Be still my heart


By Wendy Hodge

I’m a planner. My kids used to joke that the perfect Christmas gift for me would be a 10-year calendar that’s already filled in with every major thing (and most of the minor things, too). Don’t get me wrong – I love surprises and spontaneous trips and unexpected adventures. I just like to know they’re coming, that’s all.
Last week was a week we had been looking forward to, my best friend and I. For five whole days, we could be together. We’d planned elaborate meals and movies we wanted to see and places we wanted to go. I had a countdown clock on my phone that started with 550 hours and slowly wound its way down to Monday morning.
I woke up Monday with what I realized was a kidney infection. It’s been decades since I’ve had one, but the symptoms are unforgettable. By evening, I had been prescribed an antibiotic to take with meals. So, with the perfectly grilled steaks and seared scallops that my best friend prepared, I took the first dose of said antibiotic.
Thirty minutes later, our lovely evening looked more like a scene from Alien. Something wicked was fighting its way out of my innards. I spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom, with my best friend trying to help in some way. Unfortunately I was beyond help at that point. Things went from bad to worse around midnight when I felt what I can only describe as a bolt of lightning in both my legs. The blood in my veins felt as if it was filled with glass. The pain literally took my breath away. The rest of the night was agony. Unable to find a comfortable position to lie down or even sit, I paced the floors and prayed for morning.
Finally, around 5 a.m., I was able to collapse on the bed. Knowing I needed another dose of antibiotic, I made some toast and choked down a few bites with my medication. Within 30 minutes, the whole cycle started again. I was violently ill, and the pain in my legs was worse than before.
Because I did not want to interrupt anyone’s day (and maybe because I’m a little bit stubborn), I drove myself to the ER. Two doctors, three nurses, multiple failed IV attempts, and a wagonload of medication later, I found myself in a room on the 5th floor.
I had a team of nurses and physicians who took wonderful care of me. Research was done, tests were run, and finally I was told, “Ms. Wendy, you are one in a trillion.”
“Why, thank you,” I slurred through my morphine haze.
“What I mean is, you have had an acute reaction to the antibiotic you were taking, Bactrim. I’ve read about it happening, but I’ve never seen it firsthand. It’s very rare… about 1 in a trillion chance of having these kinds of symptoms.”
“Oh. Well. Lucky me.”
The doctor patted my hand and smiled. “We will need to keep you here for a few days to get you rehydrated and make sure there is nothing else going on.”
My heart sank. Our lovely week was ruined.
On day one, my best friend brought me a table full of snacks. All my favorites. Snickers, peach rings, jelly beans, Pringles. And the cutest little pack of Kleenex…. because morphine makes me emotional. The second day, he came and sat with me while I drifted in and out of a drug-induced sleep. I remember him holding my hand.
The third day, I was more alert and able to eat a bit more. That evening he arrived just as my dinner tray was delivered. He ate the meatballs. I ate the sweet potatoes. He ate the broccoli. I ate the pie. And we laughed and talked, easy and comfortable as always. We joked with nurses and techs who came in the room. The time flew by, and my laughter echoed into the hallway.
When it was time for him to go, my best friend stopped at the door and turned to say, “I’m glad I got to see you today. Thanks for another great date night.”
Laughing, I said, “Not exactly what we’d planned, huh?”
“It was you and me, and that’s just perfect.”
When the nurse came in a few minutes later, I was still grinning. As she listened to my heart, I told her how much fun we have and how there is never a shortage of things to talk about and how he never fails to make me laugh.
“Hon, you’ll have to stop talking. You’re heart rate is through the roof.”
“Be still my heart,” I whispered, and the nurse winked at me and smiled.
I learned a lot this week. I learned that Bactrim is on my list of things to avoid at all costs. I learned that my veins are terrible when it comes to having an IV. I learned that there is no limit to the number of episodes of The Office a person can watch and still find them hysterical. I learned that I can plan all day long, but in the end not a whole lot is up to me. And I learned that it doesn’t matter what the walls around us look like, wherever I am with my best friend is exactly the right place.
Wendy Hodge is an Opelika native, an empty nester and lover of all things Opelika. She previously had a column titled A Word or Ten, which was featured in the Tennessee Star Journal and is currently awaiting release of her first novel with Harper Collins Publishing Company.


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