Monday, October 17, 2011

Taking Another Look

Two years ago, it snowed. It was the earliest October snow I had ever seen. In between the fits of delirium and drugged sleep, I could make out the quiet snow falling outside my ICU windows. It wasn't much snow. Probably amounted to less than three inches or so. 

I struggled with the idea that it was possible that a month had passed and I missed fall. Most of the color had fallen from the trees. The leaves had blown far and wide. The sun hung differently in the sky. 

The day after it snowed it warmed up significantly. By lunchtime it had warmed up into the 50's. My pulmonary intensivist, Dr O'Mara noted the change in weather as well as my increasing health, and suggested that I be taken outside to get some sun. For most folks that would entail hopping into a wheelchair and being wheeled out by an aide. In my case, I couldn't begin to hold my body upright, so my nurses and aides moved me to a reclining lounge chair, bundled me up like baby and rolled me out. As we passed through the hospital, I realized that these chairs were never really intended to roll down the hall loaded down with patients. They definitely were not meant to cross thresholds, concrete and asphalt. By the time they parked me across the main entrance from the hospital, I was through the fear and shock of the ride. All I could think about was the sun and that massive warmth that encompassed me. 

I had spent so many days indoors in the ICU that I was suffering from acute ICU syndrome. I heard bells and alarms going off all the time (even when they weren't going off). Being outside was like having a warm shower. For a few moments, I could shrug off the horrible life I had been struggling through. 

I had been running a fever for over a month. Between the peritonitis, sepsis and the pneumonia, I burned my way through over a hundred pounds of my body's mass. I was so accustomed to being hot, sweaty and sticky that to be outside was like being reborn. I started peeling off the layers of white blankets they had swaddled me in. Layer after layer, I tossed them aside. The aide and the nurse realized (just in time), that I had nothing on underneath all the blankets (due to soaking all my gowns and sheets thanks to all the fevers). So there I was, sitting/laying on this reclining chair, near the parking lot of the hospital, facing into the sun, blankets tossed aside, bare chested to the cold breeze. People passing by must have had such a sight! I was just a huge ball of steaminess. I have never been so happy to see the sun in my life. 

I sat there, like that, face to the warmth, for over twenty minutes. Sucking in every ray of sunshine. It was only when the first clouds passed in front of the sun that they decided I had been outside long enough. They swaddled me back up and started rolling me back towards the hospital's front doors. Just before we crossed the threshold, the sun shot one last bolt of sunshine my way. I was able to turn my head just enough to catch the light. One last look. It would be another week before I got to go outside again. 


  1. You were soooo happy that day. I'm glad Dr. O'Mara understood what you needed. I told him that you "weren't you," and he did just the right thing. It was a beautiful day, but even if it hadn't been, I think we both would have thought it beautiful.

  2. It was the beginning of me turning around. It was so wonderful. I am glad everyone thought it was a good idea.