“What’s going on?” I asked but no one seemed to have heard me. I asked again only a little bit louder this time, “what’s going on?” It felt like I was trying to wake up from a bad dream and no one was listening or seemed to care.
I had taken a fall earlier in the day (was it still the same day) and was advised by the paramedics to go to the hospital just to be safe. The ambulance had brought me to San Joaquin Community Hospital and that was pretty much all I knew for sure. The rest was one big question mark forming in my brain like a big hurricane off the coast just dying to hit land.
I was alive. At least I thought I was. Maybe I’m dead I thought. Maybe that is why no one is answering me. They can’t hear me. I feel like Bruce Willis in that movie where the little kid sees dead people?
There were Doctors everywhere scrambling franticly, some standing around me taking notes looking at what I assumed were test results. They showed each other pages from their stacks of paper and nodded and confirmed unsaid results to one another. I must be alive, I thought. They wouldn’t be making this much fuss over a dead guy.
My eyes roamed the room like a detective looking for a clue. Mom! My mom and brother stood guard in the corner of the room talking to a doctor. They looked worried and upset. The doctor was explaining something to them in great detail. My brother listened intently, taking in what the doctor said with a series of nods and shrugs, at times running his fingers through his thin graying hair. Occasionally he would look over at my mom and place his hand on her forearm as if trying to console her.
I suddenly I realized no one could hear me because I had a mask covering my face blowing air into my mouth and nose. It was as loud as an air compressor. How had I not noticed this before? I pulled the mask off and asked out loud to whoever would listen, “what’s going on?” No one answered. “What’s going on?” I repeated. Again no answer. “WHAT’S GOING ON!?” I shouted getting everyone’s attention. A doctor looked at me and frowned then simply walked over and took the mask out of my hand and put it back over my face. “We need you to keep this on,” he said then walked off. I took the mask off again, “Can you tell me what’s going on?” Two Doctors walked over to me, one spoke and the other stood behind him like some mafia goon.
“You’re very sick, we need for you to keep this on,” he replied. The second doctor watched with his arms folded looking annoyed. They walked away. I pulled the mask off again. Three doctors walked over and motioned for two more to join them, they all converged around my bed. Oh no! I thought, just as two Doctors each grabbed one of my arms two more practically laid across my legs, the fifth doctor pulled out a syringe, pressed against my forearm and stuck me.
From this point on I was in a dream sequence. Like some kind of deleted scene from Drugstore Cowboys, I was out for the most part. I would awaken occasionally barely able to open my eyes. Most times I would just open my right eye and look up. A revolving door of family members came into my room, one sometimes two at a time, Uncle Daniel, Cousin Olivia, Aunt Mary, and Cousin Rob. All with long faces fighting back tears, concern strewn on their faces, their eyes puffy from driving all day, skin pale from not having eaten, faces red from drinking too much Pepsi.
To my left my mom sat vigilant in the back corner of the room. Family members consoled her. The look on her face I had only seen when dad and my sister Carmen died. When my visitors were done with me they would walk over to her and pay their respect as if they wouldn’t see me again. Every time I woke up I could hear her telling a different part of the same story, of how I had fallen on Friday morning and was told by the paramedics I should go to the hospital just to be safe. So this is safe, I thought to myself, this is safe? I passed out.
I woke up feeling like I’d been asleep for a week. It had actually been 3 days. I couldn’t move. There were IV stands all around my bed, tubes going into both arms, clear liquid seeping into my veins. Was it making me better, was it keeping me sedated, was it keeping me alive? I wondered. My mom, sister and two brothers looked at me silently from the back corner of the room where they sat. I tried to talk to them but realized there was a hose connected to a machine behind me with a coiled plastic tube snaked across my chest into my mouth and down into my throat. My mouth was tapped shut around it. Every time I tried to move the machine would go off with a series of bells and sirens sounding much like a European Police siren. I looked down and saw my body. I was intact for the most part and in a lot of pain.
My sister walked over fighting back tears, she handed me a piece of paper and a pen. I scribbled…”what happened?” and handed the piece of paper back to her. She explained how my lungs had stopped working early Saturday morning. They had been breaking down on me for the last several months’ maybe years. The tube was helping my lungs work. I was very critical but had made it through the worst part. I stuck out my hand and she gave me back the piece of paper. “The worst part?” I questioned. She read my scribble swallowed hard and spoke, “You almost didn’t make it Jess, they told us to prepare for the worst.”
I stayed in the hospital for two weeks, then a rehabilitation center for another two weeks before I was allowed to go home. My lungs are working fine now, functioning the way God intended but I still have a lot of work to do and a lot of weight to lose before I win this battle. The fight’s not over yet, it’s only the first round. Like Rocky Balboa, I’ve got a lot of fight left.