Charles' Brush With Death

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Got to sleep about 1:30 a.m. Whether I end my day at 9:00 p.m. or later a nasty inner timer wakes me up between five and six in the morning. Sleeping problems have been a curse of mine for half my life. There was a time when I found myself unable to go to bed before sunrise. Later I started falling asleep while watching a movie and even at the shop. I’m sure Gordon was glad when the latter ended. Nobody wants to have a buzz saw nearby while trying to work.

So I’m really too tired to be trying to write this but for some reason I’m unable to not write it.

Charles suffers from stretches of insomnia himself, going two or three days with little or no sleep. When someone has upset him and he goes into a ‘bipolar high’ he’ll become fixed on task that must be done. He spent one night curling and recurling his hair. Another I awoke to find all the furniture moved. Most often he’ll work on the yard.

The last few nights he’d slept at most five hours a night. He’d also been feeling nauseated most of the day and hadn’t been able to eat. I don’t really know the biochemistry other than that without the nightly growth hormone burst the body can’t heal and repair itself. Without calories a survival mechanism kicks in slowing down the metabolism and without protein the body begins to devour itself.

The cumulative strain was clear yesterday morning. His attention was fragmented, wandering, his body movements unsteady, eyes often drooping.

He called me from The Durham Center where his intensive stabilization group meets to say they weren’t letting him drive to the shop and he’d arrive on the van they use to take people home.

When he arrived he had Yance take him to get his car. A little while later he called to say he’d dropped by a friend’s and would be back at the store by two. He never called. Figuring he’d fallen asleep as he has before I didn’t worry. When the shop closed at six, Yance took me home.

Charles appeared to be asleep in a chair when I got home. His neck was in an awkward position, a bad habit of his that will leave him with neck and back pain for days. I tried to wake him up so he could move to the bed. No response. I yelled, screamed and shook him. Nothing.

I dialed 911. Within a few moments of the first Emergency Medical Technician entering the house Charles stopped breathing. I can’t pretend I can sum up what passed through me when I heard ‘cardiac arrest.’ But anyone above the level of a brute has empathy to imagine feelings well enough.

Suddenly there were three EMS vehicles outside and a group of people was working to revive him. Evidently something called Naloxone (Narcan) which “reverses the effects of opioids” brought him back.

When they felt he was capable they walked him to a stretcher and took him to Durham Regional Hospital.

As soon as they were gone I finally broke down and started crying (just typing that makes my eyes tear). I made a quick journal entry to steady myself.

Then I called Gordon who came and took me to the emergency room. Charles was on a bed with wires running to a diagnostic panel. He was exhausted but OK.

I’d been fearing that his body had betrayed him and he’d be hospitalized for . . . - ? But it turned out he’d been so tired he’d probably taken some medication twice.

The ER was a little hygienic patch of Hell. In the ‘Treatment Room’ next to Charles’ a man was screaming for ‘God’ or ‘somebody’ to help him.

Mostly Charles dozed while I made barely successful attempt to read Augustine of Hippo.

When they rehydrated him, broke his fever and made sure he was stable they finally released him at half-past midnight.

I’m glad I didn’t get home a minute later. And that he had gone to bed when he got home. I might not have realized anything was amiss until it was too late.

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