On April 23, 14 years ago, I almost died on a gurney in the emergency room. Doctors would later discover that I had a blood clot in the artery of my brain, which caused a series of grand mal seizures—one lasting over 10 minutes causing loss of precious oxygen to my brain. My mother stood outside the room and she could hear my body thrashing as medical personnel raced to and fro. She had no idea what was going on. Neither did I.
Somewhere in that vivid memory, I hear my voice, nasally—from the blue breathing tube crammed down my throat—and whimpering repeatedly ask, “Am I going to die?” I repeated the question over and over and I don’t remember anyone ever answering it—just one doctor marveling over the fact I was alert, functioning, and in such good mental condition after what happened in that room.
I’ve marveled very little at the pseudo tumor cerebri, which almost took my eyesight two weeks earlier. That, I tell God, I could survive. But after that, then this, too? At 21 years-old, it seemed like too much. And I’m still trying to make sense of it 14 years later.
Sometimes I go through all the pages of my life looking for the place where things went terribly wrong and what made me end up at the place where I am, which isn’t at all where I planned for my life. I paused at this moment and wonder, “What if I never got sick my junior year of college? How would that have altered my life?” My mind spins thinking about what it would be like to live without hypochondria and trauma and crippling anxiety. Sometimes I tell people if I didn’t have anxiety, I’d be really brave. Then again, perhaps there’s something really brave about living with anxiety.
Being the anniversary of my near-death, I’ve been on edge today, daring my body to convulse and hoping I don’t end up in the emergency room. In these silent moments, I recall falling to the floor in the E.R. waiting room, being pulled onto a gurney, my voice twisted and strange, bright lights, and a sense of urgency. If I think about it too long, I start to panic, almost like I’m there again.
It occurred to me that perhaps April 23, 2011 isn’t the day I almost died, but rather the day I lived. Telling the story about the day I lived is a much more positive story to tell, don’t you think? Instead of fearing “it,” I can celebrate what God did through me.
Suddenly, the power of April 23 doesn’t seem so powerful. Yes, God spared my life that day. Those severe seizures should have killed me or at least left me brain damaged…but I lived. Every day God gives us the chance to live. Sometimes through extraordinary situations that would have killed others or broken others or caused others just to give up, yet we live.
Every day I wake up God gives me the same thing He gave me on April 23—life, precious life to be lived for Him. In the living, I will choose to be brave in the midst of fear and go forward even when I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Fourteen years ago, on this very day, I didn’t almost die…I lived.