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Thursday, May 5, 2016

The wake-up call

Friday, December 17, 2010

Nature sometimes has funny ways of telling you that you need to slow down.

I hadn't been feeling well ... I couldn't really pin down what it was; I just knew something was off. I'd been getting a lot of headaches, and my stomach was in knots all the time. It came and went for several weeks, and I didn't really think much of it.

We'd had a personnel change in the newsroom, and my family had been very busy with holiday and other activities and commitments.

I chalked my feeling icky up to stress.

Then a few days ago, I started having intermittent chest pains. I thought it might be heartburn, so I did what any busy person would do -- I ignored it.

On Tuesday, it became so awful that I broke down and went to the doctor.

The nurse came in to take my vitals, and I knew by the face she made when she took my blood pressure that things weren't good.

When I told her I came in for chest pain, she informed me that I would be going to the hospital emergency room.

I got a nice little ambulance ride (seriously, it was nice ... the people from Operation Life were very friendly and comforting), and before I knew it I was at Putnam County Hospital with monitors hooked up everywhere, an I.V. in my hand and nasal cannula pumping oxygen into me.

The doctor's office had called my husband Andy, who showed up looking worried (those of you who know Andy know he always looks kind of worried ... he looked more worried than usual).

As blood was drawn, x-rays were taken (they can do that right in the ER now ... I didn't even have to get off the gurney!) and tests were run, my husband, who always likes to prepare for the worst, kept telling me they were going to keep me.

No way, I told him. No one ever gets admitted to the hospital anymore.

Imagine my surprise when the doctor informed me that he'd been in contact with my family doctor, who felt it would be best for me to be admitted overnight for observation.

Wasn't that a kick in the head?

Eventually I got moved to a room in the hospital's intensive care unit. I was hooked up to different monitors and settled in.

I didn't sleep much that night. I don't sleep well away from home anyway, but ICU is a place filled with beeping monitors and scurrying people, so I really couldn't sleep.

Thanks to my cell phone, I was able to talk to a lot of my friends and my family via Facebook and text messaging throughout the night (thank God for my friend Emily, who never goes to be before 3 a.m.). My pastor, P.T. Wilson, came to visit me at 10 p.m., because he'd just heard I was in the hospital.

I talked to my mother, several of my friends from church and friends from work, all of whom shared messages of love and concern ... to the point where I was almost overwhelmed.

About 2:30 a.m., I shut off the television and put my phone on the bedside table. I glanced at the screen of my monitor, which showed my heart was beating regularly and the amount of oxygen in my blood was normal.

I sat for about a half-hour in the dark and silence, reflecting on what I had learned from this experience.

First off, I am lucky to have access to health care. When I am sick, I am able to go to the doctor or an emergency facility, because they are readily available to me.

That's not a blessing everyone has.

Secondly, I am surrounded by people who love me and want good things for me.

My illness caused inconveniences for others -- the newsroom was unexpectedly a person short without me (thanks for pulling together and working through, guys); I was supposed to perform at a nursing home with my church's hand bell choir (I'm sorry, Brian!) and my husband had to juggle getting our son where he needed to be for two days without any assistance from me.

But you know what? No one said anything about any of that. The people who ended up having to pick up my slack were just concerned that I was OK. They were sending prayers and get-well wishes even as my absence was inflicting stress on them.

Thirdly, I worry way too much about inconsequential things.

In the final analysis, it's not going to matter who doesn't like me. It's not going to matter that I won awards or that I had things.

What is going to matter is that I treated people well, that I took care of myself and my family and that I reacted to things -- even things that made me mad or upset -- in a positive manner.

All I can do, really, is be the best me I can be.

Turns out I was suffering from a nasty bacterial ulcer.

A couple of days and some medication later, I'm feeling better.

What started out as a stressful situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

From now on, I will try to not have it take something so jarring to point out the obvious gifts in my life.

Wish me luck.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic.