i can’t breathe without wheezing which leads to a hacking in the deepest hollow of my chest, a cough that makes me light headed and then i start to cry for no other reason than i can’t breathe. i gulp for air between sobs.
so i sit very still. i try not to make noise. i try not to cough or wheeze or hack or cry. and for goodness sakes, i won’t laugh.
i don’t have time for this: prednisone. albuterol. codeine cough medicine. and now after a second visit to the doctor, a pat on the hand and an invitation to call if i feel worse or get a fever, along with more prednisone and an antibiotic to pick up after a chest exray and blood work. only someone didn’t tell the lab they had a sick old woman in their waiting room, who was sitting as still as possible and not hacking up lung air on any of the other patients, and that she needed help. so i sat there for 90 minutes. waiting. watching one person after another go through the laboratory door.
really. i feel lousy. i am exhausted and probably have asthma or bronchitis or maybe even pneumonia. i am not dying. i do not have a terminal illness. i haven’t had a stoke or a heart attack. nothing is broken and nothing is urgent for anyone – not a single medical person. not the med-aide, not the tech, not the nurse, certainly not the doctor. there is nothing other than my deep hacking, cough that separates me in the waiting room from the young man with a broken arm, or the old man hunched over his cane or the woman with her walker, her feet barely settled in her slippers, or the new father with his week old son, or the pregnant mama with two toddlers in tow. sitting on the plastic bench, i wonder what would happen if I lost consciousness and slid onto the floor. you see, i just don’t get sick. not like this.
i don’t feel good, i can’t think straight, i can barely think and I can’t find a find a single ounce of graciousness. for myself or anyone else.
thinking of the patients and families that i serve with hospice, i wonder how they don’t go stark raving mad with grief and the reality of navigating the medical system in addition to their own feelings.
it is the grief and confusion and sense of aloneness that continues to call me to be with my mother – a stroke survivor, to advocate for meaning and connection in her life. it is the fear of the unknown, the life and death decisions – that call me to walk with people through the end of life experience, offering any comfort, any assurance, any companionship to make the journey.
when I am feeling well, when i am clear i am able to access my faith and that grace that is unexplained.
Jimmy Carter, facing his own medical issues embodies that grace and faith.
“I have had a wonderful life,” Carter said with the same unsparing honesty and meticulous detail that marked his presidency. “I’m ready for anything and I’m looking forward to new adventure,” Carter said, in the 40-minute appearance before the cameras, in which he frequently beamed his huge smile and never fell prey to emotion.
“It is in the hands of God, whom I worship.”
this is why I wanna be like jimmy carter.