I don’t like being helped. I pride myself on being self-sufficient, a one stop shop for all material and emotional needs. I want to be so good at this that I don’t need you for anything. You are the cherry on top of my life cake. But if you dropped out of my life, I’d survive. I’ve always felt the only person you can rely on is yourself. People, at any given moment, are liable to let you down. I, however, am a guarantee.
This philosophy is annoying to anyone who has been in my life when I’ve been sick. Weakened, with immune systems on strike, I become even more convicted to do everything alone. A few years ago, I was awoken with a sudden feeling that I was going to die. I walked a mile (not in the snow but it was damn cold) to the emergency room at 4am. Everyone who loves me cringed when I told them this. Why didn’t you call me? They asked. I could have come to pick you up. What if something serious happened to you? The answer, of course, is that I would have figured it out myself.
That fateful ER trip led to the diagnosis that an organ needed to be removed. I argued with the surgeon, asking if there was anything I could do without his help. He offered that changing my diet could produce nominal results. I set off on changing everything I ate for two years, trying to ward off the inevitable. I’d have painful, debilitating attacks every now and again. People at work would inquire. Concerned for the situation, seeing that it was getting worse. Wondering if I would ever bite the bullet and get help. I don’t remember the final attack in great detail, other than at some time in the witching hour I finally concluded that this was insane. We shouldn’t go through life fearing everything you eat, stubbornly refusing medical advice. I scheduled the surgery.
My parents wondered about the surgery – how long I’d be out, how long the procedure took, who was my doctor. I answered all of their questions except for their last one – who will take care of you. In my mind, I had already solved the problem. I’d take a cab back and forth from my apartment to the hospital. I’d take a week off work and rest. To parents, half way across the country, this was a suggestion that did not sit well. What if something goes wrong? What if you’re too drugged to hail a cab? Who will be there to help you eat?
Despite my objections, they flew out for the procedure and my recovery (each taking half of a week long shift). It seemed silly for two people to spend $500 each on a plane ticket to watch me sleep for 18 hours a day.
I woke up from the surgery in unimaginable pain. (I later asked the surgeon about it and he said “well if I would have told you how bad it would be you never would have gone for it” … touché surgeon, touché.) There were strangers poking at my limbs, I had an unnerving need to go to the bathroom and no control over any part of my body. Nurses kept telling me to relax. It was foreign and clinical – like a butcher surveying a cut of meat.
The only thing that distracted me from the pain (before the morphine kicked in) was the sight of my dad. He watched medical professionals from a respectful distance, keeping an eye on my pain. Letting me let go of the situational control and power I had become accustom to. He wheeled me into the recovery room. Patiently listening to my incoherent speech as drugs kicked in and my sanity was released. He knew it was time to take me home and let me sleep. Checking in at precise intervals. As my dad took the plane home my mom arrived. She took the second shift with zeal. She drove my car, while I was sedated in the passenger seat, on scenic routes past palm trees and peekabo ocean views. She listened to me plead that I was well enough to go back to work and ignored it. How often does a mom get to hit pause on her life and come out to
? Delay work. Delay stress. Enjoy the ride. She saw it not only as an opportunity to mend my wounds but my spirit as well. I was grateful in those few days for last minute plane tickets and parents who knew better than to listen.. California
There was an organ in my body that stopped working. I tried to fix it and failed. It took an ER doctor, nurses, a surgeon, and loved ones to heal me. Inside and out.