This year Independence Day will hold a dual meaning for me. It will be the obvious celebration of being grateful for the country we live in and the men and the women who have served and continue to serve, and especially those that gave their life, so that we can continue to have this freedom.
In my heart, Independence Day will also be a day of thanksgiving for me because one year ago, Jay almost died. In one brief instant, life as I know it was held together with, what felt like, the thinnest thread. Everything could have changed....but it didn't. And I thank God every day for it.
Last year on Independence Day, Jay collapsed at the end of a 10K when his body temperature rose above 107 degrees. I didn't see it happen. The nurse in the medical tent used his cell phone to call me. By the time I got there, he was laying in an ice bath but gazing past me not responding to anything. It was the scariest.moment.of.my.life.
He started seizing on the way to the ambulance. I had to sit up front with the driver...praying the whole 15 minutes to the hospital. Trying to push away the fears that he would be in that non-responsive state forever. That he would not be able to be present to his children. That he would never know the baby that was growing inside of me.
As we pulled up to the hospital, Jay started to speak coherently...actually he was yelling for me. He couldn't hear me from the front of the ambulance...which was so frustrating. As it stopped, I jumped out and ran to the back. When they opened the doors Jay saw me and got this goofy(completely medicated looking) grin on his face. He said later, when he had completely come out of the fog, that he was smiling because he wanted me to know everything was going to be all right...even though he couldn't find the words yet to say it.
After about an hour, Jay was completely coherent. He got extremely sick from all the meds they had given him and he was extremely sore from the seizures. He spent two nights in the hospital. At first the doctors were worried that he could have damaged his kidneys or his liver permanently. Thankfully, his kidney function and liver function returned to normal levels over the next month or two.
The ER doctor told us that if the medical staff at the race had not gotten Jay into the ice bath, he would have had permanent kidney and liver damage or if his temperature rose half a degree higher he would not have made it at all.
It took a few weeks for Jay to start feeling better. He was in a lot of pain. Since his liver and kidneys were still healing he couldn't take any pain medication. He was in the hospital for two nights, out of work for a week, and it took two more weeks to start working his normal schedule. It took a few weeks for his kidney function to go back to normal. It took a few months for his liver function to go back to normal.
In an instant, our lives could have been devastated and changed forever.
Such a scary thought. Something so scary made me feel incredibly vulnerable. I was strong for Jay and the kids that first day. Early the next morning, at 3am, I woke up and just started sobbing. I cried for two hours trying to wrap my head around how something that was supposed to just be for fun could have ended so horribly. Then I felt angry....angry that we had to go through this...angry that I almost lost him. It took quite a few months to process through the emotions of what happened that day.
In some ways Jay is still processing through it....it's tough to forgive yourself sometimes.(But I know God is working on him:)
This year on Independence Day we will be celebrating the gift of freedom...
......and we will be celebrating the gift of life!