This year will be a different Thanksgiving. I won’t need to prod everyone at our table to think of something we’re each thankful for. I might ask but will already know the answer.
We’re grateful my husband is alive. About seven months ago, I didn’t know if he’d be here. As I walked into the hospital I kept asking, “Can you just tell me if he’s alive? Am I identifying a body or is he alive?” They wouldn’t say. From the police officer on the phone, to the nurse who took me there, I couldn’t get an answer — only that the man I’d described matched the unresponsive male found without ID at 11:40 a.m. that Sunday on the running trail.
COVID-19 was in full swing. Just as now, I knew too well of the heartbreaking stories of families unable to say goodbye to their loved ones, who lived their last minutes alone, or if lucky, comforted by the love of a caring nurse or doctor. I had these stories of pain and loss at the front of my mind as I followed the nurse to the ICU. She was clear. We’re not letting family into the ICU because of COVID-19. We’re only allowing you in for identification.
There he was. Attached to a ventilator in the ICU was my husband. The beeping monitors told me he was alive. I learned that he’d had cardiac arrest and that even after he’d been resuscitated on the scene by the medics, he’d not regained consciousness. A decision was made in the ER to put him in a hypothermic state. In two days, they would “warm him back up,” and we’d know if he would wake up, or if he had suffered brain damage. Thinking this might be the last time I’d see him, I took a picture of him and quickly touched his foot as I was whisked out.
Growing up, I remember watching Wonder Woman. She was like Superman but more intriguing. Lynda Carter then. Gal Gadot now. Somewhere between the headband and boots, she projected confidence and strength. But true heroes are even better. The women who saved my husband were wearing running shoes, and were stronger and braver. They’re retired, with grown children. One has grandchildren; she called 911 and navigated the fire department and medics to the trail. The other gave my husband CPR; she worked on him for 12 minutes without stopping. She made a decision: I’m saving this man. She didn’t know if he had COVID-19, but for 12 minutes straight she pumped his heart until the medics arrived.
What’s amazing when you’re in the depths of despair is how clear everything becomes. When you’re on your knees pleading, you just want what you had 5 minutes ago. No one says, can I please have back what I lost — and could you throw in a trip to Hawaii? The ask — the prize — is just to have exactly what you had before.
My husband woke up. His bypass surgery was successful, and he’s doing well.
The current state of our world is not great. There is more I want, for those I love, for my friends, for myself, for those I’ve never met. But these women, and the countless true heroes who push forward each day to help others, show that there is hope. Fear of losing what I have puts me in a constant state of fear. Forgetting what I have will lead me to take what I have for granted. The only path forward is gratitude. So, Zoom Thanksgiving or not, it has to be gratitude, for what we have right now.
Gratitude for our first responders, nurses and doctors, who helped save my husband’s life and who fight each day for the lives of others. And to the two wonder women — Annie and Ros — gratitude for you, today and every day.