This past Wednesday, my roommate was rushed to the emergency room. I was stopping by in our room briefly in between classes to grab some books when she casually mentioned that she was planning on going to the hospital after experiencing spasms and extreme pain from her lower abdomen all the way up to her shoulders throughout the morning in addition to fainting three times, once waking up on the bathroom floor.
It’s amazing how life sometimes grinds your routine to a halt and forces you to pay attention to what really matters. It’s so easy to get caught up in our everyday tasks; between lectures, meetings, practices, study groups, sections, projects, p-sets, midterms and finals, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the big picture.
|Still a babe, even knocked unconscious|
That night, I got a ride from one of my RAs to the University Hospital Emergency room, where I was directed to a little area tucked behind a curtain where my beautiful, amazing friend lay alone on a long metal gurney dressed in a white cotton medical gown. An array of multicolored tubes cascaded down from her arms, connecting her to machines that displayed a list of numbers that flickered with her every breath. I had been able to maintain my composure up until this point, even up through the moments when the kind nurse led me to her corner of the ER, but when I saw Shannon lying there, the tears rushed out of me as if they had been on the brink of falling all day.
Never before in my life had I been to an emergency room. I never even so much as sprained an ankle growing up. (*knock really really hard on wood*) Unfortunately, there had been times throughout my childhood when my father had to go to the ER, but as a child I was never taken by my mother to go see him there. In fact, every time he ended back up there, the seriousness of his condition was downplayed so heavily by him and my mother that I just assumed he would be fine, and wasn’t really phased at all by his being there. Looking back, I’m sure my parents didn’t want me or my siblings to see him in such a vulnerable state. After all, they knew that he was our hero. Seeing him in any state comparable to how Shannon’s would have totally scared a little tot me.
My life at college is different than my life at home in a lot of ways. (duh.) It’s the first time I’m living on my own, it’s the first time I’m responsible for doing my own laundry and it’s the first time I’ve had to buy my own groceries. (My God, it’s like I’m an adult or something!) It’s also the first time my parents can’t constantly filter out the scariness of the world for me. 2,000 miles away from the suburbs of Chicago, I’m left here to explore so many new types of fear-inducing heartbreak all on my own. It sucks, but I realize that in the big picture, the lessons I am learning are totally invaluable.
|Shannon’s smiling-even-though-my-insides-are-exploding face|
I find it interesting to think that when I made the decision to pack my toothbrush and head out for the night at around 10:30 PM, my family was the one thing that kept popping into my mind. I imagined what would have happened if I had ever had to be rushed to the emergency room back in Barrington… Surely I would have had my wonderful mother, father, two brothers and one sister there by my side. I have no doubts. That’s what family is all about, after all. More than just the biological connections you have with the people to whom you are related, family is about having people who you know you can rely on, no matter what, who love you and support you and who will be there for you through thick and thin. This is something I’ve realized since coming to college, where family is forged in the friendships that are made within the campus community.
Well here my friend was, laying mentally paralyzed by morphine to deal with the crippling pain resulting from the internal bleeding in her abdomen. After thinking about my family and what they would have done had Shannon’s and my conditions been reversed, I realized that just because she was 3,000 miles away from her biological family, didn’t mean she was without a different kind of family here.
|Had to take a picture by the Cath Lab on our way out|
I know Shannon and I have only been living together for five-ish months now, but I’m blessed to say that in that amount of time, we’ve grown close enough to the point where we know we can rely on the other’s support through thick and thin, no matter what. Our friendship was put to a critical test that night when we cuddled up on that little hospital gurney as Shannon trembled in my arms from the spasms in her drug-induced sleep. At the end of this whole experience, I have no doubts that she would have done the same thing for me had the roles been reversed. And it is that confidence that reveals to me that this is something greater than friendship: This is a new kind of family.
Beaucoup de bisous,
After multiple tests upon Shannon’s arrival in the ER, doctors determined that a cyst on her right ovary had ruptured, triggering the release of 0.7 liters of blood into her abdominal cavity. The pain she felt in her belly standing up and her shoulders laying down was the result of such a large amount of fluid pooling and swishing around between her organs. (YuUuUuuuuck.) She was initially given (extremely strong) painkillers to simply deal with the pain, since her body over time would have been able to normalize the levels and re-absorb the blood, but when she contracted a 102 degree fever on Friday night, it was clear that surgery would be necessary to immediately relieve the pain and bleeding. Shannon underwent a laparoscopy Friday night, where surgeons made small incisions in her belly and used thin tubes and little tiny cameras to suck out all the extra blood. (The sweet pictures are currently being displayed on our wall.) She was discharged from the hospital early Saturday morning, and will be back in school by Monday and back on the green in a couple of weeks. We were informed by Shannon’s doctors that ovarian cyst ruptures can happen to any woman during ovulation, but that chances can be greatly reduced by going on the pill. Shannon has kindly asked me to relay the following message to all my female readers:
NOTE: All details regarding Shannon’s health were approved for disclosure in this post by the fighter herself.