As I lay on the stretcher in the ambulance feeling high off of oxygen I was strangely at peace. As my mom and dad stood outside I smiled knowing that everything would be okay. All I heard my mom say was “wow.” I was so deprived of O2 that I was actually elated to be in that ambulance. Can you believe it?
It all started last Tuesday. I got my tracheostomy tube changed by my pulmonologist at Georgetown University Hospital. Usually right after the procedure I have a fever that goes away the next day. This time the fever did not go away. Something else was wrong—in addition to the fever, I had a sore throat, which for me is often a sign of a respiratory infection. My pulmonologist was out of the office so I talked to the doctor who was on-call. He prescribed an antibiotic (for seven days) with the words “if you don’t feel better in 2 days, go to the ER”. That was Thursday. On Friday I felt better but by Saturday I felt much worse. My natural oxygenation level had dropped. That afternoon I told my mom that I felt like I was dying. In a way I actually was dying quite literally. Another doctor who was on-call advised me to go to the ER immediately. And so we called for an ambulance: a whole crew of paramedics and firemen arrived. Later I reflected on this—I had once been rushed to the ER three years ago and I was not conscious. I received a card that read “behold I send my angel before you”. This time however I was fully conscious and it was a whole legion of angels that God sent before me.
Before the paramedics arrived, I got to speak to my sister. I seemed to speak as if the end was fast approaching. She almost told me her chosen religious name but I stopped her. “Not yet”. The whole time I was in the hospital I felt that she was nearby. She had gotten all the Sisters of Life to pray for me…and some CFRs as well!
When I arrived at the hospital bearing the name of the holy cross I was met by a respiratory therapist who behaved rather gruffly I thought. Providentially though, another respiratory therapist came and really put me at ease. He turned out to be a real godsend throughout my time in the hospital. “We go back” he would say, all the way back to the ER”.
Sometimes the nurses in the ER can be real “you know whats”. As I waited in the ER—that ER bed was very uncomfortable— rays of light shone through family members who were there with me. Soon enough x-rays were taken and the doctor came by. Apparently I had a pulmonary infection in my left lung right below my heart. I would need to stay at the hospital to receive antibiotics intravenously. “Hopefully it will not be a long stay” I thought to myself.
As Lent began this year I wanted to be more fruitful than ever— this is not exactly how I thought it would turn out! The theme that I was given was from Galatians “I have been crucified with Christ it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me”
On Sunday the priest chaplain came and gave me the sacrament of the anointing of the sick. He was quite a funny guy.
Most if not all of the nurses in ICU were exceptionally kind and treated me very well. That and the presence of my family and friends really got me through the next few days. I was incredibly struck with the realization that God works through people to show us how much He loves us. The awareness that God loves me never left me throughout the whole ordeal. At the same time, there was a feeling of dread and darkness as the days progressed.
The roommates I had initially were very whimsical— three older gentlemen one after the other. They were really short… like less than 4 feet high. It was fun to see their interactions with the nurses and with their wives who were equally as tall as they were. But during the last two days it was as if hell moved in. The last roommate had a lot of issues from what I heard. Some of his phone conversations were let’s just say “less. What darkness he brought with him— it was disturbing in many ways. I felt like St. Paul “I was given a thorn in the flesh to keep me from being too elated”
The best thing about being in a Catholic hospital was that I could receive our Lord in holy Communion every day. Strangely though the chaplain did not come during those last two days. On Tuesday I thought the doctor would send me home— but it was a day too soon. The doctor had seen the latest x-ray and said that it looked worse than the first! But he said that I was taking to the antibiotics very well and was very stable. He said that he would send me home on Wednesday and sure enough that is when I came home.
As I thought about it, God Our Father had everything in place for me. It was all divinely constructed. All the daily Scripture readings were pertinent to my situation. My family was there every day. The five days (three full days) were definitely not the absolute worst. As I was getting ready to leave, a sister prayed with me asking the father to receive all anxieties and troubles that remained. I’m glad that we prayed this because I certainly needed it. In fact, on my first full day home I was very depressed. I talked to my sister a few times and that really helped. Just yesterday she got permission to come and visit me here at home! Mother Superior thought that it would help me recover quicker! And I’m happy that she’s here even though she has to leave tomorrow (Sunday). Pray for me. While I know that people need me, I am truly aware of how much I need them.
Thanks be to God!