I almost died Wednesday night.
Wednesday was my fifth day of being sick. Diagnosed with bronchitis and strep throat, I was officially laid up with Kleenex in hand, amoxicillin by my side and a raspy sexy voice that I wanted to take advantage of.
I decide to jump on the phone with a (boy)friend. You know, one of those guys who’d like to have sex with me (Thank God) but always puts friendship first (Double Thank God).
I start to cough. It’s not a big deal at first. I push the phone away not wanting to blow the poor guy’s ears out. But then I just keep coughing. And coughing. Stuff in my lungs is being pushed up through my throat. Except nothing’s coming out. It’s just coming up.
Now, I am no longer coughing. I am choking. Choking on my own phlegm. I try to scream ‘call 911’ but there’s no sound. That’s when I knew I was in trouble.
I could die.
A memory floats in about my friend Michelle choking on a piece of steak at the local T.G.I. Friday’s a few years back. She is sitting next to me and of the 10 people out to dinner that night, including her husband, no one knew how to give the Heimlich. Michelle was a nurse so she knew she only had a few minutes before brain damage set in so after the fifth failed attempt she grabbed my arm, looked me in the eye and screamed so silently that I took off running through the restaurant screaming for anyone who knew the Heimlich. She lived.
I decide to throw myself against the kitchen island to give myself the Heimlich. But it’s too late. The room starts spinning, my knees buckle and I fall to the ground. Hard. Real hard. And it’s over. Just like that. I could breathe.
I laid there for a minute, face down, wanting to be sure that I could breathe. I took air into my lungs one, two, three times. I breathed slowly and methodically.
No spit came out of my mouth. Nothing was swallowed. The block was just … gone.
I crawled back into my bed with a new kind of exhaustion. Nothing like ‘almost’ dying to change the course of a day. I started to think about other ‘almost’ moments.
The time my friend Andy was swallowing her vitamins and found herself gasping for air, unable to get the vitamins down or up. I slapped her on the back just in time.
Or the time I was driving in bumper-to-bumper traffic when the truck in front of me slammed on its brakes and, in turn, I slammed on mine but not before my car slid under his flatbed stopping just a foot from my head totaling my car in the process.
Everyone has ‘almost’ moments. What are yours?
Until recently, I would unabashedly brag about my ‘almost’ moments. They made me feel invincible and proved I was special, lucky, that I could beat the odds. But not anymore.
Now, those same ‘almost’ moments take the high and mighty courage out of me and make me tremble with humility. Instead of touting the stories like a fisherman might exaggerate the size of his fish, I now tip toe around each moment knowing I have brushed against death itself. And I am vulnerable just like you. To anything. At anytime. Happening to me. To you.
So why am I telling you all this? Because I want to know if I am the only one who thinks about these things. Am I the only one who thinks about ‘almost’ moments? Am I the only one who worries about dying in their house alone?
I wonder: How many people die each year because they happen to be alone at the very moment they need help?
Being the solution person I am I spent the next day figuring out my options.
The Lifeline commercial with the tag line: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” has rolled around in my head way too many times. The idea of wearing something around my neck doesn’t seem so crazy anymore but the thought of it makes me feel old.
One thing I did do was sign up for Guardly, an app that automatically dials 911 and notifies your emergency team when you click on it. Downside? You have to be holding your phone.