Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life (excerpt #50)

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Author’s note: The following passage is from Chapter 5, “Buen Corazón,” of my book, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life.  This is the 50th excerpt in the series.


The conclusion of Chapter 5 and the final excerpt in this blog series will post next Wednesday, February 11, 2015. Look for the book, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life, scheduled to be published and available later this summer.

To catch up on what you missed, click on the image above to read excerpts#1-#49.


In a panic, I tugged and pulled at the restraints holding the mask in place desperately trying to unwrap it from my head. I didn’t want die in such a vulnerable state.  The straps were tight and seemed to be configured in a complex pattern so I couldn’t figure out how to disconnect the mask.  I couldn’t hear anything because of the hurricane blowing in my face, but I could see the red and green LED lights from the monitors bouncing up and down in a haphazard dance.

Within seconds, the nurse burst into the room and attempted to soothe my fears.  He was a young Asian-American man in his late 20s named Louie.  He had a comforting bedside manner and calmly explained that the BIPAP mask would help me breathe and get better.  Undeterred, I continued to tug and pull at the mask. Louie never lost composure and continued to assure me that everything would be okay.

Sandra came into the room right away to help the nurse calm me down.  She lovingly caressed the top of my head and added her assurances making me feel safe and comfortable despite the roaring windstorm inside the mask.  With Sandra by my side, Louie administered a strong dose of sedatives that would help me sleep through the storm.

The next morning I was back on the clear non-breather mask struggling to catch my breath as Sandra and I waited for the doctor to outline the plan of action.  The doctor arrived with grim news, oxygen levels continued to drop even with the BIPAP machine.  She suggested that a CT scan would help them better understand the cause of the lung issues.

A Computer Tomographic scan is a technology that uses computer-processed x-rays to produce an image of virtual slices of specific areas of the scanned object, allowing the user to see what is inside it without cutting it open.  However, the doctor couldn’t approve the scan until my breathing stabilized, so she recommended re-intubation.

My first reaction was negative, in my mind I said “hell no!”  The intubation tube was a hundred times more painful that the BIPAP machine.  After further explanation and thoughtful reflection, I realized that I had no choice.  Re-intubation was the only way to keep me alive while doctors tried to figure out what was wrong with my lungs.

After a barrage of questions and satisfactory answers, I gave my approval to do the procedure.  The doctor scheduled the intubation for later that afternoon and left me and Sandra in the room alone.

After all we had been through in the past three weeks – the heart attack, congestive heart failure, cardiac arrest – I finally came face-to-face with the prospect of dying.  In just a few minutes, an eternity of thoughts swept across my mind.  What would happen to Sandra and the girls?

Sandra would be fine I reasoned, but the girls were still in their formative and impressionable years.  With unconditional love and support from Sandra and the Peraltas, they should be okay I hoped.  My relationship with God was still forming, so I thought and reasoned instead of prayed. Unconditional faith wasn’t yet part of my being and my vocabulary. I still wanted answers that were clear and logically determined.

Since Sandra was the one who maintained unquestioned faith, I believed that the moment required pragmatic thinking on my part. Answers came quickly: I had life insurance so they wouldn’t have to face financial hardship, especially with Sandra’s financial discipline and savvy.  Sandra was young enough to find another mate if she wanted and smart enough not to let a negative person into the girls’ lives.

The Peraltas would wrap the girls in a cocoon of love as tight, or tighter, than the one I had at Viewmont Avenue.  Convinced that everyone would be safe and sound, I began to relax and not fear death.  Surprisingly, I wasn’t scared and felt like I would come to terms with dying.  The worst case scenario was that I would go to sleep and not emerge from the sedation needed for the procedure.

With my growing, although far from mature, bond with God, and my concerns resolved through solid reasoning, I was prepared for whatever lay ahead. Little did I know that Sandra’s faith would be a much more powerful force than any rational thoughts I could conjure up.


Next Wednesday: The FINAL excerpt of the blog series!!

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