Tuesday, August 01, 2006

There's Just Something About August

I love August. We go on holidays, it's those lazy days of summer, and it's when John and I fell in love, and when we got married.

I knew from our first date that he'd be my husband. I can't really explain how, and trust me, many people have wanted a detailed explanation of how I knew. I can't give it to ya. I just knew. Over the years we've covered all the bases when it came to those vows we made so long ago...sickness, health, better, worse, rich, poor....we have covered them all. We've weathered job losses, career changes, mortgages, kids, and many naysayers. It's easy for marriages to fall into a predictable rhythm, and far too easy for things to be taken for granted. The defining moment for us-and a wake up call, came in the form of an illness.

My worst fears were realized one February morning. A cold had made it's way through our house, and within three days John ended up in the hospital because he couldn't breathe. There were no beds available, and so I left him in one area of the hospital with the promise from a nurse that he'd be in a proper room the next morning. What happened next was right out of a tv show.

The next morning, after dropping Kevin off at school, I went to the hospital to see John. I rounded the corner of where I had left him the night before, and stopped in my tracks. The spot was completely empty. No bed. No John. Patients who were also in the room were looking at me strangely with sad eyes, as if they knew something I didn't.
"Oh, you found him a bed?" I smiled at the nurse hopefully.
"No. ICU. Third Floor." she snapped back. I blinked. The blood drained from my face. Did she say ICU? No. It can't be. He's fine. He just had a cold. I realized that I had been standing there with my mouth hanging open. An elderly woman in the bed next to where John was looked at me sadly, her eyes filled with tears. My former experience with an ICU was in the in the form of my two year old nephew only the year before, clinging to life after being hit by a car. The memory was too fresh.

I found out later that John had stopped breathing and they had to preform CPR on him that morning, causing a ruckus worthy of the tv show ER. The other patients in his room, including the nurses, had assumed that he had died. I could see it on their faces.

The elevator I found myself in was empty, and I clung to the sides like a life raft. A feeling of impending doom overwhelmed me. No. This can't be happening. It was just a cold. He can't die. He just can't. I forced myself to breathe slowly when I realized that I was hyperventilating, and said a quick prayer. When I stepped off the elevator, I was the picture of calm, while inside I felt like I was watching someone else's tragedy unfold in slow motion. This can't be happening.

John survived the day, but it was very close. We weren't told just how close until later, but we knew. The nurses recounted how they couldn't believe how calm and gentle we were with each other that day, choosing to use humour to cope with the situation instead of dissolving under the stress. There was nothing else we could do, and damn it, if it was my last moments with John they were going to be good ones, not me dissolving into a heap.

It turns out that John didn't have a cold ,but had inhaled a rare tropical fungus (read about it here)that was present in the trees where we had been hiking months before, which had multiplied and clogged his lungs. The few people who had the same illness didn't survive. It took a week in the ICU before he was allowed to come home, and a full year for his lungs to recover. Years later he still physically suffers the effects from that day.

We've never forgotten that day, but the effects on us are far more positive. Nobody is taken for granted, and every day, through jobs, kids, and the mundane things of life.....every single day....I'm just grateful he's still here.

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