A Nightmare and a Dream

April 23, 2013

It was the summer of 2009. I had just graduated high school, much to the surprise of, well, everybody. I was on the verge of flunking out of school and life. Nonetheless, I graduated. But before I was to enjoy the harvest of my dismal efforts, I was to have a tumor removed from that special place where your spine kisses your brain. Apparently I still had a brain. This has been medically proven.

I was told the procedure would be fine. It’s an easy enough location to operate on. “Oh, sure. You’ll spend a couple days in the ICU (intermediate care unit) and be outta here,” the surgeon told me. What he didn’t tell me was that I might forever lose my ability to walk. What the surgeon failed to inform me was that I might not wake up after the anesthesia had worn off. No, that was just one of those lovely surprises life tends to throw your way.

I went under in the middle of July. I still remember counting backwards from one hundred as the surgeon put a large breathing tube through my nose and into my lungs. “See you soon,” the anesthesiologist whispered to me as she squeezed my hand for good luck. I closed my eye and wandered off into a faraway dreamland where life no longer hurt.

I woke up alright. A week after my surgery had ended, that is, but I woke up. I had lived trapped in a frightening nightmare for a week and no one of my family seemed to understand why I was acting so disturbed and dissociated from the real world. In my week-long nightmare, I had seen such horrors as a pitchfork being driven through my mother’s face. A trigger-happy drug dealer shoot my father down dead inches from me. An inferno engulf my best friend as I stood frozen and watched. No one understood why I couldn’t stop crying for weeks, months, years after the nightmare had ended.

I watched everyone I loved die horrible, gruesome deaths in a week-long nightmare while I lie comatose in a hospital bed, occasionally becoming alert enough to pull out my breathing tubes, intravenous lines and anything else my demonic possessed limbs could reach.

Only by the grace of God am I not in a wheelchair right now. I pushed myself and pushed myself until I could walk after that. Now I run and it’s a miracle.

All my life it has been just God and I. No one understands these nightmares I still have some nights. No one understands why I break down in tears in between violent sobs sometimes. Though, much more rarely than what used to be, never will I be completely healed.

I don’t mind being broken. I just wish others would stop trying to fix me and let me find my own way to God. Maybe put their arms around me, tell me, “God is just beyond the mountains,” and walk a bit of the beaten path beside me.


Lung Biopsy

September 9, 2012

Four days after my biopsy. My soreness is all gone, but I’m coughing up a little blood. My airway feels much more “open” and breathing is easier than I remember it being before. Earlier this week I was choking on the surplus of air I was able to get into my lungs. Yes, “lungs.” Two of them working together.

That’s a victory to me.

Life: Through One Eye

January 18, 2012

It never fails. I find something in each new day that carries my mind back to my childhood. I cry inside, sometimes even outside, longing for an old friend I’ll never see again. I had a pretty normal childhood despite it being the most abnormal childhood one can have.

I was only five years of age when I woke up on a cold steel table, my life forever changed. I knew I just had surgery of the eye, but understood little more than that. My surgeon handed me a mirror and I looked at my new face. This one only had one eye. I stared at myself, strangely unaffected by what I was seeing. I was only five. Five year-olds are not developed enough to understand any of this, yet there it was.

“What happened to your eye?” I’ve been asked that question more times than I’ve been asked my name. Somehow my eye became more important than who I was. As a child, I always tried to answer the question patiently, using words, symbolism and analogies my peers could understand. Sometimes, though, I just wanted to be left alone. I wanted my eye to not be the center of attention. When moments such as those arose, I’d lie, claiming a spider bit me, to explain the limpness of my face. I tried to hide it. Eye patches, surgical bandages, ophthalmic bandages, glasses with the right lens fogged and even a prosthetic eye. Nothing worked for me. One by one, they all failed. I was cursed, unable to mask that which hurt my self esteem the most.

I suppose it’s good that I wanted to be alone at times, because I was alone a lot. I was tolerated by most and shunned by only a few, but looking back, it seems I was alone most of the time by choice. I had few I could relate to. I searched for so long, but I always came up empty handed. There was no one out there for me. No one who had seen what I see everyday.

I became the lone wolf, but like the lone wolf, I became stronger.

Faith Like Pee

November 7, 2011

“If you don’t pee by this afternoon, we’ll have to send you home with a catheter,” the nurse stated with an apathetic expression on her face. It was a mix of her words, the expression on her face and the stress of being in a hospital that filled me with intense dread. That and the anxiety of watching your body slowly lose it’s ability to function autonomously. Urinating had been getting harder and harder for me after each surgery. I simply was unable to do it without a skinny, plastic tube inserted into my penis. The thought of taking this home with me destroyed my motivation to keep living. Inside those healing walls where patients are cured, I wanted to die.

The nurses told me drinking more fluids would help, so I drank until I was vomiting all over myself again. The nurses told me walking would help ease my bladder, so I walked. Despite the pain it caused me, I walked. I decided to take one last walk before going home, already accepting that this catheter was coming home with me. My father walked behind me, prepared to catch me if I fell. I made my way from the adult hospital to the children’s hospital and from there, I made my way to the children’s surgery waiting room. A place I had spent many moments of my life, but not enough moments to exorcise the demons that lived within me. There would not be enough moments in my life to berid myself of them. I had accepted that reality too. These demons would be with me all of my life and I slowly learned to live symbiotically with them.

I found a children’s activity magazine and sat down in the empty waiting room (surgeries were always in the morning) to read through it. As I flipped through the pages, reading the stories and admiring the artwork, memories of my childhood inside this very hospital flooded through my mind. Before I could acknowledge my emotional pain, tears began to fall, staining the pages of the magazine. Sobs soon accompanied my tears and my father, who had been sitting beside me quietly, looked at me and asked, “What’s wrong?” “Why does it have to be this way?” I sobbed. My father looked at me and I could see immense sadness in his eyes. He didn’t answer my question. How could he? He must have asked himself the same question thousands of times. Instead, he stood up from his chair, walked behind me and silently began rubbing my shoulders. I could tell he was silently praying because the rubbing stopped and he simply held my shoulders for a moment.

We made our way back to my hospital room. Still feeling emotional, I took the urinating jug into the bathroom in one last attempt to urinate before going home with a catheter. I held the container under me, feeling the urge to urinate, but unable to do so. It was all too much now. I began sobbing, “God, please don’t leave me. Don’t abandon me.” “Help me pee, God… Please, don’t leave me,” I pleaded with tears in my eye. Almost immediately and without any difficulty at all, urine began streaming from me. Filling almost a third of the container, I urinated.

The Lord of the Universe, Creator of Everything, in all of His glory, helped me pee. Any doubts I may have had about His love for me and His plans for me were gone in an instant. I knew at that moment that I was not alone, that I was loved and that my God would always be at my side. My pain and suffering would not be without a reason. A feeling of relief and understanding enveloped me. A sense of purpose overcame me. I knew then as I knew when I was a small child that I was where I needed to be. Faith poured from me again… Much like my pee.

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