Shortly after the race I couldn't help but think about the next big step in a runner's world. I wondered if I was cut out to run a full 26.2 mile marathon. I knew training for a marathon would be a huge undertaking. It would take a lot of effort and discipline, and would certainly eat up an enormous amount of my time. But after several months of careful consideration, I finally made the decision to go for it. I started training in early September 2004, and ran the race three months later on December 5th with a respectable time of 4 hours and 20 minutes. I was proud that even in the face of fear and doubt, I was able to achieve a lofty goal I had set for myself, and finish what I started. It is by far the biggest fete I've conquered in my lifetime.
About a year ago, as it was with my half-marathon race, I had a strong desire and encouragement from my family and friends to start a blog. It was a way to not only share Vaughn's progress and document some of our crazy stories that went along with our situation, but was a means to heal through the power of writing. It's been very therapeutic and helpful to me as well as to people around the world, who have reached out to me and been faithful readers of my blog.
There is so much more to write, and many more stories to share. I've decided after much consideration that it's time to take it to the next level, much like my decision to run a marathon, and write the book that I've thought about writing for a long time now. It will be a huge undertaking, and I don't know how long it will take or if it will ever be good enough to publish, but whether it does or doesn't happen, I owe it to myself and to the legacy of our story to go all the way. And hopefully some day I will be crossing the finish line with book in hand.
I hope you will enjoy an excerpt from one of the chapters I've already written. Please give feedback if you like...
Sunday, August 12, 2012:
The routine remained the same…in the middle of the night at 3:00 am, the door would swing open and a team of graveyard shift-workers would maneuver a very, large portable X-Ray machine that would bang and clank as it rounded the corners into our room. These coffee-infused nurses and technicians moved aside chairs and tables to make way for the machine that, without fail, jolted me awake each and every night at a most ungodly hour.
“Time to wake up.” they said to me as they hastily drew the curtain that gave us if only a bit of privacy. I was already awake, never really allowing myself to enter into the deeper stages of the sleep cycle. I was on guard at all times, like a British Beefeater assigned to protecting the crown jewels.
As I squinted and shielded my face from the blinding, fluorescent lights, I asked if I needed to exit the room, hoping that the answer might change just this once. With each passing night, my body was growing more weary; tired and run down from each battle I was facing. Every day it was a new challenge… from fighting with the insurance company, desperately trying to get my husband off of the island, to sparring with the physicians, who wavered in their approach to my husband’s care. Any moment that wasn’t occupied dealing with all of the logistics, was dedicated solely to being bed-side with my husband. My sleep debt was mounting, owing more hours than there were to give.
But as I suspected, the nurses weren’t going to bend the rules just so I could get more sleep. I wasn’t of their concern. As it should be, their focus was dedicated strictly for my husband. I was just lucky enough to occupy space in his room, which under normal circumstances wasn’t usually allowed. It was imperative that I leave the room to avoid any unwanted radiation exposure. It was hospital protocol.
A week spent in the ICU, an absence of physical activity, assisted breathing from a machine, and aspirated water from the Pacific Ocean…all risk factors that could lead to any number of complications, including what I feared most for my husband: pneumonia, “the captain of the men of death.” Thus, those inconvenient, early morning awakenings, and x-rays that could easily detect a brewing infection, were imperative.
The nurses woke me up, yet again, at 6:30am that morning to tell me that I needed to leave the room. That was routine as well, only it was mandatory that I not return until 8:00am. Shift change. At that time, they relayed the results from Vaughn’s X-rays that were taken 3 hours earlier. Things weren’t looking too good. There was an accumulation of fluid in his lung, an indication that he may be developing an infection. His heart rate was up, and his oxygen saturation rates were dropping. It was as if he was drowning all over again, only this time it wasn’t from the ocean. It was determined that he would have to undergo a mini procedure- a bronchoscopy- to remove as much of the fluid and debris that was accumulating and blocking the flow of air into his "dirty" lungs.
The nurses hesitated to tell me this latest round of bad news, because it meant that Vaughn would have to undergo a procedure I was so scared for him to have. It also meant he would have to go yet another day with a breathing tube in his mouth. It would translate to another day of him not being able to speak. Another day of pointing to letters, and nods of yes or no. Another day of frustration. Another day of sadness, and dashed hopes.
I picked up what little belongings I had (all of my luggage was sent back with the kids) and walked down the hallway to the lone bathroom wearing the same pair of sweats, tee shirt and socks that I had been schlepping for the past four days. By now, it was Sunday, August 12th, the day after my son’s 18th Birthday. I was all alone. My kids were gone, and my brother-who came out to the island to lend support-had flown back home the day before. It seemed like an eternity since the accident, yet we were only 7 days into what would become a long journey of pain and despair.
It was as if we were characters in the book, “The Divine Comedy”; stuck on the first circle of The Inferno, desperately trying to pull ourselves out. Yet like Dante, we were “falling into a deep place where the sun is silent.”
That lone bathroom became my safe haven. I was able to lock the door and through a mountain of tears, unload just a fraction of the stress that was strangling my existence. When I looked in the mirror I saw someone who was reminiscent of the lady in Dorothea Lange’s picture: ”Migrant Mother”- the classic picture depicting the toll The 1930’s Dust Bowl Era had on the working poor. I had already earned some battle scars that were etched in every facet of my face. My eyes were swollen, dark circles framed the eyes that seemed to defy any sort of happiness or good feelings. I hadn’t eaten in nearly a week. The weight loss was already evident. I talked to that person in the mirror. “You need to pull yourself together and get through today. He needs you. You need you...”
The story doesn't end there. I don't want to give away too much, but that day turned out to be one of the worst days of our journey, most especially for me.
I will continue to write my blog, even while I work on the book. As always, I thank you for your continued support and kind words.