First you must know I believe in the power of love, that the heart wields the strongest magic which can overcome anything in the multiverse.
I love writing, but came to it in my forties. I think I always wanted to be a writer. I just didn’t know a person could do that. That was other people. My mind was peculiar most of my life. I’d think something I wanted to say and tell myself, “You can’t say that!” When I made a pass at being a song writer I’d hear myself say, “You can’t sing that!” about the lyrics. Yet people said the songs I did write were interesting because they told a story. When I started writing—dabbling really—in romance novels I didn’t filter myself and was told, “You’ll never be published if you write that!” Because there were rules in place in the Romance genre and I was breaking a few.
I have made compromises in my stories. But not to anyone but myself. Never at the expense of my story, no matter the “rules.” As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich penned, “Well behaved women seldom make history.”
In May of 2019 a break in the skin of my foot that had been there a year and hadn’t done more than, like, sit there, turned out to be an infection so far gone I lay dying and unconscious in a hospital. I went into the ER so late on Saturday it was nearly Sunday. I honestly was so ill I couldn’t stand, couldn’t make it even to a bedside commode, and I certainly wasn’t cleaning myself up. I do not have much memory from Wednesday that week on. My husband saw my right arm extend when he would ask me a question. I’d stare at it, trying to answer, but no words would come out of my mouth. The last thing I remember that night was being loaded for a CT scan. My husband of over twenty years had to make the decision. His options? Have my legs amputated to save my life. Or, make me comfortable for a couple of days. But he was advised of a few things.
One was to make the decision as he thought I would want it, not the way he would want it. Two was a warning of the realities. I was 59. A full 50% of the people who are half my age in the same condition do not pull through the surgery. As in do not survive the procedure. Just never wake up. Also, a full 50% of the half that do survive just give up and only want to lay abed and be taken care of doing nothing the rest of their lives in a downward spiral of depression. Along with this, every doctor and nurse told him the worst possible stat—a huge percentage of relationships end when the amputee wakes to find their partner has opted for the amputation. A fight ensues as does divorce or break up.
So Love sat in the ICU, his wife dying as this info swirled in his head. He had to make a decision. My husband was 39 and certain his life did not work without his wife. He also has a medical condition that makes decisions difficult. No couple really has this talk. “Dear, if my legs have to be amputated while I’m unconscious will you tell them yes?” I had no advance directive so it was all on my husband. A friend spoke to him, the priest in the hospital chapel counseled him, and a family going through their own things saw him in the chapel alone and invited him over to be with them. Finally his mom said, “Do the surgery and let her be mad at you later. That’s what I’d do if it were your father.”
So he opted for the surgery, certain he would lose me, or, at least, my love.
I didn’t wake up right away, nor all at once. I came to in stages. The first stage I think I was vaguely aware of machine noises and people talking in muted voices. The second stage I clearly heard and identified machines, my mother-in-law’s voice, and my husband’s. My eyes didn’t open, but my mind’s awareness did as the conversation hit a lull. Into the silence, I heard my husband speak again the first words I distinctly heard him say.
“She’s gonna hate me. She’s gonna wake up and hate me.”
I had a tube in my throat through which I was fed and given oxygen preventing me from speaking. I struggled to wake but didn’t until later that day.
My eyes didn’t want to stay open. Turns out the pain pills were opioids. Opioids had been given me once before. I was loopy for 24 hours. I’d fall asleep in the middle of a sentence and wake 2 or 3 hours later and complete the sentence without realizing I’d passed out. So waking was difficult. I tried to keep my eyes open, but no. Finally, it seemed like I was rising through water to break the surface.
I finally woke.
The first thing I heard was again my husband’s voice as he said, “Oh, sweetie! It’s been so long.”
I still had a tube in my throat, and had to do breathing sprints to prove I could breathe on my own. So my first night awake I had questions. I was too weak to hold a pen to write, couldn’t point to words or draw out, and so never got answers. And I certainly couldn’t respond to the thing I first heard my husband say about me hating him.
The next day I had a procedure—my left thigh was so infected they went back in several times to make sure it was clean. Then I had to do breathing sprints. For a day. All day. I think I started at like 6 or 7 in the morning and was done about the time my day nurse was done with her twelve hour shift. But they took the tube out!
My first words were, “Honey, I love you. I could never hate you.”
It was Thursday night.
I’d been unconscious for five days.