by YONA C. RIEL

Thursday, December 2, 2010

3 years later...December 2nd

     Three years ago today I was too sick to get out of bed.  I presume it was a gloomy Sunday although I have no recollection of what the weather was like.  The 'weather' inside me was dark and depressed and as was usual for a Sunday I was supposed to work.  Work involved meeting and off loading 4 or 5 pallets from a 40 ft trailer.  The driver would call me anytime from 2pm till midnight and when he did I was supposed to go unlock the shop and off load the pallets of fresh juice into the cooler. 
   But on Sunday December 2nd 2007 I had the energy of a dying person.  My head was pounding hard behind my right eye and my nose was so stuffed up I could only breathe through my mouth.  I couldn't eat because when I did ten minutes later it would spew forth from both ends in waves of noxious bodily fluids.  I learned this the hard way before I gave up eating and drinking completely.  It wasn't pretty, death never is. 
    I remember having the thought 'People die from the flu all the time' over and over that day and I pondered calling a friend to take me to the hospital in the final hours of consciousness.  But I never made that phone call. 
    Instead I called my boss and told the automated voice on his cell phone that I was too sick to meet the truck.  After the phone call my head hurt so bad I drew a bath and sprinkled eucalyptus oil in it hoping this would help clear out what I knew to be yet another bloody sinus infection.  I had no idea that dangerous my situation was.
    Apparently after my bath I went into the bedroom to lay down and sleep off this sickness that was trying to kill me.  I dreamt of writing an article in the Eugene Weekly to tell the university students to stock up on disposable diapers for adults for the impending flu epidemic which was soon to kill off significant numbers of students.  (I had heard the flu was going around on campus and surely what I had must be the flu). 
   Four days later after hallucinating about everything from the meaning of landmarks to the funding of Hollywood through pornography I briefly heard my neighbor George's voice.  George, who suspected something was off because I hadn't put the trash out, had entered my house through the wide open back door (it was 30 degrees outside) and found me wrapped in a towel, half in and half out of my bed, my body contorted into such an unnatural shape that he thought I was dead.  I very well could have been since I remember hallucinating that my head was a Dio de Los Muertos skeleton.)
    So terrified was George that he ran back to the house yelling to his wife Betty "Yona is dead, she is dead..... I just know she is".
   Betty Like George is from Brooklyn and both had served in a medical capacity during WWII.
   "Call 911."  Betty says like a person used to being in survival mode.
    During my next conscious moment I was in an 'shanti wagon' in India with multi-colored beads hanging from the roof and several people I did not know surrounding me with name tags made from Bakelite Mah Jongg tiles. 


    A month later when I got out of the hospital and I looked into an ambulance I realized my hallucinating mind must have made all the life support cords into beads and the paramedics into vendors at Saturday Market.  But for the entire 30 days that I was in the hospital I believed my hallucinations were reality.  My friends, kind as they are, allowed me the artistic license to refer to the ambulance as a 'my shanti wagon in India.' 
    It was only after I got home on January 4th, 2008 and opened the door to my back room (which I fully expected to be filled with burnt out computers) that I realized I had laid there hallucinating from approximately 1pm on Sunday December 2nd till 5pm on Wednesday December 5th when I was found by George. 
   It was the right frontal lobe that was affected when the sinus infection blew through the wall between my brain and my sinus knocking me out of consciousness like someone had swung a board with a lot of force to the front of my head.  'Blam', I was down, the comic would read. 
    During those first two weeks in the hospital I only have two real memories.  The first came about as they were wheeling me into have surgery on my brain and my bed had nearly collided with that of another woman's in what must have been a busy corridor. 
   "Age before beauty" she said sitting up from her bed.  The memory still makes me chuckle because she must have seen an extremely ugly looking person when she looked at me with a purplish bloated and deformed head.
    The other memory involved seeing the tears flow from my mother's face and me thinking 'gaud I must look like shit, I made my mother cry!' 
    I continued to hallucinate while I was in the hospital and had very little understanding of reality.   I was hungry and as far as I could tell they were trying to starve me to death.  I became increasingly obnoxious as the days wore on till at some point I pulled the feeding tubes out of my nose.  I remember failing yet another swallow test and being held down by two female nurses while a third reinserted the hoses into my nose.  (That will teach me they must have thought because that is one of the most painful experiences I have ever had.)
    While I was in the hospital it took a long time for the left side of my body to start following my brain's orders again.  I couldn't feed myself or tie my shoes or read.  I felt like a frustrated infant and often had temper tantrums. 
   The first time I heard my cell phone ring (which I had demanded to get back from my best friend Tina) I picked it up and started banging it on the hospital floor to make it stop ringing.  Fortunately a friend of mine was in the room at the time and said "What are you doing?" as he took the phone away from me. 
   "I am trying to get it to stop ringing" I screamed in frustration.
   By the end of my 30 day visit I was able to eat again (21 days without food and the shaved head for my brain surgery had left me looking like a Buddhist monk according to my friend Alice and 'not very attractive' according to my friend Suzie). 
   The best I could do for the first two weeks that I was home with the help of my friend Joan was to get up at 8am for my shot of antibiotics and drink some tea then back to bed till I woke again around noon and eat a little food then another shot or perhaps a doctor's appointment.  My world had suddenly become so small and completely defined by my near fatal adventure. 
   So now it's 3 years later.  I am happy to report I can eat and walk and type (although not as fast as I used to) and start a fire and sometimes maybe even make some art.  And for the most part I am happy to be alive. 
   I will never forget all the wonderful people who came to my hospital room bringing me food and praying to their various gauds and monks that I would live.  I now know that it was my dream of love and the love I received that was responsible for my living through something that would kill most people.  I thank you all and am forever grateful for your love and attention.  yona c. riel