Actually, I think I'm afraid to sleep. I had a really scary experience the day before Mother's Day. I was talking to Phil on the webcam, and suddenly I was choking. I wasn't choking on anything. I wasn't eating or drinking anything. Yet, suddenly, I felt like there was something lodged in my throat and blocking my airway. I tried to clear it by taking a drink, and the water just stopped in my throat right where I felt like there was something lodged. Try as I might, I could not swallow that water past the blockage. I ended up spitting it back out into the sink. Of course, then I started to kind of panic, because I didn't know what to do, and I felt like I was teetering on the edge of consciousness. I mean, what would happen to the kids if I was seriously incapacitated? And how would I get myself to the hospital if it came to that? It's not like I could pack up the kids and drive myself into town when I feel like I will lose consciousness at any moment, right? So I'm sure that my panicked state of mind didn't help much.
I finally found that, if I tipped my head way back and stretched out my neck, I could get just a little bit of air. The breathing was tight and raspy - kind of like the sound you get when you slowly let air out of a balloon - but at least I was finally breathing, and that helped my state of mind considerably. The loud breathing was a good thing in another way too. Emily heard me from downstairs, where she was playing with Ben, Becky and Katie, and she came up to check on me. (They were playing so loudly that I'm sure it was only with the help of the Spirit that she was able to hear me at all.) She asked me what was wrong, but of course, I couldn't answer her. I steered her over to the computer, where I had been on the webcam with Phil until my choking episode began, and I pointed out the instant message that I had sent to Phil for her to read. He was able to fill her in on the details, and between the two of them, they were able to come up with a plan of action. Emily called one of our friends to come over and give me a Priesthood blessing while I lay down on the couch and tried not to panic.
About half an hour after Brother Harris came over to give me a blessing, the lump in my throat went away and I was able to breathe easier. I was even, finally, able to sip a little bit of water slowly. Still, my throat hurt for about the next 24 hours - it felt like it had been scratched inside, as if there truly had been something lodged in my throat.... as if I was really choking on something that was actually there.
As you can imagine, this really shook me up quite a bit. I was pretty terrified for a few days, afraid that it would happen again when no one was around to help me or something. I even tried to get an appointment at the base clinic to see if they could find a cause for it. Of course, they didn't have any openings, and they told me that if I wanted to get an appointment, I had to call earlier in the morning because they fill up right away. (The appointment line opens at 7:00am. I started trying to call at 6:55 and finally got through at 7:15.) The gal I talked to was oh so helpful. She told me that, if it happened again, I could call and get authorization to go to Urgent Care in Yuba City to be seen right away. How I would be able to make the phone call when I couldn't breathe, let alone talk, I'm not sure.... Anyway, I finally decided that it was probably some weird fluke caused by a misfire of my silly brain, in which case the doctors at the clinic here would be completely clueless anyway, so it wasn't worth the effort of trying to get an impossibly elusive appointment. Besides, any new problem that I mention to the doctors is just one more strike against me in my quest to get medical clearance to go to Korea, and is it really worth that price? I don't think so!
So anyway, after several days without a relapse, I quit worrying about it. This wasn't the first time, and I figured that it wouldn't be the last time that I had some weird symptom pop up just long enough to confuse everyone and freak out the doctors and then go away entirely, never to be seen again, let alone explained and cured! I decided that I had made the right choice in ignoring the little episode.
Then, a day or 2 later, I woke up at 3 in the morning with the same choking feeling. Of course, this time around, no one was awake to hear me struggling to breathe, and I was pretty terrified by the whole thing. Not knowing what else to do, I just lay down and said a silent prayer and waited for the feeling to pass. It eventually did, although I have no idea how long it took. I didn't want to sit there staring at the clock, because I knew each minute that passed would bring a greater panic.
