Wednesday, October 24, 2012

In The End


Recently thinking on secrets...things known only by a few.  Dark cabinets in the back of the attic draped with webs and dust, hinges rusted.  There is something I've never put to print.  Something that my mind skitters away from with frantic heaves every time my thoughts even stumble into the periphery of it.  Sitting here, I can feel my pulse accelerate; stunning, the power of the mind.  As I type, I'm not sure this will ever post.  But perhaps it's time that at least here, within the safety of an October afternoon...sunshine and the smell of warm bread and the sanctuary that is today and a flat screen...I can write about what happened eleven years ago.

First, I ask that you take me seriously when I say this may not be for you to read.  Sometimes a story can be a seed.  Roots entangle and invade and suddenly there is a previously unknown fear germinating in the back of our thoughts.  What happened to me is unbelievably rare.  I cannot actually guarantee that it will not happen to you, but the chances are smaller than the dot of the period after the words `next to none.`  However, if you or a loved one are anticipating surgery soon or there is a pregnancy currently in your world, you may want to click off and find something else to read. 

 In our world of medical miracles, there are moments of catastrophe.

I was pregnant....but this was so much more than that.  I went to deliver my darling Brennan. (he was quite the baby, eventually to weigh in over 10lbs)   Needless to say, things didn't progress well.  The alarm sounded and I was rushed in to receive a Spinal (a regional anesthesia that numbs from the chest down) and wheeled off for one of those c-sections where the mother is awake, immediate bonding made possible by marvelous modernity.  When I mentioned I could still feel the contractions, the darling doc reassured me it was only in my mind as he reached out and unobtrusively pinched my belly--I yelped and he jumped nearly a foot.  The look of panic on his face terrified me....this wasn't supposed to happen.

Brennan's heart rate began to drop and the room exploded in activity as I was prepped for general anesthesia.  There are two parts to anesthesia; the paralytic--which, as its name implies, paralyzes your body; and the amnesia drugs--the ones which put your mind to sleep.  There are no actual pain blockers--they just put you out so that you are not conscious during the procedure and therefore, remember nothing.

No one knew...could have possibly known, my tremendous resistance to amnesia drugs.

I knew nothing about anesthesia.  Nothing about surgical procedures in general as I had never needed such before...


There was something in my throat, I couldn't swallow.  I tried to tell the nurse at my side....but I couldn't move.  Not a muscle, nothing.  And then slowly I became aware I wasn't breathing.  Can you imagine such a realization?  My chest wasn't moving, I couldn't inhale as hard as I tried, and yet....yet I could still hear everything?  At this point my logical, rational mind added up the numbers--there is no way I can not be breathing and still thinking unless...  It was at that moment, that I knew I was dying.  It is immensely difficult to explain the difference between the words "think" and "know."  If you are in the midst of a car crash, you might gasp, "Oh no, I think I'm going to die!"  It's a possibility.  But when it's a knowing....the weight of such is staggering.  (I had been intubated and a machine was breathing for me--I had no idea)  All I had left was to pray the Lord would bring a good mother to take care of my boys.

And then the scalpel slipped inside of my flesh.

I will never watch a horror movie that shows these types of things.  Lying there while they pushed organs aside, peeled back tissue to slice through the muscle beneath to save my child.  There was only screaming in my mind.

The average section takes 4-7 minutes to actually remove the baby.  Mine took eleven. 

Later, when I discovered that the doctors had actually known--I could hardly handle that thought.  The moment the knife pierced my skin, my heart rate went through the roof--and horror washed over everyone in that room.  They had to save my baby....and they knew I could feel it.  As a doctor who's very life and breath was spent healing and fixing and preserving---can you imagine proceeding?  They couldn't give me any more drugs as they would have gone straight to my son, but as soon as the cord was cut, they dosed me with the most powerful stuff they had. 

I woke screaming. 

Brennan was just fine.  I was not.  I was discharged within thirty-six hours regardless of my physical condition because the trauma of remaining inside the hospital was absolutely overwhelming.  I had to escape the white metal bed and the narrow room that smelled of antiseptic and whispered of hope as small as the windows.  I had to have the lights on all of the time.  I resisted sleep to the point of madness.

