The Reckoning

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.

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Let the Bedbugs Bite

It seemed to happen overnight for me.

One moment, I am practically invisible, just the way I liked it.

Being able to quietly and unobtrusively go about my business by day or night. Walking out in the world with my thoughts on things other than the chaotic house I resided in.

Suddenly, it all changed.

Outside, dirty faced boys say things to me I don’t even understand, using words that sound like a bad thing.

Inside, greasy, slippery grins from men who I have been instructed to call “Uncle” .

Uncles that have known my parents for years.  Friends.  Boyfriends of my Mother’s friends.

Uncles that always made me nervous; giving me that tickling feeling against my stomach and ribcage.

Being pushed towards them for the bedtime ritual.

“Go ahead. Give everyone a kiss and hug goodnight.”

Slithering accidental brushes of fingers, hands, arms, upon me.

Breath that reeks of tobacco and whiskey and hair that stinks of Brylcreem.

Big rough calloused hands patting your flannel covered bottom, just a little stray dragging of the nails or fingertips, on the sly. Hugs so tight I can’t breathe, while they measure, deduce, calculate the changes, the growth spurt.

Doing as I’m told and then vomiting as quietly as I can in the bathroom and wiping the wet sleeve of my kitten-patterned pyjamas all over my lips and chin and neck and cheeks with a sliver of soap.

Trying to scrub away the smell so that I can sleep that night.

Dreams of the day I am so big that I don’t have to let people I am scared of touch me.

Getting Older Sucks

I am a horrible patient and will  freely admit that.
After my accident,  I have avoided Drs and things related like the plague.
I finally found an awesome family doc last year who has gently encouraged me to do the routine testing that my age range is supposed to have done and I have complied with everything from EKGs , blood work,  boob mashing,  and this was my last hurdle.
Saved the best (read worst!)for last.

free_exam

Dr. fancies himself quite the encourager and saw my acceptance and compliance with all the other stuff as maybe me being an  easy mark .

He was wrong.

He  had to do everything from quoting statistics to cajoling, to drawing pictures to begging to retreating and then circling back with more debating, all  within a fifteen minute appointment.

I caved and saw his gastro guy and now have a date booked for the “July Double Whammy”, as I am now referring to it in my head.  The specialist decided due to gluten intolerance showing on my lab work, he is gonna throw in an endoscopy at the same time.

Hence “July Double Whammy” or “Double Header.”

 

colo

All the women I work with have suggested that the day before prep is the hardest part of it all, and I have been assured I will be receiving some  great drugs, which will  increase my chances of sleeping through most of it, if I’m lucky.

So, in preparation,(snort), I am trying to  find things to make me laugh and remove the fear and anxiety.

Firstly, I will relate my last discussion regarding this with my family Dr in its entirety:

Dr: Your blood tests indicate slightly low iron.
Me : Slightlyyyyyy.
Dr: Abnormal.
Me: Define normal.
Dr : Your tests indicated a possible intolerance to gluten
Me : Impossible. I have  been mocking those folks for years!

Dr: Still possible, despite your mocking others less fortunate than yourself. . I would rest easier if you had the colonoscopy done.
Me: I’m sure you would. It’s not you having something jammed up your ass, now,  is it?
Dr: Have I told you that you are one of my favourite patients I see and that you always make me laugh?
Me: Not fair. You know that means the world to me and it is playing dirty.
Dr: Please have the colonoscopy.
Me: OK..but you are breaking my heart. .or some other part  of me that I will be needing.
Dr: I promise nothing will be broken on my watch.
Me : YOU are going to be there WATCHING???
Dr:  laughing and using tissue to wipe tears away as he waves me out of his office….

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If you haven’t read this yet,  you really need to.

I love Dave Barry .

Domestic Diva  also had me in tears from laughter.

Bottoms up, friends!

Whole

Witnessing

that which was once unbreakable

breaking  into pieces.

Disintegrating like dust

scattered into the universe

to haphazardly blow soft warnings

within the paths of those who have no inkling

of how quickly and without warning

the storms can come.

Venerating the pain for the lessons

which would have never been learned

in a lifetime spent chasing pleasure

without bearing witness to the

hidden side of the coin.

Gathering the slivers of light and benevolence

manifesting on the long road back.

Savouring the beauty and love

found in a child’s laughter or

the rhythmic crashing of the waves.

Renewal hiding in plain sight

for the lost ones blinded by the pain

with eyes closed in suffering.

Limitless room within

for the replenishing of what once was lost.

A wholeness of self.

Hope springs eternal.

 

5,114 days- The Dividing

5,114 Days = 122,736 Hours
5,114 Days = 7,364,160 Minutes
5,114 Days = 441,849,600 Seconds

It sometimes seems like a lifetime ago but can be broken down into hours and minutes and even seconds by a simple Google search.

