Do you have a badass experience you kinda wished you’ve had but will never be on your bucket list? An experience so extraordinary -and cruel-they are better off told rather than experienced?
The Road of Uncertainties
Part of what makes a journey fun and interesting is that you never know what to expect. These unescapable uncertainties that litter our lives exercise tolerance and open mindedness. It gives us a chance to be wrong and learn something new. A chance to question what we perceive to be true or false – and to touch what was scary.
These unexpected moments breed unexpected results and add color and meaning to our lives.
It is from this uncertain situations we feel the thrill, hopelessness, excitement, desperation, rewards, risks, dangers, surprises, gains, losses…
It is what comes out of these uncertainties that make life interesting and worthwhile.
And then there are moments that, for better or worse, changes the trajectory of our lives – a one of a kind adventure and experience.
The kind that disrupts meaning, color or future.
These are those rare occasions when you are at your most uncertain and life gets reduced to a moment by moment breathing.
Moments so profound and scary it can make or break you.
Moments you are glad you have lived but wouldn’t want to do again.
Like when your life is hanging on the line.
Sometimes it’s during this most uncertain of times you feel the most alive.
It’s the time when the life you knew could end.
Or start anew.
But never the same.
“My head, my head”
A distressed cry from a man seeped through the thin sliding walls separating the rooms.
He said it in a way as if he was begging someone to stop – slow and forced.
It’s that familiar tone you make when you have been in deep pain, confusion and suffering and want it to be over with.
Morphine! Morphine! Yelled someone.
Do you know where you are?
I opened my eyes and looked around the room but what I see is distorted and blurry, cloudy and bright.
I bowed my head, looked up and found I could see a little better.
The attending Dr, a fit mid 40s man, who looked like he’d operated on soldier’s heads in battle before was asking me questions.
Does this hurt? He asked pressing the wound with his finger.
He continued to examine my head and explained the situation while occasionally interrupting to speak to the nurse.
Tetanus shot, he ordered.
My heart raced as the image of a sharp metal flashed through my brain.
The nurse had just finished inserting an IV on my left hand when the monitors beeped out of rhythm.
The Dr browsed through the crowded wires and sensors on my body to see if it was disconnected or loose.
My heart rate had dropped, the nurse informed him.
How are you feeling?
What’s the name of the current president?
Do you remember what happened?
The Dr explained to me the possible side effects and complications casually and directly like he was talking to a wounded soldier.
At some point, he mentioned the words head trauma, skull fracture, hematoma, memory loss, visual impairment, seizure, paralysis, permanent damage…
I tried to recall what had just happened earlier.
I was at work.
When I regained consciousness a paramedic informed me that my head had hit something.
What I don’t recall was hitting my head.
Reclined on a tiny bed, the cold air brushed through my skin seeping through the thin small blanket covering my hairy bush.
I pondered about what my life had been up to that point.
The wind touched my skin like it had something important to tell me.
Is this it? I asked.
It was the same question I had asked the wind as I passed through doors, hallways and bright lights on a stretcher.
Is this the end of my journey?
The Dr had ordered antibiotic and anti seizure drugs to the nurse who inserted more IVs on each arms.
He had been examining the wound carefully for some time touching around it when suddenly his voice changed from inquisitive to worried.
He was talking to the nurse and said something about flushing the head.
Get a bowl, he ordered.
His tone was urgent.
There is something inside your head, he told me.
Speaking as the de facto commander, he seemed experienced and in control, so I listened.
And I’m going to take it out, he added.
I had so far managed to stay calm amidst the fear and confusion but I was taken aback by what he’d just told me.
There’s something inside my head?
How is he going to take it out?
Is it painful?
What if he doesn’t get it out?
The Genius Not
Thoughts about internal bleeding and possible complications lingered.
To keep myself calm, I focused on the only thing I had control with, my breath.
It kept order from the chaos as I listened to my breath until I could feel my heart beat rise and fall.
The process kept me conscious and away from unnecessary thinking.
