The Woman Who Came Back to Life

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I’ve had this fear of being in a car accident and waking up days later in the hospital with no memory what happened other than getting out of bed the morning it happened. How weird would that feel? Would I be scared or relieved that I couldn’t remember the harrowing events of a wreck that had me unconscious for days?

On Friday night, September 16, I went to bed and don’t remember anything until Tuesday, September 19; however, the cause wasn’t a car accident. Undiagnosed sleep apnea sent me into cardiac arrest around 4:15 am that Saturday morning. Danny called 911 and the operator gave him directions for CPR. The paramedics showed up and took over for another half hour. When they wheeled me into the emergency room, I was in ventricular fibrillation.

The doctors put me on a ventilator, kept me sedated, and lowered my body temperature to stave off any further damage; however, no one knew how long I had gone without sufficient oxygen. No one could say if I would come out of sedation as my normal self or without the ability to walk or talk.

The fact that I’m here on the blog writing about it obviously tells you that it all came out okay. The truth was, I more than “okay.” I was sitting up and talking pretty much the same day I came off the ventilator — three days after the cardiac episode. The next day, I had a heart catheterization through my wrist (Through. My. Wrist. Y’all. Science…) that came back clear. The day after that, I had a procedure to insert a defibrillator that went off fine. Throughout my week in the Cardiac Care Unit, I had nurses coming to my room who had seen me the night I arrived, and after I was in a regular room, other nurses visited who just couldn’t believe how well I was doing:

“You’re not supposed to be sitting up and doing this well, this soon.”

“I just had to come see you for myself.”

“I can’t believe you’re the same person.”

The Human Pincushion

If I had a dollar for every time I heard those statements, I could pay off the hospital bill. The words “walking miracle” get thrown around, and I’m completely uncomfortable hearing it. The day before I went home a 6-year-old boy was shot along with a teacher and another child at an elementary school in a neighboring county. He did not get to become a “walking miracle.” He died four days later. A former coworker’s 12-year-old daughter who went in to the hospital during my stay is still there fighting for her life, trying to beat a scary illness affecting kids all over the country. Last week I stood in front of a college friend, held her hands, and wept with her over the loss of her husband, feeling guilty that I was still here and he wasn’t. What makes me so special that I get to be the one who gets to walk away?

A couple of friends and family have commented on my Facebook statuses that they can’t wait to see what I have to say on my blog about the whole event. Honestly, I’ve been sort of stumped about what to say.

There are not enough words in all the languages combined to express the wealth of gratitude I have felt for family and friends who turned the CCU waiting room into a can of sardines, the ones who came and kept me company and saved my sanity, the ones who sent flowers and food, the staff who went above and beyond to take care of me, the EMS workers whose quick work helped increase my chance of survival.

The general agreement of all who’ve had knowledge of my case is this: in the moment Danny considers most terrifying was also the most fortunate, because the noise I made that woke him up had to have been the exact moment I lost the ability to breathe. His jump to action kept my time without oxygen to a bare minimum. Many of us say that our spouse saved our life in a figurative sense. I get to say that my spouse literally saved mine. However, he will tell you what he told a friend of ours; he actually saved his own.

The first thing I remember after Friday night was that Tuesday, when I reached for something attached to my face and then someone taking my hand and telling me I was in the hospital. I was trying to pull out the ventilator, something I attempted with such persistence that they had to tie my hands down. After I got home, I went back and read Facebook posts that gave updates on my condition and detailed what my family was going through.

I am relieved to not have memories of what went on while I was out of it (except maybe flipping my mother the bird when she commented on my barely there toe polish). I can’t imagine their fear. Perhaps I had the easiest job of all in trying to get better.

Music is often my catalyst for change, and I heard this song today by one of my favorite bands, Foo Fighters. It sums up where I am right now.

Two Years

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In high school and college, I spent hours honing my ability to craft good introductions for my papers. I love finding the perfect first line for anything — essay, article, short story, blog post. However, I have found no good way to introduce the fact that Dad died two years ago today.

