Melissa “Megan” Moore
This past winter was really rough on me. I had gotten a cold mid-November, and after healing but a few days, I caught that really bad flu that had been going around. That lasted 5 weeks. I hadn’t been well a full week yet before I noticed my roommate coughing, so I ran to the store to get more Nyquil, in anticipation of getting sick again. I started to get sick with yet another cold, and had gotten a bad case of diarrhea (which, at that time, I attributed to a change in diet that recently happened, so I thought absolutely nothing of it). But I never had the chance to use the Nyquil. I was sick for a couple days, but it wasn’t bad enough to warrant it. It was just a cough and a runny nose, far more mild than my first cold. It was just another stupid cold. A FINE way to spent New Year’s Day: can’t go out, can’t go drink, can’t be with my friends. I wasn’t too happy, but at least it wasn’t bad.
Overnight, I had gotten really sick. On January 2nd, 2015, I spent most of the morning trying to do things to make myself feel better. I could hardly breathe. I had reactive airway disease, so I had been using my rescue inhaler to help me; under normal circumstances I use it maybe once every couple of months when my allergies are really bad. The counter on it said I had apparently used it 11 times that day. Despite that, I still couldn’t breathe. I used Vicks Vaporub to help make it easier. It helped for five whole seconds, and then did nothing. The diarrhea became uncontrollable, as it was probably signaling that my body was beginning to shut down, though at the time I did not recognize it. All I could do was helplessly stand there as I tried to think of a solution.
I took the advice my late grandmother used to tell me, and took a hot shower to open up my pores and my lungs. I was not aware of it at the time, but apparently I was in a severe state of confusion by then, as how I managed to get into the bathroom is best left to the darker corners of the internet. The shower, however, actually helped me feel better for a little bit, but about halfway through, I simply couldn’t breathe anymore. I was so weak. In hindsight, that was most likely the moment when the pneumonia hit. (Sepsis and Pneumonia)
I got out of the shower, and I felt like there was a plastic bag over my head. I begged my roommates to call 911 as my strength was quickly fading.
I barely remember the paramedics. I can only remember being terrified of the oxygen mask they were putting on me and struggled not to have them put it on me. I was terrified of lying down because I couldn’t breathe lying flat on my back… I never could before, and I certainly couldn’t now. I was terrified of everything and everyone. My eyes began to close as we entered the hospital. I don’t know if it was from anesthetics putting me under, or whether I was having my potentially last moments on earth right then and there.
Now, forget I just wrote all of that for a moment, because for the next 4 days, I did too.
I briefly woke, disoriented and confused, to the sound of Auld Lang Syne being sung. I vaguely remembering having a conversation with someone, and being told that it was a New Year’s party, and no, patients cannot join the party. “Oh, okay, have fun” I responded.
My eyes closed again, and the memory of what just happened begins to fade, but not totally. Everything was gone, once again. I ceased to exist in my own mind.
I briefly woke to a cheer of “Happy New Year!” I cannot figure out what’s going on around me. I don’t remember being able to see, and I cannot move, but I remember hearing. I can only assume a year has passed…
I fade again.
I don’t remember how many times I had passing moments of consciousness, but I remember counting four different New Year’s celebrations, and absolute terror strikes me as to what that meant. I have been here four years, and nobody knows where I am. *I* don’t know where I am. I don’t know why I’m there. I’m not entirely sure who I am, but I remember my friends. I’m terrified, knowing that all I want to do is to talk to my friends. I need to let them know I’m okay… I need them to help me… I want to go home…
I fade once more with tears, whether real or imagined, rolling down my face. Every thought ends with my fading into nothingness…
I remember the machines. “Ed Gein” is what the machine’s name was. The spirit of the serial killer had invaded the machine, and there were prongs inches from my head. As long as I did not move, and pretended to be dead, the machine would not kill me…
There is someone else here. I’m sure of it… Please, don’t move… Ed will get you if you do…
There was something stuck on my finger… I must get it off… I need to escape before it finds out I’m alive… I can’t move my fingers…
The people outside my room, they don’t look real. The colors are wrong. They look like they’re part of a video game… that must be it! I must be playing a VR video game, like Oculus Rift or something. I feel something on my face. I have to take it off, and I will wind up in my bedroom. This is all just a video game… I just have to take it off…
I see you, but why can’t I move? Why are you acting like I’m not here? Help me! Get me out of here!
“A lot of your friends have come to see you while you were asleep.” “Who?” “I don’t know, a bunch of people about your age” …liars, you have to be aliens, if you don’t know who visited me, you’re not a real nurse…
Wait, something’s wrong… I remember now… my inhaler… I wanted my inhaler… Where did I put it? On the computer? In the bathtub? Is that why I’m here? It has to be… Maybe I can get an epipen to fix whatever’s wrong? Maybe I can get the police, and have them save me because I’m being held against my will… no, the police can’t reach me on a space ship…
Why can’t I move? Please, just let me turn my head… just to lift a finger… I can’t… Why? Help me!
“If you don’t pull on your mask, we can take the restraints off of you. You want to be unbound, don’t you?” I nodded, knowing now that compliance and freedom of movement will be the quickest way I could escape the alien ship, the VR doctors, and the lying nurses…
“Did you hear about the woman in Room 13? She didn’t make it. That poor woman” I overheard two nurses say. Am I the woman in Room 13? No, I can’t be, I’m still alive, I think. Who is the woman in Room 13? Was she my bed-mate? Did Ed get her? Am I dead, and bound to this room as a ghost?… I can’t tell, and I can’t see…
Every thought begins as if I am born into this world for the first time, and every thought ends with the death of my consciousness, with nothing existing prior to it, or after it.
