New growth, seeking oxygen

I spent eight days in the hospital with covid and pneumonia. Despite being fully vaccinated, my age and being vulnerable with a pre-existing condition contributed to covid finding me. I found myself unable to breathe and completely exhausted. A trip to the emergency room resulted in my admission to an isolation room for covid patients. I was joined by two women, one who moaned, “Help me, help me” continuously. The woman next to her tried to soothe her without success. Nurses came and went, but once they left, she would call out the names of what I assumed were family members. She was transferred to “another level of care.” That left me and the woman across from me who got to go home. You don’t know loneliness until you are by yourself in an isolation room. The staff that entered looked like beekeepers or those sci-fi people who are examining an extraterrestrial creature.

I was told that I needed to be flat on my stomach at least three times a day to help my lungs. I did as I was told. When the nurse left, I fell asleep. My arms were pinned down and the canula that supplied oxygen had somehow moved while I slept. I was breathless and began to panic. I reached for the nurse call button that I was told would be right near my hand, but I could not reach it. I struggled to breathe as my fear grew. I tried to locate the call button, unable to turn over or pull my arms up. I was the most helpless I have ever been and cried out just like the woman who moaned so much. Frantically I felt around near my hands and found the call button at last. I pushed and pushed to no avail. I cried and asked God to please let me live. I kept pushing areas of the nurse call button and realized as I fumbled with it that it was upside down. I flipped it over and pushed the whole thing until I heard a nurse respond. I cried out, “I can’t breathe. Help me.” The nurse arrived and helped turn me over. She put the canula in and the life-sustaining oxygen flowed. I cried, this time tears of gratitude.

I am grateful to the nurses who cared for me. One nurse noticed that my hair was a tangled mess that looked like birds were nesting in various spots. She brought a can of shaving cream and told me that after many years she discovered that it helps remove tangles. She sat and brushed the knots out of my hair. She then braided my long hair. The last person who did that was my great-grandmother.

Another nurse brought me chocolate ice cream and I don’t think ice cream ever tasted that good. A stocky nurse on night shift helped get me upright on a chair so he could change my sheets. These nurses are heroes. They are angels.

When my oxygen level was stable I was allowed to go home with portable oxygen. My bed never felt so good. After about two weeks I was able to walk to the kitchen. Another week and I could sit on my little deck for a few minutes without getting tired and out of breath. My heart filled with gratitude for the fact that there was enough oxygen in my lungs to sit on my deck. I have a new found love for oxygen, for life.

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