Lessons from Hurricane Irma, No.1
I call Nephew into my room, greet him and ask if he can help me.
He nods and waits.
I take as deep a breath as I can and rattle off a list of medications I need him to pour, shake, spray and give me. He used to categorically object to my use of so much medication in such a short amount of time but he no longer questions. He trusts the method to my madness, backed, I suspect solely by the explanations that go with them:
” My chest has been tight and kinda congested. I think it might be from all the piles of crap out on the streets.” He nods.
I continue my chatter absently. ” You know your Auntie has decreased lung capacity. That means my lungs don’t expand regularly like yours do, which means it gets hard to breath when my airways are clogged with mucus and yucky stuff.” He listens intently as I gesture toward the grey inhaler.
” The albuterol pump opens the airways in my lungs…” I instruct him to count off to three, so I know when to inhale. He counts off one, then a second puff as I hold my breath after each, to ensure that the bitter tasting aerosol gets as deep into my lungs as possible.
I exhale after holding in the last puff and immediately feel light-headed. Though my hippy-dippy methods of natural medicine are what I usually reach for, I know that in these moments, when dealing with my already compromised lungs, the best thing is what works quickly.
Breathing deeply, my chest feels lighter and more open. With every other exhale, an errant piece of mucus bubbles up from my chest to my throat, making me sound like I have a perpetual frog in my throat. I clear them. The albuterol makes my heart beat double time, giving me the shakes and jitters, forcing my speech to be quick and rushed between breaths. Nephews asks if I am okay, puts the straw topped bottled water to my lips. I sip, nod and we continue.
This time my chatter sounds like I am on fast forward. I take a deep breath and attempt to give my body a new slower rhythm. I know after a while my heart will beat normally, the jitters will subside and I will be better. I try to be patient with myself until then.
“The Robitussin, will help clear out the mucus and help keep my lungs clear.” He pours out the measured adult dose. I take it back, swallow and make terrible faces because it tastes soooo terrible. He mentions how the bottle says the taste is supposed to be new and improved. Through winces, I blurt out, “They… LIED! Oh yuck!”
“I want to take the Turmeric medicine.” He grabs the old school bottle of homemade turmeric-apple cider vinegar-black pepper-lemon peel-honey mixture. He steadily measure out a full medicine cups’ worth and brings it close to my lips. I frown up and ready my nerves.
Down the hatch and I hold my breath as I swallow. The slow moving honey mix feels gritty yet smooth (?) going down my esophagus, while the acrid apple cider vinegar makes me regret this necessary decision. I try to get it as far down as possible before taking a breath, as doing so will unleash the whole awful entirety of it’s taste. Feeling my heart beat in my ears, I inhale, sputtering as I do so and thankfully Nephew has the bottled water right by my lips to help wash it all down.
“Why do you take this again?!” He asks.
“It’s like a natural antibiotic. It’ll help to keep the mucus in my chest from turning green or yellow hopfully. I just wish it didn’t taste so bad!” I know that this too is part of this dance with my body. The monitoring of what comes out of my chest and sinuses. Their colors, clear and thin signaling that I can keep the course of what I’m doing or green/yellow/milky, that I need to seek medical attention STAT.
“Okay… one last thing before I eat: vitamins.” We bustle to the kitchen with yet another new, un-turmeric tainted medicine cup, and pour out this gluten free and vegan vitamin elixir into it. In these times of beginning sickness, especially when it comes to my chest, everything counts and needs to be on deck. I swallow this with little fan fair as I’ve survived the worst of the worst already.
Nephew washes out the cup and we set our sights on backing all this liquid medication with a solid meal because the cocktail is strong and stacked and I need to make sure my stomach and body can survive it all.
While my food heats up in the microwave, I remark how after every major life trauma, I get deathly ill. And so with this hurricane ‘life trauma’, I expected no less. Stress has a way of undercutting my health in surprising and spectacular ways. The day my eldest brother died, I was healthy. By the next day, I had to do a walk-in to my doctor, because I became sick as sin, overnight. Full on sinus infection and chest congestion. Yes, overnight.
Though much of Miami has begun to recover, I know my recovery will take some months before the whole of Me is soothed and back in it’s rhythm. The undoing of Me is time-delayed and silent. And all I can do it prep and wait for it as it is generally inevitable, though not unexpected.
My being sick this time, began while I was standing outside the door of my psychologists’ office. Checking in with her is also part of my over all plan to maintain my health. But as I waited for her to open the door, the hallway began to spin. Maybe because I felt that I was entering a safe space, this allowed my walls to come down, allowing my sickness to spring forward. I can’t say. All I do know is that I needed water and in all the times I’ve been her client, I had to be vulnerable and ask her to put the cup of water to my lips because my body and arms were being garbage in that moment. It was hard but I did it and we got through my check-in without incident.
Hurricane Irma reminded me of my vulnerabilities. Those soft spots that I think I don’t have or that I choose to ignore. Being vulnerable when I don’t intend to be, births hard moments. In those hard moments, when I have to ask for extra help or I have to have folks who are not used to helping me, to help, I always have to remind myself that it’s okay to reach out, to be sick, to need the extra help.
I think too in those moments, about a Love being in the middle of My sickness madness. And I generally take a long pause. I don’t have the answer to that. I don’t know what that would look like. I don’t know what that should be… and so my mind and my heart take a long, hard, sideways, pause.
But before I sink too much farther into those thoughts, my food is ready, thankfully. And I continue, doing what I know to do, to help my body save itSelf and recover.
Protect Your Life Fam