So far I answered all the questions I’ve been asked and responded to the tests the Dr conducted. I could move my limbs and remembered basic information about my identity. And except for the wound, dizziness, cloudy and double vision I could find no other obvious impairments or losses.
But no matter how I try worries continued to surge and could not get rid of it.
What if I lost part of my memory?
Is my IQ affected?
I started multiplying in my head
6 * 4 = 24
3 * 9 = 27
7 * 8… 56
Relieved to find out I was normal, I began to wonder.
If the fall didn’t make me retarded, is it possible it would make me..?
6371 x 2462
I wouldn’t be turning genius anytime.
Would you like IV or topical?
Asked the veteran Dr commanding the battle scene.
At ease and in control, his solid and hairy arm crossed my gaze and grabbed something from the nurse who stood on the opposite side of the bed.
I took notice that up to that point I had managed to control any major panic and anxiety, but what surprised me was the intolerable pain that I had anticipated – never came.
But I still wasn’t out of danger and had no other options.
The room air breathed through my naked body like a touch of immense loneliness as the cold seeped through the thin sheets like fear wrapping me in utter helplessness.
I tried to absorb what was going on but there were too many coming and going – heavy and fast.
I thought I had gone through the worst.
But it was yet to come.
Topical, please, I said.
Duck and Cover
I eased my thoughts back to breathing as I waited.
Slowly, I had begun to accept my fate.
I was resolved that there was nothing else I could do at the moment.
More important, I was alive and determined to follow what the Dr asked me to do.
And then I braced myself.
The Dr began by inserting his finger through the cut, carefully and slowly.
His finger moved between the scalp and the skull in search for the object stuck inside.
I remembered waking up after being unconscious on the ground for several minutes, when one of the paramedic told me I had hit my head on to something, and that they were going to take me out of it.
No one told me what that something was but the Dr said the object stuck inside looked like a cap of a screw.
His fingers moved around my head for a while and could sense he has trouble getting it out.
He had forced a hole on the cut and slipped off his thick finger and dug between the scalp and the skull.
I cocked my head as he pulled the scalp off tearing the cut wider.
The feeling was so visceral it ran through my brain like a skin had been ripped all the way to the forehead.
Despite my attempts not to, I could not resist the temptation of fear and curiosity of what was going on.
Images in my thoughts produced shocks that triggered involuntary reflex.
I curled and crunched my stomach as a physical reaction to the images of pain produced in my brain.
I had not noticed my reaction until the Dr told me to relax.
I got it, the Dr said.
The nurse passed the aluminum container.
The Dr dropped the object to the metal bowl like a bullet taken out of a soldier’s head.
Suddenly there was a change of atmosphere in the room like a war had just been concluded.
As if a heavy burden had just been lifted off and a sigh of relief ruled in the air.
Slowly, a fog of realization descended upon me.
I had just escaped another encounter with death.
Yet somehow a thought lingered somewhere, it was looming over and far scarier.
I sat, still in disbelief, as the Dr punched 7 staples along the laceration to stitch the wound together .
It was only after he securely wrapped my head with a bandage and controlled the bleeding when it felt like order of things had been restored and for a moment there was peace and even hope.
I opened my eyes to see if it was all real.
The Dr and the nurse talked as my gaze looked past towards the door and beyond until they faded in the background.
In this room it was a success.
Outside were busy stretchers, wheelchairs, nurses, patients with IVs passing by.
People came and went.
Some for a short trip. Some stay longer. While for some will be their last.
I wondered what had happened to the man crying in the other room, about the people in the other dozen rooms.
What would happen to them?
Who decides who survives and don’t?
Am I lucky or a tragedy?
Due to the nature of my injury, the Dr explained, it was standard protocol I stay in the ICU for a round the clock observation and further tests.
The Dr took the container with the object aside while talking to the nurse as I was transferred to a wheel chair by another staff before being moved to another floor.
I drifted off and on in thoughts far and wide trying to make sense of it all.
It had just been moments ago when I was in the heat of battle.
Now I was in a different place – dim, quiet, spacious and warm.
I was in bed with extra sheets of blanket.
“Akoy bahala nimo” A woman’s voice said.
To be continued…