Monday, May 25, 2009
Strangers and Angels
After watching Kara DioGuardi sing on the American Idol finale, and realizing that boy, that girl can really sing, I looked up some videos of her on You Tube. As I poked around, I stumbled onto this beautiful song that has stayed with me all day (this video has the lyrics too).
Have you had an angel? Sometimes it’s the little things that a perfect stranger does for us, or things we pass off as co-incidences, that speak to us. Mine came in the form of a woman just doing her job as a telephone operator for Telus.
It was just a cold, really. Colds aren’t supposed to make you sick. At least, not THAT sick.
“Honey, I’m off to work, okay?”
Silence. Hubs just lay on the couch, the sound of his labored breathing so loud I could hear it across the room. His face was ashen.
“Hey, do you want me to stay home?”
Silence. I was beginning to get scared by then. Hubs is the kind of guy that rarely ever admits that he’s sick, and lord help you if you try to baby him, because he will yell at you.
I had no idea what was to come. Phone calls to the doctor, an emergency room exploding into a frenzy of activity, nurses berating me for not calling 911, and finally, Hubs being admitted so they could keep an eye on him. By the next day he seemed better, and we hoped that maybe it was just a freak incident.
We were wrong.
The morning started out like almost any other; drop Jake off at school, grab a coffee, and head up to the hospital to see Hubs. Only this morning was going to be different.
As I rounded the corner and entered Hub’s room, something was off. Something was missing.
His bed, and Hubs, were not there.
Upon seeing me, the nurse pointed down the hall.
“ICU. Third floor.”
This can’t be happening. It was just a cold. He has to be okay. Please tell me he’s okay....
I gripped the cold metal hand rail in the elevator like a life raft, forcing myself to breathe. Stay calm. Don’t fall apart now, he needs you.
Hubs wasn’t fine. We found out later that he had, in fact, cryptococcal disease-a rare, but deadly, condition caused by the fungus Cryptococcus gattii. His lungs were so full of mucus that he couldn’t get any oxygen and he was, quite literally, suffocating. As he lay in bed, a sickly shade of grey, I was forced to confront the ugly reality that I could be going home without him.
It was just a cold. Colds aren’t supposed to kill people. You’re not supposed to leave now-I’m only 30, we have a 5 year old, this just can’t be happening. It can’t.
My only lifeline out of that ICU that morning was a pay phone. My purse, emptied from a few days before, didn’t have phone numbers or even a quarter. Determined to contact somebody, anybody, to raise the alarm that we needed help, I called the operator.
I don’t remember why I couldn’t make a collect call, but I then tried to explain that I had a credit card and could she charge it to that? Or something? Anything?
“I’m sorry Ma’am, I can’t. You have to insert some coins. Why not find an ATM and get some change?”
“You don’t understand,” suddenly all the fear that I had kept so carefully hidden from Hubs and the nurses, that I had squelched in the elevator, the other people who had looked at me with pity when I found Hub’s empty space, just came pouring out in sobs.
“I’m calling straight from the ICU at the hospital, because I just arrived to find my husband here. I can’t leave. Not even to an ATM. I have no family here, and he might die. I have to make this one phone call….”
Silence. Just for a second, really, and then the sweet trill of the phone as it began to ring on the other end.
She put me through. I’m not sure how, or if she’d get in trouble for it if someone knew, but in the most desperate time of my life, she was there.
Whoever you were, thank-you.
You were MY angel.
Edited to add: Hubs recovered fully from his experience, although today he has lasting lung damage. The doctors tell us that he was very, very, VERY, lucky. According to the BC Center for Disease Control, Cryptococcal gatti occurs naturally in the soil and on the trees of Vancouver Island.
Six months before Hubs became sick, we had unknowingly been hiking around the Nanaimo area, which is said to have the fungus. At the time there was little, if any, information available to the public about even the possibility of a fungal infection, and the doctors didn’t even clue in to that possibility until much later.
While today, some will say that the chances of getting cryptococcal are very small, I strongly believe that if you are choosing to vacation on Vancouver Island it is wise to educate yourself about the symptoms of cryptococcal disease. In our experience, the illness showed up as a cold and over the course of a weekend progressed to full on respiratory distress. I was told later that had I not realized something was wrong that fateful morning as I was leaving for work, he would have died some time that afternoon. Jake was also home sick that day.
I don't even want to think about what that might have been like.
PS...I edited again, because silly me-I forgot to add links. Oops!
*originally posted at Scatteredinbc on Everythingmom.com