I’ve been thinking about this post all week. Thursday’s post. May 5th.
4 years ago today, I woke up in a hospital bed in Richmond, VA and was given the OK to go home, after a sudden sickness landed me in the ICU with a breathing tube for 8 days. I had been sick all month; but having been told it was only tonsillitis, I considered it minor and continued running around as usual. An entry from my running journal on April 22nd paints the picture pretty well: “Ran a hard 14 miles today. Beautiful weather. Started shaking uncontrollably at soccer practice, fainted. Dehydrated?”
Despite my best efforts to run myself through the illness, I went to the hospital soon after because I couldn’t get any liquids down, my throat was so swollen. Expecting an hour’s break from studying, I went to the emergency room and explained I just needed some IV fluids since I couldn’t swallow anything. Was I in for a treat!! I was met by angry, incredulous doctors who could not understand how I could have so underestimated the severity of what was going on.
I had, apparently, gotten a simple strep throat weeks ago, and, left untreated, it did a job on my immune system. The bacteria multiplied and multiplied, creating a giant abscess on my lymph nodes, so full of infection it couldn’t be drained from a simple needle – which I found out as I sat there, watching out of the corner of my eyes as the doctor jabbed needle after needle into my neck, to no avail. As I waited, I began to feel fear creep further and further in. I was confused, my other doctor had told me I had tonsillitis and that I’d be good as new soon. As I started to wonder if this was all my fault somehow, I realized I had to call my parents – and that’s when it all sorta went downhill.
Just 2 days before, my parents had driven 12 hours down to Richmond to “help me clean up my dorm room and make sure I wasn’t too sick” I, however, know why they were really there. I had just begun to plant the seed of this dream to run across the USA for the Boys & Girls Clubs. A bit less involved, but it’s where the idea started – I had just begun planning an East Coast bike ride to benefit the Clubs, and I am certain my parents had decided I was way too sick to do this ride, but knew I would try to anyway. So they came down to kidnap my bike and make sure I didn’t get any ideas. So we had a great weekend and on Sunday they packed up my bike and drove the 12 hours back home. On Monday, I had to call from the hospital and tell them I was having major surgery Tuesday morning and could they please turn around and come back down. Boy did I feel bad about that.
The next 8 days were probably the toughest of my life. Hooked up to a breathing tube, shut up in a room, unable to talk. Stressed out when anyone came to visit. Discovering an allergy to meds after spending the afternoon alone in my room, hallucinating, and assuming that was normal. Strapped into the bed at night so I wouldn’t rip the respirator out. I know people go through far, far worse, and I am beyond fortunate that mine ended so well. I was out in two weeks, walking my old running route in six weeks, and on a plane to Europe with my sister by the end of the summer.
But those two weeks helped me discover a strength that I had always believed in but perhaps not yet experienced. That is where I really learned that the human spirit is indomitable. So many moments during those days, unable to really communicate with anyone, I gave myself pep talks – you can kill this thing Zoe, it’s you, you got it. Breath by breath, you will beat this. You’ve got no other option.
So every year on May 5th, I take a little look around me and see how I’ve done, how my year has gone. To make sure I’m really living, not just surviving. And this year, the day is especially meaningful. 4 years ago I dreamed up a little idea to do a 1,000 mile bike ride for an organization I so admire, the Boys & Girls Club. And in two days, I will realize that dream, just without the bike, and with a few extra miles. I’ve met amazing people and inspirational boys and girls across the country and had an experience I could not have imagined having 4 years ago. It means so much to me to have the chance to be so involved and supportive of the Clubs, and to have the finish line happen around such an important day for me.
So I have to say, this May 5th I am feeling pretty dang good : )
And even happier that I got to spend the day running with a partner! The incredible Bill Rowell logged 33 miles with me today, keeping me company, sharing running stories, and watching my back during the hairier traffic spots. So that’s what it feels like to have a running buddy! Pretty neat. thank you Bill : )