The near-death experience (part one).

It was a Wednesday – May 21, 2008. The night before, I had finished my second-to-last semester of grad school with the completion of my portfolio presentation. The most stressful semester of my entire academic career was finally over.

Memorial Day weekend was in a few days, and I was hosting my friends at my family’s cabin for the weekend, like I always do. I had a lot to do to prepare, and with everything else that had been going on with work and grad school, I was way behind. Not only that, but I had a friend who was having her baby shower that Saturday. I hadn’t bought a gift yet.

But that Wednesday, I was scheduled to go to a happy hour for alumni of my college – about 20 minutes from where I worked at the time. It was gray and drizzly.

I noticed as I walked down the three flights of stairs from my office that I was short of breath. I had noticed this happening intermittently in the previous day or two, but just chalked it up to me being overweight and out of shape. It’s not like it was that out of the ordinary for me to be slightly out of breath after going up a flight or two of stairs anyway.

But this time it was different. Once I got to my car, I noticed that my heart was beating really fast, and I couldn’t get my breathing under control. I have mild asthma, and carry an inhaler with me ‘just in case’. Although I hadn’t had one in years, I thought maybe I was having an asthma attack, so I used my inhaler and continued to drive to my destination.

The further I drove, the worse it got. I started getting panicky. I knew something was wrong. I knew that I probably needed to go to the hospital, but I didn’t want to believe it. Once I got to the general area of the happy hour, I pulled over and called my mom. I told her what was happening, she timed me while I took my pulse. My heart rate was through the roof. She told me to go to the hospital. I only knew where one hospital was, and it was at least 20 minutes away. By now it was rush hour, it was raining harder, and I didn’t know exactly how to get to the hospital from where I was. So I just started driving in the direction I thought was right.

A few minutes later, I saw a big blue “H” road sign with an arrow. There, to my left, was Suburban Hospital. I had heard of the hospital, but hadn’t known where it was. In the moment, I felt like God put that hospital right there just for me. But in order to get there, I needed to get across three lanes of traffic to get in the turning lane. In rush hour. In the rain. I’m not sure how I did it, but I did. I pulled into the emergency room parking lot and parked my car as close as possible. By the time I got to the ER doors, I was totally out of breath and felt dizzy. I paused outside, leaning against a pillar. I looked through the sliding glass doors into the all-glass lobby area. I saw a bench, and I decided that I would go sit on it until I could catch my breath a bit.

I never made it to that bench.

The last thing I remember is stumbling forward, into a tree/planter, and my face smashing into the plate glass wall.

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