Thursday, April 2, 2009

the opposite of laughs all around

Yesterday I had a lot of fun with my seniors. We've been watching Into the Wild and discussing it, but in honor of April Fool's Day we spent an entire period writing about and sharing stories of awesome pranks that they've either pulled on someone else or had pulled on them. We were all laughing like crazy. They had some hilarious stories to share, and couldn't believe my dad actually dressed up like a woman, so I promised I'd bring in a picture for them next class.

Today, though, not only did we finally see the ending to Into the Wild which is sad (though arguably sort of uplifting), but it's also Saemi's birthday. She's 19 today. 19 and in the hospital. She's not even conscious, so it's not like she can celebrate it or anything.

We arranged with the school to all take a trip to visit her in one of the high school's large vans. I haven't gone to see her since the beginning of the semester, but I knew not much had changed since then other than her hair growing out a bit. Last time I was there I nearly had a panic attack.

You know how some people say they hate hospitals? I don't really hate hospitals. I think they're just fine and I don't get nervous or upset walking into one or going to a doctor's appointment or anything, but when I visit someone I know that's in the hospital, I freak out. My high school boyfriend was in the hospital for several weeks after rupturing his spleen and I cried every time I went to see him (which was every waking moment that I wasn't in school). So, I'm not surprised that visiting Saemi is a panic attack inducing experience for me.

I just...feel like I need to go to show her I'm there for her. Today, though, was a sort of breaking point for me. First, the room reeked from all the herbal Chinese medicine they've been giving her, so it was kind of disorienting. You could smell the odor from down the hall it was that strong. The hospital, while one of the best in Shanghai, is just plain dirty. People are allowed to smoke in the halls, there's no sort of regulation of guests and visitors. Second, it was her birthday. I'm starting to realize that this is it. This is Saemi's fate.

Her eyes were open today and she was blinking but not looking at anything. There was nothing behind her gaze, it was like staring into the eyes of a doll. Her mouth kept opening and closing, like a fish breathing under water. Muscle contractions.

The minute my students started singing happy birthday I lost it. I had to leave the room. My heart felt like it was missing every other beat and my lungs suddenly starting contracting and I couldn't get any air into my chest to fill them back up no matter how much I gasped for air. I started crying, frantically looking for my handkerchief in my purse and trying to get as far away from the room as possible. I went out into a waiting area to compose myself. It took a few minutes then I walked back to the room trying to control my sniffling.

I lingered outside the door waiting for my students to leave to take the van back to campus. Little Amy and Bora walked out and I got choked up seeing them, thinking about how it could be them lying in that hospital bed, too. I was trying to hold back my tears so they wouldn't see me cry. I have this huge fear of my students seeing me so vulnerable. But I couldn't stop the tears soon enough and Little Amy and Bora saw my cry. They were both visibly upset by the scene in the hospital room, too, and Little Amy put her hand on my shoulder to comfort me. Without thinking I said, "You guys need to be safe. Promise me you'll be safe?" They both nodded, Little Amy wiping tears from her eyes. I pray to God they keep their promises.


Andy said...

I'm sorry, lots of hugs sent your way.

it's the same thing when I go see my uncle. I can't stay much in there without promptly losing my inner strength. Of course, I can't let this be seen by anyone in the family because it'll bring them down, but I do so for myself.

Really praying for her, and thank you for the update, I was starting to wonder about her.

Frank said...

I'm terrified of hospitals, mostly because so many people I care about have gone in them and never came out. I hope Saemi comes out of this okay...*hugs*