Anniversaries and All the Stuff That Happened
Editorial note: Trigger warning – This story discusses an emergency hospital visit and near-death experience.
Those that don’t have a chronic illness, especially an invisible illness, cannot possibly know what it feels like. Once you have a chronic illness like COPD, anniversaries become a very important part of your disease.
Every year as the date gets closer, the memories begin to creep into my sleep and haunt my dreams. Nothing is crueler than waking in the middle of the night, alone. Everything is still, it's cold and pitch black, and nothing is stirring. You are alone with your thoughts.
Replays become more frequent as the date draws near. The feeling is frightening. Returning to that day, that time, that night, that year. It started out as such a quiet night and ended with the Wee-O-O-Wee-O screech of my ambulance. So many lights and the boots of firemen, paramedics, and police on my kitchen floor.
Vital signs absent
My heart is pounding out of my chest and I am gasping for precious air. Please fill my lungs. Why won’t the air go in? I am trying so hard to draw air in. It feels like I have hit a brick wall and the air just won’t go in.
Hands touch me
Voices are telling me that I will be okay. “Trust me,” I can faintly hear someone talking. “You are not going to die on my watch!” Then among the beeps of machines and the lights that are flashing, what sounds like a command. “Intubate.”
Fading to white
Just then I feel strange like I'm fading to white. The next thing I hear is, “VSA.” I can feel the beginning of the incredible nausea that is to come. The bile is filling in my throat.
Someone is pounding on my chest. Someone else that I don’t know says, “Here we go Barbara, can you hear me? I am going to help you breathe now.” She tilts my head back and she invades my throat. I hear her say, “I’m in.” Then the gagging feeling of not accepting this foreign object. Just then my heart and lungs beginning to slow and relax. No more gasping, I can hear that up and down and the in and out of the machine that will be my life and breath for the next 5 days.
Thank you so much
Oh, I want to thank you so much. I think of how wonderful it feels. As the oxygen nourishes my lungs and fills my body my mind chants, thank you, thank you, thank you. Life is returning. My body is alive. I can feel the hands cutting away the restriction of my clothing. Then another strange voice, “Barbara, you are going to feel a pinch” with a needle going in my hand.
Who all is here?
There are lots of people that I don’t know in my room and they keep using my name. It draws me back to my body. In my mind, I am answering them but they don’t seem to hear me. I can’t hear me either. But I know what I want to say, I just can’t get them to hear me.
Finally, “Your family is here, Barbara. Do you want to talk to them?”
Do you live with any sleep disorders (eg. insomnia, RLS, sleep apnea) in addition to COPD?