.0 GPA; next year, the odds are that she will actually attend college rather than high school. I tell her each day how much I love her. Each day I wish for more time. Almost without fail, I cry on a daily basis from being so happy or seeing something so beautiful that it makes me ache and want to share it with her and Little A. I want more time with her. I will not get it.
The day I came home, it was easier to let go of the people that weren't really friends; it was easier to see appreciation in each sunrise, easier to breathe, figuratively, although each day the breathing does come easier.
Tomorrow when I turn 40, my grandmother turns 80. I never would have imagined us spending birthdays apart, yet we will. I've loved sharing our birthdays over the years, but I can see dreading them in the future. So much of me was woven with her; by her, and yet here we are, so many miles apart. I wonder what it will be like if I get the opportunity to grow that old and not be with the people I love the most.
I thought I was going to dread tomorrow. Rather I am grateful for it. For a new chance; for a new day; for a new birth at 40. Here is to 2013; to 40; to The A's; to life in general.