Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Somebody call House

..and try to get me on the show, eh? After you read this post you'll see why.

My sophomore year started that August as a regular year. I was living in Schaaf Hall again, although this time on a sorority floor (of which I was not a part), and I spent the first night trying to ignore the ridiculously random squeaks of the Taboo game buzzer from next door (who, I wondered, plays Taboo at 1 a.m.?). But I loved my room--small, private, with a fantastic view overlooking College Avenue and the quaint houses that lined the street (some of them are gone for a new dorm now, but I digress). It really was a fantastic view--tree-lined street, English cottage-like house. I loved it.

Normalcy sort of went out the door for all of us that year on my brother's sixteenth birthday--September 11. It was, as in most parts of the country, a fantastic Fall day in Bexley. I didn't have class until 12:30, but I was up early to do some work and relax until classes that afternoon. When I stepped in the shower, Katie Couric was asking Speaker of the House Hastert about the budget. When I got out of the shower, a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center, but then we thought it was still a small commuter plan. Ha. But I've written more on that day elsewhere, so I won't dwell on it here. Except to say that Bryan didn't get the birthday dinner he was thinking of that night.

The big event of every Fall was the Homecoming concert--well, at least if you were in choir, like me. And we were doing some awesome pieces. I sang Alto II (and was the Secretary of Women's Chorus), so I took my choral duties very seriously (always!). No I had noticed that almost everyone in the choir (and campus, for that matter) had caught some sort of early flu/cold/whatever, and of course when I got it, I thought, 'eh, I'll ride the wave.' Not a big complainer, me. Unless something seriously went amiss, I would deal. Especially since by the time I got it, the concert was like 5 days away and I do not miss concerts. A performance is a performance and I'll be there as long a I can 1) sing and 2) stand. Besides, I'd had worse. I could handle it.

The concert went fine, as always. My parents and Mark were there, so it was nice. Mark was back the next day for Homecoming celebrations and the dance that night. Well by now I was feeling kind of cranky, especially since the concert was over and my adrenaline that had ben keeping me going was depleted. And it was raining and yucky, which didn't help. So Mark and I were not on the best terms by the time we got to the dining hall for the dance that night.

As I tried to sleep that night, I noticed the sharp stabsd of pain in my left shoulder blade that was always a precursor for a) lung issues or b) pancreatitis issues. The next morning I had ascertained 'b', since we had the great ab tenderness and stuff like that. So when Mark came by around 11 or 12 that morning, he had to take me to the ER--a first for our relationship.

I'm sure that no guy is thrilled with the idea of taking his fiance to the ER, but he did pretty well, under the circumstances. I wasn't really thinking about talking at this point, so I told Mark the essential things he needed to know. We spent a good amount of the day in the ER, as always, but by that night I had a room on 4AE, the 'new' CF/pulmonary floor for the older kids, so we aren't subjected to babies crying or little kids having issues. (sometimes this theory worked. Sometimes it didn't.)

And that's where I promptly forget everything until...oh, about 20 days later.

I don't remember Melanie's birthday. I don't remember my family coming to visit after they took her out. And I definitely don't remember the move to the PICU. So you'll have to forgive me on details, because I'm not the best person to ask.

Apparently the cold/flu/bug that was going around Cap was a lot more pernicious than we thought. And no one could figure out what the heck it was. I was even tested for anthrax (this beeing the new, post-9/11 world) and no one could tell what was going on. I was intubated, given a great jugular-vein IV (yay Dracula scars!), a bunch of other IVs (in the wrist...pain!), and a chest tube, since my right lung had collapsed (that may have happened when I tried to pull the vent out one night...and succeeded...don't ask).

It was a long, strange trip. In my mind, I was in a California Beauty Pageant, I was back on campus, I was tangled up in monkey bars on my elementary school playground. I was on a Boy Scout ice fishing trip with some of the boys from elementary school. I mean, seriously. Drugs do strange and wonderful things to you head. But when you're essentially put "on ice" in a drug-induced coma while docs can figure out what strange forces have seized your body, you just go with it. Don't really have a choice.

It was All Saints' Day when I finally "came to", although it wasn't really 'coming to.' It was more like I was off the really really strong drugs and could sort of have a normal sleep/wake cycle. Apparently, I had caught nocardia , a bug so rare that only one other case in the entire world had been documented (some kid in Israel, apparently). And the miracle drug? Bactrim. I'm telling you, always try bactrim. It's a great drug. Saved my life--again.

OK so I was awake and alive, two things we weren't sure was going to happen. I had lost a ton of weight, obviously, yet I was swollen with fluid. My engagement ring was gone, which freaked me out at first, but I'm sure it had to worse for Mark, who had the nurses slip him both that and the sapphire ring he'd gotten me our first Christmas together. They had taken them off so they wouldn't have to cut them off later, should my fingers swell like they did. The rings were in a tiny plastic bag. I can just imagine the deep, sinking sensation he must have felt. We were only nineteen, and here we were, faced with something that most couples don't face until they're much older and drawing retirement and reading AARP magazine every month. He was a trooper, there almost every day, if not every day (I dunno)--if I had known that I would've told him to go home and study! He was a quadruple major, after all. I wouldn't've let his life fall apart even if mine was. But he was there.

Eventually I moved out of the PICU and down to 4AE (again). And what fun was to be had there!

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