Almost two years ago, on March 7, 2019, I had only another minute to live. I was gasping for air, tying to inhale, and couldn’t.
My bronchial tube wouldn’t open.
A cold had become acute bronchitis. It was the second time in two years where I was coughing so hard, my sinuses were being pushed out through my eyes, so said the doctor.
I was taking expectorant, drinking lots of broth, chicken soup, water, and Gatorade. I had two humidifiers running, that were going through two gallons of water each day. Plus, I was taking Mucinex D, which was supposed to be drying my sinuses up, but it wasn’t working enough this time.
The problem was that my sinuses were draining during the night and the next morning I’d wake up and have a ten-minute coughing fit. This morning, though, there was no coughing.
That 7th day of March, I woke up and immediately couldn’t breathe. At all. And, I didn’t know why. My gaze went to the clock, watching the minute hand. I kept gasping for intake air but couldn’t make it happen.
I started panicking. Thirty seconds has already passed. I lifted my arms straight up into the air, a trick my ex-mother-in-law used whenever she was coughing. It always worked for her.
Didn’t work. Now, sixty seconds had passed.
I had thirty seconds left, sixty at the most, if I was really lucky, but I’ve never been able to hold my breath longer than ninety seconds. Thirty. That’s all I had.
I start pounding my chest. I tried to cough hard. Bent-over, coughing harder than I ever had before.
I’m trying anything and everything I can think of, anything from all my first-aid training. Mind scrambling through the actions of TV doctors and EMT techniques.
This is it. You’re going to pass out, and they’re going to find flies. Right here in the middle of your bedroom.
And then, I heard a voice. Relax. Just relax.
I dropped to my knees beside the bed, my torso and head on the bed. I let go, relaxing everything. I’ve done it in the dentist chair when I’ve felt myself tensing up. I’ve done it before when falling, which has kept me from severely injuring myself, so I do it again. Drop the shoulders, relax the muscles, blow out the air…
In only a second or two, I’m relaxed. My airway opened up, just enough for me to finally breathe in. In another minute, I’m up and breathing normally again.
Scariest moment of my life.
While I’ve always believed that I’ll probably die alone, I never thought it would be because I couldn’t breathe. Though, I have had moments of choking on a grape, laughing, and inhaling air wrong, and now there’s the horror of COVID-19.
Obviously, someone on the other side wasn’t wanting me to join them, yet.
Listening to those voices from the other side and following directions without question does have its advantages.
I remember you telling me about this. How frightening it is when you suddenly can’t breath. I know I was waiting to pick up my daughter from school once and choked on a granola bar while sitting in my car. I thought for sure she’d come out and find me dead. Glad you didn’t die then and me, too!
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Thanks, Lucy. I’m glad we both survived to tell the tale(s).