It’s fighting hard to be Spring around here. There’s a lot of rain, a lot of blustery days. I like it as long as I’m not peppered with tornado watches and warnings. Usually this time of year brings back a lot of childhood memories. I grew up scattered all over the north and mid-west, so Spring was hugely welcomed. As school kids, it meant that we didn’t have to be layered up just to go out to recess. It was freeing. The smells were fresh and the outdoor colors were slowly becoming vivid again.
Those memories are still triggered this time of year, but this week I was feeling a little bit uneasy and couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I like to get to the bottom of things when I’m experiencing anxiety, and sometimes it takes a while to just sit and sift through it all, but usually I can come up with a reason, and then, hopefully, the option to walk away from the anxiety.
After spending some time thinking about it, I realized that it was this time of year, in 2011, that Pete’s heart failure took him to the edge, and on April 29 he was life-flighted from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville to the Texas Heart Institute in Houston, TX.
I spent a lot of consecutive nights in the hospital leading up to that flight, but in the brief moments I would leave the hospital to run home for clothes or grab some work papers, I would step outside and the Spring smells would hit me. We spent so much time in and out of the hospital in those years that seasons would change while we were inside. A hospital is a universe unto itself–it had everything I needed so I could be there for days on end without ever seeing blue sky. I couldn’t risk leaving and have something go wrong with Pete, or miss the doctors doing rounds. I always had a long list of questions for them, and if I missed the opportunity, it could be hours before I could catch them again. When I would leave the premises though, it was like a different world. I would feel the breeze and take in the fresh air. The sun would be shining and I’d think how can everything be going so wrong inside when every thing is so right out here. It was hard to rationalize the juxtaposition of the two different worlds, but it is probably one thing that kept me sane.
The day that Pete was life-flighted stretched my sanity to its limits. (Or, at least I thought it did until it got stretched much further many times since.) It stretched Pete to physical limits that I had no idea a person could endure. There was room for one extra person on that flight, and it was going to either be me or Pete’s cardiologist Dr. Fish. I easily gave up my seat knowing that something could go wrong on the flight and by the time I met Pete in Houston he could have died, but Dr. Fish could be of help to him and I couldn’t. Logically, there was no other choice. After he was loaded into the ambulance and headed to the airport, I had about two hours to myself before my flight left. I went outside of the hospital and breathed in deeply the fresh spring air. I felt calmer. I got something to eat, and I just sat outside at a table in the hospital courtyard trying to catch my breath, trying to slow my pounding heart. I watched everyone walking from building to building—doctors, the problem solvers—bustling to see their next patient. I felt some hope that things would be okay.