— Septic —

I opened my eyes to white fluorescent lights — a cold room.
I realized I was in a hospital bed.

I remembered that I was to have surgery.
What I usually see after I wake up from surgery is a lady looking at a chart. I am generally in a room with other patients who are recovering from surgery.
Something seemed wrong this time.

The nurse beside my bed was asking me to “Breathe in … Breathe out … “
“Mr. Thomas, I need you to breathe in.”
I remember thinking, “Have I been breathing in and out for her the whole time?” I took a breath in, and oh, it hurt! My brain was telling my body that it did not need any oxygen. It was telling me to stop breathing. I breathed out.

The nurse asked, “Sir, do you remember what you’re here for?”
I shook my head, “No.”
She replied, “You have to keep breathing. Your body is septic. You’re very sick. You need to keep breathing.”

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

“Mr. Thomas, you see this number on the monitor?”
I turned to look at the monitor and saw the number — It read “18.”
“We have to keep this number above 21, or else we will have to put you on a ventilator.”

She repeated, “Breathe in … Breathe out … “

I realized, or maybe she told me, that my involuntary breathing wasn’t working.

Two nurses walked in with two bags of blood. They set the blood on a table.
My breathing coach continued, “Breathe in … Breathe out … “

“Sir, your white blood cell count is high, and we are going to give you blood to help bring it down.”

My breathing coach again repeated, “Breathe in … Breathe out … “

The two nurses began reading off numbers located on the bags of blood.
As one nurse read the numbers off one bag, the other said, “Check.”
Then, the second nurse read the numbers off the bag she held.
They were double- and triple-checking to ensure they were giving me the correct blood.

“Breathe in … Breathe out …”

The two nurses hooked the blood up to my IV and left.

My breathing coach said, “Your family is coming in to see you. You have to keep breathing.”

My family came in.
My aunt sat and took the place of my breathing coach. My breathing coach could take a break now.

My aunt asked, “Do you see this number?” I nodded.
“It has to get to 21 and stay above 21, or they’ll put you on a breathing machine, and you don’t want that tube down your throat.”

I breathed in. I remember getting that number to 21 exactly.

I noticed the clock on the wall said 3:30 and looked around to find out if it was 3:30 PM or AM.
I gave the universal symbol for “What time is it?” by pointing to my wrist.
My aunt said it was 3:30 AM.
If they’re here at 3:30 AM, this isn’t good. They wouldn’t all come to see me at 3:30 in the morning if things were fine.

“Breathe in … Breathe out …”

Momma held my hand. I could hardly talk.

I got out the words, “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
Mom said, “It’s going to be okay. Just keep breathing for now.”

That is how we work in my family—by just taking care of what’s wrong right now.
Right now, I needed to keep breathing. Then, I could work on whatever came up next.

“Breathe in … Breathe out …”

My family had to leave.
Each one came and kissed me either on the forehead or cheeks.
My breathing coach came back in.

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

Hours went by.

“Breathe in … Breathe out … Breathe in … Breathe out … “

I saw something out of the corner of my eye.
I looked up and saw a very tall black man standing over me.
He had to be 6 foot 5 or taller. He weighed at least 220 pounds — no fat on him.

“Mr. Thomas, I’m a chaplain here at the hospital.”
I asked him, “It’s bad, isn’t it?”
Unlike Mom’s answer, he said, “Yes, sir. I’m afraid it is severe.”
He jokingly said, “They never call me in for the birth of a baby, sir.”

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

“Sir, you may die tonight. Have you ever thought about the afterlife?”
I nodded my head. “Yes.”

Tears started coming out of my eyes.

“Breathe in … Breathe out …”

I needed the energy and ability to tell him that I got saved. I wanted to scream, “I’M SAVED!” but I couldn’t.

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

“Sir, are you a Christian?” I nodded my head. “YES!”
Out of nowhere, I got some energy. I pulled the oxygen mask off my face and said, “I got saved.
I got saved at The Verdict at Gardendale First Baptist Church.”
I remember adding, “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior.” I put the mask back on.

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

“You’re doing good, Mr. Thomas. You have the number at 23 breaths per minute.”

The chaplain took my hand with his hand.
I remember how smooth and silky his hand felt. It felt kind.
It made me cry more.

“Sir, would you like for me to pray for you?” I nodded my head. “Yes!”

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

To this day, I think he combined two prayers into one.
One, he prayed for God to heal me. Two, he prayed for God to accept my soul into Heaven if God should bring me home tonight.

The chaplain began to remove his hand from my hand, but I didn’t let him. I felt better with him holding my hand.
“Sir, do you want me to stay with you a bit longer?” I nodded my head. “Yes!”

“Breathe in … Breathe out … “

I thought about what the chaplain had said — about not being called in for the birth of a baby.
“All he sees is bad stuff,” I thought.
I thought, “I’m not dying. This chaplain is not seeing me die — not tonight. I’m not doing that to him. He’s seen enough death.”

Breathe in … Breathe out …

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1 Comment

  1. Grammy on June 11, 2021 at 9:50 pm

    It was an eye-opening night. Please continue to tell your life events so we can share in your life. Sometimes it’s the only way we know what you really feel. It helps greatly.

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