“Anna…I’m Thomas. I’ll be taking care of you today. You look beautiful this morning. Thomas was everything I would sum up on the street as what would appear to be a typical “bro”. He stood tall and broad with a bit of spike to his hair and a cheesy glim in his eyes followed by a grin bigger than any smile I’ve ever seen. Maybe it was the drugs, or maybe I was caught in my own moment of judgment. It may also be import to mention that what would end up being the only rough nurse I had, I had on Day 2. I was hesitant to get my hopes with this guy, but something about him struck me as so genuine. “Anna can I get you anything, would you like to try eating something yet?” My response a weak “No, I- I can’t.” He chuckles softly and says “Hey I get it, they cut you through 4 layers of muscle, took out some bones on your spine and removed what I heard was a feisty tumor. I wouldn’t want to eat shit either.” I smile slightly and he seems pleased. “Thomas, maybe I could try a saltine.” He jumps with joy and asks if I want the whole box in back or just one. I suppose my silence was my answer. He comes back and opens the daunting little cracker for me. “Hey check this out I’ll even feed you, like a queen or whatever.” I open my mouth, chew, and think to myself ….how the hell can chewing hurt? I get it down with a big gulp of water, but not for long. My knight and shining armor grabs the puke bag faster than Mr. Magi from The Karate Kid and sighs. “Maybe we should do Valium instead of saltines.” What a way to meet an unexpectedly great male nurse who I had assumed would be lame. Needless to say Thomas was a huge help Day 3. Naturally, he couldn’t just hang with me as the ICU is a busy place. It was about 9am…I had finally caught a couple hours of sleep during the night. Yet, I was only about halfway through my “lay flat and don’t move” stage. The day ahead felt more than just discouraging, it felt impossible. I was sweating buckets, my throat felt like I had swallowed sandpaper, my stomach turned with nausea, and my neck begged for a break from the mere two positions it could manage. Everyone told me – “Just watch a bunch of Netflix, play on your phone, or read.” No one told me I would be too miserable to do any of those things. And not being able to do those things, that wasn’t really the mountain. Sure, I was bored…but…being bored never killed anyone. The problem was and often is this; I have one of the most active minds of anyone you will ever meet. It doesn’t matter if I’m in a room full of people, all alone, busy, bored, or working. I will think, and think, and think, and think. My mind is constantly in a state that varies from the 14,000 dinner combinations I could cook to various but thorough visions for the next 25 years of my life. Furthermore, I’m not planning, I’m creating. Creativity is an area that has long since my childhood provided a balance in the relentless corridors of my mind.” I love to channel writing, photography, and musicianship as well and as often as life allows. Here there are no guitars or pianos. There is no scenery and the people move to quickly to capture. The words I would write are running together and my body begs for rest. I’m tired. So, so, so…tired. Yet somehow I still crave stimulation. Even if it just means sitting up. These wires feel like prison and the walls look like depression. When will Thomas come back? If I push my button too much will I annoy him? I should be stronger than this? Where’s my mother? Oh god, my poor mother. I miss my brothers, they always help me feel safe. I want to call someone, where’s my phone? No I don’t want my phone. I don’t want to talk to anyone. What’s on TV? I can’t see the TV. My thoughts are interrupted by the wheels of another bed. I was getting a roommate. Every selfish bone in my body resented this stranger. Not because I didn’t want to share my room. Hell, i only needed about 10 feet. The truth is I was just scared. Would he be a screamer? Would he code? Would he want to talk to me? His family followed close behind and I heard his wife crying, holding him. I quickly gathered they were both in their mid 60s and he had just finished a cyst removal. Unfortunately, this wasn’t his first back surgery. It would turn out that later that day I would be the screamer and he would be the poor fellow listening in on it all. I’ll skip through every detail and jump to about 2 in the afternoon. Even after its all said and done I can’t identify exactly what triggered it, but I know I will never forget it. Instead of tapping into Christ I let my head run for hours on end with no break. I called for my mother, and told her I felt like I was dying. For the record, just, don’t say that to your mother. She called for the nurse as my heart rate sped up. I could see her glancing at my 5 machines. “Anna breathe, breathe in. You’re okay, I’m here. Anna please you have to calm down.” My heart surged from my chest. I felt every beat like I was holding my heart in my hands. Then I started skipping beats. My machine rang with fury and a Doctor rushed in. Where was Thomas? Maybe he could calm me down. “Okay she’s at 190, we have to get something in her now.” Not even seconds later I was injected with a cocktail of drugs, surrounded by nurses, and staring down an exasperated mom. “Mom I don’t want to die here!” I wish I hadn’t gone there, but I did. I knew I wasn’t being myself and that the heavy meds were part of it…but fear overtook me. I had apparently landed somewhere between shock and grueling panic. My mind still ran but the numbers on the screens lowered. I saw my mother leave the room for a bit. I didn’t blame her. Hours passed and I essentially laid there in a zombie like state. My father was on his way back up with my grandmother. The very idea of my grandma seeing me this way made my heart turn. After my later afternoon spell, my body could not take anymore. I would instead end up primarily unresponsive the duration of Day 3. I remember my father holding my hand and my grandmother saying in disbelief “That’s not my Anna.” She was right, Anna was gone on Day 3. My hero of a dad nicely asked to stay after hours until midnight to help me relax, and they allowed it. I stirred at 2am moaning in pain. It was then that I heard a voice from across the room. “Anna–Anna is that your name.” It was my roommate. “Yes, I am Anna….” I had no idea what he would want to talk about at 2am but I was thankful he sounded like a very sweet man. “Anna please don’t give up. You just have to take this one day at a time Hun. You will get better Hun. I just prayed for you and I want you to know that God loves you in a very special way. He has given you extremely important gifts that are going to bless so many people. I don’t have to ask if you’re a believer because I hear God in you even at your worst. Just hold tight okay? You can do this and I promise you, God is here with us both. Okay Anna?” I respond through tears…”Thank you so much, I know you’re right and I know I will make it. Your words mean more than you know. It takes courage to tell a stranger those things.” He laughs softly…”Anna there are no strangers in the spirit. You young lady have the holly spirit all over you. And me, well, gods been working on my 3 times as long as you so I know we are sharing his spirit even if you don’t.” My heart leaps, this time in a good way. Once again, the Grace of God showers me with divine compassion from a stranger. My body relaxes and my mind turns off. I let my eyes grow heavy and my heart beat slow. I started Day 3 alone, but I ended Day 3 feeling as though I had gained a chest of treasures no one in the world has ever encountered before. None of it made much sense at the time, but in my last big breath before a rhythm of sleep it was one of the spirit. My heart was stolen; not by Thomas, not by my precious neighbor, but by Jesus all over again. It’s 3am and heaven has never felt so close.