Do you ever feel like you’re in a whirlpool, getting sucked to some inescapable vortex, where you can never get out again?
That’s how I felt on Tuesday night, after a horrendous bout with sepsis.
It’s not these “blips” that are so terrifying, it’s the recovery after. Like a pair of thawing feet, beating and throbbing back to life—each deadly moment only seems especially horrendous as I’m recovering.
I actually think I’ve handled all of this quite well…but I’m embarrassed to say that on Tuesday I did not.
Visitors were restricted due to COVID-19 concerns. A CNA mistook me for a surgical patient (probably because of how I walk) and put an alarm on my bed so that if the weight changed, she would know—so she could put me back in bed. And as I stared at the darkening room around me, the walls surged closer and everything collapsed in on me. I thought about the removal of my L3 vertebrae (and how torturous that had been), the liver failure (and constant vomiting and severe weight loss), and now the sepsis (more painful than anything before)…. And I felt so stuck in a whirlpool of debilitating fear that I actually had a panic attack.
My hand shook as I hit the “call nurse” button, and luckily my nurse (and not the CNA) came in. She turned the weighted alarm off on my bed (since I was actually an ambulatory patient), walked me down the hall to a nice chair, and even gave me black tea in a little styrofoam cup. “I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. I can’t even imagine.”
She left me there for as long as I wanted. I pulled out my phone and put on whatever breathing exercise I could find on YouTube—closed my eyes and listened.
The next day, Mike came to see me first thing, and I threw my arms around him and never wanted to let go. He brought the light of the world flooding around him, and I could hardly believe the difference it made just seeing him, hearing his laugh, pressing my forehead against his. I started bawling then because it hit me how the elderly population must feel when loved ones don’t come to see them. The thought broke my heart, and I couldn’t stop crying as Mike scooped me up and held me in the hospital bed.
“Sweetheart! Sweetheart! What’s wrong?”
“I just want to go home. I’m tired of being in these different hospitals. I just want to go home.”
They let me out later that afternoon. The kids were so excited to hug me that I could hardly believe it. And suddenly all of the suffering in the world was worth feeling their joy and holding their arms around me.
Everything looked beautiful. I didn’t care anymore about the vortex that we’re honestly all heading toward. Instead, we cranked up the radio, drove home from Montana to Idaho, and once we got home I curled up in bed and slept for a long time. The bumps through this journey are hard, but the rewards are greater. Like the doctor said, “It’s three steps forward, two steps backward. Progress is progress.”