14 years ago today is when the dividing of my life into two parts occurred.

I have linked the background posts within this piece for reference if anyone should have any curiosity about what led up the the “dividing” for me.

I have learned there are no coincidences, and Cheryl posting this prompt this particular week has pushed me to try and make sense out of one of the most significant losses I have so far endured in my life.

I lost myself that day.

I lost the young, optimistic, cheerful girl who never felt dread or fear of the smallest things or places or smells or events. I lost the feeling of power and trust in the easy fluidity of my physical self and the endless opportunities I had before me.

I lost the dreams of someday walking the Camino or along the Great Wall. Those had to be put away permanently for me. Shattered pelvises and broken backs tend to limit the ability to walk too many steps in a row or run up stairs without a deep aching pain. So you tuck those away and try not to think of them any more.

“You were just a dreamer and likely would have never made it there anyway. You had responsibilities and children to raise and those types of adventures are for wealthy people, anyway.” 

And you stop browsing travel  books and delete links to adventure destinations and start listening to co-workers’ & friends holiday stories and make excited sounds while looking at their pictures and try and save those images in your mind to feed your soul. So you feel a little bit like you were actually there yourself years ago; you can still feel a part of it all.

A consolation prize of sorts.

A Participant ribbon.

My best girlfriend in the entire world came to me and my children when she heard the news of my accident. I remember opening my eyes and seeing her beautiful blue eyes full of tears, looking down at me in the trauma room I was taken to for  the putting back together of all my broken pieces.

She was sobbing and muttering  in a quiet voice ” I loved the way you walked. You had the greatest walk in the world…so loose, arms swinging, long strong legs, Shannon. Your walk was amazing to see. Not a care in the world. You will never walk like that again.”

At the time, in my drug haze, I brushed that off, as it seemed the least of my worries. But that moment between us two has come back to me many times since then.

I have never walked that way again.

There is a tiredness and caution in my walking now.

Always a moment of stiffness and pain and stretching before I can even begin walking.

A measured carefulness, much like with the elderly.

A preparing of sorts.

A measuring of steps and time involved and stamina.

A quick visual for obstacle or danger lurking around a corner somewhere waiting to harm me.

I lost that naivety and sense of comfort that the world was an open one without danger and numerous opportunities for mishaps and accident which would take away the person you had always been and leave the empty shell behind.

That girl and this girl.

I grieve for what my sons lost of me that day; my best self forever gone. The young carefree mother who was up for any adventure. The one who danced like no one was watching and who jumped on a bike or ran through the sprinkler with them. The one who did cartwheels over and over one sunny day in the backyard for them when they were toddlers just to make them laugh and clap.

Not the embarrassing,fearful, broken one who jumped two feet in the air with a scream and horrified bulging eyes if someone’s lawn chair on the next patio over blew over in the wind, making a clatter.

Not the one who suddenly wailed during a family movie night if there was fast camera work occurring or sudden violence, or god forbid a train or train scene at all. Their worried eyes looking at me fearfully and their clumsy hugs of comfort.

Not the one who cried and cried watching the news; whose heart broke over and over and over again every evening at 5. Who stopped watching the news and just relied on others to keep her updated on things on a need-to-know basis.

Certainly not the one who would drive them all to the big stores and malls and then last three minutes in the mall before telling them she would wait in the car, because all the lights and sounds and people were just too much and always would be. Too many dangerous variables in those places. Too many things that could go suddenly wrong. And all those damn steps. Doing her best to not leak that fear into them and their sense of safety. Making jokes about how she was getting older and really hated places full of people and noise.

I became the master of excuses with my sons and friends.

I laughed when I felt like crying over losing her.
The real me.

The after this brought the mother who obsessively checked flight tracker when her eldest went to Germany the first time. Not once. Not twice. Probably over two hundred times. Sitting at the laptop, chain smoking, endlessly hitting refresh…watching from afar, checking, checking, checking. Watching the little air plane icon moving away from her ” boundary of safety” and out into the world of dangerous happenings. The silent prayers uttered…the pleas of ” if someone has to die  in the universe tonight, please take me and not him”, her cuticles chewed and torn and dripping blood on the keys of the laptop.

The one who talks to herself and reassures herself in whispers that surely if there even is a God, he has already doled out the suffering allotted to her and will spare her sons. The one who thinks in a fair world, you should only have to endure a specified amount and if you endure more, your loved ones get a pass on their suffering.

My sons were robbed of the mother I was supposed to be and ended up with this version. The  after this Mother I became. They have never talked about the ways I have changed or admitted any judgement on the changes, but it is there in the way their eyes light up or voices get more excited when they share a memory they had with the before this Mom.

I am slowly putting the pieces back together on the inside for us all.

There will always be the divide of selves, but I have time to try to put in the work involved in making this one great in her own way.

441,849,600 seconds since she became me.