Friday, March 9, 2007

Do You Want Help Breathing?

They say if you have a healthy sleep pattern, it should take about twenty minutes for you to fall asleep. Since coming to Mars Hill, those twenty minutes have become really difficult. My mind uses that “on the way to sleep” time to traverse the things I have pushed out of my memory: old ghosts of my past that I’ve wanted to forget. But along with those old phantoms of chagrin and sin, the place my mind most often takes me back is to that hospital room I was alone in for ten days last June. After my hospitalization, I was so happy to have two months of rest and being taken care of, that I really spent no time looking back at what I had gone through. (RE: Photo: Woodhull Hospital was originally built to be a prison-more on that another time...)

When I first got to Seattle, the pneumonia came up a bit more often because I was still dealing with my health- not being able to walk quickly up hills or carry heavy stuff, or whatever, but even then, I still felt sort of ashamed to bring it up, like I was bragging or something, rather than actually needing to give some context for how radically my life had changed over the past few months. It’s still hard for me to talk about.

Well last night, a new memory flashed before me as I was starting to doze off, and it sort of terrified me in the remembering. That first night that Kim took me the hospital, and they finally rushed me upstairs when they suspected I had tuberculosis and they had to get me away from people in case I was contagious, they put me in a private room while they ran tests. They had to stick a tube down my throat to check if I was bleeding from my lungs (I don’t know what the actual procedure was) and that was one of the most horrible experiences ever. But that wasn’t the scary memory. It’s what they asked me when they were through:

“Do you want to be intubated?”

My lungs were so overwhelmed from the pneumonia, that they gave me the option to have a machine help me breath. “Do you want help breathing?”

I said no, not wanting anything else stuck down my windpipe. But the return of this memory was just so jarring last night. I can’t believe I was once at a point of practically not being able to breathe on my own.


I’ve also been remembering that those first few days, anyone who came to visit had to wear masks because I was quarantined. That is crazy! Not only was I totally out of it from getting no sleep for 36 hours, and having a week-long fever, and barely being able to speak, but everyone I looked at was wearing a mask. No wonder I have pushed this stuff so far back in my mind. Disturbing…


(Kim took these pictures for me of my hospital-needle-induced bruises - for the historian in me, despite my pushing it out of memory)

A lot of the deconstruction and reconstruction I’m experiencing at Mars Hill, feels like someone suggesting intubation again: “Would you like some help breathing?” but here, my answer is always “Yes, please, oh God bless you for asking.” I need it now more than ever - breath.


Ruach (Ruah): Hebrew for 'breath,' and represents spirit- literally, the breath of God, synonymous with life.

3 comments:

Keepitmoving said...

I'm sorry for leaving you in the emergency room alone. I'm even more sorry for not being there first thing in the morning. I'm sorry for all of that time... I should have been a better wife....

Kj said...

Baby, you saved my life. You stayed as long as you were allowed to and came back as soon as you could and stayed longer than anyone should ever have to stay in the halls of Woodhull.

As Juliette Lewis would say "Don't be sorry, I'm not sorry, are you sorry?" You were the best wife a heterosexual girl with pneumonia could ever ask for.

Niegel said...

I'm at work, and in tears. How beautiful your friendship. How lucky I am to know, to love you both.