To my Fellow Hillary Supporters: Advice on Healing from Someone Who Has Been There
Yesterday, I put on the watch my grandfather gave my grandmother when he returned home from service after World War II. I wanted my grandma to be with me in spirit when I cast my vote. Yesterday, I put on my ‘wanabe’ pantsuit and was photographed along with other Hillary supporters in my community, including our mayor. Yesterday, my heart was full of hope, optimism, and excitement.
On April 26, 2006, I put on a hospital gown and was brought into an operating room for a scheduled C-section. Waves of that same hope and optimism rippled through me. Visions of locking eyes with my daughter danced in my head, while thoughts of taking her home with my husband and 3-year-old son filled me with exhilaration.
Yesterday, I thought about my grandma who was a tough-talking business savvy woman in the 1950s- long before it was commonplace. I smiled, thinking how happy she would be to know, that in just 12 hours, America would most likely elect our first female president.
12 hours after my daughter was born, I suffered grave complications. What began as a postpartum infection, quickly spiraled out of control. 15 days later, I was brought into another operating room. Doctors performed an emergency colectomy and told my family I may not make it through the next 48 hours, due to the massive amounts of infectious fluid that had ravaged my abdomen. My husband, after hearing the results from the surgery, faced the real possibility of being a 32-year-old widower with a newborn and toddler.
Last night, I watched as the election results rolled in. I am, by nature, an optimistic person. I held on to my optimism, and fought the nagging reality that was slowly creeping into my consciousness.
Ten years ago, I held onto my optimism with a fierce grip. Against all odds, I had survived the emergency colectomy. Yet, 3 months after giving birth, I was still in the hospital with 3 IR drainage bags sucking infected fluid out of my mid-section. I also had an ostomy bag, a G-Tube, and a J-Tube sprouting from my stomach and wasn’t permitted to eat or drink. Still, I was joking with friends about not having to worry about swimsuit season. I missed my kids with a fierce intensity no parent should ever have to endure, but remained hopeful that my path would soon bring me home.
As the polls closed and results poured in last night, I kept thinking there was still a path to victory for Hillary. Afterall, I am a Chicago Cubs fan. I considered my Muslim and Hispanic students and their families and thought of my beloved high school theatre teacher, who fought most of his life to marry his husband. Reproductive rights being overturned, what the future would hold for the transgender children in my community, my pre-existing medical conditions, my neighbors being deported and separated from their loved ones…….these frightening thoughts tumbled through my mind, as my panic escalated.
In July of 2006, I was once again rolled away from my loved ones and into another operating room. As my family grew smaller in the distance, I shouted out to them, “Think Positive!” During the surgery, doctors accidentally hit my splenic artery and I bled out on the table. The trauma and transplant team stampeded through the doors in a desperate attempt to save my life. I was left open and packed for two days, as my ruby-red blood drenched the ICU bed sheets.
Eventually, the surgeons closed me up, gave me a tracheotomy, and told my family to keep praying. I spent most of July and August in the ICU. All my hair fell out, I weighed under 80 pounds, suffered from sepsis and terrifying delirium, induced by ICU Psychosis. That September, I emerged from a cloud of confusion and learned that I had lost total functioning of my limbs and could no longer hold a pen to write. Because of my tracheotomy, I couldn’t talk either. Doctors said I may not ever walk or eat again. If I was lucky, I would survive and might live out my days in a nursing home. I was 31-years-old.
This morning, an eerily familiar feeling of despair seeped back into my soul. It was like I was lying in the hospital powerless again; my voice muffled by a tracheotomy, my body unable to move, my heart shattered.
10 years ago, I expected to give birth and go home with my baby girl, but life threw me a major curveball. I spent many nights staining my pillow with tears, feeling utterly hopeless. 10 years later, I’ve made a remarkable recovery. I didn’t do it alone. Without love and hope, I know with certainty I couldn’t have survived. The outpouring of love that was bestowed upon me by my family, friends, doctors, and strangers was nothing short of miraculous. Love brings hope and hope brings love.
Last night, I expected to see the first female elected president, but our country just got thrown a colossal curve ball. Those of us who voted for someone other than Trump must take time to grieve and heal. Perhaps today is not the day for you to rally, and that’s okay. Trust me, in time you might feel differently.
I’m no longer the eternal optimist that was rolled into surgery, but I’m not a pessimist either. I’m the last person who will blindly believe that everything will turn out okay if we just sit in a circle and sing Kumbaya. But I have learned that it’s possible to rebuild a broken heart, body, and mind. I’ve learned that no country or person is all good or all bad, noble or despicable, hateful or loving, never or always right.
I’ve lived through being literally voiceless and have fought hard to regain the privileges that accompany speaking and writing. That’s partly why I started this blog. To be honest, before yesterday, I was getting ready to “throw in the towel” and retire from writing. I think I’ve changed my mind. I plan on exercising the right to funnel these privileges into a productive conversation. There are questions to be asked, lessons to be learned, and hard work to be done. When the dust settles, I hope you’ll join me.
To learn more about the 218 days I spent in the hospital, check out: Does This Hospital Gown Come With Sequins?