It was the day after my birthday. My wife brought me to a nearby restaurant for birthday dinner with a lead-in of beer and cheese sampling. I was delighted to see a few of my friends already there to join us. Right as the tasting began, a few more friends showed up, and we began to try the different flavors set in front of us. The topics of discussion covered everything from one friend’s recent engagement to trips to Hawaii. Finally the final, and arguably the best, offerings of cheese (a Swiss blue cheese) and beer (a strong Belgian ale) were poured. Two of my friends chose that opportunity to leave, having to get their young daughter home. We said farewell, and sat back down to finish our samples and move over to the main restaurant for dinner.
It was then I began to feel a tingling sensation in my hands which began to move up my arms, and a dizziness began to swarm in my head. I turned to my wife to ask if I looked alright, as I certainly didn’t feel alright. She responded that I looked fine and asked what was wrong. A few years ago I had been bitten by a spider and had a severe reaction to it. This seemed similar, though whatever was happening was moving through my body at a much faster rate. I told her so, and turned back to the table…
…and woke up in an ambulance fighting for the ability to breathe. Thoughts raced through my mind of my wife, my son, my parents – would I be seeing them again? My body felt cold, entirely locked up. I heard voices but could not make out what they were saying, and I could not see, though I didn’t know if my eyes were open or closed. With what consciousness I still had left, I said a prayer to God asking for “more time”. I gasped “I can’t breathe!” to whomever might be listening, and I felt a needle go into my arm. Slowly, my lungs started allowing more and more air back inside, but my heart was still beating like a Ringo Starr on a bender.
Shortly after, we arrived in the emergency room where everything blurred over for the next several minutes. I felt like I had been frozen in ice, and my chest felt crushed. Needles were pushed into my arms, lights into my forced-open eyes, and I caught glimpses of those around me. I recognized my wife’s voice near me, sometimes talking to me, sometimes to others. Slowly reality rematerialized around me, and I began to figure out where I was and what might have happened to me. I was being treated for a severe allergic reaction to something and an irregular heartbeat, though there was some confusion as to causes. I was wheeled upstairs for a rough CAT scan, and then placed in the ICU for overnight observation. My heartbeat was beginning to return to normal, but I was not presumed to be out of danger at that time. My wife kissed me goodbye as she need to go pick up my son from the overtaxed babysitter, but I had no concerns that I wouldn’t see them the next day.
I spent another evening and day in the hospital under observation, but feeling mostly normal again. Cardiologists and allergists came and went, each taking their respective measurements and samples from me. My activities were limited to TV, sleeping, and reading, but I quickly became anxious to return home and rest someplace where my vitals weren’t being measured every hour. Finally, they let me go in the afternoon, with that obligatory but less-than-dignified wheelchair ride out the door.
That was over a week ago – and I still do not have any results back from any of the tests. As a results, I’m avoiding all beers and most cheeses, and I’ve been keeping my activity level fairly low (trips to Monkey Joe’s not withstanding). I’m very anxious to get said results as I don’t like maneuvering around food like it’s a minefield. Also, the realization of everything is still settling in – I’m not 100% sure that I would have died that night without intervention, but the incident has given me pause. I’m certainly checking up on the life insurance policy, and not taking very much for granted these days. While waiting to leave the hospital, I spoke with a 93 year old minister who reminded me that nothing happens from chance. I really think this was a tap on the shoulder from God – I could have been taken, but I wasn’t. There’s still more for me to do here – though some is obvious: being a father and husband – there is still some purpose to be discovered. These are the thoughts that occupy my mind at this time.