Because I came within minutes of dying one year ago in April, I've changed my thinking about many, many things. Up until that moment, I'd visualized the typical movie bedside death scene...you know, the one where the matriarch lies in a huge, comfortable bed (often with a canopy & white curtains) & over the course of several days or weeks, makes her peace with her progeny one by one. Her lipstick is very pale or nonexistent, and of course she is, oh, 80 or 90 years old.
My Mother's side of the family (except for my Mom, at 64 cut down by her lifelong smoking habit) all lived into their 90's. Her mother lived to 90, and HER mother was 93. Her brother is in his 80's now, still working in real estate in Reston and asking me how to start a blog for his poetry.
What happened in April? Reality. Either e-coli or a UTI caused severe sepsis...extreme vomiting, loss of consciousness, rapid trip to Rocky Mount ER where the attending physician shockingly told my husband: Your wife is dying! My BP was 40/30, heart beat was 141, all organs, including my heart, were shutting down. I didn't hear the doctor say that, but knew they were packing me onto the helicopter to Roanoke, where six specialists on a sepsis team were waiting for me to arrive.
When I heard the chopper blades going, I woke enough to say to myself: "I'm going to make it"...then..."What is this, MASH?" It was a breezy ride over and I was rapidly attended to. Later (after 15 days in ICU, hallucinations, tests, more tests, many tubes, etc.) the doctors were very reluctant to release me, wanting to put me into a nursing home (a nursing home? no way!) instead of letting me return to my very own home, bedroom, and bathroom. We had to assure them that Dick was retired and would stay with me 24/7 until I could at least walk without a walker. At that time, the head of the team told me I'd had a 30% chance of surviving, if that, and would NOT survive another such attack.
That I needed to cancel any plans to drive anywhere (or ride as a passenger) or to do any church committee work, even by phone. Everything came to an abrupt halt as I struggled to walk a few feet, took nap after nap, watched more TV than at any other time in my life, and tried to make my brain work normally. (I think I was successful!).
Now, even after all these months... (and I cannot tell you how many dear friends from my church, from the Y, from Lake Writers...responded with cards, calls, homebaked pies, entire meals.) When we lived up in Maine, with Dick's family members all around, and he had frequent and lengthy hospitalizations, only 3 or 4 of his family members responded. Most of them went into their New England hidey-holes, pretending they didn't know how ill he was, as I drove hours and hours in blizzards and ice storms to get him the care he needed.
OK, as I was saying...after all these months, my outlook has entirely changed. I live for today, because I know that I do have this day. I glory in the sunrise every morning...hey, look, I'm alive and well! Laughing heartily at little Sadie Mae as she leaps and bounds around the house (she sometimes jumps back & forth over Winchester, our 11-year old chocolate Lab...he's a good old guy.) Life is good. Sure, I plan to live into my 90's; don't we all? But I'm pretty sure the glamorous death scene ain't gonna happen.
Our home, which we had constructed with handicap accessibility in the master bedroom wing, as well as the front and back doors, has proven a God-send, and was one of the reasons they let me go home from the hospital rather than to some interim facility. And yes, they did say nursing home. GAHHH!
Well, I'm comfortable now with my mortality. Every day is a blessing. I figure the Lord spared me for SOME reason...I just have to figure out what that reason can be. And when I do go, I know my Mom and Dad, my dear maternal grandparents, and my son Andy are sitting around an oilcloth-covered round kitchen table, eating steamed crabs and shrimp, washing them down with cold beer, and waiting for me. Since my Dad was adopted, I only knew his Mom, who died at 69. She's there, too; we all loved our seafood!
Did I have any 'floating above the table' or 'light at the end of a tunnel' or 'family grouped to greet me' visualizations. Nope. Sorry to disappoint , but my visual re family is just my own sweet expectation.
Labels: near-death, severe sepsis