She drives me to that building. We don’t have an appointment. I won’t get out in front. I insist that I will walk from the parking lot. I have a sense of dread looking at that building. My plan had been to ride out the pain and die, but I know now that that is over. As soon as I enter that building, a fight will begin. I will at least walk to the fight like everyone else.
It is a long and painful walk to the lobby — that was a bigger parking garage than it looked. Right away, they want me in the back, and they want me to take a wheelchair to the bed. “No, I’ll walk,” I tell them. I need to. Scared, is what I am. I know I am about to surrender myself, but not to my Maker as seems natural. I am going to surrender myself to my fellow man, place my fate in their hands, as they battle the natural order of life. Surrendering my fate to others goes against my nature, but after signing a few forms, that’s what I’ve done. It’s surreal. The stakes are so high, like a mountain in front of me.
Yes, I’m walking to the bed. They get a young orderly, a big kid — in some way he reminds me of my oldest boy. He hovers like a hawk as we go, my sister on one side, him on the other. Me swaggering in the middle. This is the hardest walk of my life. It hurts so bad. I hate where we are going, I hate why we are going there, I hate what I think they are going to do. I want to curl up and have it just go away.
When we make it to the bed, I begin to disassociate myself from the totality of my situation and lie there quietly. Soon, I’m in a gown under warm blankets, my ID now a bracelet on my wrist that’s constantly checked, an IV dripping in my arm, and everyone talking to me is wearing a uniform. They all look at me like they are sorry I’m lying there like I am, and I can tell I’m screwed. But it’s clear they are rallying around me, ready to do anything to keep me alive.
The tests indicate that my intestines have ruptured again. Now, they are planning the next course of action. This includes major surgery, or else I will die. Wow, all these decisions. The possibilities and uncertainty of it all spin as I lie here, thinking.
I’m spending the night, so my sister makes arrangements for my kids. She calls the rest of the family to tell them I’m at the emergency room, waiting to be admitted to the hospital. A nurse comes in and apologizes to me. A man in cardiac arrest is coming in to the next space, and she warns me that it might be loud. She is concerned I won’t rest with the commotion. WTF? Is this for real?
They wheel the guy in, and an army of people descend on him. An immensely organized effort is launched to save this man’s life. It is loud, so many people working in tandem, as if choreographed, as they try every method they can to revive him. After the defibrillator is used and all else seems to fail, they bring in that strapping kid who escorted me to my bed to do chest compressions. He works at it until the man’s heart starts again. Suddenly, there is hope in the air, as the monitor beeps the rhythm of his heart. The team congratulates the kid on his effort. And now begins the task of keeping the man’s heart beating.
My head is swimming…this is surreal. Suddenly, I don’t have a good feeling anymore. It all seems too serious, so for-keeps, while being forgiving in an unforgiving kind of way. When that machine stops beeping the sounds of the man’s heart, everyone again goes into overdrive. But he dies anyway.
I am stunned at this turn of events, at how quickly what happened, happened. Me and my sister look at each other; no words need to be said. As I wait my turn, I pray for the man’s soul. What went on in that 20 minutes has been eye-opening. What happened was that the man had collapsed at the gym. Now his daughter is on the way. She doesn’t know yet that he’s died. They begin cleaning up the area so she won’t see a mess. They clean him up, too, and then I can hear the daughter crying. OMG, how I want to cry, too, not from my eyes but from deep within. That man was here. They fought to save him. He died. And now they are already working on the next person. Never missing a beat, never showing indifference or weakness. They are continuing the urgent tasks at hand. I wonder if I am next. Will they clean my body and comfort my family before they move on? I promise myself that I will remember that man and what they did for him. And this is the first time I believe I will live, the first time I realize that I want to remember.
Soon, I enter a blur of medications, pain, and emotional funk. I understand that they are going to cut me open, with somewhere in the neighborhood of a 12-inch cut on my stomach, so they can see what’s doing in there. Not sure what they will do about it, but it’s serious and has to be dealt with immediately. I sign the papers and am carted down the long halls leading to the surgery area. It’s been a whirlwind…and I’m getting sicker and sicker. It’s harder and harder to care about what happens next. My instinct to cooperate is going away.
As I roll into the bright white of the operating room, a team of people snaps into action, a choreographed effort like what I saw them do with the man from the gym. I feel a surrendering come over me. Whatever will be is now in their hands, whoever they are, those people in hairnets and masks. They reassure me that all will be okay. I look around the room, thoughts about life swirling through my head, and I feel a bizarre indifference, a c’est la vie moment as I drift off, surrounded by the sounds of clamoring people busy at work, on me.