The constant flickering fluorescent lights and the lull of the rhythmic and periodic cardiac monitor fill up this white and overly clean bare box of a room. There are no windows, there is no sunlight, and there is no sense of time. Soft pronged tubes stick into my nose and the smell of synthetic plastic and sterilized material fill my lungs. In the hallway, a sound of clanking tests tubes on a rattling cart approaches. There is a slight pinch on the crevice of my arm and a dark crimson stream exits. I roll my head over and glance at a green oscillating wave on a monitor. Blood oxygen level reads fifty. An older lady shuffles in with a long beaded cross necklace, a bible in hand, and a heavy look on her face. She whispers prayers to me, but she is a million miles away. There is a rustle of long white coats and important voices demanding to be heard. Many familiar faces come to stare at me. Many words are said, but I don’t hear any of them. I am untouchable, but inches away. Silence overtakes me; I’m in a quiet peaceful place accompanied with drips of clear liquid filling my veins and covering me in a cloud of confusion. An uncomfortable and stiff plastic bracelet is wrapped around my wrist. I wince as I bend my IV filled arm and squint to read the words Intensive Care Unit. I am fighting for my life.
A mesmerizing lion with bold and radiant eyes stood honorably as rays of sunshine beat across his thick fur filled chest. This portrait of courage fit in flawlessly over the freshly painted walls. Trees rustled outside and sunshine radiated through the windows and warmed me from the inside out. A pen container was strategically placed on an over-sized and empty mahogany desk. A continuous tick tock from a clock wrapped me in a blanket of tranquility. Lavish couches were nestled throughout the still room. The feathery down cushions engulfed me gently and completely. A tall slender man sat adjacent from me, he let out a deep sigh, and looked intently at me; awaiting my words to fill the silence. My hesitant voice began.
The reflection of a stop light glared down on the newly dampened dark ground. The summer night air found its way through a crack in the window. The soft hum of the engine was overpowered by the chirp of crickets. Thoughts quickly raced through my mind and I began to feel overwhelmed with what I thought were big problems. Am I going to be admitted into the engineering school? What will I do if I don’t get in? Green spread across the pavement and the pressure of the petal against my foot increased. Dissociation between my mind and body made me feel as if I was floating above my car. Should I be driving when I feel this out of it? A waterfall of adrenaline screamed through my system and hit every last part of my frail frame. My hands trembled against the wheel and my whole body began to shake vigorously. My heart beat pulsed through my ears and thumped through the silence until I screeched to a halt on the side of the highway. This unmasked and terrifying intensity was the first of many panic attacks.
The drapes are drawn and the darkness consumes me. Paint hides under many posters of beautiful places I wish to visit someday. Pictures of better days cling to highlighter colored poster paper. I lay motionless on my pillow top. Will this room ever see light again? Season after season on Netflix is completed. I’m alive, but in hiding; hiding from my racing heartbeat and seeking safety in this cave of covers. My phone lights up with friends wanting to see me, still in love with the person I used to be. I’m too scared to leave and would rather be alone than to have to face all the anxiety and fear that lies outside these walls of security.
The tall slender man with his hands intertwined in each other let out another sigh and nodded his head in deepest sympathy. With a look of concern apparent in his eyes, he rose up from the lavish couch he had listened motionlessly on. He heavily stepped over to the empty mahogany desk and lowered himself into the oversized chair. With a click of his pen, I found myself at the bottom of several pill bottles.
This room has seen much better days. Days full of happiness, health and laughter. There is no light sneaking through the drawn drapes. There isn’t any life coming from my motionless shadow except for the subtle inhale and exhale occurring at the small of my back. Bound to the abyss of blankets and rolling in a deep ocean of indifference. I am surrounded by walls of security. There is no more anxiety. There is nothing. I’m never leaving this pillow cloud.
The dark emerald granite countertops, stone tiled floors, and beautiful cherry cabinets that my parents spent hours picking out and putting together during the remodel looked perfect on that day. My fingertips touched the cold countertop as I clearly and confidently told my mom sitting steps away that I could no longer breathe. Undeniable warmth filled me through and through as everything went the most pure and bright white I’d ever seen. For the first time in months, it didn’t hurt to breathe and my heart wasn’t racing. I felt so serene and fearless as I fell into the nothingness. As I collapsed into my mom’s loving arms; my body went stiff, all the color in my eyes were overtaken by my pupils, my heart was still, my lips were blue, and I was snow white. Everything was still. Everything was fine. Confusion set in as I heard my mom’s pleading voice calling me back. “Ciera don’t leave me. Don’t leave me.” She frantically repeated into the phone, “1927 Sage Drive.” After another blink, eight emergency medical technicians and firefighters filled my kitchen. Another blink: on a stretcher, in an ambulance, in the emergency room. Another blink: motionless with no heartbeat next to my mom. Panic set in and my pleading screams shuttered through the whiteness. “I NEED HELP! SOMEONE HELP ME, IM NOT OKAY. HELP ME.”
Back to the white and overly clean room filled with the constant flickering fluorescent lights, the beeping cardiac monitor, the IV filled arms, the soft pronged tubes, and the smell of sterilized material. The important white coated figure sat a few feet away clicking a mouse and flashing a screen filled with black and white images of my lungs. “Pulmonary embolism is where blood clots reside in the lungs. After a while, they block the main airways between your heart and lungs making it impossible to breathe. When you arrived in the hospital, less than 50% of your lungs were functioning. Hundreds of clots are imbedded in your lungs with the largest measuring 1.6cm (a Hampton hump). Your heart is completely out of proportion from the stress of the extra work it is undertaking to keep you alive. One in three people die from pulmonary embolism. You’re lucky your odds are better than others.” The two most important people in my life sat at the foot of my bed. A tear trickled down my mom’s soft cheek and my heartbroken dad squeezed my hand. My words broke the silence, “I survived.”
The golden rays slowly rose over the snow covered mountain peaks. Pink, purple, and orange uncovered the darkness left by the night. The dark days of pain that left me shriveled on the ground, fighting for every breath eventually dulled with time and instilled within me a new kind of light; a light that some people search their whole lives looking for. Sometimes it takes getting everything you ever wanted and then losing it to really appreciate what has been given. Days are numbered and time is not meant to be wasted on trivial problems because when put into perspective, they are nothing. There is a decision to see the positive instead of negative, to be strong for those who are weak, to fight relentlessly for those who won’t, to pursue happiness for those who don’t, and to live for those who can’t. One life is given and one journey is made; make it worthwhile. In the darkness, there is always light and no matter how hard it gets, with every new dawn comes a new day.