Of all people, I know how quickly a life can change in the blink of an eye. This has happened to me so many times it seems it is woven into my life's pattern, just like my hazel eyes, or my knobby knees. It also comes with an almost spiritual component, a reluctance to ever give up on this connection I have, that we all have, to this world we live in. I find I beat on and on through challenges as they arise, and although exhausting, I have so far managed to keep my head at the horizon, thrusting through the surges, just barely keeping my head above water.
None of this "courage" changes the fact that when I am feeling very sick, or am in terrible pain, I become terrified. Everything sort of clamps up, my thinking becomes unclear, and actions and decisions become tied to a kind of crickety old brass Alice-in-Wonderland timer, where the sand is pouring pouring through too quickly. This is what I call "Panic Mode."
Yesterday, around 2:15am, I woke up with a searing pain my back. It began radiating to my chest. I grabbed my husband and we sped up the FDR to the Emergency Room. The diagnosis: A significant mass of pneumonia in my chest. Pneumonia is not something anyone would be pleased to catch, but someone 5 months out of a bone marrow transplant is especially immuno-suppressed and pneumonia, although common, can be very very dangerous.
We got through triage, and were finally given a "room." Patients lined the hallways, crying out in pain, in languages ranging from Spanish to Russian. We tried to maneuver my wheelchair through but alas, it was too wide to squeeze by the row of cots, some of which were double-parked. With the help of my husband, we staggered to the back of the hall where my "cot" awaited. We settled in, next to the strorage room which seemed to be accessed frequently and forcefully. I climbed into the cot and thanked God we had a curtain to separate us from a gentleman with some kind of whooping cough not 2 feet away.
Hours later I found myself awake, drenched in sweat, screaming for a doctor and for an IV painkiller in a kind of fever-like panic. Really not my style. About an hour later my hero oncologist found me a room on the 14th floor. While it was not covered by insurance, I took it. I felt I was getting sicker by the minute down in that dungeon.
I had spent over 18 hours in the cot downstairs in the ER. I had slept, but my poor mother and mother-in-law looked like zombies under those fluorescent lights, the reds and yellows of the skin underneath their eyes puffing out from layered scarves to ward off the chill of the hospital air system. I fell asleep, and when I woke up I was being wheeled into what can only be called a 5-star hotel suite, and I felt a huge sense of relief that my ordeal in the ER was over. Yet, even as I relaxed, and had my first real meal in 24 hours, I worried for the people I had left behind. What would they eat for dinner tonight?