The Scariest Day of My Life and the Search for the Angels Who Helped Me Through it
2018 will be remembered as a year of firsts for me.
I performed in my first stage production with Clear Space Theater, I had my first surgery, and I ran my first marathon. I managed to get through all three “firsts” unscathed, although surgery does leave you with pain and scars. I will also remember 2018 as the year that, for several minutes, I thought I was taking my last breaths on earth.
It happened on September 9th as I was training for the aforementioned marathon. I belong to a local running club, so we get together for runs on a regular basis. On this particular day, I, along with two other members set out for a ten-mile run that started at Ben’s Red Swings in Salisbury City Park and looped around downtown, around the Salisbury University campus, the Camden Avenue area and then back to the park. It barely felt like we were exerting much effort as we were able to distract ourselves from the task at hand by chatting about everything under the sun. It was the weekend of the National Folk Festival in Salisbury, so we enjoyed running through the downtown area and looking at the stages and booths that were surrounded by hundreds of people the night before.
When we made our way back to our cars at the parking lot of Ben’s Red Swings, we pulled out a phone and took a selfie that was quickly posted to various social media. One of my running friends was deeper into a training program for a marathon less than a month away, so she went on to run another ten miles. My other friend got in her car to drive home. I was in need of some more water, so I started walking through the Salisbury Zoo in search of a water fountain.
When we took the selfie, I noticed that my lips felt tight and it was kind of hard to smile. As I was walking through the zoo, that tightness intensified. In fact, my eyes started to feel like they were drooping. “Am I having a stroke?” I thought to myself. I turned around and started walking back to my car because I knew something wasn’t right. A friend and former colleague of mine suffered a stroke several years ago. He was alone in his apartment and had the presence of mind to grab his phone and dial 911 before falling to the ground. It was a life-saving move. Knowing that, I pulled out my phone and brought up the keypad, but didn’t dial. Instead, I decided to drive the mile, or so, to PRMC.
I had only gotten to where the Salisbury City Park bandstand was on South Park drive when I realized that both my hands and arms were going numb and my feet were starting too. I pulled into one of the parking places along the street and dialed 911. I got out of the car for fear that I would pass out in the car and nobody would see me.
When the 911 dispatcher answered, I struggled to get words out of my mouth. I tried to say, “stroke” and “park,” but he could not understand me. That’s when the phone dropped out of my then-clinched hand and onto the ground. My numb feet could no longer support my body and I fell to the ground beside my phone. At this point, both my hands were clinched, and my arms were contracted to my chest. All I could do was scream.
It was at that point that a man came to me and told me that an ambulance was on the way. He asked if he could pray over me. I remember nodding my head and seeing him hold my left hand in his. I could not feel his hands, though.
Eventually, another man and woman approached and the man said he was a firefighter. He tried to take my pulse, but said my hands and arms were cold and he could not feel the pulse. I also heard him say my lips were blue.
I don’t know if my throat was closing or I had launched into a panic attack but breathing became very difficult. All I could think about was that I was dying, and I was too young and had too much to do. The woman started coaching my breathing and had brought a pink blanket and jacket from a vehicle to put over my arms to keep me warm.
I’m not sure how, but someone had picked up my phone and called my husband who was out of state visiting our daughter and son-in-law. They put him on speaker and I heard him telling me everything was going to be okay. I tried to shout “I love you.” I wanted those words to be the last ones he ever heard me say.
I don’t remember a whole lot from the ambulance ride except the EMTs asking me to grip their fingers and I couldn’t. I do remember hearing the words “stroke” and “incoming stroke patient.” I also remember feeling the tears fall down the sides of my face as I realized that if I didn’t die, I would likely be disabled in some way. My maternal grandmother had a stroke in her fifties, and she was never the same for the thirty years she lived after that. Following her stroke, my mother moved her into our house and she sat on the edge of the bed in a room looking at either the Bible or the floor. She left the room only to eat and bathe.
When I arrived at the hospital, I noticed the feeling was coming back to my hands and I was able to talk clearly. Within an hour, all the symptoms were gone. I was admitted to the hospital and, over the three days I was there, was given a series of neurological, heart, and vascular tests. Stroke and heart attack were ruled out.
It was later determined that a low-dose blood pressure medication that I was prescribed shortly after having shoulder surgery, along with the long run, likely depleted potassium that is vital for muscular function. I have stopped taking that medication and have been able to control my blood pressure with a healthy diet and exercise.
When I returned home from the hospital, I unpacked the few items I had with me when I was admitted. That is when I discovered that I still had the pink blanket and the jacket that the angels who helped me pulled from their car.
I would love to return those items, but I have no idea who they are, nor do I know the name of the man who called the ambulance and prayed over me. I would love to learn their identity so I can thank them.
Since that day, I have continued to train and was able to finish the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon on December 8th, one day shy of three months since that day in the park. Although I was able to get back to my life without a physical reminder of what happened that day, I did manage to gain a whole new appreciation for all that I am able to do and every second I have on earth to do it. I probably was not knocking on death’s door that day. Nonetheless, because of that day, I take nothing or no one for granted.
So, if you know who my angels are, I would love to hear from you so I can thank them.