Where dreams come from and nightmares roam that’s where I could be found for two months. Unawakened at first, then slowly scratching the surface to remember snippets or nothing of my time in the land of the living, I wove those fleeting moments of the world with my dreams, until finally finding myself awake more often, leaving the dream world creation I had made my own reality behind.
I had no real sense of time when I woke. I would wake at three or four in the morning and stay awake until the nurse shift change, seeing the doctors make their rounds, and drift back off until seeing my husband come and more often than not he spent his time watching me sleep. Time blurred together for me and with sedatives still working their way out of my system and all the medications they kept giving me for pain, coughing, anxiety, and to help my breathing I couldn’t keep things straight in my mind from one day to the next.
My days consisted of having to be changed after going to the bathroom, still being confused of what was reality and dream world, having shots in my stomach to prevent blood clots, crying because they would not let me try to walk, some physical therapy sessions, panic attacks, lots of meds pushed through my IV, and more sleep. Finally after several attempts that were stopped by panic attacks they managed to cap off my trach so that I could use a nasal cannula instead of the ventilator tube still being attached to me and I was able to talk unless they had to clean the trach. I had to relearn and remember to breathe through my nose because I had become accustomed to being breathed for. Before that I could only talk when the trach was capped and it had been annoying and confusing to wake and find that my cap had been taken off and replaced by the tube while I slept. My vision was blurred and my hands shook from the meds so my handwriting and typing skills were off to say the least.
Once I was more fully awake and could understand what was going on the process of getting me ready to leave the hospital began. The trach staying capped and not being returned to ventilator settings. A swallow test was done that was very uncomfortable in which I was fed colored foods and liquids with a camera down my throat to make sure I didn’t choke and that it went to my stomach and not into my lungs. Painful physical therapy sessions using muscles that had not moved in two months. Attempting to eat again and food being disgusting or no taste at all. The nurses trying their best to get my hair out of the knotted mess down to my scalp that it had become and one nurse making it so much worse.
I, of course, was curious, and while my husband was answering what he could I could tell it was painful to talk about for him. Luckily, he had updated my friends and family daily through Facebook and I began at the beginning of it all on February 5th, reading his posts and all of the comments of each one. I was in shock as I drifted in and out of sleep becoming tired easily still. It took me days to read every post and the comments.
I had really almost died?
All these people cared?
I was still curious, surely it hadn’t been that bad, it had to be that my husband had just been scared. Next step, was to ask the nurses and get them talking, and boy did a couple of them confirm my near death experience. One told me when I asked him, “When you came in I thought you were already dead. I, for sure, didn’t think you were gonna make it.” The next time I remember asking I had woke at my usual sometime between 3:00-4:00 in the morning to find a nurse that was a lookalike to my friend Emily, who I knew very well was living in New York and is a school teacher not a nurse. It made it comfortable talking to her though and so I asked my question and got my answer.
“You weren’t just knocking on Heaven’s door. YOU were beating down the gate!”
My mind would not let me remember past the Monday that we had run errands when I thought I had been getting better. I didn’t understand how I had gotten so sick and could just have a giant black blank spot in my mind. More importantly, I didn’t know why I had been spared and I wanted that answer badly. How in the world had I had enough strength to walk in the Valley of the Shadow of Death multiple times during those two months?
After about a week and a half it was decided that I would be moved to a rehab facility. The nurses tried to get the doctor to let me get my rehab there and I was upset that I wasn’t going home and didn’t have a choice in the matter. I had not seen my children since the end of January and it was now April 4th. My husband had not brought them to the hospital because he didn’t want to scare them and we didn’t know if our youngest who is on the autism spectrum would reek havoc with the medical equipment and attempts to explore. I had agreed that seeing me in the hospital hooked to everything would have been traumatizing, but I wanted to see my boys.
My husband was only given one choice of where to send me for rehab and was assured by the case worker that her father-in-law had been well taken care of there. My things were packed up and my husband carefully peeled the tape off the get well cards our boys and our youngest’ class had made for me so that I would have something colorful to decorate my blank hospital walls. Some of my nurses and I Facebook friended each other and I tearfully waited for the rehab facility to send their transportation.
Something had been tearing me up inside and I had to get it off my chest, so I called my husband to my side. I told him that I knew this wasn’t what he had signed up for when we married and motioned toward myself with my hand going from head to toe. He looked at me confused. You didn’t marry me and know you’d have to deal with all of this, me being disabled and having to take care of me.
I’m giving you an out, if you want it.
Saying he was shocked might have been an understatement. He assured me that he had just gotten me back and he wasn’t about to let me go again. He didn’t want an “out” and said he couldn’t believe I’d told him that. He didn’t care that I was disabled as long as he had me alive. *********************************
Because of the length of my COVID-19 journey you’ll have to wait for next month in the series: In Sickness and In Health Part III: Learning to Live
Previous Post: In Sickness and In Health Part I: Awakening