There are times in life when things are too big for words. Our language, with its finite descriptions, fails us. There are things that can be felt and known by our hearts that cannot ever be contained in a paltry combination of letters and syllables. Fear. Love. Grief. These are sometimes larger than the name they carry. Allowing these human states to pass through our lives wearing a mere nametag that could be so general to other things besides the titanic clouds of emotion they carry is a dire injustice.
The word gratitude isn’t enough. Surreal. Humbling. These more fit the times I have had had of late. Allow me to discuss.
In case you didn’t hear, I was pretty sick. (Shout out inside-joke to Sara and Cora). If you don’t give a hoot, feel free to stop reading. If you are curious, please, take my hand as I share.
I will spare you the gory details of everything that transpired during those months. I’m sure no one is interested in the details anyway. That being said, there were some things that occurred to me.
First of all, I can tell you that TV Land is the most popular channel in the hospital. It was my personal favorite and this was confirmed to be the truth for my neighboring patients by one nurse. She said she could almost keep up with a single episode as she went from room to room because everyone was watching the same thing.
I watched days upon days of Andy Griffith, and I was thankful for it. I even met a nurse who grew up next door to Andy Griffith. She was not as big a fan of him as I am, but she declined to tell me why. She said she didn’t want to spoil it for me. Go figure. Hours of “Everybody Loves Raymond,” one after the other, led me to realize that the whole show is really about Marie being hateful. They fight so much on there I found myself getting stressed out. Let’s go look at the History Channel. Ah, yes, a reality show exploring Normandy. That’s the ticket. I even found myself desperate and watching HGTV, where one man, whom I would lovingly and admiringly describe as a “hippy,” built his son and grandchildren a house in the woods shaped entirely like a mushroom. Sidebar: Is hippy a disparaging word? I mean not for it to be at all. I’m not hateful, I’m just ignorant. I digress… back to the hospital bed…
But what’s that at the door? Another nurse or assistant or physical therapist or occupational therapist or infectious disease doctor or surgeon or another nurse, God bless ‘em all. Someone bringing food, someone coming to clean, someone ….always someone coming in. Everyone knows you don’t rest in a hospital. But these folks are heroes. What they had to see, even just with me, is neither appetizing nor fun. Again sparing you details, imagine all the things I could never deal with: needles, blood, feces, whining and crying (that was me), raw wounds, infection, despair, more crying and whining (I did try to keep it a minimum, but there were a couple moments), and repeat all of this daily. All the while these folks are risking their own health and therefore that of their families by caring for me. While I didn’t go into the hospital because of Covid, I did contract it during my stay. Good times!
I tried hard to learn my nurses’ names. If we’re going to get personal enough that you see me naked, I should at least know your name. I also wanted them to know I appreciated them. However, with every face covered with a respirator and mask and face shield, it was hard to tell everyone apart. I failed miserably.
This is just one more of 100 reasons I hate Covid. I know we all do by this point. Allow me to elaborate. Those masks, which are certainly necessary, that’s not my point at all…but they do separate us, don’t they? Cell phones and internet and the ability to order a pizza without even talking on the phone, but merely clicking an app, have all distanced us from other humans. I don’t even need to venture into the store anymore where I would see people; I can just order it on my app and pick it up. The masks were such a void for me. They marked a great chasm between my frail, sad brain and any other human. For 25 days I was not allowed to see my family or friends, only strangers who cared for me with no face to even recognize under all their PPE. For 25 days I didn’t lay eyes on a single human face without a mask on it. It messed with me more than you know.
I realized I missed human touch. Don’t get me wrong; I was touched aplenty, more than I cared for in fact, receiving medication and being cared for in my wound, but that was always, understandably and appropriately, with blue surgical gloves. The isolation not only kept faces from my eyes but skin from my hands. On top of being sick and hurting, I was so alone. (Cue the tears again. OK, I’m done now).
No doubt the isolation played a part in the dreams I had. I was told later that the vividness of what I saw was attributable to the drugs I was on, combined with the trauma my body was going through. Everything I saw and experienced was so clear and real, that I have relayed this to some friends and told them it was less like dreams and more like hallucinations, to the point I wasn’t sure what was reality at times. Don’t worry folks, I have since come to.
I truly believed nurses were trying to kidnap me. This is probably because I was at times restrained in the bed, which apparently proved itself a necessary step as I became belligerent and tried to fight. I’m going out on a limb sharing something like this, but yes, I was out of it. The nurses who wanted to kidnap me were part of a voodoo cult who were going to take me to Jamaica to study Covid from my blood. I probably dreamed that because the nurses kept taking blood. We can laugh about it now but I can assure you that everything was so real to me at the time, I was absolutely terrified when I was awake. When the door would open, I would panic. It was also during these times that my mother was with me.
My mother passed away in 2008, but she had been there with me. I knew it. When I did come to, everything over those days had been so real, it took me awhile to reconcile hallucination with reality. I finally had to ask my friend Tanya, “Is Mommy dead?” And it was like hearing it for the first time. “Yes, honey, your Mommy is dead.” I thought it was so curious that I had continually dreamed about my mother when I was so sick and so scared. I asked my friend why she thought that might be, and she said so simply, “You needed your mom.”
Think me crazy if you want, but I have decided that God sent me that vision to comfort me. Whether it was an angel, my mother’s own angel, or just a fanciful thought that brought me some relief, it matters not. All good things come from God.
And that brings me to my final point…the words that aren’t big enough. I cannot properly express to you how scared I was in those dreams. I cannot accurately convey the fear that was so real from what I saw. I can neither express the love I have felt since being sick or the gratitude that fills my heart to overflowing like a flooded spring.
I woke up to find, continually it seemed, about all the prayers that were said for me. The folks at Central Church who organized a fundraiser for me. All the work, all the thought, all the time, all the prayers, sent up for me. The prayer vigils. I was stunned. For me??? The visits, the calls, the texts, the Facebook messages, posts, the cards, the food brought to the house. The friends and loves who continue to nurse me daily. I am humbled, shocked, and yes…grateful. I am big-humbled, big-shocked, and so, so big-grateful. More than one doctor even has used the word miracle to describe me. I shouldn’t be alive, but I am grateful to be. I am grateful to God, and I am grateful to Bland County for loving me. Thank you just isn’t big enough.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at email@example.com.