This post was originally published in Portuguese on Expedição B. on the 23rd of January 2017
I’ve always had a lot of headaches, since I was a kid. Later came the migraines with everything else that comes with it. At the age of 17, during national exams season of my 2nd year of high school, the characteristics of my pain changed to the point I couldn’t sleep. I even had an episode during which I couldn’t see for a few seconds, things that I later understood were caused by panic attacks. It was more than clear that I should go to the doctor.
Appointment scheduled in the S. João Hospital, my mom and I went together by train from Resende to Porto, cool and calm – I remember that I didn’t even bring my wallet with me. The plan was to go the hospital, then have a walk downtown where I would, as usual, buy the ticket to Paredes de Coura Festival, and there we would happily back to Resende.
The neurologist that saw me knew my mom. I performed all the medical exams but, just in case, she thought I should also do a CT scan. When asked to repeat the exam, now with contrast, I remember telling my mom that it didn’t sound like a good sign.
Some 40 minutes of wait later, in a room to which they redirected me, a female doctor with curly hair comes in (who later on revealed to be one of the best doctors and people in the world), with a skinny, light-eyed doctor, to deliver the news that they had found a dilated vein in my brain.
They didn’t know what it was, nor if the blood which circulated in it was venous or arterial. It could be an aneurysm and therefore I would have to stay hospitalized so that they could do more exams, with no chance of getting out of there before everything was clarified.
I think that every day, when I wake up, I remember the feeling that moment brought me. It takes only microseconds to see all of our life passing in front of our eyes, like when I pressed “rewind” on VHS tapes there in the dining room.
The ground escapes from beneath us, we remember every person to which we wish the best in the world and, suddenly, what used to scare us and the itchings of yesterday are imperceptible. The relativity of everything becomes monstrous.
I always react very calmly to situations that promise chaos, maybe because I keep it inside me since I know myself. But my mom was in a panic, and still had to go all the way to Resende, there she went to prepare my bag, as I didn’t even have my phone charger and, in the meanwhile, my aunt Mena, filled with tenderness, brought me a pajama at the end of the day. I remember watching all of that without making a big fuss, even though I was screaming inside.
I didn’t even know if I had to go to the second round of exams, I had so many plans for the holidays – so ridiculous seemed all those worries, now that was laying in that hospital bed. The neurology wing was full, so I was put in the gastro floor. I was the healthiest of all those people tangled in white sheets, crying families, beeping machines and entire nights of vomiting and groaning.
I was in the hospital for 15 days and, maybe, one day if I write a book I can dedicate the deserved pages to the extraordinary days I lived there, as well as to explain the changes brought to my life by the people I saw dying, the lessons I learnt from the stories shared with me by the patients who had been there for months, the surprising visits by some people I wasn’t expecting, the love I felt from so many people,
or even that time when I escaped in secret, in the middle of the night, with two other girls down the hospital corridors, because one of them had heard about an open window in the trauma floor, and none of us knew what it was like to feel the wind on our face for a long time.
Luckily, in the end, the dilated vein was my Galen’s vein, the blood circulating in it was venous as supposed to, and it seems that its stupid size was a “manufacturing” defect, with its pressure compensated by Mother Earth.
I was a girl growing up in Resende, in the middle of the green, the river, I only wanted to play volleyball and have fun with my friends. I had never gotten drunk, never did anything very crazy, I liked to dance barefoot and to run in between the trees of my grandpa’s lands. I was terrible in expressing feelings, was candid, thought too much instead of taking risks, kept everything inside and was very responsible and prudent. Needless to say that my perception of life changed drastically. If ever since I was a kid the desire to move, to know and live was already of immense strength, after that Summer’s episode, my dedication to seize life and demonstrate how well I wished those around me quadrupled.
I was a worm, I left that hospital a butterfly and stopped holding feelings for myself, I avoided being harsh as usual, transformed all the confusion kept inside me into love and energy to be someone better.
My insignificance has always fascinated me, our littleness in this immensity of matter and space, the volubility with which we go from alive to death, the lack of meaning in this whole process of existing. But I hadn’t yet felt the respect that being alive deserves , precisely because it is a result of such a fortuitous randomness.
I left that lake of cold water feeling blessed with luck, as someone who dodged a bullet by an inch, and the first thing I did was, when I got inside my father’s car, to put my head outside the window and feel the wind on my face for the first time in my life. With my eyes closed, I thought in my night escape companions – they wouldn’t have the same luck that soon.
Make sure you add food for thought in the comment section.
If you loved it, share it!