Anyone who knows me understands our family is wide-open. As long as it’s not personal, better left alone, outsiders hurting our family members, etc., we’re a wide open group of strange and loyal and loving people. Catch me tripping over the air? Knock yourselves out –laugh it up – in my face, even. It comes natural and odds are, you’ve witnessed it firsthand dozens of times if you know me. My sister burns the corn dogs? Yep, I’m landing it on Facebook. Daddy makes a VERY loud joke in Wal Mart because he didn’t think Mom could hear him otherwise? If I get a phone call from Daddy, complete with snickerin’ and “Lemme tell you what I did to your Momma” comments, it’s going to be tweeted or, God love him, if he sends me a picture of my mother’s horrified look after the joke only he and I find humor in, look for it on Instagram.
And then there are things that we don’t do or talk about or reveal. Sometimes ever. Other times, only when one of us is ready. This was a “never will this be told” story. Honestly, I don’t want to. I may not, but I’m a writer so it’s silly to think I’ve not written and rewritten this a dozen times (thank you, Dragon). It’s the publishing part of it I struggle with. I reckon we’ll all find out together.
A lot of readers and all my friends know that I’ve been chomping at the bit with the fast-approaching arrival of a grandson. Y’all, this little fella is due at the end of February and my baby and his wife are getting ready for huge changes along with John Thomas’ arrival. I was very tunnel visioned the last half of 2015.
Like every year, I was getting into the holidays…albeit much slower and with what felt like an absence of energy. I published no digital magazine of the house décor, I didn’t even publish a photo blog. My tree went up early, as always, but I never could get it fully decorated somehow. Something was just missing.
I figured at first I had bronchitis. Then I figured I had pneumonia. Either way, me being who I am, I was not worried about it anymore than it being a pain in the ass at a bad time. People healed from pneumonia on their own all the time – myself included – and for hundreds of years before.
Things got really bad around Christmas Eve. In all honesty, I remember very, very little. We had very loved family friends coming to Mom’s and the rest of our small but deeply connected family had decided the date and time that worked and didn’t interfere with extended family plans. The only thing I remember is making the philly cheese steak dip for my Jacob. I remember tasting it that afternoon to be sure it was up to par. I truly believe that’s all I ate, though. I don’t remember if Mom made chili or shrimp gumbo. I hate that because I was looking forward to it.
I remember my Mom and Dad coming to my house in the days after Christmas. They’d long decided something other than bronchitis or pneumonia was wrong because I hadn’t fed the dogs from the night before and I hadn’t fed myself. Mom came in with food, which I wasn’t eating. I honestly don’t think I’d eaten for days before Christmas Eve, with the exception of tasting that dip for Jake. I noticed she brought two big chocolate doughnuts in and I thought to myself, “That is going to be so amazing after I get a nap and a cup of coffee later.”
At any rate, I’d called my Mom to my bedroom and I remember sitting on the edge of my bed and feeling so exhausted. I said, “Mom, look at this burn on my leg. Can you believe how klutzy that was?” She didn’t seem too concerned about what I knew was a bad burn. Then again, I am klutzy. I think the disconnect was where the maternal “Oh, Momma sees and I’ll bandage it” was lacking. Neither one of us knew the depth of that burn. It’s significant later, though.
I was sitting on the edge of the bed that last day, sometime after Christmas and before New Year’s. I wasn’t listening to a word Mom was saying. The room was filled with women who’d been aggravating the hell out of me. I remember thinking I needed my mother to leave. And this is where the story gets really difficult to tell and that will most likely, for the vast part, never be told in its entirety. But I remembered asking these women to get my mom out of there. It was late into the evening and I just needed to be alone so I could do what I figured I needed to do. Not sure how it all played out and yes, I’m quite sure I was delusional by then. But these ladies in white who I knew but couldn’t identify did what they needed to do.
Around 3 a.m., after talking non-stop again and refusing to allow me to sleep, the ladies helped me make it – somehow – to the emergency room. I’d stayed on the side of my bed that entire night, unable to sleep because of the conversations going on. I realize how crazy that sounds in the context of this story. I was also convinced it was pneumonia again, so there was no hurry. Middle of the night ER trip made total sense to me. Finally, I wasn’t scared. I did not want Mom and Dad out in the weather, but that was for a practical reason. I could get into the ER, get the chest x-ray, the diagnosis, the steroids shot, the antibiotic, cough syrup and be back at home, in bed and recouping before Mom ever even called me the next morning. AND after Jake and Holly had already begun their trek to Houston. Didn’t want them worrying either. Problem solved.
