Day 2

“Anna we are going to …” His voice fades. Ripples surge on every side of my throat and I feel movement. Sliding, crunching, slipping, rippling, and rotating through every inch of my esophageal lining I gain awareness that my breathing tube is being removed. Uncomfortable hardly begins to explain the feeling, but before its fully out vomit lurks close behind. “Hold her down, get…hand …move…” I only gather parts of sentences. My parents later explained surgeons were concerned with my puking and dry heaving due to risks of spinal fluid leaking from the dura. Lights flicker in and out between a slight breeze of what I assume was the bed being wheeled to the Intensive Care Unit. An hour later I wake to 4 nurses working on getting me “all set” for ICU monitoring. It seemed as though there were cords coming out of every limb and from places/ directions to where I could not calculate their beginnings. My legs were wrapped with sleeves that pressed in and out of my calves rhythmically. Everything was unfamiliar and the limited view from the position of lying flat felt like a tease. After multiple requests my parents were allowed in. They looked much better, I’m sure, than I. Undoubtedly exhausted, yet at peace to see me awake and speaking. What words were exchanged are a bit blurry to me, but, I could see them and that was all that mattered. The doctor arrived shortly after. “Push against my hand, wiggle your toes, can you feel this? Is your toe being moved up or down?” I must have performed well as I watched my mother take a deep breath and tell me I had done well. It was almost 11 already so my parents were asked to come back in the morning. My gut dropped when they had to leave. They were the only familiar part of my present challenge. I told the nurse with urgency I was afraid. He assured me I was being monitored extremely closely. As he left and I lay alone unable to move I tried desperately to not dwell on the surgeons orders of a minimum 48 hours laying flat. Instead, I prayed. I thanked God for what had already been accomplished and for the small victories I would experience along the way in the next few days. I prayed for my parents, that they would rest and know I’m okay. I thanked God for the gifts of the surgeon who was purposed by Christ to do spinal surgeries. I thanked God that the surgeon himself was humble enough to admit he too, is amazed at what humans can accomplish against such delicate threats to life. I thanked God not because it was on a religious checklist barred by guilt and shame had I not; I prayed because in the cold, unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and lifeless walls of the ICU unit I had never felt so close to heaven. Sure, the trauma was present, but Christ was in control…and I being completely out of control came without pride, arrogance, and things of the flesh graciously. Never before had I been so aware how much our basic freedoms of flesh distinguish our ability to encounter the most basic freedoms of our soul and spirit. The night dragged on, slowly. I pushed my pain button and took prescribed medications every couple hours. Now on my side I stare at the wall, exhausted yet unable to rest. The ICU was so loud and hectic. I could hear that other patients were coding and/or experiencing emergencies. Whoever Mark is, I so hope he made it. The stress of being human and not wanting to hear others in pain yet in critical condition myself wore on my spirit. I knew my body was pumped full of everything from lexapro to morphine, but I could not find rest in the chaos. Whatever I was being given, sweat and nausea befriended each dose. Somewhere around dose 3 I dosed off for an hour where I awoke to the resident surgeon who helped with my operation and about 20 students. More of the same questions, more of the same tests; I answered honestly and tried to sound ….well….not how I felt. Shortly after, they continued rounds and my parents arrived. I was disappointed to see that they didn’t appear rested. I was on enough drugs to keep the pain in control, but too many to speak with my family. Everything felt unbelievably difficult. All I asked is that someone occasionally hold my hand, and of course, they were happy to do so. Something about human contact made everything feel a bit safer. I glanced at the clock. 8am. No. 48 hours…..God no. Panic struck and I begged to be let up. It was way too dangerous, and the answer would always be NO. Distant hums of politicians on TV create a small distraction. Every bone in my body hurts and I quickly become mad at how much so. Those hums in the background are such idiots I think to myself. While most of the world is on social media right now bitching about which one is dumber than the other there are thousands of people in this hospital alone clinging on small strings of hope. Instead of being on their phones or in front of their TVs, they could be volunteering in the community, visiting people without families in hospitals and nursing homes. They could do anything, but instead, they’re bugs to the light of argumentative spirits, self righteousness, and hatred. I’m not saying I haven’t been their or have lived without being guilty of just that; what I am saying is that once I can walk freely my time will be spent differently. I will go to the hurting and the lonely and the ones with only the mere hum of talking heads on tv who know nothing about true compassion. 11….nothing has changed. What choice to I have but to “just be”. I won’t eat. I won’t drink. It’s too hard. I will just think. I’ll think and I’ll be grateful for the presence of my mother coloring in the corner. I will be afraid but I will not be forgotten. I will make it to tomorrow. I will. God will. We will.

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