I was never athletic. I did not dream that I’d become “that person,” who knew anything about fitness. As a teenager, I was very thin because I had a great metabolism and didn’t eat very much. I gained weight during a happy time in my life. I’d met my husband, moved in, got married – then got lazy. I hate to admit that, but it’s true. I was enjoying life and all of the wonderful things that it had to offer. I had a great job that I loved. Life was good.
In 2010, we lost a home that we’d purchased in 2008, at the height of the bubble. Overnight, it was worth half the price that we paid for it. I’m one of the least materialistic people that you’ll ever meet, but we moved from a big, gorgeous house into an 800 square foot apartment. I had to sell, donate, give away, or trash ¾ of my belongings. All of the treasures that I’d worked so hard to accumulate had to be disposed of to cram ourselves into a tiny apartment.
During this time, I felt that my job was not secure, so I made the choice to go to cosmetology school. I’d been licensed as a nail tech for years, so I thought that it might be a good fit to broaden my skills so that I could make more money in a salon. Once I started school, I found that I hate doing hair. It’s not a strong dislike – I hate it. I managed to get into debt for an education that will probably never be used again, but I did learn a few useful things along the way about perserverence.
I was employed as a hairdresser for exactly three days prior to November 21, 2011 – the day that my husband suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm. The aftermath of the aneurysm changed me in a fundamental way. It’s difficult to explain, but that experience peeled away layers of who I was to my very core.
My normal routine back then was to wake up, start the coffee maker, then head to the balcony to smoke for a half hour while reading the news. The morning that it happened, I didn’t follow my normal routine for the first time ever. I don’t know why, but I laid in bed awake. He got up for work, walked past me, said “I love you,” closed the bathroom door, then a few seconds later I heard a noise. I thought he’d knocked over a shampoo bottle. It certainly didn’t sound like a 200 pound man hitting the floor. After I heard the noise, there was nothing but silence. I called out to him, but got no response.
I jumped up, called out to him again, then went to the door to try to open it. I was unable to move the door because he’d fallen against it. When I pressed harder, he began making guttural sounds that almost sounded like a dog growling. Everything went through my mind all at once trying to make sense of what was happening. How did a dog get into the bathroom? We don’t own a dog. For a split second I tried to rationalize away what was happening. I ran to the phone, called 911, explained the situation, and promptly hung up on them. I’d taken an EMT class when I was fresh out of high school, so I was fearful that pressing on the door might cause further damage because I was moving him. I had no idea what was wrong; maybe his neck was broken? I ran downstairs and flung open the door. I was afraid that the ambulance wouldn’t be able to find our apartment because we lived on the second floor in a large complex where all of the buildings looked the same.
When the ambulance and police finally arrived, I was in complete shock. I was not reacting in the way that you might think you would. I was frighteningly calm. I had weird thoughts about what I’d need to gather to go to the hospital. I thought about how glad that I was that the house was clean because it would be difficult for them to get him out if it were dirty. I’d warned the EMTs that he’d had severe neck and back problems in the past and didn’t know if that was related, so they were careful to get a small guy to barely open the door and scoot in to survey the situation.
I was sitting on the bed when the door was opened. There was the man that I loved more than anything in the world, lying unconscious in a pool of blood. His face was sliced open in a couple of places when he fell. I’ve since learned that cuts like that to the face bleed quite a bit. My demeanor combined with a bloody and unconscious husband led the police to believe that I’d tried to kill him. They took me out of the room and questioned me repeatedly while the EMTs were stabilizing him. While they were asking me questions, I was thinking of things that I needed to take with me, so I just walked away from them and went about my business – like I said, I wasn’t reacting in a way that you’d think you’d react. I came back, cool, calm, and collected, and asked for the address of the hospital to put in my GPS like I was making plans for lunch. I called his work to say that he wouldn’t be in that day. It was surreal.
I had a police escort to the hospital. Once I was there, I was questioned again and again about what happened. I told the police and a nurse repeatedly that he’d had a migraine for two days. I asked them to please mention that to the doctor because they would not let me into the ER to see him. Finally, when a doctor came out, I was able to tell her about the headaches. She literally ran out of the room, then came back a few minutes later to tell me that he would be flown to another hospital because they suspected that he’d suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and they did not have neurosurgeons on staff. Only then, was I allowed to go back to the room (still with a police escort in tow) to see him. The nurses told me that he was conscious and could hear me, so I could say anything that I needed to say to him as they waited for the helicopter to arrive. I said a lot of things…
(To be continued)