November 7, 2011. Just another Monday. Just another day at school. But by midmorning, my throat began to constrict, and a dull throbbing pain built up in the center of my chest. At lunch I could barely swallow, and by 1:00 pm I felt air bubbles in my neck. What was happening?
The pain became more acute. As I stumbled up the stairs to the nurse’s office, I fought panic and concentrated on breathing. An hour later, I was in the local ER. That evening I was transferred by ambulance to the main regional Medical Center, an hour away.
The doctors said I had an extremely rare condition: spontaneous pneumomediastinum. Big word! Big worry – at least that was my first thought. My right lung had popped, and it was forcing air into the spaces around my heart and up into my neck. The pressure caused the pain, making it difficult to breathe and swallowing nearly impossible. The doctors told me not to worry – it would heal.
Medical students flocked to my room to hear a once-in-a-lifetime sound: air crackling and popping around my heart as it beat. As a joke, I charged them each a quarter to listen. Too bad laughing was so painful.
To the medical world, I was a rare phenomenon – something to be studied. To me, however, this incident had a deeper meaning. What I was experiencing was more than what the ear could hear. I was learning a life lesson.
As I lay in bed, friends and family back home and my fellow students at school had all gathered together to pray for me. My brother, a med student at the hospital, spent hours by my bed just to keep me company. By the next day I had received a large package of personal greetings of encouragement from my school. Family and friends came to visit me.
This experience showed me something I had never really fathomed before: I was loved. Stuck in my hospital bed, it struck me how many people cared about me. I was actually missed! I also realized that there might not be a “next time,” and that I needed to make much better use of my time. I had to give back by caring more for my peers and those around me.
To all you who prayed or thought of me, thank you. To those who showed me love, thank you. I have recovered now. But more than that, I want this to change me. I want life to be more than just another Monday.