The longest period I had of some form of awareness involved hallucinating a conversation I had with a talking strawberry, his marital problems with his wife, who happened to be a segmented worm, her thousands of clone-sisters, and him showing me their giant snail-shell home in a kid’s back yard.
Brief flashes of thoughts and nightmares, paranoia, paralysis, hallucinations, four long, agonizing, days of having thoughts fly through my mind, where the passage of time felt like four years and I woke up to the next year’s New Year’s Day party… yet those four actual days were gone to me, simultaneously.
When I was conscious for those brief few seconds, my mind was grasping at anything and everything that might explain my situation, and ground me back into reality. But those moments were few and fleeting. Most of my time was spent in a state of non-existence.
I cannot explain what that is like. The best I can describe it, would be to ask you what the weather feels like on the other side of the world from you, at that very moment. You cannot give an answer because you are not there. I was experiencing the same thing about myself: I was not there. Not merely “out of it”. Not sleeping, as the deepest sleep I’ve ever felt before was like being wide awake and on energy drinks, in comparison to this. I simply did not exist, as far as I was concerned.
Four long… yet short… days…
Some time during the fourth day, I start coming to. I’m hallucinating constantly, and everything is the wrong color and randomly polka-dotted, but I’m able to start having normal, but brief, conversations with people. I’m starting to have a small grasp on reality, as they taught me how to turn on the TV, and I saw the attacks on Charlie Hebdo. One of the nurses started asking me questions on it, as he’d only heard a little. I’m sure I mangled the story, but I had a faint enough grasp on reality to relate what little I knew. Poorly, but coherently.
After he left, and I was done watching TV, I slept. I did not fade. I slept. I have to make that distinction. It wasn’t very comfortable, and I noticed myself getting a kink in my shoulder, but I didn’t care… It was sleep, not non-existence.
The next day, I was able to make a phone call to my roommate, who immediately came to see me and brought my cell phone. She had told me she contacted all of my friends while I was in a coma and started to bring me back to reality. She answered the questions I had, and explained how I got here. I couldn’t remember anything about what happened, not getting sick, not taking the shower, nothing, but as she told the stories of what happened, I began to remember them, clear as a bell. The pieces started to fit together, and I had a lot of questions.
I had a vague idea as to what had happened to me now, but I don’t think she knew the details of the disease, beyond the fact that I had severe pneumonia and a blood disease and it was *REALLY* bad. I had been intubated and put on a respirator. I had apparently fought the paramedics and the respiratory therapists, so I was kept bound while unconscious. Many of the blanks were filled in, and I began to come to accept what had happened to me, and I became grounded back into reality. I recognized the heart monitor, the IV, all the machines that I don’t know what they’re called or what they do but have seen them before the last time I was in the hospital. People seemed less “VR” though the lighting was still strange.
At this point, I was able to grab a hold of reality, and became able to start working towards helping my own recovery. Friends and loved ones came to visit sporadically over the next four days, and checked up on me. Recovery was hard, though the hardest part for me was going from not eating, to eating solid food once again. Psychologically, the hardest part was the realization that my ordeal had left me so weak that it took 110% of my strength to do all the things I once took for granted, like itching my nose.
Over the second four days of my hospital stay, I asked questions of all the doctors and nurses, and I came to learn more about what happened to me from a medical perspective. I learned that my reactive airway disease was full blown asthma, and I had an attack that was triggered by catching pneumonia. All of this was complicated by the fact that I had acquired sepsis from MSSA, which quickly turned severe.
My time was spent sleeping, rebuilding my strength, figuring out how to go to the bathroom and eating all over again, having recollections of my moments of consciousness while I was in the coma, and getting some sense of normalcy in my life. “You’re looking really good right now. If I didn’t know better, I’d wonder what you were still doing on my floor,” one of the doctors told me toward the end of my recovery, which was a real ego boost to know that everything would be okay.
Despite my stay lasting only 8 days (the last of which was simply due to red tape and it falling on the weekend), I wound up with a hundred-page report detailing everything that happened to me, all the tests they ran, all the medicines prescribed, every little nuance, unto the level that upon reading it, I apparently have some small gall stones. Go figure that they’d test for that.
So, they sent me home, with what feels like a million prescriptions, a PICC line in my arm, a massive rat’s nest in my hair (from the thought it was just a VR game and trying to take it off…), and a mountain of support behind me. The first week, I did nothing but constantly sleep, and deal with extremely swollen feet. For the first two weeks, I was extremely scared of everything, not wanting to be alone, not wanting to bathe, fear of abandonment by my friends and loved ones, fear of foods, fear of sleeping lying down, fear of just about everything. But as time’s gone on, life has returned back to normal. Having returned home, and seeing the state I had left everything, I was able to piece the unanswerable questions I had left.
I’m almost at a month out of being out of the hospital now. I have gotten a little stronger, I’m on my last week or so of medicine, I’m no longer using my oxygen except for when I overexert myself, I can make it up and down about five stair steps repeatedly at a slow pace for about 10 minutes, and I’m also starting to do things around the house again. I still occasionally take an hour nap or two every day, but it’s nothing like it was before, and in time, I will be able to eliminate that as well. Hopefully I’ll be having my PICC line removed soon. I have occasional chest pains, but in time they will hopefully go away as I get stronger, and if not, acetaminophen takes care of it.
When everything is said and done, I look forward to being able to go cycling again.