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Telling it like it is

Teina Boyd

Silver Lining: I'm still here

I cried last night.

Twice.

Once from overwhelming gratitude. Love.

The other from regret. This couldn't be the end...

Rewind.

Volleyball nationals and its semi-final night. Two of my best mates are out there playing hard, and I’m SO excited. Great volley everywhere and I’m surrounded by beautiful friends.

Literally surrounded.

Flopped over in my wheelchair beside a packed-out bleacher, I was having a pressure relief.

Toots chatting away in one ear, keeping me updated on the scores while my eyes were down in action. Leigh snuggled up on my right armrest. Damo leaning on the back of my chair - being patient with my little man as he asks a million questions, Nick standing nearby... where he’s been for the last two days.

I feel loved.

I can’t tell you how much this all means to me. My friends treating my chair so mundanely. It’s not a huge white elephant in the room, or something to avert your eyes from. It's just...my chair.

Leigh puts her hand on my back, and Toots asks if I'm ready to come up. Their love and acceptance of my disability - it floors me.

Heke ana nga roimata. The tears fall.

How happy can one person be? Is there a limit? If there is - I’m stretching it.

Toots lifts me back up in my chair as I try to keep my face down and hide the tears. She sees anyway. Damn it. I explain. I'm just happy. And grateful. And I love them.

Cue hugs from the girls and one of the guys telling me to "Shush Man". It’s enough to make me laugh and get back into the games.

Fast forward.

Both courts are on the fifth set.

Something's wrong.

I thought I was just getting excited - short quick breaths. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. I could feel my heart speeding up, my lungs getting harder to use (weak things that they are), my body starting to sweat and a headache creeping in.

Shit. Autonomic Dysreflexia. My body is trying to warn me something’s seriously wrong.

I need to lower my blood pressure. Quick.

“Sharon, we need to leave, now please”.

This last week my volleyball family have done such an amazing job at welcoming me back, I don't want to pay them back by having a heart attack in the middle of the semi-finals.

Sharon and I get in the van and boost. The hospital is so far away. Damn it.

“GO Sharon, get me home now, I’ll pay the tickets."

(Silver lining: Sharon, my carer, is great at ignoring speed limits)

Home has everything I need to fix this, and quick.

The headache becomes all consuming. There are moments where I lose my vision, others when I just see red. The pain is only just bearable. I have to stay 'with it', I have to instruct my carers to tell them how to fix me.

Police lights. Shit. I'm declining fast.

"Sharon, pull over. Get out. Come to me".

She does.

"Take my binder off please, we need to lower my blood pressure. I'll talk to him".

She's panicking, fumbling with my top. Shit, last thing I need.

"Deep breaths Sharon, you’re doing awesome". I try to smile for her.

He’s there. Yellow neon police vest hurts my eyes. I don’t let him talk.

“Sir. I need you to listen. I don’t have long. I am suffering autonomic dysreflexia and I am on my way to having a heart attack. I need to get home to my emergency medication. Now”.

He looks stunned. I go blind.

(Silver lining: He listened. He took us home)

Blurs, flashing lights, panicked voices. I’m lost in the dark and can’t get enough of a mental foothold to come back. Shit is this it?

It can’t be. I didn’t even kiss and hug Willie goodbye. Or Brad. Or Anna. Or Nick, Toots or Leigh.

No way. This is NOT it.

I get enough of a foothold to focus on my breathing. Deeper, slower. After a minute, I can talk again.

“Sharon. Pain killers. On fridge. GTN spray. On bedside table. Get them. Quick”.

She runs. She’s crying. Leuila Is running up the driveway… I’m so glad it’s changeover of shift time. Four hands are better than two.

I’m gone again. No warning.

Then I’m back, confused. Trying to make sense of everything through the headache.

"Get me on the bed, quick. Check my bladder and bowel. Emergency catheter change. Now”.

Shit even I sound a bit panicked now. I can hear it reflected in their voices. In the sound of them dropping medical supplies and their hurried breaths.

“Guys. You’re doing great. Deep breaths K. We got this”.

They’re crying. But I feel their energy change. Refocus.

This time I do make a smile for them.

“Leuila. Emergency catheter change. Sharon. Call an ambulance”.

I’m gone.

I’m back. This headache, I hate it. Why can’t I see? I’m sweating. I hear Sharon panicking on the phone.

“Give me the phone Shaz, it’s ok”.

She holds the phone to my ear.

I’m blind. Talking hurts. But I can do it. I can't hear the operator. My heart is beating fast, and loud. I think it’s ripped itself out of my chest and someone’s shoved it back into my head. How is my heartbeat so loud?

“Ambulance please”.

I talk to the man on the other end of the line. He doesn’t understand the urgency. I’m calm, I explain. Slowly. Words are hard. My lungs. They want to rest.

My head is ready to explode. I see white....and the pain stops for a second. The pain, its rallying its forces for the next attack. I relax....I start planning for the worst.

“Sharon. I don’t have a will. It all goes to Brad for Willie K?”.

“Yes T”.

They’re crying again. I quietly join in. I know Brad will be fair and give my family anything they need.

I’m gone again... I slip away quietly this time. One loud, painful heartbeat overwhelms me. A dam bursts in my head...and I’m carried away on the flood as the light fades.

I’m yanked back roughly. I’m in the ambulance. Beeping machines. A kind face. Her lips are moving but I can’t hear her. I smile. The headache is so much quieter. I can breathe again. I fill my lungs.

YES!

I see the blood pressure monitor.

220/177. Shit.

(Silver lining: I’m still here)

I blink heavily...I’m gone again. I don’t think I’m coming back this time guys. Sorry.

So many regrets. But they float away with me. We disappear. I remember the sound of rushing water, and everything fading to black… Including me.

It’s silent, and dark… I feel like I’m waiting, but I don’t know what for.

Stubble on my cheek. I feel it.

I feel it?

I open my heavy eyelids.

Brad. Hugging me gently. Sammy behind him, smiling with teary eyes. I’m in the hospital.

Wait...I’m waking up?

I feel.... I can actually focus my eyes.

My mind too. Headache's smaller. It’s more like the neighbour’s bass playing on a Friday night now, instead of The Prodigy playing at the base of my skull.

Whoa that feels good. I feel lighter. Pain easing. Blood pressure settling. Inhale...lungs filling.

YES!

Eyes close…exhale and smile.

I’m not going anywhere tonight.