Getting to the hospital room had been a challenge. I was 30-weeks pregnant, battling preeclampsia and ready to drop. The risk I’d deliver my daughter prematurely was as high as my blood pressure. And that was the best-case scenario.
(By Eve Hinson, originally published Summer/Fall 2009)
After I had changed into a gown and climbed into the air-pressurized bed, I wanted to sleep but there was too much commotion. It didn’t matter. I was light-headed with relief.
The nurse and her aide orbited like satellites while Jim sat in a chair, out of the way. Between the two an IV was inserted, a pressure cuff wrapped and a baby monitor strapped. Circling intermittently was a tech to draw blood, a woman delivering dinner, and two giggly girls with a portable ultrasound machine to measure fetal growth and amniotic fluid. There were others, but I was too spaced to register what their duties were.
I answered health questions, often with my husband’s help, and handed the nurse my gallon-size Ziploc bag of meds. While she entered the types and dosages, Jim called to update my parents.
After that I was mentally scattered by a constellation of little things: The singing of the American Idol contestants on the mounted TV, the peeling beige wallpaper under the window, the tightening cuff on my left arm, Jim’s voice, the clear bag on the IV stand, my purposeful deep intake and release of air, the amplified heartbeat of my baby and the coordinating etched paper rolling off the printer.
The tension on my upper arm released and I glanced at the monitor. The numbers were shocking.
“Is that right?” It couldn’t be.
The nurse’s aide turned the monitor. “Don’t watch – we’ll take it again.”
“Let’s have you lie on your side and relax,” said the nurse as she came around the bed and looped a flexible measuring tape around my bicep. “Yeah, that’s the right size cuff.” She walked over to the switch and dimmed the lights.
Jim patted my leg.
I followed directions and rolled on my side, lowered the bed — as far as could be tolerated — and closed my eyes. Then I pictured sitting in the shadow of Morro Rock while watching the water roll into waves and break on the jetty. The power of the ocean was strong and peaceful, the two things I needed to be.
When that image faded, I thought of a January night when I wore a newborn Tory in a sling and ambled in the backyard. While he nestled deep in the warmth of the fabric pouch, cool air and starlight soothed. As I tread the moist earth and damp grass with bare feet, I felt connected to a larger all-encompassing maternal energy.
An abrupt arm squeeze disrupted the visual. The cuff inflated and I did my best to keep still.
When the numbers flashed, the aide pursed her lips and the nurse frowned.
“What is it?” I needed to know. When getting a shot, I was the type that had to watch. Better to be prepared and informed of when the pain would pierce than be surprised.
The aide turned the screen.
It was worse than the first reading. I was astounded – who knew blood pressure could go that high?
Oh, this was wrong. In the past if I relaxed it responded by getting better – not worse. I thought I had some influence over my illness. If I just behaved and followed doctor’s orders the baby and I would be OK.
Sure logic didn’t dictate that – but I’d never been up against something so big. My body was on a path of destruction and I was powerless. No amount of internal calming and fortifying would deter or slow it.
The nurse talked on the cellphone. The aide wrapped my bedrails with blankets and then secured them with tape.
“What’s this for?”
“In case you have seizures.”
“It’ll protect your head.”
Huh? A bubble of hysteria lodged in my throat. I was going to be saved by thin blue cotton blankets? Hey no worries, they got this covered. Literally.
It was the funniest thing I ever heard. So funny I laughed … then panic hit like a Mac truck.
I couldn’t breathe. It felt like ants were crawling on my head and my cheeks were numb. Something was loudly pounding and my chest felt like it was going to crack.
The world tilted and my stomach seized. Before I could vomit or blackout, a gentle voice said, “What’s wrong?”
The soft syllables acted as a crown line for my floating sanity. I used nurse’s words to stabilize.
“I … I’m sorry.” I sucked in a long breath. “I think I need a Xanax.”
It had been years since I experienced a full-blown anxiety attack.
“OK, I can ask the doctor.”
After a few minutes I was shaky but better.
The nurse had called the doctor and returned. “Dr. Thomas prescribed the Xanex.”
“OK.” So that was the doctor’s name. I’d forgotten. “Uh … forgive me, but what’s your name?”
She smiled with what looked like kind patience. It was the same look I’d seen others give elderly, forgetful family members. Guess it wasn’t the first, or even second, time I’d asked the question.
This time I’d keep her name like a shiny treasured rock in my pocket. Everything else was out of my control — but remembering the names of the strangers that were going to save me?
That was the one thing I could do.
Jim was by my side, stroking my hair. “It’s going to be OK. This is going to help you.”
“Do I have to?” Please, say I have a choice. I can’t do this.
“Babe, you don’t want to have seizures do you? Those could damage your brain permanently.”
I had a lot of brain. Most of it wasn’t used right? No, that wasn’t rational. That was fear and I needed to push past that. I couldn’t be so afraid that I’d prefer brain damage.
“OK. You’re right.”
The nurse got the medicine ready and injected it into my IV.
I counted each second as it passed. I was OK. So far, all was good. I’m here and I’m alive. Jim is here. The nurse is here. I can hear the TV. I’m OK. I’m fine.
All I had to do was breathe and be brave. Besides, wasn’t being brave about working through fear and doing it anyways? I could do that.
It’s human to think different.
Eve Hinson | July 2017
Evolution of Eve | Rediscovering life then and exploring the now
Memory loss, scattered focus, inability to track time, and an ill-known stigmatized neurological disorder, plus PTSD symptoms, have erased or complicated recall of Eve’s first 37 years of life.
Now in her mid-40s, Eve is Autistic AF (born that way) and left with a brain that doesn’t include filters (she says fuck. a lot), likes to glitch and, after the memory wipe, created a new personhood. Eve is different to those who’ve known her from childhood. She is unknown even to herself and seeking to learn about her life from back then, and embracing life now.
This series focuses on self-discovery after the onset of severe mental illness, memory loss and permanent disability. It’s a different life and a worthy life.
Contact Eve | firstname.lastname@example.org