I awoke from the morphine dreams to blinding lights above me and many faces looking down on, surrounding me on the stretcher. A frenzied energy of motion swirled throughout the room.
An older nurse pushed a square plastic container towards my face, encouraging me to drink from the straw she placed between my dry cracked lips. I drank the blue liquid thirstily, not expecting the taste to be so bitter and wondering why she kept saying, “more, you need to drink more, more, please, some more.”
As I pulled my face back from the bitter drink, an enormous man entered the room in blue scrubs. He looked more like a football player than a nurse or doctor, and he walked towards me and stood at the head of the stretcher. I groggily looked up into his eyes as he leaned forward and placed his hands firmly on my shoulders and nodded at two males, also in blue scrubs. They approached me from both sides of the stretcher and placed their iron grips on my thighs bilaterally.
The doctor who seemed to be in charge informed me that I had been in a bad accident and required surgery for internal bleeding. I had a fractured neck, multiple spinal fractures, pelvic fractures,rib fractures and pneumothorax ( collapsed lung). He was going to oversee the insertion of a chest tube into my right side in order to inflate my lung.
” This is going to be very, very uncomfortable for you. You will feel like you cannot breathe for the time period where we are getting the tube inserted properly, but you will be OK. We will do this as quickly as possible; please try not to move or panic. It will be over soon, and then you can breathe properly again.”
Before he completed his words to me, I felt a white-hot searing pain in my side, and everyone surrounding me was holding me down, with no warning. No time to prepare for the unbearable agony of not being able to breathe. Time froze as I frantically tried to suck air into my body, panicking, shaking, fighting those holding me down. The resident inserting the tube, moving as if in slow motion, until the voice of the surgeon rang out ” Just shove the damn thing IN. GET IT INTO HER!”
And suddenly air was rushing into my lungs, sweet and cool and enabling me to let loose with the most foul cursing and swearing I have ever uttered in my life up to that day. The resident backed away from the words pouring out of me, shocked and frightened. The nurses were grinning, eyeing the almighty surgeon for his response to the vile names I had called him and his team.
For my behaviour, I was rewarded with more medication that would soon enable me to drift away from the pain once again.
In a small room nearby, my sons, a close friend and my ex husband were brought to see me in the hallway outside the MRI theatre. I recall looking at their faces and feeling so sad that their father had allowed them to see me broken like that. I could see the fear in my youngest son’s eyes and a defiant angry look on his older brother’s face. As they leaned over me, I kissed them both and told them over and over again that I loved them.
Years later, my eldest shared with me what had occurred in that quiet room they were kept in while I had surgery. The surgeons and a social worker had suggested that I was in very weak condition and likely would not survive the surgery to repair me, let alone the night. That was why my youngest was present to see me like that. They thought it was the last time my children would see me alive.
My older son had just had a very emotional argument with his father about my outcome.
He argued with them all that they didn’t know me and that I was not dying on that night.
He told them that I was not a patient they didn’t know, but his Mom and that I would never take the easy way out and die.
He told them, his 13-year-old voice cracking from boy to man, that he knew in his heart that I would not leave him or his brother in the world without me; that I would survive the surgery, then the night, and then be back home with them being their Mom.
Wherever I was on that night, my spirit was listening.