Author’s note: The following passage is from of Chapter 8, “Sharks & ‘Cudas,” of my book, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life. This is the 62nd excerpt in the blog series.
Sitting by my side, Sandra held my hand and anxiously awaited any word from the critical care doctor on weekend duty. He was a handsome, blonde-haired professional who communicated with Sandra in straightforward fashion. The nurse who staffed my room for that night was a friendly woman originally from Brazil who had a passion for her patients and soccer.
Sandra later told me that the nurse treated me with care that went beyond the professional during the scary fever episode. Before the weekend was over, she invited Sandra and me to join her and her husband at a San Jose Earthquakes soccer match when I fully recovered.
After another battery of tests, there was still no verdict on the cause of my elevated body temperature. The doctor explained to Sandra that the steady high fever combined with my lung failure and heart condition made for an extremely dangerous situation. He recommended that testing be halted until my body temperature could be stabilized.
Sandra agreed and soon the medical team, led by the nurse’s warm and sincere care, covered my body with an “ice blanket.”
It had been a couple of days since doctors began weaning me off the paralytic and sedative medication. The ICU Psychosis that caused the vivid dreams was surely at play that weekend. When I blinked, I probably caught glimpses of the doctor and nurse. With the medicine wearing off, I’m sure I felt the sensation caused by the fever. I also had several dreams that may have come from the same time. I vividly remember my sister Patty trying to help me out of a thick sweater and Sandra pouring water over my body.
Sandra mentioned that there was much chatter about Gabby and Ximena’s birthdays when family visited me in the room that weekend. I also had dreams, probably from this time, of being trapped and paralyzed unable to help Barbara’s grandchildren. In a couple of dreams, they were in a small room and I was helpless as faceless men on drugs tried to enter the room to hurt them. All of this may have been the inspiration for the suffering babies from the fever dream.
In addition to my profound love for Marisa and Erica, I felt a love for my nieces and nephews as if they were my own children. Perhaps, in my state of medically-induced psychosis, the babies from the fever dream and the kids in the trapped dream represented my nieces and nephews who loved me and helplessly stood on the sidelines
While the family was celebrating Gabby’s quince, Sandra shared the latest developments with Tía Martha, Tavito, Ana, Will, Juanita and Marianne in the waiting room. They prayed before quietly sitting down to take stock of the situation. It was another setback and Sandra was feeling the strain stronger than ever turning to her faith to carry her through.
Being an emergency room nurse, Marianne reassured Sandra telling her that she made the right decision with the “ice blanket.” Ever the faithful woman, Tía Martha comforted Sandra with the same assurance that can only come from a mother who had her fair share of life experiences.
Comforted by the notion that God was in charge and directing my medical team, Sandra spent the evening talking about the birthday blessings of the past two days and chuckling at the thought of the partiers at the quinceñera. For the rest of the night, she was able to take her mind off of the fever crisis and enjoy the company of the family and friends who stayed behind in the waiting room
About a year later, Sandra recounted that scary night in the hospital. Family and friends talked about how the situation at the hospital became part of the party. In spirit, it felt to the partygoers that I was actually there with everyone. It was a rare occasion where the uncertainty of life collided with the beauty of celebrating a life that was embarking on an exciting and limitless future.
Pancho took video footage at the party. The video tells a tale of a courageous family living life with faith in its heart. The camera followed a path of moving about the room visiting and catching up with family and friends. This is like my modus operandi at parties. Over the course of an evening, I’m like a nomad wandering from table to table sharing stories that end up in laughter or caring reflection.
Pancho’s camera appeared to be following a path I would have taken that night. Jumping from table to table, he recorded people as they greeted me and sent prayers. Looking into the eyes of each person, I could see the love and sincerity that came along with their words.
One segment in particular captures the power of love and prayer. Tío Tavo Peralta, with his warm smile and signature baseball cap sitting slightly tilted on his head, looked directly at the camera assuring me that all would end well.
When the camera reached the bar, one of my regular stops during these types of gatherings, Pancho focused on my compadres Eddie and Miguel, and cousin Mariano. With more than a few cocktails under their belts, they ventured away from the somber and serious tone shared by others.
When together at parties, we Compadres always engaged in frat-boy shenanigans. In the video, they acted like rambunctious schoolboys putting peer pressure on one of their own by teasingly taunting me to “hurry and wake up” so I could join them at the bar for the next celebration.
Watching Pancho’s production during my recovery at home months later, I felt like I was there. I laughed watching the video, comforted by the fact that I wasn’t exempt from their teasing even while in a coma with a bad heart and failing lungs.
Next Wednesday: Thoughts on my spiritual journey…