Underneath my yellow skin

Living a charmed life

I was reading the weekend thread on Ask A Manager. Someone asked for the happiest memory you have. It was an interesting question and my mind went immediately to dying. Not because it was a happy memory, per se, but because it’s my strongest memory. Not the dying part because I don’t remember that. And I probably never will, sadly.

Side Note (is this the quickest detour I’ve taken in a post?): It’s the oddest thing–having a week and a few days missing from my¬† memory, I mean. My brother has told me everything he knows; K and Ian have filled in the blanks as best as possible. My Taiji teacher has added what she knows, and there are still gaps.

I remember sending an email to my Taiji teacher the Tuesday before I collapsed, saying I was exhausted and would not be in class. I remember messaging Ian the Thursday before about the Nioh 2 (Team Ninja) boss we had both just beaten. I do not remember the Wednesday between.

Then, I was unconscious for the week after I collapsed. I remember waking up, scared, angry, and ready to fight whomever needed fighting. I had a breathing tube in my nose and was pumped full of drugs.

I remember one minute not being and then the next moment, being. That was a shock to my system, I can tell you that much. That will be my most memorable memory for the rest of my life, I’m sure. But. Until reading this thread, I had forgotten about another time I had almost died.

I was in Taiwan with a group from my college–we were studying Buddhism in the Far East. About four of us women (how I identified at the time), decided to swim in the Hualien River. The current was strong, and I was not a good swimmer (still am not). The tide caught me and started carrying me away. One of the other women grabbed me and pulled me to safety. I was shaken because I knew that if she hadn’t grabbed me, I’d be dead.

That stayed with me for the rest of the trip, but of course the feeling faded over time. It’s difficult to feel awed and in wonderment all the time. When I woke up from being dead, I thought everything in the hospital was amazing. This was also because I was high off my tits, but it was mostly because I was just grateful to be alive.

My brother likes to tease me because I said that everything was amazing. The ice water (which truly was. I can’t tell you how incredible it was. I can’t forget it, really); the view; the pillows; the fan; the ice packs; etc. Hey. When the alternative is death–even the little things are incredible.

But, again, I can’t spend every moment savoring the joy of being alive. I mean, I’m grateful in general, don’t get me wrong. I call these my bonus days and am very much aware that every day is a plus.

I felt I should have died that day almost three decades ago. I had forgotten about it, however, until now. I definitely should not be alive now, so I’m grateful when I think of it. I still haven’t thought of the best way to bring this up, though. There is no way of not making it sound like a humblebrag or causing the conversation to come to a screeching halt. Even if that’s not my intention, it’s going to happen.

“So, I died the other day–”

“A person walked into the bar after having walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests and a stroke–”

“So I died twice the other day–”

There really is no way to low-key say it.

“What have you been doing this pandemic?” “Beating death. You?”

My friends tell me that it’s part of my story and I shouldn’t worry about how I bring it up, but that’s not practical. It’s a conversation-stopper; it really is. Even if I just say it was a medical emergency, that’s going to raise some eyebrows.

Now, of course, I don’t have to talk about it in full if I don’t want to. I can say I was in the hospital or that I had a medical trauma or even that there was in incident. Yes, the latter is minimizing what happened, but I don’t owe the truth to anyone.

If, however, I do want to mention it and be truthful about it, I don’t know how without bringing everything to a shocking halt. I don’t want people feeling sorry for me because I’m very much over it. I mean, not over it as I’ll never be completely over it, but it doesn’t mess up my day-to-day life. Or interfere with it at all. But, on the other hand, it has made a huge impact on how I view life now and other parts of my mentality (and ethos).

For example, my body. This is the biggest difference and one that has a profound impact on me. You cannot say shit about my body now. Before my medical trauma. I had body issues that have lasted decades. Ever since my mom put me on my first diet when I was 7, I have hated my body. Through Taiji, I reached a point of neutrality about it. Or, to be more precise, I didn’t hate it any longer. Didn’t love it, either. Didn’t want to see it. Still avoided looking into the mirror. But I didn’t wince every time I saw it, either.

After the medical trauma, I did a 180. I am so appreciative of what my body has done for me that I love it as a result. It fucking saw me through death. Twice. And it sailed on through without having to do rehab of any kind! I can’t stress enough how outrageous that is. The doctors were talking about months of rehab. The occupational therapist said it could take up to a year for the fine motor abilities to return to normal (if ever, really).

All the warnings and doomsaying, which were justified, but they all came to naught. My physical therapist told me on the second day of working  with me that she had nothing more for me. And this was just a few days after my doctors discussed the possibility that I would have to go to a rehab facility after leaving the hospital.

I want to meet all the people involved in saving my life so I can thank them face to face. I know they were all just doing their jobs, but I would not be here without them. The cops who bagged me and kept me alive until the EMTs came. The EMTs who literally saved my life by giving me CPR, defibbing me, and jabbing me with an EPI pen. The docs who used new techniques to keep me alive. The nurses who took care of my bodily functions without complaint.

I can’t help remembering the nurse who came to see me on the PCU because she had sat with me while I was unconscious. She had tears in her eyes as she told me how great it was to see me alive. She was there when I woke up, but I don’t think she was one of the nurses who took care of me once I woke up. I’m not sure, but at any rate, it stuck with me because I knew how rough it had to be to be an ICU nurse.

Life has settled down now that it’s nearly ten months since that fateful night. I don’t want to completely forget that feeling when I woke up from being unconscious. It’s kept my gratitude at an all-time high.




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