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Week # 30: Creative Writing Challenge – Biggest Fear

September 4, 2021

Write a scene detailing your biggest fear. Now imagine that has come true for your character.

The white plastic chair squeaked softly against the off-white linoleum floor as I tried to get more comfortable. I’d been sitting here for three hours listening to the background beeps, the blood pressure cuff inflating every 20 minutes, muffled voices from the nurses station in the middle of the room, and I was beginning to lose my shit. Twenty hours ago I’d signed on the dotted line allowing them to cut into my husband’s head, remove part of his brain, and administer more than fourteen hours of anesthesia meds, all with almost a ten percent chance that he wouldn’t even make it to the bed that my head now rested on.

As I sat there I realized that my worst fear wasn’t that my husband was going to die. My worst fear was that he’d wake up into some kind of in-between; he wouldn’t be dead but he wouldn’t really be living either. With my head on his ICU bed I imagined waking up, not knowing where I was or who was around me, not being able to properly move my limbs or communicate. The thought alone made my skin crawl like ants were devouring me from my toes up to the crown of my head. The shame of my next thought had me quietly getting up and walking down the hall, like he might be able to hear my selfish inner monologue.

Reality and logic smashed their way through my silent shameful musings by the time I made it to the waiting room. I needed a plan for the “in-between” and I needed to be strong for all those sets of eyes looking to me for news, despite the fact that inside I was crumbling.

“How is he? Is he awake yet?”

“No not yet. The doctor said that it might take almost 24 hours for the anesthesia to wear off because he was under for so long. Until then, they don’t know the impact of the surgery. They said to prepare for anything.” I took a deep breath, trying to prepare myself for anything.

They nodded, but didn’t say much. It was three in the morning and I grabbed the cozy blanket a nurse brought me and went back to sleep in my squeaky white plastic chair.

The doctor arrived to check on my husband early the next morning. The doctor gently shook my husband and was rewarded with groggy eyes opening.

“Good morning. I’m just going to ask you a few questions and try to do what I ask.” No response, just blank eyes.

“Can you wiggle the fingers on your right hand?” No response.

“Can you lift you right arm for me?” No response.

“Can you wiggle your toes?” No response.

“Can you tell me where you are?” No response.

“Can you tell me your name?” No response.

Finally the doctor turned to me and said, “This might be a normal response after all the anesthesia he had, but it could also be a product of the surgery. It’s too early to tell. I’m going to tell the nurses to do a neuro check every two hours and to let me know if anything changes. Do you have any questions for me?”

“No, thank you.” I managed to get out.

A week went by and there were only minor improvements. He had passed the swallow test, which meant he’d be able to eat normal food and wouldn’t need a feeding tube, or have to be in a hospital forever. He couldn’t speak hardly at all. It was like he was trying to get the words to come out, but his mouth was full of peanut butter and he couldn’t form the words.

He could nod and shake his head, indicating that he recognized me, but didn’t remember my name or who I was. I hid in the bathroom and cried for an hour after that. How was I going to help him deal with the in-between if he didn’t know who I was?

He couldn’t move anything on the right side of his body and had limited control of his left. They say that after traumatic brain injuries any function you can gain back in a year is what you’ll have for the rest of your life.

The strong part of me started to investigate the options while the weak part of me crumpled. I’d be living this double life for the rest of my days and I had to figure out a way for that to be okay. It would be a life “in-between”, but the only thing I could do was my best. For me, and for him.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Karen permalink
    September 4, 2021 10:05 pm

    This one had me in tears. Love you.

  2. Yael Kisel permalink
    September 5, 2021 11:57 pm

    This is heartbreaking, my friend. And so well done as a story. I hope it felt therapeutic to write. much love xxx

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