Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life (Excerpt #65)

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Author’s note: The following passage is from Chapter 8, “Sharks & ‘Cudas,” of my book, Summer in the Waiting Room: How Faith, Family, and Friends Saved My Life.  This is the 65th excerpt in the blog series.

The text in italics describes a vivid dream caused by a phenomenon doctors call ICU Delirium.


When I woke up, I was back in the ICU and everything seemed so clear.  Although I was still connected to a bunch of IV tubes and the intubation pipe was still in my mouth, I was sitting up in the bed and I was aware of my surroundings.

I couldn’t move my arms or legs, but I was reading the newspaper online on a computer screen in front of me. The headline read: SCHOOL BOARD PRESIDENT IN CRITICAL CONDITION AFTER SHARK ATTACK. I continued to read about an accident I had in Mexico and that I was still in a seaside hospital there.

I wracked my brain trying to figure out what was happening to me. I remembered being in the hospital, but didn’t know why. Then it all started slowly coming back to me. We were in Mexico at a seaside resort celebrating the Peraltas’ 50th wedding anniversary.

Sandra, the girls, and I were setting up some beach chairs near a clear lagoon. The place was spectacularly beautiful. We ran into the local congresswoman, the girls’ pediatrician, and their husbands. We were sitting on the pristine beach and chatting with the congresswoman and the doctor while their spouses were in the lagoon.

The men were engaged in a water activity that was all the rage for the well-to-do: taking pictures of dangerous sea creatures in their natural habitat. They hired several Mexican guides to lure the beasts into the crystal clear lagoon where they could snap the photos.

As I sipped a cool drink, I saw a large Great White shark enter the lagoon with its tail swaying in the water and bearing its sharp teeth with a swagger that befitted its reputation. With underwater cameras, the two men clicked away capturing the essence and beauty of the majestic sea animal.

After a few moments, the guides began trying to get the attention of the shark to lead it out of the lagoon. But, the shark had different ideas. It had focused on the congresswoman’s husband and sped directly toward him. There was sudden panic in the water and on the beach. While the lawmaker screamed for help, her husband froze with absolute fright in his eyes.

Instinctively, I jumped out my chair and into the water to help.

As I quickly swam, I felt the shark’s large teeth sink into my neck. The beast trashed me about like a ragdoll. The water was swirling around in a tornado of bubbles and foam as if I was caught in the wash cycle of a washing machine. I couldn’t see anything but white bubbles encasing me in a tight grip and all I could hear was the violent swishing sound of water.

Abruptly, everything went dark and silent.

When I awoke, I was in a hospital bed. A nurse with perfectly combed hair and meticulous makeup was tenderly swabbing stitches on my neck and calming me with her soothing voice saying, “you’re going to fine, Mr. Garcia.” The nametag pinned to her sharply pressed uniform identified her as “Fiona.” Sandra sat at the foot of the bed warmly smiling with confident eyes.

I slowly closed my eyes and comfortably fell asleep.


The champs rally at the Creekside Cabana was in full swing. Kids and families packed into the small meeting hall tucked into a residential neighborhood to watch the traditional end-of-the year slide show. Outside of the little cabana, an overflow crowd peered through the large windows to catch a glimpse of the spectacle inside.

Marisa and Erica sat on the floor cross-legged in the first row of swimmers laughing and cooing as pop music blared and photos of another memorable summer flashed across the screen. When the show ended, Marisa led the team in a number of cheers that created energy and inspiration for the next day.

From the corner of her eye, Marisa saw her Nina Kim rush out of the cabana with a worried look and the cell phone pushed tightly against her ear. With her brilliant smile and trademark enthusiasm, Marisa continued to shout out chants as her stomach began turning in a moment of extreme anxiety. She feared the worst as bolts of electricity shot through her body.

Nonetheless, she maintained the enthusiastic façade of a leader rallying her troops for the upcoming battle. Minutes later, adrenalin filled her body and blood rushed to her head as she witnessed her Nina and two other moms huddled together holding on to each other in a tearful embrace. Swimming through the crowd as soon as the rally ended, Marisa reached Kim as her heart felt like it was thumping out of her chest.

With a calm that belied her anxious nature, Marisa stood stoically, with tears welling up in her eyes, and gave a definitive directive to Kim: “Nina, just tell me now if my dad died.”

Kimberley assured that I hadn’t died, but confirmed that something went wrong with the Swan line procedure. The details weren’t clear as Sandra was still trying to understand the situation. All that Sandra told her was to bring the girls to the hospital as soon as possible.

Away from the prying eyes and ears of the cabana, Marisa finally lost her composure as anxiety and panic consumed her on the familiar, but seemingly endless, drive to the medical center. She kept asking Kimberley what had happened. Was I dead? Was it my heart? Am I okay? Erica sat in the backseat quietly biting her fingernails. Kim forged ahead with tears in her eyes.


To learn more about what causes ICU Delirium and The Dreams from my story, click here:

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