Later I met with the anesthesiologist.  She was Romanian.  She was unbelievably beautiful.  She wept.  Her shoulders shaking, she told me it was the worst day of her life--her entire job was to prevent pain and she had failed me.  I told her I held nothing against her.  No one could have known, there was no fault.  I cried the whole way home at the thought of her anguish.

I requested my medical file. It's in a box upstairs right now...when I got to the doctor's notes on the second page, I stopped reading. It's there in case I ever need surgery. I pray not. 

Although I did meet with a counselor for a time, the real healing I found with chubby arms wrapped around my neck and blue eyes wide that looked into mine....how would that little boy's life have been different if I hadn't been there?  I had an infant and a toddler, both of whom needed a mother; there was no time for me to curl up in a ball.  Sometimes I truly believe the best cure to be the ritual and routine of simply living.  Morning light led to breakfast which led to dishes and baths and walks in the park and learning how to hum again.  Slowly my mind healed.  I still slept with the light on.  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder made a strange and difficult companion to motherhood.  It changed me.  Sometimes I wonder at who I might have been without this....for now I knew such things existed.  I held longer, closer, tighter to my loved ones.  Fruit was sweeter....the sunset deeper....the stars brighter.  

Every trauma leaves it's mark upon us.  But in the end, it's our choices that define us.  Not the marks.

 

28 comments:

Shelly said...

My fingers are shaking a little as I type this, my mind frozen with what has actually happened, not made up in a horror movie, but actually happened to you. I can only pray thanksgiving that you are here and healing.

It is a testament to your tender heart that you feel so deeply the doctors' anguish.

And your beautiful boy is here, a lasting tribute to your courage and determination.

Amazing, my friend. Amazing.

Chantel said...

Shelly--I hit "publish" and went to do the dishes, my heart in my throat. So unsure if I will even leave this up...thank you for your kindness, it means the world to me.

See Kate run. said...

How incredible for you to understand all sides, to hold no grudges, to so determinedly love your son and move forward with life.

The horror you went through is simply unfathomable to me.

I wish you so much love and healing.

Brian Miller said...

dang...

i dunno what to say....i am shivering just thinking about it...and trying not to curse as i type...dang...frig...

wow.

can not imagine...i am glad though you have been able to 'live' in the after...find rhythm again...love the child...

and not to hold a grudge...oy

hugs.

Shea Goff said...

Chill bumps.

I am so grateful you made it for him, for them, for you, for all of us.

Mom of the Perpetually Grounded said...

Wow. I can't even imagine such an experience. Though I can see how it would change how we pay attention to the precious gift of life.

Robbie Grey said...

Macabre...I really cannot find any words beyond that...

Mary said...

I am so sorry you went through something so traumatic. I can't even imagine, not even a little.

I am so glad you made it through this and are here for your kids.

Out on the prairie said...

Tough to have to go through. I had a chest tube put in without anything and the doc told me it would hurt and I could hold that against him. In the end he was forgiven.

BamaTrav said...

We're just glad everyone is fine.

Susan Struck said...

Oh Chantel! This post is so very horrible, and so very beautiful. What you went through is beyond my imagination of what horror is. Your wish to comfort your anesthesiologist is one of the most beautiful stories of forgiveness.

At my current job, I prepare people everyday for surgery. You are correct that this was a very, very rare situation. It sounds as if, during the rush, she only gave you only the paralytic.

Your story may give me nightmares, but your kindness and forgiveness toward those who inadvertently caused you so much horrific misery, that part of the story will give us all comfort and hope for humanity.

Praise God you baby was saved! Peace be with you, Chantel.

Chantel said...

Kate--I've never found much solice in blame...it's a hollow thing. And thank you, this was a big step--though it took four days and me walking away from the screen every ten minutes...

Brian--thanks, I think I buried this but it still had a hold on me. Life is good...these things pass. But true healing wasn't going to start until I could actually face the memory, you know?

Shea--me too, love, me too. :)

Mom--it did indeed make me see the world with different eyes...a hard way to learn, but not a bad lesson.

Robbie--excellent word. :)

Mary--thank you so much, each day is a gift.

Prairie--lol, I'm glad in the end it was forgiven, at least he was honest with you!

BamaTrav--me too. :) No matter how dark the night, there is a dawn, right?

Susan--thank you so much, and yes, Brennan is an amazing eleven year-old now. He's tall, 5'9" and has a heart to match...so worth it. xo

Dee said...

