I have found the secret to immortality. It trumps the Fountain of Youth, oh yeah. Not even Groundhog Day or Neverending Story compare. Here it is: if you can survive the first 30 hours or so without sleeping, you probably never need to sleep again, as long as you also don’t eat. Well, you can have a banana, a donut, a couple handfuls of potato chips, some yogurt, or a Dr. Pepper. What you have to stay away from are those bigger Standard American meals–you know, where you fill a plate.
After that, it becomes a piece of cake. Well, of course it helps to get a phone call from your sister after midnight to tell you that both of your parents have been seriously injured in a car wreck and are in a hospital version of a halfway house, something between a regular room and ICU. Running on pure adrenaline, we somehow managed to squeeze 3 full earth rotations into a single (albeit deranged) circadian rhythm.
The whole thing was rather surreal, really. One minute we were dosing off on the couch to a movie at home in steamy north Texas and in what seemed like a split second, we were driving in the sun across North Dakota and then through tiny little towns in southern Saskatchewan, where gas stations are literally a half hour apart. It’s like it wasn’t even real. Somewhere along the returning darkness, in the midst of radio stations with signal strength that ebbed and flowed with the hilly terrain, the internal bath of caffeine and adrenaline almost gave in, but then my body must’ve realized that I was going to do everything in my power to circumvent the normal biological rhythms, because eventually it said “screw it” and kept the adrenaline coming at a slow but steady drip.
We arrived after 22 hours of traveling. That was surreal, too. There is something simply wrong with the concept of your strong, adult, guiding role-model parents suddenly being reduced to frail semi-lifeless shadows of what they were a matter of hours ago. Suddenly the tables turn and it’s your turn to take care of them. It can be disturbing to see them so…vulnerable. In such great need.
And then we find out that the person who hit them was an older guy, and that he walked away from the accident. Well good for him. His family doesn’t have to change their plans on a dime. They don’t have to worry intensely about the health and stability of the two people they love the most. They don’t have to miss school or arrange for someone else to care for their patients at the public clinic. They don’t have to run an endocrine adrenal glandular marathon, remaining awake for 67 hours straight, or work themselves into mental pretzels trying to learn a screwed-up healthcare system that makes no sense and then try to make significant decisions with such scanty information. Why is it that we protect those who no longer deserve the privilege of driving just so that they can haul off and with a single miscalculation, hurl a family into such turmoil and trauma?
Yesterday morning was brutal; we made our way down the dark quiet hallway, only the hissing, whirring, and beeping of all the various machines masking our footsteps. We peeked in and found them, miss-the-mark Chinese recreations of what they were supposed to look like. Lifeless, motionless, and unconscious.
I actually felt faint when I saw each of them. I got a little nauseous, so I bent forward at the waist. I was so glad they were fuzzy and asleep; I wouldn’t have wanted either of them to see that I wasn’t strong.
Things improved drastically throughout the day, and that offered us a lot of relief. There was strength from then on. Already, the day was brighter. The situation didn’t look so heavy. They started talking, lucid and coherent. Their vital signs gradually improved.
I continue to be amazed at the capabilities and mechanisms of the human body. Whether it’s to stay up for 67 consecutive hours and remain surprisingly functional, or to heal itself miraculously, even if only given half the chance. We haven’t yet mastered eternal life, but who knows–at this rate, we just might get there in my lifetime.