For all of you who may have forgotten today marks the two year anniversary of the closest I’ve ever come to dying! And that’s pretty exciting! It’s kind of amazing how one moment can change your life so much. I wouldn’t be sitting on a couch next to my husband in our apartment in China right now if a 16 year old boy hadn’t fallen asleep behind the wheel two years ago. As this day has been approaching I’ve been wondering how best to celebrate it. Last year I went to Tucanos with a lot of my favorite people and I ate a lot of food. I thought that was appropriate seeing as how I’d spent 5 1/2 weeks NOT eating food.
I spent the morning rereading the earliest posts of this blog remembering the challenges, the successes and failures of those long weeks. The support of family and friends and the gratefulness to an amazing group of doctors and nurses who spend their lives trying to save others. I considered trying to write some beautiful, emotional and inspirational something about it all but who am I kidding? As I read I realized that while my wonderful father kept very faithful and detailed updates my point of view doesn’t surface for quite sometime. And for those of you who have heard the stories of what was going on in my mind you know that it was quite entertaining. So I thought for my two year anniversary of not dying I would write down what I thought was going on during those first few days.
Note: Most of what I’m about to write did NOT in actuality happen. These are hallucinations. But I must say that at the time they were more real than I would have thought hallucinations could be.
The first few memories are just fragments. I remember my father telling me that I had been in a car accident and that Mitch was here. What my mind didn’t figure out was that Mitch had been in the accident with me and was actually in the hospital as a patient. I just thought that as my new boyfriend of course he was here. Thus my first few memories include Mitch trying to be with me even though he wasn’t supposed to which meant that he had to keep hiding. I remember him riding the top of the CT machine (the part that spins)
*Random insert! I just wanted to say that I had to stop writing this quite suddenly when a pipe in our bathroom exploded and water started gushing into our home like a fire hose had gone haywire! By the time Mitch got it turned off our apartment was flooded and so was the stairwell and the first floor! So we just spent the last hour mopping up the floor (yet AGAIN) while the doorman put in a new pipe connection. Yea Chinese plumbing!*
and he was hiding under my bed squeezing my calves for reassurance. Unfortunately he would squeeze just hard enough to make it hurt so I tried showing him that it hurt by pulling my legs up away from him but that proved to be physically impossible and so I indicated to my dad with my eyes that Mitch was under my bed. My dad pulled him out from there quite angrily and escorted him from the room and I immediately felt really guilty because the squeezing continued without Mitch and I realized that he was probably getting a nasty chewing-out without anything being his fault. Now I also thought I was in Hawaii. At some point some doctor named Mark came in and my dad told me that he was here. We happen to have some close friends of the family who live in Hawaii and the dad’s name is Mark and he’s a doctor. I spent a lot of my time in a huge water tank doing underwater lung therapy and of course it makes perfect sense that Hawaii would be the lead in this kind of technology right? It was very interesting therapy. Two therapists were hooked into these machines that would rotate them in a large circle by their ankles. They would take turns holding on to me and then trading me off so that I was flowing around in a huge figure eight. I spent hours doing this. Swirling around and around and around and around....the only really odd thing was that one side of the tank was actually the side of the building and it was all glass windows which looked out onto a public beach. While every once in a while I kind of enjoyed the view mostly this concerned me because I was always completely naked during the therapy. My best friend Courtney was so kind as to hold up her yellow sarong from her bathing suit so that the ever-good-intentioned yet out-of-line Mitch couldn’t get quite as good of a look as he would have liked. When I realized I was in the Provo hospital I remembering wondering how I could have missed the flight back from Hawaii. It’s a pretty long flight and I wondered how I had slept through the whole thing.
Now comes the long, complicated and a little freaky part.
So it was time for my first bath and for it’s healing properties I was going to have a mud bath. The nurses carefully lifted me from my bed and placed me in a metal tub and began filling it with mud. Unfortunately my body wasn’t strong enough for that and I began to have trouble breathing. They called in the respiratory doctor whose name was Amir and he leaped into the tub to save me. He was a great doctor who practiced a much more holistic approach to breathing. Instead of using any machines to help me breathe he had a hollowed out stick with two holes in it. My mouth was placed over one hole and his the other and he spent the next thirty minutes breathing for me. He was in there so long that the mud began to dry and I began to notice that a very pretty nurse seemed to be very upset. I felt really guilty when I realized that she was upset because today was her wedding day and it now might not happen because her husband to be was Amir! She was also angry because she knew that Amir had a thing for girls with blue eyes and she was afraid that he would see mine and not want to marry her anymore. I remember wishing that I could tell her not to worry because I had a boyfriend. Eventually I became stable enough for them to move me back to the bed. Except during all of the bustle of getting me out of the now dried and hardened mud I stopped breathing again! So back on my bed now Amir began to try and save my life again. This time it took so long that I began to feel really guilty about all the effort he was going through. I could see these huge welts on his arms from the force of the suction from the stick and I was just not improving. I began to wish that he would just stop. I thought that it wasn’t worth all this effort if I wasn’t going to get better. He should just let me die. It turns out that he really wasn’t willing to do that. I did basically die but he gave up his life for mine. The next thing I remember I was lying on my bed but I felt really different. When the nurses saw that I was awake they began to explain what had happened. To save me from dying Amir had given me his life. It turns out that he was a special hospital robot and when he died for me his Amir essence had gone back into the machines and walls of the hospital. His last effort had been to reproduce (which needed a human host) with me and once I produced the microchip they could begin rebuilding a new body for him and put his essence into it. As weird as that sounded I decided that it was the least I could do for him since he’d given his life up for me. Unfortunately the reproduction process was more than a little weird. Basically I had gone completely flat--like 2D. That’s why I felt like my feet and hands were brushing the floor--because they were! As I slowly puffed back up the microchips would form in my abdomen and then eject themselves through my skin when they were ready. I couldn’t ask the nurse any questions but I was really afraid that it would hurt. The essence of Amir could hear my thoughts and told me that normally it does hurt but that he would make sure that it didn’t. So all I had to do was wait. Then my parents came to see me. The nurse ran out to explain to them what was going on and I was really grateful. I could hardly imagine what it would be like to stumble upon your completely flat daughter with no idea what was going on. It helped a little--only my mother screamed and passed out when she saw me. Eventually I did puff back up, the chips ejected themselves and I was moved into the fairy tale room for the night. That’s right, fairy tale room. It was something that they had started to try and help kids stay happier in the hospital. My hospital gown was quite literally a gown. It was pink and shiny with lots of lace and I remember thinking it was a little ridiculous. Plus the nurses had to dress-up like fairy tale characters and my nurse picked a wicked old witch which at nighttime was a little scary.
That night my Aunt Peggy stayed with me. As I dozed off and on I suddenly realized that I was feeling strange. It felt a little familiar and I realized with horror that I was going flat again! As I frantically tried to remember wether or not the nurses had told me it would happen again I heard some evil laughter in my head. Basically there was another hospital robot like Amir only this one wasn’t nice and when he heard that there was a willing human host in the hospital he decided to take advantage of that. Now there has to be some kind of physical contact for the process to begin and he wasn’t in the room. It was a truly terrifying moment when I realized that there was a hand pressed up against my check and that the arm stretched all the way across the room and under the door. I tried desperately to break the connection by moving my head but I wasn’t strong enough and he hooked his finger into my mouth to keep the connection strong. I gave up and tried my best to remain calm by reminding myself that in the end everything would go back to normal. Unfortunately this time he wasn’t as nice as Amir and he didn’t bother making it painless. As I got flatter and flatter I began to feel really bad about my Aunt. She had no idea about any of this and I was really worried that when she suddenly realized her niece was going flat she would really freak out. Sure enough she did notice and she did freak out. She called the nurses in and began yelling at them, “How dare you! How dare you let her think that she is going flat! How dare you!” It took a little while for those words to sink in. How dare they let me think that? You mean I’m not going flat? I could barely understand that but it was a relief and then it really hit me. Wait, I can’t talk. How does she know that I think I’m going flat? She couldn’t know. When I understood that, I realized that EVERYTHING had been a hallucination. Talk about your world flipping upside down! It was beyond bizarre to figure out that the life that I had been living for days hadn’t been happening anywhere except in my own strange little mind! Now as I was reading my blog this morning I noted that my dad mentions my Aunt staying the night with me on April 8th so if my realization really did coincide with a visit from my Aunt Peggy then that’s what I thought was happening for the first five days.
After that I remember a lot of things that really did happen but were almost as hard to deal with as those hallucinations. Being intubated is just as bad as you imagine it to be and I’m grateful to everyone who pushed so hard to get it taken out (although THAT hurt too!). I’m grateful for all the prayers and healing thoughts on my behalf. It’s hard to explain how much I could tangibly feel their power helping me to hold on. I’m grateful for the hours and days that so many of my family and friends spent helping me start my life over. One tends to forget that a lot of things we do on a regular basis were once things that our parents did for us and when we began to do them on our own they were great accomplishments for us. So I guess my parting thought with all of you is to take a moment and look back at your life at all the amazing moments that have led you to where you are now. They could be stupid moments that weren’t your finest hour or things outside of your control. They could be the happiest moments or things you never thought you would survive. Each one woven together tells the story of your life and each one gives us the opportunity to make someone else laugh at the crazy things that morphine does to an already whacked-out brain like mine!