Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Breath of Life

It's morning and once again, I've slept in. I wander out to the kitchen. There is Handy Dad-dressed, finding his keys, getting on his shoes.

"What are you doing?"

"Going back to the ER. I can't breathe."

"Let me drive you," I'm in my pajamas, hair sticking in every direction, no makeup and dragon breath but damn it, I'm not letting him go alone. He's white, breathing fast and shallow, stopping every few steps to cough.

That cough. The one that sounds like death warmed over.

"No. I'm fine. See you later," and before I know it he's in the car and pulling out of the driveway.

Toast in the toaster, blackberry jam, and coffee...I go through the motions of breakfast without really tasting it. Last night had been hard on all of us. In an effort to let me get a good sleep, Hubs tried sleeping on the couch. In theory that was fine but then he ended up moving to a chair because he couldn't breathe. Despite his efforts, I tossed and turned in bed. I haven't slept peacefully in days, because all I can hear is him gasping for air and coughing. I listen, waiting, making sure that he takes the next breath and ready to jump into action should he not. He always does, but my entire being is on high alert and I can't relax even for a moment.

Exahaustion finally took over and the dreams came. A dark, quiet hospital room, with an empty bed that had once been his because he had died before I had gotten there. The familiar look of pity from the fellow patients that said, oh we're so sorry. This one is crystal clear because I've been there for real. The terror that grips me is like no other. Then, Click like a camera shutter, and I was standing next to a bed with my husband. Only now while he was alive, he had suffered lack of oxygen to the brain enough that he had severe brain damage. One look at the man I love drooling and completely mentally incapacitated awoke me with a start.

No. This isn't happening. This won't happen. I won't let it happen.

But before I could convince him to wait for me to get my shoes on, he had left. I stood in the middle of the living room, momentarily confused. What if?

What if he has a coughing fit and ends up in an accident?

What if he collapses on the way into the ER?

What if he stops breathing?

Suddenly I was throwing on clothes and yelling at Jake to get ready, and within minutes we were walking through the doors of the ER to meet him. Handy Dad sat comfortably propped up on a white bed, relaxed and happily breathing oxygen through some fancy medical apparatus.

"You okay?" I'm ever the picture of calm, even though inside I long to crawl up on the bed next to him for a reassuring hug.
"I'm fine. You?" He smiles back.
"Ya, I'm fine. Just thought I'd see how you're doing."

A gentle hand finds mine and our eyes meet. There's no need for words, because he knows. He knows the stone cold fear that grips my heart with every wheeze, every cough. He knows the picture in my head-the one from years ago when I walked into a hospital room to see him, only to find an empty space, sad eyes from fellow patients, and a cold nurse directing me to the ICU.

"I'll be fine, hon." he gives my hand a reassuring squeeze.

"I know," I whisper back, " I just wanted to make sure."

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