Bicycling in Kilkenny

Bicycling in Kilkenny

Flying for Free: Part VII

One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Surgery and Death

Until recently, I had never been faced with the thought of my own mortality. I had always thought that I was indestructible. I said so often, “All the women in my family live long lives, so I will, too.” I even joked that God would not do me the favor of calling me home early because I have so much work to do here first.

But then, I had my appendix out. The appendectomy was no big deal. I mean, I was in so much severe pain and I was ready to stay fully awake while anybody with a pocket knife yanked it out, but it wasn’t until a couple days after the appendectomy that I realized my time could be cut short at any moment. 

After two days of internal bleeding, the doctor decided he had no other choice but to open me back up. When he said he didn’t want to use anesthesia to put me out, I told him I was tough. I told him a local was just fine, and I was ready to watch the whole process. 

That was me normally. But within the seconds it took the orderly to wheel me and my bed out of that room towards surgery, I began to think. I thought about why the doctor didn’t want to put me out for such an invasive surgery. And then I thought about how he had kept saying he did not want to have to give me a transfusion. I knew that meant my blood loss was significant. I immediately realized that my case was no longer routine and that there was a real danger of something going wrong. I realized that I could actually die. 

I said a very quick goodbye to my tearful husband as the orderly whisked me down the hall. Just as we approached the surgeon jotting notes in my chart at the nurse’s desk, I felt a rush of intense fear overwhelm me. I was no longer the brave woman sitting in the hospital room telling my doctor to just cut me open and let me watch. I had become a crying little girl begging for her own life. 

I immediately decided I did not want to be awake to see the doctors and nurses yelling over me things like, “We’re losing her,” and “Stay with us, Teresa!”  So just before the orderly wheeled me completely past the doctor, I turned and begged, “I want to go to sleep!” The surgeon walked over and asked me what I had said. I told him I was scared and that I did not want to be aware of anything. He expressed his shock and confusion at what had changed my mind so quickly, but he agreed and said he would summon the anesthesiologist right away.  He couldn’t put me completely out, but he could give me some gas to make me not notice anything. I was grateful but still very scared. 

The orderly began singing a traditional Spanish love song as he wheeled me down the hall. I imagined he was doing that to calm me, and it did quite well. We boarded the elevator as my crying quieted to muffled sobs.

Down in the ‘observation ward,’ as it is called in that particular Spanish hospital, I began wishing I would have brought my cell phone with me or even Darren’s stuffed puppy he had given me to hold onto for the duration of my illness. Instead, I lay there with nothing but my thoughts to keep me company. 

Those thoughts were like none I had ever had before. I suddenly realized that none of my three siblings back home in the states even knew that I was in the hospital, much less that I was facing the possibility of death. And then there was my mom. I hadn’t spoken to her in nearly a year. I imagined time added on to my Purgatory sentence for that one but was more concerned that I might not have the chance to say goodbye and sorry for whatever petty crap had instigated our silence. 

But what really got my tears flowing was the thought of leaving my family and never seeing them again. I imagined my kids living day to day without me and my husband just trying to get by. He would make a good go of it, but their lives would never be the same. But even more so, I thought about how much I would miss them. I couldn’t stand the thought of never again seeing Mikey’s smile, hearing Sam’s guitar music, admiring one of Darren’s Lego creations, witnessing Maria’s silly giggle or taping one of her unique drawings to the wall, laughing at another of Tabitha’s Facebook shares, gabbing with Serena, or feeling the warmth of John’s embrace. As I lay there waiting for surgery, my heart began to ache as I begged God for more time with the things, the people that mean more to me than anything in this world: my children and my husband.

When the surgeon came to see me just before I was wheeled to the operating room, he bent down to hear me whisper. “My family needs me,” I said, trying to get across to him in those few words that he had to do everything he could to save me if anything went wrong in there. 

But what I really meant  was, “I need my family.” 

That ‘near death experience’ showed me how truly rich I am. God has given me so much more than I could have ever imagined, and I am grateful to still be here to enjoy each and every moment. My family is my treasure, and from now on, I plan to thank God for each and every day I am alive and with them.