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Isa Punchard


Isa PunchardYour Absence

Your picture on the mantel says it all
Too many years since you’ve been gone
The void of your absence still fills my heart
With hopeless longing

Your voice on the phone
Stories left untold
Your smile, your laugh
Moments of joy robbed
Your arm resting on mine
Walks we’ll never take
Your hands busy and worn
Lace you’ll never make
Your eyes searching for sight
Windows to your soul so brave

Most of all
Your skin’s soft sweet smell
So safe and reassuring to the child I was
My head nestled into you
Loving, suspending time.

No more.


Close Call

As I lay there struggling to get air in my lungs, my most vivid thought is: “Please don’t let me die!...  I have a little boy to raise… Please help me!  Don’t let me die: Nicolas needs me!...”  How could this have happened? How did things go so wrong so quickly?  It had all begun on an ordinary spring afternoon.  My mother-in-law, Rainy, met me after school at the doctor’s office with my 16-month old to get his ears rechecked after his latest ear infection.  This drill was quite routine for the three of us.  While we were waiting for the doctor I asked Rainy to stay with Nicolas so I could get my weekly allergy shot from the nurses: “I might as well since I’m already here.”  As usual, I joked around with my favorite nurse, Jackie.  Then I walked back to Rainy and Nicolas in the waiting room and sat down.  That’s when I felt a very odd feeling.

Something was changing inside of me, and changing fast.  I didn’t feel pain or dizziness but I just KNEW something was wrong.  I didn’t want to alarm Rainy or Nicolas so I simply said “I’ll be right back” as I walked out to the nurses’ station.  “Jackie,” I said, grabbing her arm, “I think I’m having a reaction.”

Then the world instantly went into warp speed. 

I barely sit on a chair that I start to hyperventilate.  My heart rate shoots up to the speed of light.  I try to concentrate on breathing and relaxing, repeating to myself “you’re going to be OK; just try to breathe and relax.”  Jackie is calling for a doctor as she is preparing an epi pen.  I can see the worry in her eyes.  Crap this isn’t good… Breathe… Try to breathe, I tell myself.  The epi shot does nothing.  My heart is getting bigger and bigger.  It feels like it is filling my entire chest now and pounding on my lungs.  It is beating so fast, so fast! How can my heart keep beating this fast?  It’s going to explode!  I can’t breathe… 

Somehow a couple of nurses walk me over to an examining room with Dr. Hosseini.  He’s trying to look calm but I know better.  I’m in a chair: I don’t want to lie down because it’s too hard to breathe.  Next thing I know I open my eyes and I’m on the examining table.  I must have passed out.  My heart is still racing at the speed of light and pounding in my entire chest: it’s going to give out soon, I just know it.  I still can’t breathe. 

Oddly, my brain is split in two.  The panicking side of my brain keeps screaming over and over “Please don’t let me die, God!  I have this little boy to raise!  Nicolas needs me!  Please don’t let me die!”  At the same time, a very rational part of my brain is analyzing the confusing scene around me: Doctor Hosseini has ordered another epi shot and a shot of Benadryl.  That’s good.  There are at least four nurses around me: I’m in good hands.  I think I have an oxygen mask on my face. Still can’t breathe. One nurse is trying to get my blood pressure and says in a quivering frustrated voice “I can’t get a reading.”  OK, I’m not sure why that is but I know that’s NOT good.  Then I hear Dr. Hosseini say “Call 911.”  Finally: they know I’m in real trouble!  A nurse I don’t recognize leans over me and tries to reassure me by saying “Everything is all right: you’re going to be just fine…”  If I could speak I’d say “Yeah, right!  Have you seen the look on your face, lady?”  That’s definitely not a reassuring look…

Within seconds it seems, the EMTs are here.  I’m put on a stretcher. Rainy comes over as they’re wheeling me out.  Oh no, she’s got Nicolas in her arms: I don’t want him to see me like this if it’s the last time he’s going to see his Mommy!  She says Neal is on his way to the emergency room.  She looks scared too.  I must look pretty scary, I guess.  I still can’t breathe.  My heart is still pounding and as large as a watermelon in my chest.  But the EMTs’ calm presence somehow relaxes me a little: they know what they’re doing and they’ll get me to the hospital soon. 

In the ambulance my rational brain listens to the EMT on the radio, giving my stats.  I guess I really have no blood pressure!  Weird…  I hear him say “We’re bringing her in to the red room.”  That must be the “don’t pass go” equivalent of emergency rooms where you don’t have to show your insurance card and wait four hours to be seen.  Good.  I have an epinephrine IV in me now.  My heart seems to have shrunk a little.  Maybe I’ll be OK. 

The hospital is less than a mile away and the ambulance brings me directly into the emergency room.  Cool!  Wow, there are at least six people working on me and a couple I can’t see.  I must be in really bad shape!  They give me a second IV with Benadryl and take off my clothes.  They check me over and lift my shoulders up to put an X-ray film under my lungs.  That’s when I see that my entire body is the color of a well cooked lobster. Wow, that’s REALLY red!  I will later find out that when you go into anaphylactic shock all your blood vessels dilate—hence the red color and the lack of blood pressure.  After what seems like an eternity I finally come out of it: my heart calms down for the most part; my breathing is easier.  I’m amazed that my heart didn’t explode in my chest.  One by one the ER people leave the room.

That’s when they let Neal come in.  He looks so worried and on the verge of tears when he sees me.  I wonder if I’m still lobster colored.  I try to smile faintly but I’m as exhausted as if I had ran three marathons.  The nurse tells Neal “She’s had a very close call but she’s going to be fine.”  A close call indeed.  I’m going to be fine.  Thank you, God, for saving me.  Thank you for giving me a new birthday.  Thank you for this chance to raise my little boy.