Su Lum: 5th anniversary
Its hard to believe that its been exactly five years since I was felled by a condition called ARDS (Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome) and flown in a Flight For Life helicopter to St. Marys Hospital in Grand Junction.When I look back on that experience, it seems totally surreal. The only times I had ever been in a hospital were when I had my tonsils out when I was 5 (traumatic) and twice with easy deliveries of my two daughters. All of a sudden (BAM) I was in serious trouble, totally helpless physically and discombobulated mentally on drugs, incarcerated in a place where I didnt understand the language, didnt know the rules in a play without a script for which there had been no rehearsals.On a ventilator, I lost the first 10 days in a drug-induced coma, woke up expecting to watch the Super Bowl game only to learn that it was the middle of February. My daughters Skye and Hillery had moved into a Grand Junction hotel, their lives upheaved.For the hospital personnel its all par for the course, but for the patient and the patients family its as if a bomb had been dropped.There was a lot of crying. In the hospital youre naked in more ways than one.In the ICU after the ventilator was removed, one of the oxygen guys gave me a device that I was to suck on every half hour to elevate a plastic ball. Not wanting to fail the test, I was diligently sucking away when a nurse came in and said to stop that, I should only suck on the device every 3 or 4 hours. Whos in charge? I asked. I am, she said.A few hours later my doctor, Dr. Patz, came in while I was sucking on the device, took it away from me and threw it in the trash. Whos in charge? I am. So, there were ropes to be learned.I got so much tender loving care that I was afraid to go home on my own without the ever-present fingers on my wrist, the blood pressure cuff, the protective rails on the side of the bed, even the weight-takers, young girls who would come around at 4 a.m. with a scale rolled up against the bed and when I protested, LEAVE me ALONE would whisper, Please, I cant go home unless I get your weight.By March 17 when I was released, I was so entrenched in this new life that I had a pang of regret that Id be missing the St. Patricks Day corned beef dinner.At home I had to start building long-lost muscles and get used to dragging oxygen in a horrible little cart that snagged on everything, while out of my mind on steroids, which made me feel like a humming bird on acid with the attention span of a flea and probably contributed to the heart attack, diabetes and screwed up eyesight. In short, I was a real mess for a couple of years.Then I got off the steroids, lost the Humpty Dumpty pounds, started going to cardiac rehab exercise classes thrice a week at the hospital, which has developed into kind of a Ya-Ya Aspen Idea Sisterhood, nurturing the mind and soul as well as the body, and Helios was invented: a lightweight oxygen delivery system that I can carry in a backpack and lasts for 10 hours. It puffs like Darth Vadar but it changed my life.It was a long way back and Im not there yet. I get muddled, have to write things down, rest a lot and cant concentrate, but each year is better than the last and hey, 75 percent is better than none.[Su Lum is a longtime local who is stable. Her column appears every Wednesday in The Aspen Times]
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