I had the most interesting experience this week. I passed out in my house and had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance. I’d been to the zoo that day, with my daughter, my son and his wife, and my two grandchildren. All day I’d felt kind of weak in the knees and shaky, which I’d attributed to being out of shape. We came back to the house and I was trying to order pizza on my phone, and having trouble with it. Then the app wanted my credit card number and I went to the kitchen to get my purse. I started feeling really weak, with black spots gathering around the outside of my vision, so I sat down at the kitchen table. I didn’t feel as though I could manage entering the credit card number so I handed my phone to my daughter and asked her to do it, and started trying to get my card from my wallet. But it was all too much, so I just laid my head down on my purse. Next thing I knew, I came to with my son kneeling next to me holding my head, and I heard my daughter on the phone with 911.
Even after waking up, I was not immediately able to talk. It just required so much effort to get a word or two out. But I managed to tell my daughter not to call an ambulance. It was just so embarrassing to have an ambulance called to the house for me! But she persisted. The kids decided I must be dehydrated since it was our first really warm day (85 degrees) and I’d been walking around the zoo for four hours with not much to drink. So they were trying to get me to drink water. I’d become able to talk, slowly and briefly, but moving the rest of my body just required too much effort. Even when the paramedics showed up, one of them wanted me to turn my head the other way so he could hear me better, and I tried, but couldn’t. In addition to the huge expenditure of energy it took, lifting my head or opening my eyes sent the room spinning and made me nauseous.
The paramedics managed to get me in a chair contraption that they then carried down the two flights of stairs from the living room to the driveway. I meanwhile, was like a limp rag doll, my head giving in to whichever way gravity pulled it. I also had a plastic bowl over my face, which I’d asked for in case I had to vomit, but which just felt very reassuring over my face. They transferred me to a bed and got me into am ambulance. They gave me an IV, including some zofran, one of the best drugs ever invented in my post-chemo book (for nausea). At the hospital they transferred me to a hospital bed by lifting me on the sheet. All this while I am completely limp. Do to me what you will. The paramedic had put an IV in my left hand, which I know they are not supposed to do because of my mastectomy and lymph node removal. They corrected this at the hospital, but even though1 it had occurred to me when the paramedic was doing it, it had just seemed like to much effort to say so. couldn’t manage to tell him in the ambulance, and really just didn’t care.
The striking thing about all this was what it felt like to me. It was not at all the scary or unpleasant experience it might sound like. I felt completely safe at every moment. When I came to and felt my son, who is a big 6’3″ gentle bear of a man, holding me, it felt like the best place in the world to be. As much as I didn’t want paramedics coming for me, hearing my daughter on the phone getting help was reassuring and the paramedics themselves were awesome. My husband, who had been in the garage and hadn’t known what was happening until a fire engine pulled up out front, followed us to the ambulance and reassured me that he’d be right behind me. (He was, and stayed past the point of exhaustion, until late at night when they finally gave me a room.) I just gave in completely to the weakness and weariness, closed my eyes and didn’t even try to use my body for anything, and honestly it felt so good to just be able to do that, and to trust I was taken care of. It was, in essence, a feeling of complete surrender. I know, there is a spiritual lesson in that, isn’t there?
Of course, I was only able to surrender in that way because I knew I was cared for. There were people there I loved and trusted. I didn’t have to try to move when I didn’t have the strength, because they were there to move me.
After being examined every which way, having my heart examined, my chest ex-rayed, my brain scanned, echocardiogram, EKG, EEG, and seemingly every other exam known to man done, the diagnosis was that I’d had a seizure. When they told me that, I knew they were right. I have had a seizure disorder for 25 years. The diagnosis was partial complex seizure disorder, apparently located in the temporal lobe. I could have had one of these seizures while sitting in the room with you, and you never would have known it, unless you were trying to have a conversation with me, in which case I would have seemed to have become suddenly really stupid. I’ve taken medication for it for years, and it has controlled the seizures, so well that I haven’t even bothered to keep a neurologist on hand. But this year, I have had several “break through” seizures (the term used when you start having seizures when on medication to control them). The last one I’d had was pretty scary, because it was the first time I’d ever had a seizure that had made me feel as though I was losing consciousness. In fact, it was exactly the same as the one that had landed me in the hospital, with the black spots starting to fill my vision, except that with the first one I didn’t actually lose consciousness (perhaps because I’d been able to lie down and elevate my legs). This whole episode didn’t fit in with my predetermined definition of what a seizure looks like, but it apparently did for the medical professionals. The inability to move for an hour or more afterwards is, apparently, not uncommon in the “postictal state” following a seizure. And it did fit in with my recent experience.
Not only did I feel embraced by my family, I of course posted about this on facebook from the hospital, because my facebook community is like an extension of my family, and this community poured out their love and prayers. And you know, in spite of my most recent post, I could feel it when all those people were praying for me. Who could not believe in God? Who could not love God’s people? I wanted just to settle into their embrace.
But the thing is, all these good feelings? They were able to exist because I felt loved, and because there were people who were there to take care of me. Even knowing you are loved, however, does not help if nobody happens to be around when you need them, or if you are not able to communicate that need to anyone. That thought actually has me a little scared. I was lucky to have my family present when this happened, but they are not always there. They don’t even always carry their cell phones, or turn their ringers or, or bother to answer them just because they have a call! I’ve told them all now, hey, I might actually need you, so if I call you need to answer. I couldn’t even just call 911 because I wouldn’t be able to give an address, and I would not be able to get to the front door to unlock it. (This brings up the spiritual question, of course: this God I can’t help but believe in, does this God love me? Is he always there when I need him, even without a cell phone?)
Here’s another major life changer. I am not allowed to drive. Until I get established with a new neurologist and they give the okay, I am not allowed to drive, and that is not likely to be immediate. I might even have my license suspended, although I’m hoping to avoid that by promising to be obedient. But not being able to drive makes me uncomfortably dependent on others. Still trying to figure my way around that one. I could become extraordinarily fit by walking everywhere. I live on top of a steep hill, so that would really be an extraordinary level of fitness, by the way. And that’s not happening until this darn weak in the knees shakiness goes away (which could, at this point, be due to the new medication as well).
And here’s the other thing. Those of you who have followed my story know that I was not working at the time I was diagnosed with breast cancer. In fact, I had just started looking for a job. I wasn’t able to do that for awhile, because I had surgeries (three in just a few months), then chemotherapy, then daily radiation therapy. Then another surgery, which I’d thought would happen right after radiation, but it turned out had to wait four months for the tissue to heal from the radiation. That surgery had an eight-week recovery period, so I figured I’d get a job when that was over. I’d run through my state disability benefits, and had started getting social security retirement benefits, because I was lucky enough to be old enough to qualify for that, although at a reduced level, but it was not enough to live on. Then after that surgery I was surprised to learn I’d need another surgery in another three to four months! My first thought was, well, there is apparently something I was supposed to do during this time I have not been working that I have not yet done.
That second surgery would be coming up in the next month or so, but then this happened, and the whole job search is put on indefinite delay. So of course, I think, well I guess I still haven’t accomplished what I am supposed to accomplish.
Always my thought is this stupid book I am supposed to be writing but which I am not writing because I am always filled with this idea of who am I to be putting my thoughts down in a book? I’m no expert on anything. I know nothing. Of what value are all of what are essentially nothing more than my opinions? Having a missing child or having advanced breast cancer might give me certain life experiences, but they don’t make me an expert in anything. I have also grown accustomed to anticipating all the people who will disagree with anything I have to say. This has probably grown out of my experience with religion and politics, and the fact that if you say anything there will always be a crowd of people to tell you that you are wrong, and a whole throng of them who will outright dislike you for your thoughts, and for some reason, I actually care! But regardless of its origins, it is there, and it makes it really difficult for me to sit down and write. Even here, on my blog, I write a lot less than I might otherwise because I don’t want people to dislike me. Writing a book just takes it to another level. Social security doesn’t pay enough to live on, so whatever I do, I really need to make some money, and I am held up from working on the book because of this idea that it needs to achieve this end. Otherwise, I can just keep writing here, for free. But who am I that anybody would not only want to read my thoughts, but would actually want to pay for them?
I always think it’s the book, because since I was a very young child I always knew I was supposed to be a writer when I grew up. I want to bring something of value to the world. I feel a compulsion to heal people. I have taken a stab at selling essential oils, because I honestly believed that I could help heal people. I dabble in the medical marijuana field for the same reason. But I am apparently not a sales person, even when I believe in the product, even when I feel I am doing good for people by sharing it. Is the writing just more of the same?
I don’t know. And honestly, I don’t know that writing is what I am supposed to be doing. Perhaps it is something that is small and unknown in all the world except to a person or two. Perhaps my grand purpose in life is nothing more than taking care of the people I love, and perhaps rather than making more money I need to strip my lifestyle down to the bare minimum.
And that’s funny, of course, because while I am laying in the hospital bed I get almost as many visits from the business office as from the doctors. One woman comes in and says, “I am here to let you know what your share of cost is for this and to tell you that we collect for services at the time they are given. So what you owe today is $800. Can you pay that right now?” Well, no, actually. She gives me a stern warning to call immediately when I get the bill to make arrangements to pay and leaves. I guess it’s not like the veterinarian who refused to release a dying pet to its owner because she couldn’t pay the bill. We can be thankful for that anyway.
So this is where I am. A little scared, still confused. If I can figure out what I am supposed to be doing and do it, will all these other things be lifted from me? Perhaps I am just one of those people who has difficulty learning things. I can’t follow instructions, so I get pushed and pulled into compliance. Who knows? This God that I can’t help but believe in, this life I have been given which I am sure has some meaning for someone besides myself, and which has a better meaning even for myself than what I have given it, just show me the way. Shine a big bright light. I was listening to something the other day that asked the question, if I died today, would I have accomplished my purposes in this life? This was a teaching program that I will perhaps talk about one day because I find it endlessly valuable, but which I know many will question, so I’m just going to mention it in passing here. But that is a question that haunts me. And if I haven’t accomplished my life purpose, why not? Why can’t I whip myself in shape and Just Do It? I have to wonder also, this wet cement feeling that I get in my limbs that keeps me from doing things, is it perhaps not just emotional? Is it perhaps also from the electrical storms in my disobedient brain? It certainly has some resemblance to my experience this past week. Is it possible to defeat it?
And do I want to succeed? Or do I feel so undeserving that I am bent on undoing myself?
Such questions. I think perhaps they have answers. Perhaps I even have a clue as to where to begin. Stay tuned, because if I can solve this riddle, if I can find the strength and purpose to do that, I will share the solution. And if I can help anybody else, even one person, then perhaps I will have accomplished my life’s purpose, whether I know it or not.
Meanwhile, farewell for now from this crazy person. And remember, be wise, make good decisions, and remember that you are loved.