One time in my life that changed me forever was in November, 2001. I was pregnant with Evan, and my best friend since freshman year of high school had delivered a sweet baby girl 2 weeks prior. She is like a sister to me. I refer to her as the sister I picked... Life was good for all of us!
That weekend, T got sick and went into the hospital for bronchitis and asthma. This was totally common. T has lots of health issues: asthma, diabetes, etc. Life is always dramatic for her. We joke about it constantly! Well, I had a man at my house checking on the plumbing and asking me questions. It was around 10 am or so, when I got a phone call from T's mom. She had been crying and told me that T had been admitted and was in the ICU on a ventilator. I wasn't terribly worried yet. Again, nothing is ever simple for my friend. I asked, "When's she getting out?" And her mom's voice shook as she said things were very serious... My heart stopped. My eyes watered. (they are right now, as I type this)
T had developed ARDS. We think she picked up some illness from the hospital's urgent care when she took her daughter in for a check up. There had been somebody coughing. She and I had protected her baby as best we could, but didn't think about her comprimised immune system...
I remember the feeling of complete helplessness. Her mother advised me to not visit the ICU especially since T was contagious. I was pregnant, remember... I asked her to please keep me updated and hung up the phone, crying. Patrick had gotten out of the shower as I was sobbing in the bedroom. The poor plumber was wandering around in the kitchen, unsure of what to do with his questions and measurements as a pregnant woman received obviously devastating news on the phone.
I called my mom. I begged her to go to the hospital and let T know I was thinking of her. To hug her and to let me know how bad things really were. My mom, who also loves T, went... and she told me that she really, really looked bad. I didn't know what to do...
The next day, I believe, I got another call from her mom. T had gotten incredibly sick the night prior. They had read her the Last Rites... she pulled thru the night, but her mom was desperate, I could tell. I went to my doctor that day for a regular check up and brought Patrick with me. When the check up was over, he asked me if I had any questions... I broke down. Patrick took Justin out of the room as my wonderful doctor sat down and listened to me cry over the potential loss of T. I couldn't fathom it! I especially couldn't fathom not saying goodbye... He assured me that with a face mask and washing my hands well afterwards, that I would be safe. That I needed to see her.
I'll never forget seeing T in the hospital. How old she looked... How very frail. I remember being so PISSED that she had some gunk on her face from the ventilator. Dried something or other... I remember that her hair was limp and knotted. I tried to smooth it out, to dry the sweat from her brow. I tried to wash her face, but feared hurting her delicate skin... I remember her eyes recognizing me as I walked in, with my mask on. The fear in her eyes... I assured her that it was ok, but I could tell she was so scared... We held hands and I told her of my day. Just b.s to kill the time. I told her I loved her. I joked that if I had been in the hospital for days without shaving my legs, they would have been all hairy-Italian, but her Polish-blond legs were smooth, so there was a bonus. She managed a feeble grin around the mouthpiece... I asked her if we could take her son to the zoo, to get him away from the craziness of the hospital and fear. She nodded with tears in her eyes...
At this point, I still feared that I was saying goodbye. That this was my last chance to let her know how much I loved her. I could only think of how much she would be leaving behind. Her young son, only 4 and her newborn daughter.
Thankfully, T recovered, slowly. I went to stay with her after her release in December, to help care for her daughter. She so desperately wanted to do it herself. I carried her daughter for her and brought the things to her that she needed. Helped clean up a bit but basically stayed around to be sure that she didn't get overtired or hurt.
Months later and she still had recovery issues. The medications had taken their toll on her and it truly took her a while to become "herself" again.
Sometimes, I'll be driving down the road and the thought of not having T around makes me tear up, gasp, and thank God for the extra time she has fought so hard for. Her life is grand right now, but she's so far away... I wish we were closer physically, but I still talk to her every week.
This marks almost 6 years since that awful time that I nearly lost my best friend. I still yell at her for scaring the crap out of me and contributing to my streak of white hair.
I have many more moments that have changed my views on how fragile life is. Times that I am grateful are over and hope never happen again.
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