Day 1. I wake up in the worst possible way. I’m feverish, my oxygen has plummeted to 83, and part of my left lung has collapsed and is filling with fluid. Someone calls 911, but everything is a blur, and I just want to sleep. I don’t care if I live or die. I actually think this is a very peaceful way to go. I try thinking of Evan to bolster me, to give me some of my old fight. That doesn’t work. I’m on a gurney, and on the way out the front door. My dear, purple-haired caregiver Lorraina, calls, “I love you!”
In the ambulance, someone shoves a mask on my face. A man says, “I know these things are unbearable. Just hang in there. We are only ten minutes away.”
I don’t know what the man is talking about because to me, the mask is heaven. It smells like maple syrup, and it’s pushing air into my lungs. Suddenly, I care very much about living. I look up at Evan, who attempts a small smile and squeezes my hand.
The ambulance stops with a jolt, and I am whisked through hallways to a glass room in the ER. Evan arrives breathless seconds later with my tobii, wasting no time setting it up so I can communicate.
“Am I going to die?” I ask him.
“No,” he promises, as if his love and will are enough to keep me, but when the doctor comes in, the first thing he says is: “She’s out of danger now, right?”
The doctor nods, saying, “It’s a good thing you came in when you did.”
I don’t remember anything of the next 24 hours.
Day 2. I wake up to searing pain on my lower back. I am being transferred to another gurney, another ambulance, another hospital. My hospital. Apparently, I couldn’t make it that far yesterday. Evan says I was on oxygen and a machine that breathed for me all day and night.
This ICU room is smaller than the last, and the IV in the wrist hurts worse. This little pain temporarily distracts me from the burning of my back. However, once we are settled in, the clawing pain returns tenfold, so I tell the nurse, and he rolls me onto my side. We discover a foot long wound across my back. He cleans up the blood while Evan holds me. Once the wound is bandaged, I am rolled over onto my back. This pain feels more bearable now.
“Transfers can be violent depending on the material you use,” the nurse informs us.
We’re alone only seconds when the surgeon walks in and introduces himself so quickly that I don’t catch his name.
He says, “You have two options. Surgery is tomorrow, but for now, I can have a tube put down into your lungs with a camera at the end to give me a better look at what’s going on. The other option is to let the monitors do their job and send signals if you are in distress.”
I feel so ashamed when I tell him that I don’t want the camera. I have been scared terribly before, but that has made me cautious. I have never actually shied away from something out of fear that I can remember.
Once we’re alone, Evan says he is proud of me.
“For being a coward?” I ask.
“For being brave enough to make these tough choices,” he says.
I don’t – or can’t – believe him, so I switch the subject. “Where will you sleep?” I ask.
After surveying the room, Evan pulls a chair across from me so if the tobii dies, he can read my face. We settle in for the night.
Day 3. I remember shockingly little of the day of the surgery. I sleep up to and after the main event. All that stands out is Evan asking, “Does it feel weird?”
“No,” I say, not entirely sure what he means. Then lights out.