Somehow I find myself back in the car after hanging over the guard rail on the side of the road, it seems to have gone from daylight to dusk in a split second and I find myself slumped forward in the passengers seat, I don’t know if my seat belt is secure or not but I figure it must be the thing that is holding me upright, preventing me from collapsing forwards in a heap on the floor of the car. Almost all conscious thoughts have vanished from my mind, everything is muffled, I can hear Deb, Cynthia and Jeff talking but it sounds to me like I am in another room, they are talking like I am not here with them, ” she needs medical attention”, a voice echos ” yes but in the US, not Canada”, another muffled sentence, ” best is to drive to the border and then to Newport, there is a hospital there”, ” how long a drive is it”,then it’s mumble, mumble, mumble, words I can’t hear, things are moving, the car is off.
I feel numb, my only focus is the horizon, someone on the beach had said ” you’re probably sea sick, as long as you can see the horizon you’ll be fine”, this is now my mantra, ” I must keep my eyes open and on the horizon”, the antsy moving about I was having on the beach has passed, sharing with the crew on how I am feeling has passed, now there is just me and the horizon, that is all I can see, I’m not really sure I am even in the car anymore, I know the crew are here, I can hear their voices, but strangely I don’t seem to be in their world, ” just focus on the horizon, hold on, don’t let yourself drift any further off”, my mental training is still with me, this time it is my mind commanding my physical body and my mind itself, weird, ” stay strong all you need to do is hold on to that horizon, don’t let it out of your sights”, my mind is relentless on the command, ” horizon, horizon, don’t lose it, no closing your eyes not even for a second”
I can’t see the road, only the horizon, suddenly I feel a rush of cold air, the car has stopped and the window is down, there are voices, we are at the border, the customs offical is talking to Jeff at the American border, ” how long were you in Canada”, the official asks, ” Just the day”, Jeff replies handing him all our passports , ” What was the purpose of your visit”, the officer asks, ” the international swim from Newport to Magog”, Jeff responds, ” which one is the swimmer”, the officer points to Deb and Cynthia in the back seats as he asks the question, in response Jeff points to me in the front seat, I am slouching forward, my mouth is ajar, there is a stream of drool pooling from my mouth into my lap and my glazed over eyes are staring out to the horizon, ” it is HER”, How was your swim?”, asks the officer, no reply, ” How was your swim?”, asks the officer again, still silence from me, ” HOW WAS YOUR SWIM”, the officer abruptly shouts, then he stares at Jeff, ” does she talk?”, the officer asks, ” we are on the way to take her to Hospital in Newport”, the officer asks no more questions and waves us on immediately, onto the highway, every minute is bringing us closer to Newport and that hospital.
The horizon is getting harder to see, the sun is going down and it is getting dark, ” what now” I think, ” if you can’t see the horizon….. focus on the highway signs”, I do, a big green Interstate sign is getting closer, ” funny I don’t remember the writing being that hard to see, it must still be a long way away off, HEY the letters curvy?”, I think, the words are topsy turvey, the letters are all different shapes, the sign blurs as we speed by, I feel like I am riding in a space ship, stars and galaxys wizzing by at the speed of light, but I am not in a space ship, I’m in the car and we are on the exit ramp, ” we must be close to the hospital”, I think, I feel hope.
Lights everywhere, white walls, uniforms and me in a wheel chair, next thing I know I am lying down, there are faces close to mine, ” tell us what’s going on”, the question is asked over and over, words are coming out from my mouth but I’m not sure what, I want to tell the doctors and nurses what’s wrong, but I don’t know, all I can manage to say is that I had a big swim and I’ve been sick lots.
Next thing I am in a room, I am being pierced with needles like a pin cushion, ” we are monitoring your heart and running blood work, ” get her on an IV”, “take a temperature”, the doctor says to the nurses, I want to help, in my mind I’m lending a hand but in reality I’m not, I’m not sure if I just don’t have the strength to raise either of my arms or if there are too many needles and tubes pinning me down, I feel like Gulliver secured down to the ground by the villagers, I feel weak.
The doctor administers something to reduce the nausea, the IV is pumping into my right arm, I am starting to focus, I see Jeff in the corner of the room, he looks tired and sad. I scan my body, electrodes on my chest monitoring my heart, IV in my right arm, blood being drawn from my left, oxygen in my nose, oh and the thermometer, we won’t talk about where that went, uncool.
The doctor returns to the room, ” give her another bag”, then turns to me, ” your white blood cell count is alarmingly high, you have Hyponatremia, you are over hydrated, your sodium is very very low, you are hypoglycemic, you body is way out of balance, and your liver does not look right” she says, ” we are giving you sodium, glucose and another bag of fluid” and with that she is gone. ” Can I see my crew?”, I ask the nurse as she fiddles with the tubes around me, she brings in Deb and Cynthia, I am so happy to see them, I am feeling more alert and am grateful to not be alone, ” I don’t like the IV, am I done yet”, I ask them, ” not until they say”, says Deb and with that I lie in the hospital bed and wait for the IV bag to drain, I wait and wait, time for that patience again.
