My greatest fear is being rendered to a vegetative state by some unknown ailment. Being that I have a few serious chronic health concerns – the fear of becoming a vegetable is a valid fear. Overcoming that fear is not possible. I cannot predict whether or not my life will lead to a vegetative state. I do attempt to overcome that fear by staying as healthy as possible by eating right and exercising daily.
I am unfortunately prone to infections, and this often means that I am at risk for bacteria in the blood, also known as bacteremia which leads to sepsis. Typically, when someone becomes septic, they are in serious trouble. It can cause heart failure, respiratory failure, hypovolemic shock, and so much more. It is a very serious condition that I have had the unfortunate experience of having over thirty times.
There was one time in particular where I almost died that really sticks in my memory because of the seriousness of the situation. I remember waking up in a stupor. A film coated the world as if it were draped down upon me by some omniscient being. I felt as if I were just a passenger in my own life.
I couldn’t remember my own name, who I was, where I was, nor my own ailments. I had no recollection of the trip to the hospital nor the first several hours of my time there.
What I do remember is that I was dropped off at the hospital in a feverish fugue state.
There was nothing around me that could have reminded me of my identity, what I was doing there or where I was from. I remember vaguely telling the receptionist that some man dropped me off. That man was my ex-husband. He had left me at the desk and said goodbye.
They checked me in and when they took my vitals they were critical:
- Blood Pressure: 73/30 mmHg
- Heart Rate: 168 beats per minute
- Temperature: 103.8 and climbing
- Glasgow Score: 10
While that sounds terrible already, that was not even the most terrifying part. After I was taken back to an emergency room bay, I asked to use the restroom. While I was in there, I began to feel very unwell. As if I were going to die. I know, dying on the toilet… nice. I thought the same thing as I was sitting there watching the world go white.
I started to pass out, the ground lifting in warning, and as I was falling forward, I reached for the pull cord and hoped with all of my might that I had snagged it as the world went white. Fortunately, I did.
I lost the ability to move, speak, see, and the only sense I had left was my hearing. I remember being picked up off of the bathroom floor and carried to my bed where they stuck two very large IV’s into my left and right arms. “start pressors”, “get an A-line”, “give fluids” and more resounded in my white world as the bed tipped back into Trendelenburg position placing my head below the level of my feet. It was an attempt to return blood flow to my brain and increase my blood pressure so that I didn’t bottom out. The voices of medical staff, beeping of critical care machines and the hissing of the oxygen mask became my death symphony
Fortunately, under the rapid care of the staff, I survived and was transferred to the ICU. This is where the worst part of the whole experience occurred. While I was in the ICU, I began to lose my sight due to the sepsis. While I was away for a test, someone stole my 900.00 phone off of the nightstand by my hospital bed. When I retuned to the room, it was gone and my sight was also further diminishing.
I could not stay in contact with anyone and being that I lived 1000 miles away from my family in another state – I was completely alone, sick, and blind. I couldn’t see the TV nor the book in front of me. I was alone and unable to communicate with anyone other than the nurses via speech.
It was one of the most lonely, isolating experiences I have ever had. My grandmother, a saint, bought me a Kindle tablet so that I had access to the internet and messenger so that I could talk to my family and friends with what little sight I had left. Honestly, that saved me from certain mental health disaster.
Losing my phone, my sight, and my health put me closer to a vegetative state than I have ever felt in my entire life and it was easily the most frightening thing I have ever endured. Even more so than when my bowel perforated during the pandemic and I was in emergency surgery without being able to have my family visit afterwards. I wanted to die. I didn’t want to live in a place where I had literally no one to confide in. No one to cry with. No one. No one at all.
Maybe my greatest fear isn’t becoming a vegetable, but rather being alone. Overcoming that fear is not possible. It is something that is inside my bones, built into my DNA by experience.
Loneliness is actually one of the most painful emotions that a human being can experience. It is ingrained in our DNA to seek out a herd-like environment because historically speaking – we needed to be in groups as humans in order to survive against the elements. In ancient human history those without herds/groups to roam in eventually died from starvation, the elements, and well – loneliness. Just as we innately respond to the sound of a wailing child – we also innately respond to loneliness with negative emotions because our instincts tell us that this is bad and dangerous. This still persists today.
What is your greatest fear, has this post influenced your fear of loneliness in any way or are you content with living solitary?