Hey- thought you might find this "fun" to read. Would appreciate your feedback as I am taking this English Comp course at a higher level the next term.
Who knew that the Grim Reaper would be hiding in a lilac bush? Not me, on that beautiful first Friday of July, 2006. I was feeling rejuvenated by spring and enjoying the outdoor air and looking forward to tackling this yard chore.
I see the lilac bush, scraggly, overgrown, flower-challenged and needing pruning. So I set to work while the Reaper laid his plans. For on that day, I would have a brain hemorrhage. One that would offer another check on the Reaper’s list for that day. Yet, Fate stole that chance from Him while I had the chance to say, “Not yet”.
At that moment, His batting average was looking good. It started with a headache, deep in my head, spreading in intensity. Thinking I was dehydrated, I retreated from the bush and sat down with a cool glass of water. Still, the world became narrower, spinning like when you play Twister and stand up too fast. Realizing I was going to pass out, I stumbled to the stairway calling for help from my partner who lay asleep. I couldn’t walk. So I crawled stair to stair, calling in an increasingly weaker voice as the Reaper stole my consciousness. Confusion more than fear overpowered my senses and I struggled to comprehend what was happening. As I stumbled into the bedroom I pleaded for him to call for help while I collapsed and heard His scythe in its anticipatory arc.
Lying there, askew, I listened to Chris talk to the 911 operator. I knew what I wanted to say yet my mouth wouldn’t form the words. I couldn’t straiten myself as my right side didn’t exist. My heart and head were pounding and I felt like Death was near. And, I thought, “Who knew the Grim Reaper would be in the lilac bush?”
Moments passed that felt like lifetimes strung together. When would help arrive? Why was this happening? What was happening? It was as if my sense of self was locked in a box in my head, unable to reach out to the world. Frustration built while I waited for what? Help? Death?
Finally I heard the pounding at the door and the paramedics were at my side. An oxygen mask was placed on my face, radios squawked, blood pressure cuffs pressured my arm. I was asked questions that I could answer in my head, but couldn’t speak out loud.
I remember being lifted and carried down the stairs, placed on a stretcher. I remember the “thunk” as the stretcher was lifted and pushed into the ambulance. The doors slammed. The engine gunned. The siren built in volume. Then, darkness, and I lost two weeks of my life to a coma, as if a coma was needed as an intermission between part One and Part Two of my Life. And, oh yes, He was still there.
The recall of what followed is difficult now. I still ask for help filling in blanks, yet I do remember waking, slowly. I realized I was in a hospital bed, it was bright and blurry. I wasn’t scared, but felt a certain resignation to the event. Something had happened. What? I didn’t know. Strangely, it was curiosity that overrode other sensations. I say strangely because the other sensations were considerable: a tube going down my throat and the unmistakable sound of air being pushed into my lungs, the room wasn’t just blurry- there were two of everything. If I wasn’t mistaken, there were also tubes coming out of my head and my hands were secured (in hindsight to prevent me from pulling at something I shouldn’t have pulled at.)
Unable to talk I saw two of Chris walk over to hold my hand, and begin to explain what happened. Death had been beaten by technology and speed. The doctors had quickly realized that my paralysis was from bleeding induced pressure in my brain. Flown by helicopter to Dartmouth, life-saving surgeons relieved the pressure and were now focused on recovery and future treatment. I was a mess! My right side was partially paralyzed, I had double vision and the prognosis was uncertain although better now that I was awake.
Time has passed, my recovery will last the rest of my life. Brain injuries don’t heal like a paper cut or a sprained ankle. They linger like the smell of musty clothes. My doctors are familiar now. We see each other often, yet they are good visits, not scary ones. I’m back to work, treatments continue, and I will always have some permanent damage.
The best part is that I am still intrinsically me, yet changed in non-physical ways that affect me each day. Death doesn’t scare me, patience is a luxury I can’t afford, love as an experience is exquisite and experiencing the diversity of life is my greatest reward.
The lilac bush? I haven’t touched it in 3 years. Last year it bloomed in an awesome display of lavender and sweet scents that bathed our house. It too, apparently, was happy that its inhabitant had gone elsewhere and it could celebrate its existence in peace.