I was sitting at the Greene Turtle in the Baltimore/Washington D.C. airport, coming back from a fun and sun-filled vacation in Ft. Myers with three of my friends and having a cheeseburger slider, when I began to feel funny.
At first, I tried to ignore it and concentrate on the West Virginia/Kentucky basketball game that was on on one of the flat screen TV's at the restaurant. The feeling came and went in short, rapid waves at first - I fell fine one minute and not so fine the next - but it was bearable. However, as minutes went by, the faint pain coming from the left side of my chest began to spread up and down and across my body.
I took several deep breaths, trying to ignore the dull, persistent ache and concentrate on my friends' conversation, but the pain began to spread to my eyes now. I felt my vision get blurry and my fingers began to shake uncontrollably.
"Are you ok?" one of my friends looked at me with some concern from across the table.
"I... I don't know," I didn't want to cause commotion but I was becoming alarmed.
"What hurts?" he asked.
"My heart... I feel like I'm having a heart attack...." I was now struggling to simply get the words out of my mouth and ignore the dizziness.
"Do you want me to call 911?" he asked.
I paused. There was no money in my bank account to pay for the emergency services and I was just coming back from a pricey vacation but no money is enough when you feel like your every breath is your last.
"Yeah, I need some help... right now..." I mumbled grabbing my head with my hands to keep it from slamming the table. Life was not flashing before my eyes and I was not walking towards "The Light" but death certainly seemed imminent at that moment.
The ambulance ride to the hospital on a stretcher was a blur. I remember the IV needle in my vein wiggling back and forth as the driver rushed through bumpy streets. I remember my feet dangling off a stretcher and thinking that I was, somehow, too tall to fit on it comfortably. I remember numerous questions, as the doctors tried to eliminate the possibility of heart attack out of the equation.
And then, while at the hospital still hooked up to an IV machine, I remember starting to feel better. Gradually, the pain began to back off and subdue. I remember walking out into the emergency room's waiting area to wait on my blood work to come back and seeing my three friends sitting in the cushioned vestibule chairs waiting for me.
There is nothing like a near-death experience to realize who your true friends are. There is nothing like not knowing if you will ever see the light of another day to put the final pieces of the unresolved puzzles back in their places.
Because as I sat in the waiting room's chair, surrounded by my concerned friends and all the love and support I needed at that moment, I received a text message from Mr J asking me what I was doing. Not having talked to him in a while and feeling in need of as much of compassion as I could possibly receive I texted back with, "I'm in the ER."
To which he said....
"Ew, why?" (followed by "are you ok?")
The sheer audacity of responding to a serious, potentially-life-altering message with an "ew, why?" was absolutely repulsing. I texted with "i'm fine," pressed "End Conversation" button and stopped talking to him.
At the end, the blood work came back fine. My heart is in an excellent condition and the chest pain I was feeling was due to stress and dehydration. And I will, somehow, deal with the medical bill when it comes because, at the end, it's being alive that really matters.
In the moment of weakness, when all your ability to hold your own leaves your body, only your true friends will come through with love and support that you really need. I was blessed to receive that love and support that I needed to get through and make it alive through last night. I can only hope that Mr J will find friends like mine when he is feel vulnerable and sick.
I just know that he should not count on me being one of those people.