Beeep, beeep…whoosh, whoosh.
Heart racing, blood rushing to my feet.
Clammy skin and ashen face. Dripping sweat.
Life and death. Hopeless.
These sounds and words describe the fifteen or so minutes that I was able to see my best friend for the first time in the ICU. I only had the strength to stay that long as I was beyond petrified that she would see my terror as I looked at her hooked up to machines controlling every aspect of her life. As I write this, I feel my heart rate increase and my thoughts go back to the words that describe this experience from my view. Her view, I’m sure, was one of helplessness, disbelief and fear.
As I became more desensitized to the beeps and sounds of the automatic blood pressure machine and the ventilator, I focused on the visual outputs of her cardiac function. I saw numbers declining as she was asleep and not knowing if they were normal or not, I feared for my friend’s life. I felt my heart stop as I saw her numbers decline. Would I be the only one in the room when she took her last breath? She was my best friend since the age of two. It could not end this way. I would stand up, poke her and wait. Her eyes would flicker, and I knew she was still breathing.
We had such a history together. We shared secrets that no one to this day knows. We shared crushes in junior high and high school. We have shared the heartache of loss. We have lied
for each other. We even have our way of communicating dating back to our 13-year-old lives. “Is your mom there?” “Yes”, she would reply. “Okay, I will only ask you ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions”. Of course, those were the days of telephone cords that could reach around a corner and into a closet, but we always were extra careful. She was the first person I told (besides my husband) when I was expecting my first child. She was the person that came and rescued me from a crying newborn when no one else was available. She was the one that I trust will be brutally honest with me even when she is not asked. She was the one that has celebrated life and love with me and, even this year, we have shared the pain that comes with the loss of a parent. She is the person that, in the end, I believe will continue to be the “why” behind my perspective of recovery. My challenges pale in comparison, but I try to match her in attitude.
I knew, in the long run, that she would be okay when I visited her a week after her accident. You see, she became a quadriplegic. The instant I knew she was going to fight for life, hope and strength was the moment a very cute (and I mean cute) respiratory therapist came into her hospital room. My feisty eye went up as she looked at me and we shared that unspoken communication between lifelong friends. I fought so hard not to say in front of him, “Oh, is this the cute guy you have been telling me about?” I knew I had to have some decorum as she was really still on the edge of life and death. Even though humor is one of the best ways to alleviate stress, I still did not dare to make light of her situation. He left and our eyes followed him out the door. I looked at her and even with a ventilator plugged in her neck breathing for her, she mouthed the word, “hot!” I still smile, to this day, when I recall that memory. I’m so happy that it was a true predictor of her inner strength peppered with a wicked sense of humor and a stubborn streak that would outlast a 2-year-old temper tantrum.
You see my best friend’s name is Power. She has the power to always look at a full glass. She has the power to bring people together. She has the power to inspire others. She has the power to show that “no matter how dark the sky seems; the sun will always shine again” (Katrina Mayer). She has the power of perspective. Her perspective is my inspiration and will always be. We will grow old together, I’m sure. I will follow her lead as we become 80-year-old women causing trouble. We will laugh at all of our childhood antics and tell stories of the good old days, but I’m most hopeful that Power’s story will be one for the record books. Her precept of the sun always coming out reflects the circle of life and I’m so glad that her power has become mine. Her perspective is mine. Find your perspective from other’s success, not their failures. Find your perspective from their strength, not their challenges. Use this day to find your hip perspective with hope and humor.