Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Need to Breathe

Yesterday, I had a surprise trip to the emergency room. I guess every trip to the ER is a surprise, but you know what I mean. I'm having weird pain after my gallbladder surgery, so they ran some tests to find out what the problem is. Nothing conclusive yet, so we'll see what the pain does in the next day or so. I apologize in advance for any typos—I'm lucky I can put together a coherent post with the pain meds. At least, I think I can...

George Clooney was not in my ER. Man!
The pain was right under my rib cage, and it got worse when I tried to breathe deeply. When I arrived at the ER, I could still breathe—with pain, but it wasn't impossible. I was still able to crack jokes with the hospital staff (per usual). After they got me into a room and I was waiting for the doctor, the pain got worse. I couldn't even take a shallow breath without severe, stabbing pain. I was dizzy and in tears. No more joking around, for sure.

I called the nurse to let him know the pain was much worse and that I was having trouble breathing. His response was, "Well, the doctor will see you when he can." And then he simply left.

But I. Can't. Breathe.

Then my husband arrived. (He had to wait on his parents to get to our house to watch the kids.) He saw the pain I was in and that I was having trouble breathing, so he went to the nurses' station and told them that I was in severe pain and couldn't breathe. Their response? "Well, the doctor will see her when he can."

Now, I know they need to see the most severe ER cases first. I know that. If someone's arm is severed or someone is bleeding and near death, they need attention first. I totally get that. I didn't expect a hoard of medical professionals to rush to my aid. But I expected someone to care. Breathing is pretty essential, from what I've heard. And it's scary not to breathe. I felt suffocated, and the more I tried to breathe, the less successful I seemed to be. I needed help.

Sometimes people can't breathe. Not physically, but emotionally or spiritually. They feel like they're drowning in their lives. They've experienced a tragedy, are in the midst of depression, or they're simply overwhelmed by life, and it feels like no air is available.

When we notice these people, what do we do? Do we come alongside them? Do we do what we can to help them breathe, whether it's prayer or simple friendship? Or do we say to ourselves the equivalent of, "The doctor will see them when he can?" and wait for someone else to take care of them?

As someone who is still working through some postpartum depression, I can tell you I've gotten mixed responses while I've been unable to "breathe." I've had friends who check up on me, pray for me, send me notes of encouragement, offer to help with the kids, try to get me out of the house and involved in my life again. They've encouraged me spiritually and emotionally, and they've done all they can to make me feel loved—whether or not I've been up to accepting it. On one of my really bad days when I first started thinking I might be dealing with PPD, one of my Twitter friends had me call her and she talked through it with me. I've never met Lauren Hale, but as someone who has experienced PPD, she knew I needed to talk to someone about it. So, essentially, even a stranger reached out to me because she could see that I was unable to breathe.

I've also had friends who haven't said or done anything to help. Not that I think they don't care about me (well, maybe they don't—I hope that's not the case!), but sometimes they don't know what to do or how to help. The result is that they just kind of ignore me until they think I'm feeling better. I'm not mad at them for it—I know it can be awkward when you don't know what to do or how to help. But it's a little disappointing, you know? And if you're one of my friends who's reading this and you think you may fall into this group, it's OK. I understand. I still love you!

I'd encourage you to take a look around your life. Is there anyone who seems to be having a hard time? Anyone who seems unable to breathe, emotionally or spiritually? Pray for them. Send them a note—even an e-mail—to tell them you're thinking about them and praying for them. You can offer further help if you feel prompted (meals, help at home), but offering love and prayer is doing something. Just noticing them is something.

You never know—it may be your love, attention, and prayer that helps them breathe again.


  1. How far post op are you? At about 3-4 days post op from my gallbladder, after I had been down to just as needed OTC pain killers, my pain level spiked massively. It lasted about a heavily medicated week, then stopped, like flipping a switch, just after my followup appt. my surgeon did followup testing, and while nothing showed on scans, we suspect it was a retained gallstone that passed. Hope you are feeling better soon.

    1. I'm seven days post-op today. The incision sites didn't hurt anymore, and I was able to sleep pretty comfortably. But this pain is in a different place---like a GB attack, but in my diaphragm or something. My surgeon thought it was pleurisy, but my chest X-ray came back clean. They think it may be an errant gallstone now, so I'm just trying to stay comfy until it passes! Thanks for your note. :) Glad I'm not the only one!

  2. Hey There! I had no idea you were dealing with PPD! Perhaps it is because I don't have a facebook account and rarely read twitter - if something isn't e-mailed to me directly, I have no way of knowing. So, for that I'm sorry - sorry for not finding out before now and sorry you are having to deal with it. I will begin praying for you.

    I do know what you mean in regards to how do we deal with people around us. I went through that BIG TIME in our years of infertility and after our miscarriages. People seemed to think that if they had not been through a miscarriage they shouldn't talk to me. I stopped getting invites out because children would be at the functions. It was a horribly painful time, but now, I look back and I can see how God has used that in my life. He used that time to make me fully dependent on Him. He brought my husband and I closer. And, just as Scripture says in 2 Corinthians 1, we are comforted so that we can then comfort others. It is now my passion to reach out and talk with those dealing with Infertility or miscarriage. I get emails from people I haven't talked to in years that have had a miscarriage and just want someone who understands. And it is such an honor to walk with people going through that unique pain.

    We all have different "things", different areas of struggles, and it is beautiful to watch those who have been there come along side those who are currently there. It is a fulfillment of Scripture and our duty as Christians.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should ignore those with hurts different than ours. We should (and MUST) reach out, pray for, and love everyone in pain -friends and enemies a like, but just as we all have different gifts, we all also have been comforted by our Creator through our hurts to then help others going through the same hurts. Just like your twitter friend who brought you great comfort. You, too, will be able to uniquly reach those going through PPD, back surgery, gallbladder, (am I missing anything?:). God is up to something good in the midst of all this treading water/need to breath stuff. Much love to you my Indy friend! :)

    1. I'll admit, I've felt that way about my friends who have had miscarriages---especially showing up with my babies. Felt like I was rubbing it in their faces, and I felt so guilty! But then I had an honest conversation with one of them where I told her I didn't know what to do or how to comfort her, but I loved her so much and wanted her to feel that. She was grateful I said something, and our relationship only improved. But it's scary to say something and risk confrontation when you know your friend already feels lousy.

      Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Darbs!

  3. I hope they figured out and fixed what was wrong, that was giving you severe pain and making it hard to breathe.
    I usually move toward friends who are hurting and give them a chance to talk. We usually end up with plenty of laughter too, "laughter is the best medicine."

    1. They're working on it! Now I'm showing signs of jaundice, which would mean it's definitely a gallstone blocking one of my ducts. Waiting for my surgeon or GI doc to call about scoping it and removing it. Fun, fun! Still, I'm glad to have answers. :)

      Laughter IS great medicine. Good reminder!

  4. Great post. I would not have survived that time without my hubs and a few close friends who refused to let me wallow. They kept me having fun and pushed me to stay connected.


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