Nov 14, 2012

Thank goodness she's here.

The room was spinning.  Spinning.

Where are my legs?

Let's backtrack.  At maybe 9 pm this past Saturday, I was knee-deep in a mental checklist for the next morning.  It probably wouldn't be responsible of me to bike all the way to Salthill.  My body's a little too beaten up to tackle those hills.  Surely someone could give me a lift to church.  After posting a Facebook message on the church page to see if anyone might be available, I left the laptop open on my bed.

The Sunday before this past weekend, I’d been in Derry, and the Sunday before that was the one I wish I could forget.  This was the first time in those two weeks that I was planning how to get to church the next morning.

I padded over to the dresser to plan an outfit – oh, it would be cute if I wore my new leg warmers with those jeans – and draped my choice over the back of my desk chair.  This chair is borrowed from the living room table, because my real desk chair has a loose bit of plastic that snags my clothes.

This chair...I sat in this chair two weeks ago, when I was about to leave for church and thought, maybe I’ll just check my mail real quick before I go.  I sat in this chair as I opened a middle-of-the-night message from my sister (who’s never awake that late, much less on her e-mail).  Its subject line, short and in caps, bore no explanation...but then I read the Skype message from my mother that popped up a moment later.  I sat in this chair, reading, rereading, not breathing, staring...and then, shaking, yelp-crying, crumbling...

Back to Saturday.  Mired in memory, I stood with my right hand on the back of the borrowed chair…and the room began to spin.  What – what’s happening?  Why can’t I breathe?  This is wrong – something's wrong.  I can’t breathe.  No.  Sit – sit down.  I crawled into bed, beside the open laptop I'd set aside minutes before.  Grabbing my favorite pillow to set it in my lap, I clutched at my sheets, my hands raging with pins and needles.  Am I having a heart attack?  Why does my chest hurt like this?  Why can’t I breathe?  I can’t feel my legs.  Dear God, I can’t move my legs.  Am I dying now?  What’s going on?  What's happening to me?

My head throbbed, suddenly...and the wave of nausea that followed knocked me back into the wall.  My breath quickening with each moment, I glanced around frantically, frozen and whimpering.  What is this?  The computer.  Get the computer.  I tried to call my mother, but she wasn't online.  What next?  Write to A; she'll know what to do.  So I tapped out a short message to this friend, and a few minutes later, my phone rang.  She spent maybe fifteen minutes trying to get a thoroughly terrified girl to breathe, but to no avail.  In the end, she called another friend (B), who lives closer to me than she does.  He arrived in minutes, took one look at me, and explained (in the midst of my protests) that he was going to call an ambulance.  Now, I hate, hate, hate ambulances.  They scare the pants off me.

Naturally, I ended up in an ambulance.

The medics poked and prodded and asked silly questions that were probably meant to distract me – in other words, they did their jobs.  Minutes later, I was in an ER, torn between wanting to sit down (for the dizziness) and wanting to run far, far away.  Someone led me to a chair, where I sat until my breathing slowed.  The same woman then moved me to a hallway, where I was told, "A doctor will be with you shortly."

Naturally, I spent most of the night in that hallway.

Only one person at a time was allowed to stay in that hallway with me.  I began with Teresa, who had ridden in the ambulance with B following us in his car.  After some time, I asked if she would switch with him.  I needed an adult.  B stayed awhile until he got a text and smiled, “Hey – A’s here.”  Seriously?  But she lives a half-hour away.  It's the middle of the night.  I didn’t know she was coming. 

But thank goodness she's here.

I was half-asleep by this point, curled up in my chair with my head in the crook of one arm.  Through the fog, I heard A's boots clicking against the hospital floor long before she rounded the corner.  When she did, though, she laid a hand on my shoulder and with that soft, "Honey?", well...the floodgates opened.  Exhausted, I gratefully leaned into her genuine, let-me-take-care-of-you hug and accepted her jacket when she suggested that it might be a better pillow than my arms.  Together, we camped out in that hallway into the wee hours of the morning, when a bed opened up.  A doctor with a kind face asked his questions, took blood, and ordered an EKG when I told him about how it felt like someone was standing on top of my chest.  When everything came back normal, he asked a few more clarifying questions before delivering a verdict: panic attack.  "It's completely normal, considering the kind of stress you're under," he sighed.

Oh.  Pardon me – I thought I was dying, actually.  Thanks for clearing that up.

Needless to say, I was relieved when A and I were allowed to leave that scary, scary place.  In the mostly-empty waiting room next door, a clock on the wall read 2:30 am.  Teresa, B, and A’s husband stood when they saw us.  Too many people.  Too much.  There is too much going on right now.  Overwhelmed, I buried my face in A’s shoulder while conversation flurried around me.  I don’t remember much except for when A’s husband asked if I wanted to spend the night with them.

And I must have said yes, because I woke the next morning in a bed that certainly wasn’t mine…but boy, was it cozy.  I spent my entire Sunday in A's home, where she and her husband treated me like one of their own.  In a wonderfully gentle way, they took care of me...and actually coaxed me into rest.  I remember napping in front of a turf fire, curled inside a blanket with their shaggy sheepdog's head resting in my lap.  They're just beautiful people.  Beautiful.

All of this, friends, is to explain my silence since Saturday.  I've been using the past few days to recover and process.  Grief is a strange, strange creature.

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