When I was in my late teens I thought I was having a heart attack but it proved to be a collapsed lung instead. The doctors said the lung might heal itself. It didn’t.
It was like a balloon with a slow leak. The air–my AIR–would leave the lung and get stuck between the outside of my lung and the inside of my chest cavity. It hurt.
I was scared. It got to the point after multiple collapses that I couldn’t walk across a level parking lot without stopping to gasp for air.
Then, the unthinkable happened. My other lung started going bad. I knew that if they both deflated at the same time I would die, even if I was in the hospital on an operating room table.
It was also about then that my fiance’ at the time–not the woman that later became my wife–decided that she loved another man more than me and broke off our engagement.
And my oldest and closest friend moved to Iowa.
I was lonely, heart-broken, lung-broken, in pain, with an unknown future, facing (if I lived long enough) two dangerous and very painful surgeries. I didn’t care if I lived or died, and I was leaning in the direction that would permanently take all my pain away.
As I understand it, each surgery required that my ribs be separated far enough apart that a total of 3 hands could work inside me at the same time. All I know is that when I came out of the surgery I had about an 18 inch scar running up my back from one of my sides, and a LOT of stiches. Pain does not come close to desribing what I felt. Agony was closer, but perhaps even it doesn’t do justice to what I was experiencing.
I think I was in ICU for about a week and began recovering from home for 3 more weeks before heading back for my second surgery. When it was done, I had about 36 inches of scars and stitches, and even more pain. While I was in the hospital the second time, there was no position I could be in that didn’t involve laying on stitches and/or vital tubing, and incredible pain.
Just about the point at which I didn’t think things could become worse, they did.
A nurse turned me on my side that had just been operated on so that I was laying on my wound, stitches, newly separated ribs. Despite my strong protests, propped me up and wedged me in so that I couldn’t move. Then she ignored me and my whispered pleas for the rest of her shift. I was in so much pain and had so litle lung capacity that whispering was the best I could do. I was reduced to wimpering and tears.
Then an angel of mercy arrived in the form of a young male nurse in an era when that was still somewhat of a rarity. He took one look at me, and a look of compassion came over him as he immediately helped get me into a less painful position.
It might have been a simple act of mercy and kindness for him–one that he probably forgot soon later–but his kind act remains warm in my memory and heart three and a half decades later.
To that wonderful nurse, and all others like him, thank you for all you do to help ease pain and sufferring, and for making my world a better place.