As most people who know me already know, I’m a persistent people pleaser which can be both a positive AND a negative trait at times. It’s always such a difficult decision to choose ourselves over the happiness of others.
Here’s my selfish story of the month.
I met Alana about 6 years ago while I was sitting in the ER with my 2 kids and pregnant with the 3rd. My husband was living an hour away and I was living in the city. I fell back to sleep one morning while the two kids were playing with play-doh in the next room. Trust me, the guilt I feel over this still sometimes gets to me. Everything was fine…until it wasn’t. My son, who wasn’t even in school yet, started crying loudly. I opened my eyes. Now what? I thought to myself. I woke up quick as he ran into the bedroom screaming with my 2 year old right behind him. Blood. Why was there blood? My eyes followed the trail in horror as I realized that it was coming from my son. Oh lord, there seemed to be so much. My room had carpet at the time so once I saw how much was smeared on the light grey kitchen floor it seemed so much worse. The only towels I had available were light grey and white. I grabbed what I could and started dabbing my son’s foot to see what was going on. He had stepped on a metal cookie cutter that they were using for a play-doh toy. The cut looked bad. I was living on the block over from the hospital so I bundled up the kids in their winter gear and headed out the door. I’m sure it was still before 9 am when we walked into the ER. We were one of the first ones there and it didn’t even cross my mind that we wouldn’t be out before lunch time. I didn’t bring snacks or drinks or activities… Around 11;00 I realized that I needed help. The kids were cranky, I was already mentally exhausted and I had literally no one to call. I decided it was time to call my husband. He was almost 2 hours away. After a good scolding on why I hadn’t called earlier, he assured me he was on his way. I had no money on me for the vending machines and as the kids continued screaming I just wanted to crawl under the chair and cry. I would have except the floor was terribly nasty with dirty, wet snow boots going in and out. Also, even if I had money, the lady told me that if I left the room, the file would be put on the bottom of the pile again. We would have to start all over.
In walks Alana. Well, honestly she was almost crawling and in so much pain she could barely speak. She sat down across from us, slumped is a more accurate word. She took up about 3 chairs as she half laid and slouched and sprawled trying to find a comfortable position. She smiled brightly at the kids and asked their names making a bit of small talk. She then looked up at me and introduced herself. She added how incredibly tired I looked and asked if the kids were bored she could let them watch videos on her cell phone. What an angel. She was my saving grace that day and for the next little bit until my husband showed up. We exchanged numbers before she was called in around 3 pm. At 4 we were moved to another room to wait because the waiting room was getting too full. At 5 I said to heck with it and I told them we were leaving because my kids were hungry and tired and bored. Yes, I understood that we would be put to the bottom of the list, not that it mattered after waiting all day. I felt completely defeated.
I’ll quickly tell you that I took the kids home to get them some decent food. The cafeteria wasn’t even open at the hospital so the kids had been living off vending machine snack foods and drinks which really didn’t help. I stayed at my house while my husband took my son back to the hospital at 8 that evening. In all, my poor 4.5 year old had to endure an 11 hour wait in the ER and because of where the gash was on his toe, the doctor put glue instead of stitches. He was fine, we were all fine. I am still upset with the wait.
Over the years, I have visited Alana countless times after surgeries while at hospitals, whether in Saskatoon or North Battleford. I have been there to pick up her kids and watch them while she was admitted time and time again. I would keep them occupied until someone else could come get them. I would make long trips to Saskatoon to take her a sandwich because this time she might not wake up from her brain surgery.
Fast forward to the present. The last time I saw her was sometime in June or July of 2020 when she was shopping in the store. She had told me the time before this that was told the doctor only gave her a year. We quickly caught up and she asked if she could give me a hug, I sadly told her that because I was working I couldn’t because of the 6 foot rule and I really didn’t want to be fired. I also told her she should be extra careful that she didn’t catch anything and I’m saying no because I loved her. I felt like a terrible person. What if I didn’t see her again? It had already been a year but she was looking good and energetic. The doctor wanted her to have another surgery because there was too much pressure in the brain again but she declined. She just couldn’t do it again. If I remember correctly, she has had 6 or 7 already.
Then last month she contacted me. Her message said she needed to see me. When could we see each other. I told her I would contact her for a quick coffee sometime on a weekday.
Fast forward to April…
“I’m still missing you. When can I see you? I really need a friend right now.”
My heart breaks when I read that because the last 2 times I had gone into the city during the week I was on such a tight time crunch that I really couldn’t reach out to her. Last week I had time. I debated calling her. I went back and forth a zillion times. My reasoning (aka excuse) was that I really needed an hour to myself without the kids when I got home. I can’t remember the last time I had that. The truth: I’m scared.
What if this is it? What if she has declined so badly since the last time I saw her happy and bubbly that I don’t even know her anymore? What if she looks horrible and I say something dumb? What if I just plainly say something dumb?
Why would it care if I did say something dumb? She already knows to expect that. If this is the last chance to see her, I would forever regret not seeing her. Last night, after I confessed to myself that it was fear holding me back, I messaged her and made a date for Tuesday. We will meet at McDonald’s for a parking lot coffee.
This morning she messaged me again saying we might have to postpone because she’s back in the hospital again. She had up puking all night again. Her headache is unbearable.
I was selfish and I hate that. And now I sit in that yucky feeling.
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension