On November 21, 2004, 2 days before my 25th birthday, my baby was 5 months old.
I was married to the most wonderful man in the world, and we were about to celebrate our first Thanksgiving in our new home as a family of three.
I was also less than 24 hours away from the nearest hospital.
We spent the day running errands. I had a small cold, but nothing too serious.
We came home early evening to make dinner and I started feeling a little rough.
I’m asthmatic, so I started a nebulizer treatment and hoped I wouldn’t need prednisone when I called the doctor in the morning.
Morning came, and I was not feeling good enough to go to work. So I called in sick and my husband took the baby to daycare. He said he’d swing by the house at lunchtime to check on me.
I don’t remember much, other than how tired, sweaty, and weak I felt. I couldn’t breathe, and the phone was in the kitchen.
Nowhere near the couch I was lying on.
I felt like I was suffocating on my own bodily fluids.
My husband came home to check on me and brought the baby to say hi to me.
The next thing I remember, I was in our car arriving at the hospital. I remember crawling through the emergency room doors, and I remember fighting desperately to sit up on my hands and knees on the table so I could breathe.
The last thing I remember was someone saying, “We have to put her under or she’s going to die”.
I remember tiny snippets about being under sedation—I wasn’t aware of time, though. I remember feeling a kind of weight on my chest and a feeling of helplessness.
I felt cold air brushing past me sometimes.
When I woke up, my throat burned from the ventilator. There were a few doctors and a nurse whose hands felt familiar when she put her hand on my arm. The doctors left and some time later they came back to talk to me about what happened.
I had gotten pneumonia that got me down pretty quickly, likely because of my asthma.
And then I got a double jinx by something else called ARDS—Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome.
My organs had begun to fail and my right lung collapsed.
The doctor said that if my husband hadn’t have come home when he did, I would have been dead within hours.
I felt like the luckiest person out there.
What I wasn’t prepared for was that after the millions of function tests I went through (to make sure my heart and lungs hadn’t sustained permanent injury), there was this serious fear I started to feel.
I couldn’t remember things people would say to me and I’d start crying for no reason at all. I couldn’t sleep, and I developed a fear of germs.
I was no longer able to nurse my baby.
My body had been healed by doctors and nurses that knew what had happened to me, but when they told me I was almost dead, something broke in me.
I would have left behind a husband and child. I probably should have seen a therapist, but I had no idea that being so sick could cause PTSD.
I know it’s incorrect thinking, but it still feels like I’m malingering when I say that I have it.
When I looked out my kitchen window on November 20th, the leaves scudded along the ground and the sky was a brilliant blue.
The air smelled like dying leaves that were being warmed by the soil that remembered the warmth of summer.
When I came home, I was too weak to stand and so I stared out the living room window at the frozen earth—the leaves long since replaced with snow.
In spite of my newfound brain injury (from lack of oxygen) and my simmering fear, I had a baby that showed me that I was the luckiest person alive.
I had a husband that held everything together so that I had something to come home to and that showed me that I was the luckiest person alive.
There’s still a sense of dread when November rolls around, but as the years go by I find that there are a thousand joys that move the fear just a little bit farther out of the way.
I still consider myself the luckiest person alive.
Naomi is a homeschooling mother, photographer, introvert and wife.