The doctor at George County moved fast, actually. She walked in and it was as though my sister stood before me. She smiled and very matter of factly said, “I’m going to go ahead and send you to Mobile, OK? I think we may have what you think we have but, yeah, we’re going to load you up for an ambulance ride. Can I we call someone for you?” I remember looking at this doctor and thinking, “Lady, you’re fixing to force me to make a call to my mother that is not going to be pleasant. She worries. She overanalyzes. She drives too fast when she’s scared and I’m going to have to explain to her why I’m at the ER overnight when I refused a few hours earlier to make a doctor’s appointment”. Of course, I’m just thinking this and not saying it (thank God). She knew exactly what to say to me and in the exact tone in which to say it.
My ladies in white were still talking non-stop. They were still there. I’m also thinking, “OK, ladies that’s enough. I’m ready for a nap.” They kept on chatting. I heard them, but I can’t repeat back a single word they said.
I called my mother.
I remembered the ambulance ride and nothing more.
I got to Mobile and was met by another doctor, who I’ve since learned is God’s perfect protector here on earth. He took the same attitude with me, “You know what, pretty sure this is what you think it is, but we’re going to do a quick catheter and (some other testing I can’t properly explain here). Won’t take us but a second.”
My ladies were chatting, but seems as though only I could hear them.
Writing’s on the wall, or at least, reality’s set in. This ain’t bronchitis. It ain’t pneumonia.
I think my family was told I was headed into a triple bypass surgery when they got to Mobile. It ended up being quadruple surgery with some other feature. They rebuilt me! Can you believe it? Me! Turns out my plans for my future were A-OK with these saints in scrubs.
The last doctor who said something matter of factly to me after the heart catheter announcement said, “Young lady, you’ve been walking around for days with a massive heart attack. But we’re going to do a quick fix for ya, and get you on your way. Take ya a quick nap and don’t you worry one little bit.” He too knew the tone to take. Maybe he saw how afraid I was.
My white ladies were chatting. At that point, Maw Maw Nellie – now in full focus – looked at me and said, “We’re not going to keep you awake, baby. I know you’re tired. Go ahead and get ya a nap and we’ll see you later. You have a busy day ahead of you!”
That was the last thing I remember after asking myself, “Are these ladies going to stick around to get me through the other side?”
Now I know. They were there to prevent me from getting to the other side.
This is a very, very abbreviated version of everything I want to say to my clients, my readers and my friends who’ve bitten their tongue and refused to answer any questions about where I’ve been. Aside from my family, there are just one or two who know what’s been going down. The reality, though, is I was temporarily sidetracked. I’m again focused on staying healthy and right back glued to the end of February for John Thomas’ arrival…just as I’ve been for months.
For those who’ve asked what I need, I simply say to you the same thing every other person of faith would say: your prayers are what I need. They are all that I need. I am at home for now. By “at home”, I mean my parents’ home. I’m being spoiled like I were an only child. Daddy and I are upping our prank factor on Mom, including trying to “convince” her to go for matching tattoos. We’re doing a lot of people watching and making their lives unrecognizable games (eh….it passes the time while Mom’s in the grocery store. It’s a win-win – no worries about Daddy’s loud joke telling that the whole store can hear and Dad and I get to think up new jokes that will inevitably be told around the supper table).
I’ve learned that the real problem in this world is that my sister is not ruling the hallways of NIH. My God, that woman is a brilliant nurse. I’ve always known she’s a beautiful soul, but I’ve got to be her “patient” this past week. I envy those who she calls “patients”.
I’ve learned that the ladies in white had a lot to say to me in these recent days. They’re still here. I recognize many more of them. I’m hearing what they’re saying. I’m listening to their messages – trust me! They’ll move forward with their work, but I’m so happy every time I look up and see a white fabric or silk vaguely pass just out of my vision even though I know it’s possibly the last reminder that they were here in this way. I’ve learned that I’m growing more excited for this grandbaby with each passing day to the point that I’m beginning to feel like a kid with no patience!
I’m learning that I’d put way too much emphasis on “I don’t fit the ‘risk’”. There is no checklist that’s a sure thing. Up until I was being wheeled back at Providence, I was convinced still that this was nothing more than pneumonia and a group of doctors wanting to be cautious. Their caution was well placed from the first doctor, who, God love her, must have known exactly how to approach my stubborn mindset that morning in the George County ER.
I’m learning that there are people in my life who’ve been there all along. I’m learning there are people in my life I’d
underestimated. I’m learning that this was not a curse. As Dr. Johnson told me, “You know, it could have happened in your 50s, 60s or 70s. But you’re healthy now to the point that we can fix this, bad as it is, and you can get right back to the business of living your life.”
I’m learning that I have a lot of work ahead of me, a surprising few number of prescriptions I have to take and that this region of the country needs to be known for its specialists. And my sister.
I’m not sure what else I’ll say about this. I’m home and I’m on my way. That’s such a blessing for me. Believe me. For now, I’m leaving it as it is, along with a few pics, especially of how life is right this minute for this very blessed and spoiled (thanks Mom and Dad) soul who’s finding my way back.