I woke up with a startle and it took me a few seconds just to register my sister's boyfriend's voice shouting my name,
"CHRIS! CHRIS MAN, GET UP! THE DOCTOR JUST CALLED THEY SAW SOMETHING ON YOUR X-RAY WE GOTTA GO NOW BRO!!!"
My heart dropped to my feet instantly because for the last five weeks I knew in my gut that something was wrong! I had to cry. Despite the panic and severity of the situation I had to take a few minutes to process exactly what was happening. I was going back into the hospital, and for an undetermined amount of time. As I have said before most would assume that by now, this would be second nature to me. However, I can confirm that each time is just as scary as the time before. With keys in hand, the car already pulled around to the side, and a small bag packed for me, I felt Joe's reassuring arm around my shoulder,
"You're gonna be OK man. Try to stay calm. Isabelle, Claude, Tara, and your mom are gonna be at the hospital and we are NOT leaving you. We're gonna take care of this I promise!"
I instantly felt reassured and stood up to face the inevitable. But still I could barely make out words as I spoke to my mom making my way to the car,
"Chris darling, listen to me ok...the doctors noticed a tiny hole at the base of your left lung. So they may need to put a little tube inside the chest to plug it until it heals. I need you to promise me you are going to stay calm. Listen, Claude and Tara are picking up Isabelle and we are ALL going to be with you. Just like we always do. You are going to pray, and take some nice slow deep breaths."
Hearing her voice made me feel so safe. I knew I was in for a very rough go of things but just knowing she would be at my side, going through ALL of it with me, was enough to make me not as scared anymore. Oddly enough the sun was shining and it was a beautiful day. Summer had just ended. Although still warm out, there was a tiny chill in the air to let you know fall had arrived. The leaves were barely starting to change color and the drive into the city was a peaceful one. Joe let me be in my zone as I tried to stop my mind from racing. I started to reflect on all the amazing memories speant with my family and friends. My fingers trembled as I dialed my brother-in-law Mark. Perfectly on the border of best friend and family, he would be the ONLY call I would make to notify my friends. I was feeling particularly emotional and vulnerable in that moment and one call was all I was prepared to handle. This call was still however far from easy. I cannot stress enough how much more it hurts, the more you love the person whom you have to deliver bad news too! I explained the deal to my buddy and felt both his pain and support through the phone. I later found out how many friends and family broke down as the news trickled down the social lines. One in a parking lot, locked in her car, sobbing in tears. I felt loved! I felt appreciated! More importantly I knew if God forbid anything were to happened to me I would be missed, and that feeling is undeniably beautiful!
Knowing he would not be with me I had to call my Dad. My parents are divorced and do not live together. Few words were spoken as the conversation was very emotional for both of us. Its been a while since I had last seen my Dad and I missed him. Time was continuing to pass and as a firm believer that NO DAY IS GUARANTEED it was hard not to be with him during this time. Reality hit hard again as Joe came running to the car with a wheel chair. The trip to the ER is not a short one and he ran me the whole way without hesitation. In that very moment Joe locked a place in my heart forever as he was literally running to save my life! The nurses were so attentive and sweet. I was taken in immediately and placed in Area D. The surgeons were ready and waiting since all the required pre-op testing had been done already just that morning. This was now my third trip to the emergency room in the last 5 weeks. Earlier that day I had gone in for a rib X-ray in order to rule out a rib fracture that was believed to have been caused by my fall in Atlantic City! Its almost better that things happened so quickly because for me, at least, the worst part is always the build up of anxiety. When push comes to shove I am always ready to go much like my sister-in-law Tara.
I was given some Morphine through my IV for pain and also to calm my nerves. The scariest part in all of this was that I was going to be awake and alert through the whole process. Chest tube insertion is not considered major surgery and due to the fact that it would actually take longer to put me to sleep than insert the tube it is performed right in the ER under local sedation!!! My heart started to race a bit as the surgeons began to sterilize the area and place their tools on my stomach. The tube seemed tiny enough and so I was not anticipating too much pain. The needle used to administer the lidocaine however was rather intense as is it needed to be able to puncture through my rib, deep down into the lung tissue. The thoracic surgeon performing the procedure was very intelligent but also very cool. He explained every step before he did it, and he made sure that I was completely comfortable the whole time. In fact, once my entire chest was numb the actual procedure was over before I knew it. Doctors were optimistic that this simple procedure should rectify the problem within just a few short days. I felt extremely relieved as I truly believed the worst was over. After waiting 6 months waiting for a heart this should be a walk in the park? With my pain under control the next few days were merely a waiting game. I spent a lot of time on my computer watching shows and movies. The doctors decided after 48 hours to pull my chest tube and afterwards observe me for a day or so just to make sure the hole in my lung was completely sealed. Removing the chest tube was almost worst than getting it put in. I felt it slither through my bones and rib cage like a python. After that, 2 days of good food, good rest, and a good chest x-ray was enough to send me on my way home. Mom and I were particularly thankful that our stay had been so short because in the last 23 years we had gone through so much worse. We laughed over dinner as we believed we had seriously dodged a bullet,
"Thank God it was just a small hole mom! But i knew something was up. The pain I was having was so intense the last few weeks. I just can't believe something so insignificant could be so painful. The fact that it wasn't being picked up on any X-rays started to make me feel crazy! I'm so glad it's all over..."
My best friend Crystal had been busy all week and decided to come stay the night so we could spend some quality time together. Situations like this can be a reminder to take advantage of every chance to spend with someone that you really care about. Before dosing off midway through a movie, we had a great night of laughs and gossip. She always brings such an intense euphoric energy into my life and that is why she is everything to me. The next morning, I clutched my chest as a piercing pain in my left lower lobe woke me from my sleep. Crystal was getting dressed already and nagging me about lunch. I sat up and tried to make sense of my pain. Could it just have been irritation at the site where my chest tube was placed? The pain subsided a bit but my mind was now riveted with paranoia. I convinced myself I was fine and we decided to go out for pizza. We made it halfway through our lunch before taking the famous race up the Palisades Parkway to the emergency room. The truth is that I knew from the second the pain seared through my lung, that things were MUCH MORE SERIOUS than we had all been deceived into thinking...
TO BE CONTINUED...