You try to convince yourself it’s just a day. Tell yourself it’s simply the combination of a day and a number in a month that happens every year. After all, people say that age is just a number. Weight is just a measurement of gravity. If we lived on the moon, our weight would be six times lighter. If we lived on Mars, a year would be almost twice as long. So then I wonder, Would that have given us more time with him?

Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.
— Leo Tolstoy

I never really blogged about how that first year went. I didn’t really blog about anything, actually, for over a year. All those firsts came around: first Thanksgiving, first Christmas, a family funeral, first birthdays, first Father’s Day, a family wedding. To believe he’s  watching over us is comforting, but his absence at special occasions still leaves a gaping hole.

I’m not really sure there’s any trick to coping other than the clichés of getting out of bed every morning, putting one foot in front of the other, and taking it day by day. Not long after Dad died, I sat in my Nurse Practitioner’s office for a regular weight-monitoring visit (that’s really more irregular) and relaying to her what had happened over the past few months. When I was done, she asked, “And how are you?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” I said.

“Really? You lost your dog, then your dad, then started a new job in the span of three months. Those are some major transitions and stresses.”

I had not stopped to think of it that way. Perhaps I wouldn’t let myself do that in order to keep myself from buckling under the pressure? Usually, anxiety doesn’t affect me until AFTER the stressful event is over. In this case, it came almost a year later.

Starting last July, I found myself overemotional, hypersensitive, panicky, irritable, moody… you name it. For weeks I couldn’t figure out why. It wasn’t until after that first anniversary, during a journaling session, that the thought rolled out of my head, through the pen, onto the paper. As of 24th, I was more than a year removed from his presence. I could no longer say, “At this time last year, Dad was still here.”

Grief is not a disorder, a disease, or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical, and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.
— Earl Grollman

In January I felt ready to get out of the funk, to do something that made me feel as if I were actually living, not just existing. The process has gone more slowly than I wanted and left me beyond frustrated — proof that I am my father’s daughter. I had to take time off from the gym because of a knee problem, which then kept me from doing some physical challenges I wanted to do. That’s better now, so I’m trying again to get back in the groove. And I’m writing more as well.

I heard this song a week or so ago that summed it all up what I was trying to do. My favorite thing about music is how it can express so much of our own feelings in just a few notes and words. May it inspire you to get out of whatever funk you might be experiencing as well.

Saturdays with Nanny: You’re Embarrassing Your Mother Edition

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After listening to two of her daughters teasing each other while checking out at Goody’s…

Nanny (to the cashier): I didn’t raise them this way.

Saturdays with Nanny: I Can’t Drive 55 Edition

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Mom: It seems like since I’ve gotten this CR-V I don’t drive as fast as I used to. I mean, in my Camry sometimes I’d look down and I’d be flying down the interstate. But right now, here I am going 50 in a 55. (Looks at Nanny) Or is that just me getting old?

Nanny: Yup

Mom: I know you’re one of those who goes 45.

Nanny: 45 is about as fast as I wanna go.

Milestones

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What would we have done if we had only eight fingers instead of ten? Would we have lost eight and nine and gone straight from seven to ten? How would we have marked significant milestones that we now note in terms of fives and tens?

These are the questions that popped in my head with so many milestones happening in these current months. I know… How fascinating is it to be inside my head?

Today I turn 43, a nice prime number. Divisible only by itself and one. But less than a month from now is the 25th anniversary of my high school graduation — something that requires five hands to count.

About the same time is the 20th anniversary of me tucking my tail between my legs, dropping out of grad school, and lighting a few bridges from Rock Hill to Greenville as I moved back home.

Then last month, this blog observed its tenth anniversary. No, you didn’t miss the party; I’ve been late throwing one.

Ten years ago, for the second time, I got shuffled out of the writing department at my job because The Powers That Be wanted production instead of creativity. When the creative department was all but dissolved, I got moved back to producing newsletters, again.

When emailing back and forth with a former coworker who had moved to Asheville, I noticed a link in his email signature. I clicked on it and wound up on his own website. I didn’t know it was called a blog, although it was hosted on this site called Blogger. I could have my own website. For free! I could post my own writing? Sign me up!

