In Septemeber 2008, I traveled 6000 miles to Haiti's Kenscoff mountains. My mission: to care for some of the orphaned and abandoned, the sick, malnourished and premature infants of this beautiful but beleagured Caribbean nation.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Awake and Alive!

 The anaesthetist called my name. I snapped awake, and was almost instantly aware of a gurgling sound, then the sense of my breath being sucked out of me. I froze. I remember coughing and gagging as the tube was removed and then the bitter taste of bile in my mouth. Then, in Kreyol, 'Ok, ok, a new gown.'

As they changed me, I felt a deep ache low on my right side, and I heard my surgeon reassuring me that it was all over, but that the appendix had ruptured. 'You don't feel any pain, do you?'
'Oui'. I did
Immediately, I was given pain medications in my IV line. As the medication was being injected, I began to shake violently.
'What's the matter?' a voice enquired
In my grogginess, I answered in English, through chattering teeth. The voice didn't understand. 'Pardon?'
'Fwet! Fwet! Fwet!' I answered. (Cold! Cold! Cold!) 
'Ok!' The voice was a friendly one. Blankets were piled on top of me and the shaking stopped. 

I was so glad that I spoke and understood Kreyol. Although my Doctors spoke excellent English, the hospital nurses spoke none at all. It would have been a very frightening and bewildering hospitalisation without a very good knowledge of Kreyol. My language abilities failed me only once during that hospitalisation:

Through in the recovery room, I continually fell into such a deep sleep that I would stop breathing. The pulse oximiter would startle me awake as my oxygen levels dropped.  'Are you ok, my dear?'a nurse asked, coming to the head of my bed. 'I keep losing my breath I answered.' Her forehead creased into a frown. Try as I might, I could not think how to say, 'I just keep forgetting to breath', in either English or Kreyol!

There were tears. I had been under anaesthetic for three hours, but anaesthetised people, however long they have been out, wake up feeling as though only a second has passed. As a result, the terror I'd felt in the minutes before I went under, was still fresh in my mind. 'I was so scared,' I kept saying. Crying hurt my stomach, so I just had to stop,  not an easy thing to do, with such strong emotions swirling inside me.

 I had been frightened but I had received competent care from the people in the operating room, within the technological limitations they were working under, and my God had guided the hands of my surgeon, all the while, holding me in the palm of his own hand. And I was alive! My Grandfather had died, almost as far away from home as I was now, and in this third world country, I was awake, and aware post surgery, and for the first time in two days, I was absolutely sure that I wasn't going to die.

Around the time that James Westwood died, his best friend, a man who was almost closer than a brother to him, had a terrible nightmare, in which my Grand-father was torn away from him, screaming and wild eyed, and left alone on a remote beach. James had suffered the same pain and the same isolation and the same terror in the same state of loneliness that I had. For me, though, the last goodbye I had said to family and friends as I headed back to Haiti after the Christmas holidays wouldn't be forever. I would see them again in this world. I was so grateful for this. So grateful that there were no words to express it.


Genevieve Thul said...

This really captured the emotional side of the recovery room in almost horrifying detail. As a nurse, I've had similar experiences waking up in the recovery room. The worst was waking up and hearing "carcinoma" - knowing I had cancer, but unable to ask any questions because I was still intubated. That was one of the most frightening chapters of my life to date. Thanks for sharing this!

Jane Blannin-Bruleigh said...

Wow Susan, such amazing detail and you recall so much. Just so glad you had such excellent care!!! Now it is time to take time to properly recover. blessings,