Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Happy ARDSiversary

That's what Marty is calling it. I can't even manage to crack a smile at it.

One year ago on this day, I was in NYC, enjoying the sights and sounds of my first full day in the busiest city on Earth. I was blissfully unaware of how intensely, unforgivably horrible the next month of my life would be.

A year ago on August 23rd, Marty entered the hospital through the ER with symptoms including shortness of breath and high fever, and would end up staying for five weeks, one of which would be spent in a rehabilitation facility trying to build up lung capacity and ability to even walk 30 yards without having to sit down.

A year ago, I lived through what can only be described as absolute hell. The only comparison I can make, based on experiences I've had in my life, is to that of Amelia's NICU experience (not being sure if she would make it), and this was significantly worse. I was faced with the thought of losing my husband, but even more tragic was the thought of my babies losing their father.  When you become a mother, you grow extra appendages on your heart--one for each child.  Those appendages bring you more love, more happiness than you've ever known, but they also bring you more heartache because you feel every single pain that your child experiences.  The pain of your children is so much worse than your own pain.  Thinking about their pain, the heartache they would be forced to endure if they lost their father, was borderline unbearable. My kids have the best dad in the world, hands down. The thought of them not having him--well, it still brings tears to my eyes. It probably will for the rest of my life.

A year ago, I watched Marty struggle to breathe. I watched him fall asleep, oxygen bubbling noisily in the corner, only to startle awake a minute later, terrified that he would stop breathing. His eyes would scan the room, wide open with fear, and I would mouth "it's okay..."to him, so that he wouldn't panic, so that we wouldn't panic his worried mother. If anyone else panicked, I knew that my steady resolve would explode into absolute dust, that I would break and not be able to put myself back together in time to pick up my kids from preschool.

A year ago, I walked into the ICU to see Marty on 100% oxygen, sweating, eyes closed, working with every ounce of his strength to keep breathing. The pulmonologist explained that they were going to do a surgical biopsy, a procedure reserved for the sickest of the sick. I watched my husband literally break, heard him whisper, when I told him that he'd have surgery, that he just wanted it to hurry up because he was too tired to keep going. My husband, who never complains about anything. He was done. That scared me more than I've ever been scared in my entire life.

A year ago, I saw my husband, stripped down completely and on a ventilator, in a bed that looked more like a torture device than anything else. I saw his face swell, with the tilt of the bed, to proportions that made him unrecognizable, and I saw the nurses tenderly wiping his sweaty face and hands. I heard the doctors tell me, day after day, that there was no regression, but no progress.  I saw my son become fearful that I was going to leave him EVERY SINGLE TIME anyone came to our house, because he was so used to me being gone to the hospital.

I could go on for days. Every single detail of that time--every moment of every day--is etched, burned into my mind, like a branding. I remember the most remote, insignificant details. The color of the nurse's nail polish. The smell of the 4th floor.The sound of the ventilator. The hush of the ICU waiting room. The way that people look down, around, anywhere but at you when it's obvious you've been crying. The way people look at you when they recognize you, know that you have been there for a very long time.

He jokes about his ARDSiversary. I cannot joke. Since that time, we've had doctor after doctor reiterate that he almost died. I'm traumatized in a very real, tangible way. Last night I woke up and had a panic attack, something that hasn't happened to me since right after the whole incident. I fell asleep and immediately dreamed that we were going back to the hospital because he was sick again. In the dream, I told the doctors, our families, that it was a year to the day from his last major hospitalization. I'm reliving it whether I want to or not. You can't forget the most significant events in your life, whether those experiences are good or bad. I will never, ever forget.

So please, friends...be kind to me this week. And next.  I can't shake the memories of where we were a year ago, despite knowing that our story had a happy ending. Even though I'm busy, and life is going on, and I'm smiling at my kids and making jokes, it's rough right now. I could use the positive thoughts.


  1. friend, i hope you are surrounded by love right now. i will not quote some random cliche. i will just send good thoughts and vibes right now and the next couple of days!