I felt energized and showed my new site to The Husband and shared my triumph about how I would show them.

And then The Husband said, “You can’t write about work on here?”

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, he is the big, fat safety pin to my floating, pink balloon.

“Wha-huh?” I asked.

“You start bitching about work on there and someone finds it and you’re fired.”

So with my bubble burst, I found other things to write about. I had a book of writing prompts, and that was a main source at the beginning. Eventually, I posted other stuff I’d written and talked about my struggles with writing my own fiction, but then this blog sort of turned into a chronicle of my life as well — when I had my gall bladder removed, when my grandmother passed, when I lost my job, when my dad was diagnosed with lymphoma, when our sweet dog, Domino passed, and when Dad lost his battle last summer. From the time I was a teenager, writing was an outlet for frustration and sadness. I suppose it should be no different now.

However, for my 43rd birthday, I have given myself a present. Last night, I posted a very early draft of a story on Wattpad. Yes, I’ve posted some of my own original work on this site before, but Wattpad has thousands of users who will see this story and be able to “like” it as well as comment on it. I have metaphorically split myself open for a public feast, and it’s pretty freakin’ scary.

Click here if you want to read it. It’s a young adult/teen fiction kind of thing, so if you have teenagers, they might like it as well. It’s got language (sorry, Mom). I’d give it a strong PG-13.

It’s a present and a commitment to myself that by the time my 44th birthday rolls around, I will have finished a rough draft of this book that I will edit and eventually put up for sale as an ebook. Because screw the whole traditional process of getting published. I’m tired of waiting.

And I’m sure as hell not getting any younger.

Spring Buds

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I think I always post a photo like this somewhere on my social media every year. I can’t help it. I’m always so frakkin’ ready to see winter go. I can’t imagine how much anticipation is up north.

I tried to wait until we had some actual sun, but since that won’t happen for three more days, I got impatient and posted. 

Facebook Can Kiss My Ass

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No, I’m not rage-quitting Facebook, but I am boycotting the whole “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.” thing that keeps popping up on my feed. All apologies to anyone who has had a good year and created their own and shared it, but I just don’t care to relive my 2014.

Don’t get me wrong; I had some good moments.

But there was that horrible morning in July when we had to say good-bye to our sweet Domino, and I really didn’t get much time to grieve for her because Dad went into the hospital a couple of weeks later and passed away a few days after that.

On the one hand, I feel comforted by many thoughts. I imagine him in Heaven, in his cancer-free body, having tomato sandwiches with MaMa Grant. I am grateful to know that he never had to find out the cancer was back in his bone marrow, and I am thankful that he suffers no more. However, the pain from his absence makes even the best days bittersweet. There’s always this unpleasant aftertaste of what can’t be shared with him, and I don’t know if that will ever go away.

Grief sneaks up when you least expect it. It’s on a minivan on the road in front of you that’s decorated with “Happy birthday, Dad!” It’s the movie you didn’t explore enough to know about the lead character’s father having cancer and dying at the end. It’s the photo revealed in a stack of papers that you had forgotten existed.

Still, the Earth turns and revolves around the sun, and even if we wanted to stop moving, we couldn’t.

However mean your life is, meet it and live it; do not shun it and call it hard names. It is not so bad as you are. It looks poorest when you are richest. The faultfinder will find faults even in paradise. Love your life, poor as it is. You may perhaps have some pleasant, thrilling, glorious hours, even in a poorhouse. The setting sun is reflected from the windows of the alms house as brightly as from a rich man’s abode; the snow melts before its doors as early in the spring. I do not see but a quiet mind may live as contentedly there, and have as cheering thoughts, as in a palace.

— Henry David Thoreau

However, Thoreau doesn’t say anything about Facebook. Screw Zuckerberg and his attempts to pick out what the highlights were to my 2014. I pick my own AND set them to music — in this case, Emerson Hart’s “Green Hills of California.”

Here’s my 2014. It was… a year.