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Monday, December 23, 2013

The Holidays are not always Merry and Jolly

Christmas Lights and Gates within Gateway
The Holidays are difficult for many of us. My children happen to live in the far corners of the U.S. and I see them infrequently. Of course that makes me sad. I almost died one Christmas which was the precursor to a divorce that also clouds the holidays. But let me explain.

It was Christmas time. The freshly cut spruce we had purchased days before was decorated and waiting. My baking was complete; our freezer loaded with cookie trays for friends and casseroles for company and unexpected guests. I was on my last round of cleaning, adding the final spit and polish that “make the season bright.”

We wrap our palm trees in twinkle lights
Two things happened that day to add to the confusion: 1) I banged my wedding ring finger on a table and wondered if I'd broken it, and 2) I cleaned ever-so-efficiently behind the toilet bowl in our guest bathroom. At the time, a strong stinging sensation in my finger caused me to pull my sudsy hand back. It was the same finger I'd banged earlier. On my initial examination, the skin had been unmarred. Now the water-soaked skin had a slight abrasion or opening in the flesh.

I shrugged and finished my scrubbing. I was taking the kids to a holiday movie and put the events of the day out of my mind. Half-way through the movie, I was in a fit of agony. My finger felt like it was on fire, but its temperature was as cold as ice. What was going on? To make a very long story short, the continued pain sent me to three different hospitals over the course of the holiday weekend. A medic cut off my wedding ring as it cut into my flesh and restricted blood flow. An x-ray revealed there was no break. Puzzled, the nurse on duty sent me home and told me to soak my finger.

Love these tall graceful palms wrapped in lights!
At the next ER, I was feeling extremely ill. They asked if I'd been bitten by a spider, but I had no recall of such. On the surface, the finger didn't look that bad, nothing to warrant such pain. They sent me home with more instructions, none of which helped.

A third trip to another ER in the middle of the night proved as useless. While there, my whole body became immobile. I couldn't blink. I couldn't speak. I couldn't move one solitary muscle. I heard them say I had probably hyperventilated. It would pass. They sent me home. I was given no medication or antibiotic on any of these visits.

On Monday, I saw my own medical doctor. By this time a bright red streak ran from my finger to under my arm. My skin had a yellow cast, and my gums were purple. The doctor pronounced: "blood poisoning,” and asked again:” Are you sure you weren't bitten by an insect? " None that I could recall, I told him. When I mentioned the diagnosis of hyperventilation, he shook his head. "You were probably going into convulsion,” he said.

My ultimate favorite: a southern oak tree wrapped in lights. Spectacular!
I was placed in a private hospital room, and x-rays were ordered for my heart and lungs. The doctor had prescribed a complex antibiotic IV drip, but since the hospital was under staffed, they waited for my IV, wanting to avoid attaching it and then having to unhook me for x-rays and then having to start it up again. The IV was put off until after my x-rays; a six hour delay as it turned out.

Over the next few days, Gangrene set in my finger. A dermatologist was called in. He was the one that finally recognized my condition as the results of a brown recluse spider bite. He took one look at me, read my record, and said: "You should have been dead in 36 hours." It had been 72 hours before I received my first IV antibiotic drip. If they had known what it was from the beginning, they would have administered cortisone as well.

Moonshines -- Abstract mixed media on canvas (on my online gallery)
After my recovery, I analyzed the holiday puzzle. I remembered seeing tiny spiders in the toilet water during the holiday week and wondered how they got there? We later concluded there must have been a spider's nest behind the tank. So much for thorough cleaning! 

I never repaired my wedding ring or put it on after that. I looked upon it as a foreshadowing of what was to come. In spite of the good things that have happened to me since, whenever Christmas rolls around, I remember my near death experience, a separation and a divorce that became imminent one holiday long ago.

A Sandhill Crane in my neighborhood painted on black. Christmas Colors!