The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

I almost died and all I got was this lousy birdhouse

Coping with change and recalibration
Photo by Delia Brandel
Wading through the waters of my new reality.

Long time no see, The Spectator. It’s hard to figure out how to start writing this. I guess I can start from the beginning of when things went bad.

It started with a long stint of pneumonia. I spent the first and second week of February hacking and shivering, half of this time residing in my college house where my two horrified roommates brought me ice cubes and sliced mangos (it was all I could eat). 

After four days of missed classes and a weekend of suffering — I tapped out and went home. My mom drove me to urgent care and subsequently a hospital and after three IV bags and a large slate of antibiotics, it was decided I was allowed to go back to Eau Claire. 

Two weeks after that I woke up in the middle of the night in blinding pain. My right lung felt like it was twisting and ripping inside my body every time I breathed and moved. I had assumed this is what a bruised rib felt like and that I was just being a baby about it.

Nevertheless, I dragged myself back to urgent care. They promptly informed me they believed I had a blood clot in my lung and sent me to the emergency room. I was horrified.

I will make this brief. Over the next nine days, I lived in the hospital and endured one thoracentesis, a botched chest tube, an emergency lung resection and three more chest tubes. 

So picture this, a 20-year-old college student in bed with tubes sewn into my side, coughing up blood and being asked if I had a will and advanced directive (which of course, I did not because I’m 20).

I don’t remember much from my stay if I’m completely honest. I was on a lot of sedation meds and painkillers. In my overly medicated haze, I apparently painted the ugliest birdhouse I’ve ever seen. Its seriously so ugly. I don’t know what happened. But it’s the only proof I was conscious during that week. 

The hospital I lived at during this time was a convenient two minutes from my house, I could see it from my window. How strange to watch your life go out without you. I was also able to see Half Moon Lake from the same window. Every day I would imagine the feeling of stepping into the grass and water at the bank. 

I spent a lot of my tween and teenage years battling depression which made me consider ending my own life. I don’t think I could ever think that way again. All I wanted was to be back to my regular life. 

And here I am. Four weeks after my final surgery I am finally feeling like a real human girl again. However, I will say it is strange, going through the motions of my regular life after such an intense health scare. I’ve been reading about what such a thing can do to your psyche. 

Regardless, I am here now. I am alive. And how special that feels to me now. So thank you The Spectator, for giving me a place to work through this admittedly long and arduous chapter of my life. 

Brandel can be reached at [email protected].

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