Monday, December 26, 2016


There are no days or nights in the hospital, it seems.

It's almost 11PM on Christmas Eve, and after sleeping all day, from the aftershocks of the latest brain bleed, and just so, so many seizure meds...

Well, I am finally awake and finally ready for visitors.

Oh, timing.

Business as usual, here in the hospital in ICU, even on Christmas Eve. Meds at 1:00AM, a CT scan at 5:30AM, and a few blood draws in between- Fa la la la la- all of the biggest, worst things at the ungodliest of hours.

My tiny little Christmas tree is my nightlight here in the ICU.

Christmas Eve, 2016. My nurse helped my husband and I decorate the tree. 
We decided it was a good therapeutic exercise for my sleeping right hand, 
tying on the ornaments.

Trying to find gratitude, in the hospital on Christmas Eve, away from my sweet babies and husband, is proving to be trying.

I am so angry that this cavernoma won't stop bleeding. My parietal lobe truly just needs to chill the f#ck out.

I am so grateful for my husband and my friends, for setting up this sweet little Christmas tree. All of the nurses and techs love my little tree.

I wish my husband could be here right now. We felt it best for him to be home with the three kids, on Christmas Eve. Especially with our eldest child, who is on the autism spectrum. My husband can only leave her, to visit me, for maybe two hours at a time. She's barely holding it together, and mostly, not.

I relate. I am also barely holding it together. I told my husband last night that I am overdue for a silent, non-stressful, non-hemorrhage inducing tantrum.

I am thankful for the hospital staff, and their humor. My day nurse refers to the bright yellow socks, for patients that are at risk of falling (from seizures, etc.), as "bright-ass yellow", which makes me laugh. She brings me truffles, and even a handful for my kids. "I don't have any children," she tells me. "I always work on Christmas. I like it," she adds, after a thoughtful pause.

The nurses in the ER and the CT techs are having an "ugly Christmas sweater vest contest". Half the staff is wearing Santa hats. The sweaters are truly terrible. The ugliest. It makes me laugh.

Finally, around 12:30AM, I fall asleep, tears in my eyes. What a crappy Christmas. Gratitude and all.

My night nurse comes in at 1:00AM, to put more meds in my IV. I barely notice him- a sign that I have been here a little too often as of late. I roll over, amidst a tangle of wires and tubes and cords, and fall right back asleep. Truly a gift.

I can't help but notice the phlebotomist, however, who comes in at 3:30AM to draw more blood. "What is your full name and birth date?" she asks me.

Woman, it is 3:30 in the morning, I want to say to her- Who in God's name knows their full name and birth date on this little sleep? "I'm going to turn on all the lights," she says, in a kind voice. I am not feeling kind. I want to tell her to get a headlamp, to let me lay in peace in the dark, and she can shine a tiny spotlight on my arm instead.

She turns on every light in the room, lights that I didn't even know existed. I wince at the blinding light. A sharp sting, as the needle enters my arm. I try to breathe deeply, and I close my eyes. "Oh! And Merry Christmas!" she tells me brightly, as she removes the needle from my arm, and gently affixes a cotton ball with tape to stop the bleeding.

You have got to be kidding me.

The great Christmas spotlights are turned off, and the cheery woman with the sharp needles slowly wheels her cart out of my hospital room. I sigh, and turn my head toward my little twinkling tree. It is 3:45AM.

That is when I notice- there are presents under my tree! I am so confused, for several minutes. I groggily grill my nurse: "Did you put those there? Did my husband come back? Why didn't he come in and say hello?" I almost sound angry, like I'm interrogating this poor man.

I blink back tears. This is coming out all wrong. I fall silent. I am so grateful for my thoughtful husband, and my sneaky nurse, who somehow managed to silently put presents and a full stocking under my tiny tree, between the hours of 12:30 and 3:30 in the morning. And I wonder, as if from far away, from a great distance- Who was watching the kids, while my husband snuck in here?

My nurse is noticeably proud of himself at his part in the great Christmas present plot- giddy is the word that comes to mind.

I smile, wearily, and drift off to sleep.

At 5:30AM, Christmas morning, I am wheeled down to CT for another brain scan. I am barely awake, until, the tech repeatedly slams my hospital bed into doorways, the elevator, the walls. The poor woman does not know how to drive the hospital bed. The nurse who escorts us down to CT is kind, and very, very chatty. "Where are you from, originally?" he asks. I mutter some sort of response- it is, after all, 5:30 in the morning. He is at the end of his shift, and wide awake. "Oh, I've never been to Oregon! I've been to Washington. I've always wanted to go to Oregon. Do you have a large family? Wow, three girls! You must be busy!" And on and on. He is so sweet, and so earnest. Bang. The young tech bumps the hospital bed into yet another wall. Even the chatty, kind nurse grimaces with me. "Merry Christmas," the CT techs say to me kindly, from underneath their Santa hats, as we arrive in the radiology wing of the hospital.

I swear that I am in some sort of holiday nightmare.

The tree, the presents, the bright-ass yellow socks, and the ugly sweater vests and sharp needles. Santa hats and truffles and IVs and hospital gowns.

My phone buzzes at 7AM. I must have fallen asleep, after the 5:30AM scan. I feel like a newborn- my days and nights are all mixed up.

It's my husband. And I realize, for the fourth or fifth time already, since I've essentially been up all night- It's Christmas morning.

I FaceTime with my husband, and watch the kids open all of the presents, that I had thankfully purchased two weeks earlier. I cry silently as I watch my kids, and hope that they are too wrapped up in all of the excitement to notice.

We were supposed to be in Oregon for Christmas- well that was the plan, originally. "No altitude for you, no extensive travel, and no travel to anywhere that is far from a major medical center," one of my doctors had told me last week. Thank goodness I bought all these presents weeks ago, I think to myself as I watch the kids open their gifts, via my tiny phone screen.

I am learning that gratitude can often taste bittersweet, just like the shiny foil wrapped truffle that my nurse brings to me, and sets gently on my hospital bedside table.

I smile at my nurse, grateful for her kindness. I wipe the tears from my eyes, and smile at my youngest daughter through my tiny phone screen, as she holds up her doll for me to see, chattering brightly about all of her Christmas gifts.

Crappy holidays. And, a very merry Christmas, indeed.


  1. I hope all this turns into a best selling book in the future with a happy ending of no more hospital trips! I love your writing it made me laugh and cry ��

  2. Rach. Words are not enough to convey the gratitude I have for your presence and expression. Refreshingly real. Thank you for in inviting all of us on this journey with you. My heart aches knowing you are experiencing so many challenges with this bleed. Swift and exact work in this delicate part of your brain. I pray thousands of angels to form a healing army around you. And let's call in thousands of fairies. Rainbows galore healing your cells from the inside out. I pray for radiant health and swift recovery. 💗💗💗

  3. Amazing writing, Rachel. Yet I find myself so deeply sad and vaguely angry that THIS is what you are forced to write about. I'm glad that you do it, that you share this difficult, unanswerable-question-raising journey with us all. But how I wish it were not necessary in the first place. Continuing to pray for you daily, for strength, peace, complete recovery.