Time goes by, nurses come in and out, they take more blood and the doctor returns with the results, I am hopeful to be disconnected from all these tubes and sent home but the doctor says ” another bag of fluid your sodium is still very low, white blood cell count alarmingly high and your liver does not look normal”, when is your next swim race?” Ahhh… well……. I really want to tell you but I haven’t told my husband I entered yet”, then I blurt out ” it’s in two weeks in Rhode Island “, ” NO SWIMMING FOR ONE WEEK”, the doctor announces and leaves the room.
The nurse comes in with the third bag of fluid, for some reason the fluid aches, I am not sure if it is the sensitivity in my muscles from the battle in the lake or the fluid itself, but I do know when the IV is draining in my arm aches are excruciating…… ” Oh a third bag”, I exclaim to Deb, I grimace as the third bag is manoeuvred onto the stand, I feel the cold fluid shooting into my arm, it feels knife like, I don’t like it all, ” Cynthia can you talk to me about relaxing things, Deb I don’t like the IV it hurts” Even though I am not enjoying my current predicament I am grateful for the wonderful care this medical team is giving me, I can’t help feeling bad, although I did not do this physical mischief to myself intentionally I did undertake the swim knowing the risks, I know that Marathon swimming is an extreme sport and that it has its dangers, for that very reason I pack my insurance card in my swim bag for every swim, well looks like today I need it. I thank the doctors and the nurses ” thanks for helping me, I am sorry to be consuming your time”, they are so kind ” you are an inspiration”, one replies, ” I wish I could be more like you”, another says, I am flattered but embarrassed, here are these unselfish people caring and repairing day in and out, they are the heroes.
You know how I told you that I was no longer ansy, well that was when I arrived at the hospital, now I have some fluids in me I want to go home, Jeff, Deb and Cynthia have been in the waiting room for 4 hours, I have jusy noticed there is a clock on the wall in my room, 10:00pm, ” my poor crew, they have been in the same damp, wet clothes for over 26 hours, they have to be starving and exhausted, I’ve got to get them home, I want to get home”, I ponder the thought. Jeff enters the room, ” Jeff, you take Deb and Cynthia home, I’ll be fine”, my brain thinks it is back to plan navigation mode, ” No, I not leaving you”, replies a very tired looking Jeff, ” well how about giving Deb and Cynthia the car, they can go home and rest and we’ll figure out getting back to Stowe in the morning”, I spit out another option, Jeff heads out to talk to Deb and Cynthia, meanwhile to doctor returns and I begin to plead my discharge case, ” might I be released soon, I really am doing so much better, look”, I lift my hand and smile…….., the doctor replies ” you have been very out of balance, a major stress on your body, you are improving but are your sodium levels are not yet in the normal range”, she leaves the room and once more I am alone.
I wait and wait, Jeff comes back in, “we all want to stay”, he states matter of factly, ” well I am pretty sure I am getting discharged soon”, I reply, ” did the doctor say that?”, Jeff enquires, ” well I am confident she is considering it”, with that the doctor returns, ” now you look a lot better Charlotte, how are you feeling now”, ” oh sooo much better thank you doctor, I feel great, just a bit tired”, I reply enthusiastically. ” Well good then, we are going to get you ready to go home, BUT NO SWIMMING for a week and you must go to the Emergency Room in Morrisville tomorrow to get checked out, oh and 2 bags of potato crisps on the way home” I am thrilled, ” Jeff go tell Deb and Cynthia we are going home”. Jeff leaves the room and I lay and wait for the nurse to unplug me, ” oh dear, how am I going to sit up?”, I think, the nurse comes in and removes the IV, the oxygen and the other bits and pieces, I am left in my gown faced with the overwhelming task of sitting up, ” I have to go to the bathroom”, I tell the nurse, ” can you get there on your own”, she asks, ” yes” I blurt out, wondering how I am going to make it across the room, I grasp a pole and stagger over,” harder than I thought”, I think, as I struggle to walk. Mission accomplished and it is time to get dressed, the nurse brings in a big plastic bag, it smells terrible, inside are my favourite cozy after swim clothes, I peer inside, they don’t look very inviting, the nurse struggles to get them on, I am not much help to her, now lets get you out to the car, she pulls up a wheel chair, I am about to protest and then feel my weak legs quiver, they are ready to give out on me, I sit obediently. Out I go to the lobby, there they are Jeff, Deb and Cynthia, finally we all get to go home together.
Back into the front seat I go, Jeff is driving and the girls are in the back, I munch my crisps staring at the near full moon, the same moon that guided me and my crew on the lake just 24 hours ago, ” what a beautiful night, how lucky am I to see this moon 2 nights in a row?” Very luck indeed.
What will my body feel like tomorrow ? I’ll keep you posted
Closing Thought: ” The harder you work the harder it is to surrender”
– Vince Lombardi