The time is 4 am. On any other dark, frigid morning at this time, I would be fast asleep seven hours away at home, in a quiet taupe colored bedroom, comfortably nestled under my floral Vera Bradley quilt. Today is not any other dark, frigid morning. Today is 4 am and I am bundled three blankets deep in my hospital bed, which inflates and deflates periodically in various areas to prevent pressure sores. My bony legs are adorned with devices which squeeze each leg in a rhythmic pattern to prevent blood clots. Everyone around here calls these contraptions “intermittent pneumatic compression devices” but the deep denial behind which I have shielded myself encourages me to dub them “squeezies”.
The squeezies contract and release in perfect rhythm as I lay still while my nurse draws two tubes of blood from my central line. With groggy vision and an ache for genuine rest, I let out a sigh of relief once she is finished. I look up and to my left and notice the 4 bags hanging methodically from the IV pole, surrounded by an ethereal glow, courtesy of the hazy early morning moonlight. It is that magical time of day when both the moon and the sun have a few moments to greet one another as they switch posts. The nurse reconnects me to the TPN, says her goodbyes, and gently closes my door. After a long and exhausted exhale in tandem with slow, heavy blinking, I drift off into what my grandmother would call “La La Land.”
The time is 4:32 when I am jostled awake by a nurse who violently shakes my shoulder. The fluorescent overhead lights in my room suddenly beam down on me. I immediately sense that something serious must be happening because this is not the typical “wake up” method to which I am normally subjected each morning. My eyes burst open only to find six nurses surrounding me, all with varying degrees of furrowed brows and heavy breathing.
“Sweetie your heart rate is extremely low. Can you sit up for me? How are you feeling?” The blonde nurse asks pointedly.
I conjure what little strength remains in my malnourished body and use half of it to rub my eyes. My vision is blurry and I am uncertain as to whether it is due to the delirium that often comes with being hospitalized, or whether it is something more sinister. I search for any ounce of strength inside me that may be lingering and I pull myself into an upright position. It is now that I realize alarms are blaring and there is a neon blue light flashing outside of my room. Its glow against the white washed walls of the hospital would normally be a welcome comfort to me, but I know that this particular blue light signals danger.
“What was her heart rate?” A male nurse asks.
“28.” A nurse with glittery clogs answers.
I am unnaturally still while two nurses raise my bed and lift my shirt to examine my heart leads and begin an EKG. My brain is slowly processing what has just happened and it is in that moment—through unbearable grogginess and exhaustion—when I realize that my trip to “La La Land” was nearly diverted to something else entirely—a trip to meet death.