Dear Chantel, this, indeed, is a terrifying story. I hope that writing about it has in some way helped you to find your way out of its grip on you and free your memory of such pain.

And as you say so well, it is the choices we make that define us. Professor Dumbledore says that to Harry Potter when Harry worries that he will be like Voldemort. And when I read that piece of dialogue in J. K. Rowling's book, it freed me from my own fears.

Thank you for sharing your story. Your honesty is fierce and leaves us with the truth of your being. Peace.

Pearl said...

Oh, God, Chantel, that was horrifying. You poor, poor thing. I have goosebumps...

Pearl

Slyde said...

wow... that story is honestly frighteningly similar to how my mini-me came into this world. almost down to the detail. i'll have to blog about that story 1 day...

LisaAnn said...

Wow. I don't think I breathed once the entire time I read this.

I am so proud of you for having the courage to write this and put it out in the world. The experience of putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboards) must have been incredibly cathartic, and I hope this experience brings you peace.

Many blessings to you and your Brennan. You are an incredibly strong woman.

Brian Miller said...

have a wonderful weekend!

The Loerzels said...

I'm glad you published this and I cried all the way through it with it's tragic beauty!

Chantel said...

Dee-thank you, this was...so hard. Nightmares every night, a panic attack a time or two, but all of that made it quite obvious that I had indeed just closed this off, not really healed. Doing much better now and very glad I did this. xo

Pearl--love you.

Slyde--the thought of anyone else going through this horrifies me...

LisaAnn--it wasn't easy, but how difficult it was proved I hadn't really dealt with it. I feel better now...the monster wasn't as powerful as I feared. :)

Brian--you too, you made me smile.

Marie--thank you, the week it took to write this was a wet one for me too. xo

FrankandMary said...

I read this the other day....& I could not think of a damn thing to say(so rare for me ;o). In truth, it repels me & attracts me at once. Having worked in medical for so many years I have seen the penchant for hiding our uncivilized afflicted. Blue wall or BS wall, or whatever you want to call it. The immensity of the unknown, no matter how much we, science, Life, progresses~ often we don't want the reminder~go to great lengths not to be reminded. But we need the truth of it, at least I do. ~Mary

Freckled Philologist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freckled Philologist said...

Chantel,
I've thought about this post for two full days. I've marveled that such inner horror could be described in ink in blue-ray DVD color and sony sound.
I journeyed each moment and at the same time was so relieved it wasn't me.
Isn't that terrible? Oh, how we, or I, shy away from pain.
You are so brave, not just to have lived through this experience, but in your willingness to relive it again repeatedly to relate it on the virtual screen here. Feel the Pain and Do It Anyway, I believe the conference talk or book was called. The true definition of bravery.
So glad for your son, your gift whom you can hold tight.
So glad for you. With Love.

*This comment was deleted the first time because the writer thought she should try to communicate something without misspelling half the paragraph, hahaha - must be tired. Besos.

Chantel said...

Mary--the truth of it...I love that phrase. Getting to the place in life where truth matters more than pleasure or accumulation or achievement. For what peace is there, without truth?

Mary--(I love how many Marys I know, it's one of the most beautiful names in my humble opinion!) You make me glad I undertook this--easily the hardest thing I've written, and not one I will revisit very often...but I feel I've cleared something out of the back of the closet. (and why the HECK doesn't blogger have spell check ability in the comment boxes??) lol

Shopgirl said...

So sorry to hear that you had to go through this terrifying experience. You wrote it out beautifully and I hope through that you've gained some relief.

Anthony said...

Wow...powerful writing...More importantly, I'm sorry you suffered so much and am glad that everyone (both you and the baby) came through it alive and healthy.

Jennifer Juniper said...

Holy smokes, I was almost hoping you were playing a Halloween prank on us. That is unimaginable!

Thank goodness for the healing power of babies...

fatjr12 said...

My eyes were glued to the screen as I read this. To say that this is powerful is an extreme understatement. However difficult that it may hav been, thank you for sharing. It is a testament to the fact that you are still here for a reason.

Chantel said...

Shopgirl--thank you and I have, sometimes facing the nighmare takes away a bit of its power, right?

Anthony--thanks love.

Jennifer--yes, I think nearly everything could be solved with that smell that comes from the top of their heads, don't you?

Fatjr12--amen. I do believe things have a purpose, somewhere. And thank you, it was good for me to face this. :)