I was in Room number one and it was equipped for my survival. It was an isolation room to protect me from others and to protect others from me. Room one meant hands must be washed upon entering and leaving the room. It meant not only nurses but visitors must don masks, gloves and gowns to see me. I had a central line to carry my medicine, a tube inserted into my stomach through my nose with a thick putty colored liquid carrying my daily nutrients, morphine to manage pain, oxygen, and nurses that came to check on me with regularity.

My nurses were my primary caregivers, my guides to survival.

Lily was the redhead. Nothing seemed to faze her. She was calm and collected. Miranda was made of steel. She was no nonsense with short cropped hair to match. Alison’s anecdotes about her life bordered on over sharing, but I adored her. She was my anchor to the outside. Rebecca was small and tough her curly hair bouncing as she moved from task to task. My room was a revolving door of nurses. Anna, Liz, May, in rotation working their shifts becoming my family. They were tough, bustling, ready. My nurses manifested healing. It was in how they treated me, in their sure deft hands, balm to my devastation. It was in how they held my hand or told me funny stories about their families. The word victim never crossed their lips. I was a survivor and that was that. They gave me normal in a place where everything was far from.

I often didn’t know what time it was. Keeping time didn’t mean anything to me until the morning approached. When lights were dimmed, people spoke in hushed voices, and visitors had long gone it alerted me to the day’s lateness. I was alone. All nights were the same here. You just hunkered down anticipating the next morning’s rigorous routine. One particular night it was quiet, too quiet allowing all of the thoughts I tried desperately to avoid all day to come pouring in. Some nights I could distract myself. Watch enough TV until my head was full of witty quips and sarcastic banter, until I could fall asleep, but not tonight. Tonight I lay here on my bed wondering how in the hell I ended up here the weight of the surgeries, the finality of my losses totaling up and streaming down my face. Kate came in to check on me as was part of her duties that night. She opened the door. She walked over to me and reached for my hand, held it until my tears subsided. “Is there anything I can do?”


Her quiet acceptance was enough.

While I wasn’t alone I was alone. I know I was loved, that I was completely surrounded with love, not a chink in the armor. I had enough help to move me through this. I was beyond lucky and grateful. I was so grateful. At the end of each day though when everything was gently removed, my family, my friends, my nurses I was left. Just me. And I had to go it alone. I could have it all laid out for me. Heidi, this is how you must live today. This is what you must do in order to move on. Here are the stages of grief. You’re a little of all of them right now. Take your meds, pray, shout, meditate, find a happier place. I could have lists of instructions, lists of well wishes, but I needed to make the choices, to make the journey.

Somebody could kindly take my hand, but they wouldn’t know where to go. I didn’t know, but I had to be the one to figure it out.

10 thoughts on “isolation

  1. Linda Sue

    "no nobody else can walk it for you, you got to walk it by yourself" And I suppose that is when one realizes the separateness -that we are riding around in our own little bodies- Chinks split off from the whole, some damaged, some near perfect- is such a strong illusion/reality and makes no sense at all when trauma, damage, hurt crushes one…it has to feel terribly lonely. You are one strong chickie girl!LOVE you!

  2. Christy

    Those nurses sound absolutely amazing – they were clearly meant to be nurses for you. I am so glad that you persevered, and figured it out. And that you're here to tell your story. Each time I read your blog I'm moved to tears, and just so impressed with you Heidi!

  3. Intense Guy

    You had some really good nurses.

    I'm really touched by the one that quietly accepted that there wasn't anything she could do – other than to sit there and quietly share your grief – she, a helping soul, must have suffered not being able to help.

  4. kendalee

    This really struck a deep chord with me Heidi – different story, different but equally varied and caring companions en route, different challenges to face along the way: same sense of being utterly alone in certain moments and at crucial junctures of the journey… only myself to look to for answers, direction… usually in the darkest and quietest hours of the night. Scary and sometimes overwhelming. But with hindsight, empowering too. Facing one's own fears and vulnerabilities and finding strengths never imagined before in that state of isolation is profound. Thank you for reminding me of this by sharing your story – the universal in the particular. It's a gift to be able to evoke that in writing, and you do! 🙂

  5. bernthis

    at the end of the day, we are alone and sometimes it can be too much to bear but it is true, we have to carry ourselves and move ourselves forward. It can be so so hard, but when you have successfully found a place where you feel happiness, it is such a good feeling to know it was you who carried you there

  6. Suz Broughton

    You have a wonderful way of always conveying hope in your story. How do you do that? Even when you honestly telling us how it was for you, it's always with hope. It's that sparkle in you.

  7. Kate Coveny Hood

    I love the master of my own destinyness of this. And I LOVE the description of the nurses. – especiall Alison with her oversharing.

  8. loribaker

    heidi…everytime i read your blog i'm moved to tears. you have a gift in writing and i'm so glad you are using it to tell your story, it (and you) are truly remarkable. i loved hearing about your nurses because at times i feel like being a nurse is not worth it. you have reminded me that it is. thanks.

  9. Isabella Snow

    The good nurses always go into the fields they're most needed in. I'm glad you got the bestest.

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