I Can’t Breathe

“I can’t breathe. Mommy, I can’t breathe!” It was a little after 6:00 a.m.

“Ring for the nurse. Ring now.”

“I did, Mommy, but no one has come.”

“Ring again. Push the button.”

“I am, Mommy, I am. This is the end. I can’t breathe. My chest is bursting. My heart rate is way up.”

Tevi’s dire condition wasn’t the result of police brutality, but horrifying nevertheless. “Tevi, ring the bell again, again. I’m here. I’m right here with you.”

For 10 long agonizing minutes, I listened to her cough and wheeze, yelling for the respiratory team and getting no response. Finally, I heard them in her room. It took another 15 minutes or so for her to respond to the treatment—erasing her fear that she would never breathe again.

I don’t know when I started to cry or began to imagine her dying while I was on the phone with her 500 miles away. Thinking that she would die alone away from her children, me, everyone. Eventually her voice relaxed, the heart monitor stopped beeping, the call button went quiet, and she began to calm down and breathe on her own.

Tevi was scheduled for an arterial catheter this morning. Even though the procedure wasn’t certain after her early morning asthma attack, she was in the catheter lab by 10 o’clock; by 11:30, the cardiologist had called me. Tevi had cardiomyopathy, a stress-induced cardiac problem. But her arteries were clear and, if she responded well to the medication—beta blockers and something else—she could recover in as soon as a week. Although the doctor was very positive, he then shared something else: Tevi was vaping! She had severe asthma, and she was vaping! The news was a gut punch.

I don’t know why I was surprised. I had learned only the night before that my newly divorced daughter and mother of two little children’s friend-boy, Robert, was actually her boyfriend. Because he had spent the night, he was with her when she passed out and had to be taken to the ER three days earlier! She may a dissembler, but Tevi is also a survivor. In the midst of all the chaos this morning, she had the presence of mind to give me her work number and ask me to call.

Here I am—angry, scared, and frustrated. She’s twenty-nine and a mother. Shouldn’t she be more responsible? Shouldn’t I be able to trust her?  Shouldn’t she know better?

Hell, no! When I was 29 and a mother of two, I had divorced my husband and run off to become a police officer, leaving my daughters to be latch key kids. Shouldn’t I have known better?

Published by Carole J. Garrison

I’m a conversationalist, an observer, a passionate participant in life. And now, in my later years, I’m a recorder of the lessons of my life through essays, stories, and novels. I live in the fourth moment of life, just outside the normal distribution of most people and it is from this place that I write.

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