I write so often about the fleetingness of time, of the preciousness of every little thing. This morning I realize that so much of it was just words. You just can’t really know until death whispers at your door.
For me it wasn’t until…
They shielded my babies.
The clots filled my hands.
The blood flowed over my lap.
I couldn’t move as fast as their faces showed I should.
My friend said in a faraway place, “You are still bleeding.”
I didn’t get it until the blood wouldn’t just wash away as I expected, instead it plumed around me in the water. The color as dark as the shadow Sean cast over me as he said we had to get to the hospital.
We drove in near silence, I occasionally told him not to worry. “Are you still bleeding?” he’d ask, and I would lift myself gingerly and more blood would gush out of me. “Yes.” He’d nod almost violently and say under his breath, “Then I am still worrying.”
The girls were calm and I remember softly telling each one that I loved her, all the while thinking it was a silly and unnecessary step, but one that I took for the set of Sean’s profile.
“I saw the blood, mama,” Ave said. I was startled, “Well, what exactly did you see baby?” I asked as I remembered the bright scarlet smears along the inside of the boat and of the rivers of it that coursed passed my legs and waist and covered the seat. “Just a little bit on your finger and on Finley.”
I closed my eyes, reopened them and said, “It’s ok, look how big I am. I have a lot of blood and daddy is going to get me fixed.” She nodded, smiled and said, “I know, you’re going to the hospital and we’re going to Nana’s and you are going to be fine.” Sean’s eyes welled. The rest of the ride was quiet but for the odd chirp of “I love you, mama,” from the girls.
Nana and Jeannie were waiting outside of the ER as we pulled up. There was talk of switching cars and of getting me into the building. “If I stand I’ll lose more blood.” A wheelchair it was. Sean rolled me into the ER as my babies were driven away. It began to sink in then that I was way out of my depth, that it didn’t matter that I was strong, tolerant of pain or a good person. Life, as I knew it and as it might ever be, was, for the moment, completely out of my hands.
They moved me into triage with lightning speed. The nurses called me “Baby” and “Honey” and “Sweetheart.” They moved us past the scanner and straight into a room. I thought about my friend joking earlier as she stood on the dock about “not grooming this morning” and pointing to her bikini area. I had laughed and said that I had for once. I’d painted my toe nails too. This all washed over me as we cut away my suit and arranged my feet in stirrups. I had no idea how long they’d stay that way and how so much life would escape from a place I’d come to think of as a source of life.
There was some amount of comedy as the two things most necessary to examine my wounds were missing or taken. My doctor was pissed. I was happy. You want a pissed off and focused-on-you doctor. Maybe pissed off is too strong.
Clear-as-day on what he needed when, where and how to fix me.
Anything between him and those things was an unwelcome impediment.
He and Sean talked to me. I remember thinking deliriously that it always seems to be men looking between my legs (we can laugh, right? I mean, c’mon. I’m alive. And I had shaved!) They laughed, not so much at what I said, as at how not in step with the severity of my injury I seemed to be. Reality didn’t hit me again until…
I looked up at 7 faces and saw terror.
I watched Sean forget that I could see him.
I whispered, “Hey, I can see you,” and he smiled, a smile that spoke untold words.
I blinked, finally really startled as they put oxygen tubes in my nose, stuck monitors on my chest and belly, and pumped bag after bag after bag of saline into me.
I watched as they drew blood from me even as I realized the blood I thought I’d been losing could actually have been my life.
When the doctor looked at me and told me he was removing the equipment because it couldn’t reach the wounds and apply the pressure the way his own hand could I nodded. Silent. Obedient. Sobered.
“You tell me if I hurt you,” he said directly, but gently.
He told me story after story as his hand trembled from the exertion, stopping only to call out “How long before the doctor arrives?”
I listened, then listened harder as my body started to fail, limbs trembling, color draining, numbers plummeting, Sean grabbed one leg and a nurse grabbed another holding them steady while my driven doctor shouted, “I need that second OR set now!”
I began to rest, easing up on the trying to understand, trying to focus. Sean leaned his head toward me, “Manda, baby, you still with me?” I tried to keep my eyes open. “Yup, still here. Just sleepy.” I have bits and pieces of being wheeled to the OR, there might have been joking about the resident that pushed the table being my doctor’s lawnmower, but that seems wrong. I can’t be sure.
The anesthesiologist talked to me about the unfortunate reality that I had eaten (mac-n cheese at noon, chips and salsa an hour before the ER) and consumed liquids (a seltzer and 1 Coors Light-blush) and that made putting me under dodgy. They asked me what sports I did and after answering and complimenting them on the quality of the OR (ever socially gracious, don’t ya know?) I remember waking to a tray of food. Knowing enough about how and what one needs to do before being discharged, I ate that ham sandwich, Fig Newton, applesauce, warm milk and juice like it was a king’s meal. “Feel any nausea?” to which I responded, “Not a bit!” (burp)
I knew that they had saved me, now I just wanted to be home.
Cut to the chase, somehow after an unremarkable fall as I water skied, I incurred two lacerations to my vaginal wall measuring upwards of 2″ each. The time between the incident and arriving at the ER was approximately 45 minutes, My blood loss exceeded a liter in the operating room alone, easily a liter in the hour that preceded. My numbers dipped to places you don’t want them to go. The ER staff kept me warm and calm, the OB, nurse and anesthesiologist tended to my wounds with precision and speed. My friends and Sean deciding to take me to the ER saved my life.
Now I am at home, moving gingerly, if at all, and doing everything I can not to replay the images of a decision I never considered dangerous, of a fall that never truly hurt and of the memories of the massive amounts of blood that I nearly tried to rationalize away to the point of not mentioning.
Today I am grateful for all the minutes I have so recklessly enjoyed as being my right. Knowing the gift that they are makes me dizzy.