Since that day, I have had a few nights when I've woken from a deep sleep with a feeling of breathlessness, like I was trying to catch my breath after holding it for far too long, but I haven't felt the same choking sensation again. Still, it makes me a little bit nervous, you know? I've noticed this week that I've been staying up later and later each night again, finding one excuse after the other to not go to bed quite yet. The words of Dr. Boggan, my neurosurgeon, keep ringing through my head. He told me months ago (back in January, actually - right after Phil left) not to worry too much about my breathing issues: "As long as you're awake, you will breathe." I know that is mostly true, because generally (with the exception of the times when I felt like I was choking), when I realize that I'm not breathing, all I have to do is focus my entire concentration on nothing but breathing in and out, and sooner or later, I start up breathing normally again. Still, what if I'm not awake when it happens? Or what if I start "choking" again? I've noticed lately that I always now sit with my neck stretched out in that position where I was able to breathe through the choking. I don't know if I'm doing it because I feel like I can breathe easier that way or if I'm just afraid that if I don't, I will start choking again, but that's what I've been doing...
I really wish that I had someone I could talk to about this without sounding like I was whining or being pessimistic or something. I don't want to freak anyone out or make people worry about me or anything. And I don't want to have to go through another battery of medical tests for which I have to find babysitters and rearrange my schedule and where they aren't going to find anything anyway. Still, I feel like I'm going to explode if I keep this fear and worry bottled up inside for one more minute. I want to talk about it with someone - to feel like I'm not completely alone here after all, you know?
Of course, I know that I'm not really completely alone. We're never truly alone, because the Savior is always there, ready to steady us and lift us up, and even to carry us when we're not strong enough to do it on our own. I know that He is there for me, and I can testify that I wouldn't be here without His watchful care. I mean, how else would Emily have known to come check on me? And it wasn't through the wonders of medical science that I was finally able to breathe again! Still, I want to feel like I'm telling someone - not bottling the concerns up inside or keeping it a secret. That's why I'm writing it all here. I'm relatively certain that no one reads this blog, so I'm not really risking anything. I'm not going to be making anyone worry or fret by spilling my guts about my terrified state of mind. Still, since this is being posted on the internet, it is by no means a private discourse, and it is possible that someone is reading it and empathizing (or at least sympathizing) with my terror.
I don't want to write in my journal about this, because that makes it incredibly personal and private - and more real, somehow, you know? Here, I can fool myself into the thought that I have "talked" to someone about it and found a very compassionate and empathetic listening ear. So if anyone is, by chance, reading this... Thank you so much for being such a good listener. It really helps to feel like I can let it out once in a while. It's tiring, being the rock - the foundation and the strength for my family. Of course, I can't let the kids know how scared I am, because then they too would be scared - scared of losing their mother. I don't think that's going to happen, but even if it did, what good would it do to let the kids fret and stew about it beforehand, you know? Sometimes, I feel like I just have to give in to the cracks in my foundation and fall apart completely. Then, I can mix some fresh mortar and build myself up again, as strong as ever. It helps to have someone to "talk" to while I deconstruct periodically. That's not something you get when you're writing in a private journal that only you have access to, you know? Somehow, even though I know that I don't have a great big audience here, it helps to know that you, dear reader, are listening to me (even if it does turn out that you are only a figment of my imagination after all)!
So now it is 3:00 in the morning, and I still don't know if I can sleep. But I am tired, and I only have a couple of hours before I have to wake up, so I will go to bed and try. I know that I could take a sleeping pill and it would probably work, but then that raises the whole issue of what would happen if I stopped breathing and didn't wake myself up.... Still, 2 or 3 hours of sleep is better than none, right? And I do feel better after pouring my heart out like this....
So I guess my "I'm so grateful" for today is friends. I am so grateful to have friends who love and care for me, who are willing to sit quietly and let me ramble on and on about my fears, listening and trying to understand what I'm going through. I guess it really doesn't matter if you, dear reader, are real or just a figment of my imagination, because I know that there is One who is very real and who will always listen and love me, who loves me so much that He gave His life for me and suffered unimaginable pains and sorrows so that He could experience every pain, every sorrow, every illness that I or anyone else on this earth ever has or will suffer. He truly understands. He has felt it. He knows exactly what I'm going through right now. Thank you for being His hands and ears here on earth, for letting me lean on you for a while and draw strength from your love and compassion. Like the cliche says, "That's what friends are for!"