The Day I Couldn’t Breathe

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.

Nothing.

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.

Nothing.

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.

Nothing.

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.

Mike McGuire’s Send Off – January 19, 2016

We said goodbye today (Jan 19) to my second cousin, Michael David McGuire, who died suddenly last Wednesday, the 13th.  The service was beautiful, the memories bringing both tears and laughter for family, friends, and his beloved working family from the Michigan State Police community throughout many locales.

My father’s family is large.  While I know my first cousins once removed (my father’s cousins) well, I don’t know my second cousins the same way.  I was the first born of the second cousins, which easily number several dozen or more, some I’ve yet to meet.  My aunt and uncle were only three years older than me, with some of dad’s cousins only eight or ten years older.  As a child in the middle of this big boisterous family, I preferred listening to the adult conversations, sitting in a corner of the big farmhouse kitchen, than playing in the parlor with the little kids.  The adults’ laughter was always infectious.  Still is today.

As for all of the second cousins’ kids, well, I can’t keep track of them all.  In fact, I’ll confess that due to my living in the South for a decade and a career kept me away from a number of reunions and family gatherings, I have a lot of catching up to do.

When I was growing up, from time to time, because I was older, I was asked to babysit for my second cousins, which included Mike and his younger brother, Robert.  The job was always an adventure, as they were close in age, would collaborate with each other and hide from me or be investigating something they shouldn’t.  They were always in action.

The next time I would saw him, over 20 years later, he was an adult, married, and with kids.

Unfortunately, because we are a large family, there are many funerals and today was one of those days.  While we always enjoy reuniting with family members and being introduced to kids and spouses we may not have met, we never like the circumstances, such as was today’s event.

I attended Monday’s visitation and while driving home, I sensed Mike’s presence, but I didn’t hear anything.  Just a comforting presence.

The next morning, however, when I got up, I keep hearing the word, “Giddy up!”  All that morning I heard it said as a gleeful exclamation.  Not a part of my everyday vernacular, I knew I was hearing Mike’s voice.

During the service, that included a bagpipe, the Michigan State Police guard,  who additionally provided a flag to Linda, his wife, recordings of favorite music, there was one particular silence where I felt the urge to say “Giddy up, boys.  Giddy up.”  The urge was strong and I sensed it would bring laughter, but I refrained.  As confident as I was that this was Mike speaking, I questioned the timing.

As fellow troopers got up one-by-one and started telling stories about Mike, including hearing he would tell them to “Saddle up,” as they rolled out on various duties, I discovered he was all about making people laugh, that he enjoying laughing as much as he enjoyed his family, fishing, and his work.  Saying “Giddy up” in that silence was something Mike would have done.

Mike was a marine who served in the Gulf War, with a commanding presence due to his height and demeanor.  He served undercover, provided governor protection, to name a few of his various teams, and had been a medical first responder with his local fire department.

The love and affection his family, friends, and police brethren have for him was easily felt.  Deemed as a tough guy, he also had a soft heart for his family, friends, and the people he served, and anyone who needed help.

Mike was only 52, far too young to be gone.  The service was truly a celebration.  As a collected group, we provided him a fitting, loving send-off, which was surrounded and sheltered with his presence.

Giddyup, Mike.  Giddyup.

 

She Was Playing with My Computer

So, I was at work, realizing it was the second anniversary of my sister’s death (Feb 12, 2013).  Eileen always enjoyed a good joke, especially if she got to play them on someone else.

I saw that the slide show that had been played at her funeral had been reposted on Facebook, so I opened it.  It began with her favorite George Strait song, Amarillo By Morning, a song that now always reminds me of her, and I do have to say, it is a great song.

Anyway, I watched the slides with Strait’s song and then there was a pause for the next song to begin.  It was at this point that I saw an e-mail coming in and I wanted to check on it, while the slide show continued.

I moved my mouse to make the move and clicked.  Nothing happened.  Nothing.

I went to diminish the slide show so I could see the e-mail program, which was behind the slide screen.  Again, I clicked, and the slide-show screen, which had been in a half-screen mode, became full screen.  Now, some of you might be thinking that I’m clicking the wrong buttons, but I wasn’t.   This time when I tried to return to the half-screen mode, the mouse clicker refused to work.

I tried to click an icon down on the bottom ribbon and the mouse icon moved to the middle of the screen.

I clicked the diminish sign and nothing happened.  I clicked it again, and the volume went up.  That’s when I began to have my suspicions about what was really going on.

No matter what I did, the mouse clicker wasn’t working.  I even tried to use the escape key and got nothing.

I couldn’t get off the screen.  No. Matter.  What.  I. Tried.  Not even CTRL+ALT+DELETE. Nothing.

The thing is, I needed to return to work.

So, I called our IT Department and reported the faulty mouse, telling them that I couldn’t send them an e-mail because the mouse wasn’t working.  He asked me if there were any other mice available.  There was.  In the meantime, he’d report the failure and David, our resident IT employee, would deal with it later.

So, I unhooked the mouse and went to a neighboring computer and took that mouse and plugged it into my computer.  It worked.  I was able to shut down the slide show and return to work.

I continued working with the substitute mouse the rest of the day.

The next day, when David stopped at my desk, I explained to him how the mouse had stopped working, particularly the left clicker.  He took it, saying he’d try it out to make sure it wasn’t working before turning it in.

Minutes later he returned.  “It works just fine.”

I told him about Eileen, and added, “She must have been playing with me.”

He just looked at me, smiled, and said.  “Uh, huh”

I sensed Eileen laughing, totally enjoying the joke, covering up her mouth so she wouldn’t explode.

This wasn’t the first time a computer has acted up when there was someone’s favorite music playing or when I could smell someone’s favorite food, drink, or tobacco that alerts me to the fact that I’m not alone.  Spirits love anything electrical, and they let me know they’re around by playing with my TV, cable, lights, and computers.

Have I told you the story about a neighbor and classmate who played with my writing lamp?  And who later wanted me to give a message to another classmate, a best friend of his at our last class reunion?