Run, Nicky, Run
I close my eyes, and settle in to bed, feeling the burden of my body’s weight slip away. I am grateful the day requires no more effort on my part. I no longer have to control each muscle, to fight fatigue and pain with every moment. It’s over- for now. I sigh deeply, and smile from the pleasure that a good night’s sleep will bring. Tomorrow will be better. The doctor says I am only months away from being able to take a walk around the lake again, or to swim. Sure, I’ll have to start slowly at first. I see myself, a new runner and only 44 years old. I thought I was past my prime, close to over- the- hill. Looking back on it, that was my prime. I had plenty of strength and mobility, and the best part was at that age, I had learned the value of hard work and perseverance. Nothing could stop me, or so I thought. Over the next two years, I continued to progress. two miles became three, then four. The first day I completed five miles, I was ecstatic. I was not the fastest, by any means. My game was endurance, and I was winning.
The races came, and while I never finished at the top, or even in the top five, I kept going. I was fit, my husband and I had something in common, now. I was happy that we had a new bond. He was happy he had inspired me to run.
People sometimes asked me if I’d been injured, and how long it took to recover. They’d notice the scar on my knee and assume I’d torn it up running. Not even close. I simply fell off my bike because I had been drinking beer and showing off. It wasn’t even that bad, I just scar easily. I’d never been injured running, even though I never ran before the age of 44. Now, the beer was behind me, and every step I ran, I ran from the past. I ran away from pain, from fear and worry, from feeling I was a failure, and never measured up. I’d see a still snapshot in my mind of one of my daughters, and smile with pride. They were my inspiration.
The treadmill was punishment, but it is what laid the foundation of my learning to pace myself, to judge my timing and know when to push at the last mile or two of my runs. Still, I yearned for the outdoors.
Finally, spring came, and my outdoor runs began. I loved the park. It had a gorgeous lake running through the middle of it, all the way around the 3.5 miles. I was enjoying my time at the park more and more. It was my escape, and my redemption.
One splendid late spring day at the lake, the run seemed especially easy to me. I felt I’d reached a new plateau. It was time to begin to push myself for more speed. At the end of my second lap, I decided I would really put the heat on, and see what I could do.
Pride goeth before the fall. Many times I had already learned this lesson the hard way, but I foolishly wanted to have something to brag about to my husband that night. I wanted him to be proud of me, and I decided in a blink that I wanted to start finishing races in the top five. I knew I had another lap in me, even though I’d already run seven miles.
I slowed when I got to where my car was parked, and grabbed my Zero cal. Berry Energized drink bottle off the top, and guzzled the last of it. It was lukewarm, which I am not too fond of, preferring instead to walk a bit to the vending machine and buy a cold bottle. But not today. Today I couldn’t take that time. I had to keep running.
Security is not something I generally considered when it came to water or drink bottles. I never considered locking down my beverages. My car, yes. My purse and cell phone, naturally. Nothing felt odd or wrong to me when I put that bottle to my lips. It was hydration, and I needed it, and was grateful to have it. After downing it, I put the lid back on as to not litter, and turned the bottle sideways between the slots on my roof rack so it wouldn’t blow away, and I began to pick up my pace. I had just enough of a respite to really add some speed now. Within fifty yards, something felt wrong. My stomach felt like it was being stretched and pulled. A strange burning sensation began creeping up from my stomach and down from my throat simultaneously. I was still running, but slowing. In fact, everything felt like it was going in slow motion. The pain increased throughout my entire body, now. Fire, and gnawing, and then I couldn’t breathe very well. I remember looking up at the leaves on trees. The sun was so beautiful, streaming through them. I remember wondering if my head hit very hard. I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything but fire, and the burning increased to the point where I could feel my eyes protruding and tongue clogging my throat and I became instantly petrified. I was dying. I saw a face above mine, and I don’t remember this part, but I was told later, in the hospital that the guy who tried to help me and who called 911 was still having nightmares about that day. I guess my purple face, bulged- out eyes and blood drizzling from my nose and mouth kinda spooked the poor soul.
The paramedics had no idea of what was happening to my body. They briefly suspected a hemorrhagic virus, but it was highly unlikely. The bleeding didn’t continue, anyway. During the ambulance ride, the main concern became keeping me breathing. A tracheotomy tube was inserted. My heart had to be de-fibbed. Luckily, the guy who found me had seen me go to my car. My key was found safety pinned to my short’s waistband. Other personnel opened my car and grabbed my purse, and found my phone. I had been dutiful to put my husband’s name in my contact list followed by “ICE” , so he was the first one called. I am glad there is a hospital right by the park. At first they thought they might need to life flight me away to a bigger facility, but they decided to work on stabilizing me first. Transferring me might be the best option at any moment, though, so staff was ready to move me immediately, if word came. Honestly, they didn’t expect me to live. My poor husband showed up, but I wasn’t there to see his face. I imagine it, though ; all his color drained, his eyes wild with fear, frantically pumping the doctors and nurses for information.
I am glad he didn’t call my mom. The shock would be too much. I lost my sister a couple of years ago, to a long- standing illness. I was amazed that my mom survived it , with her COPD as bad as it is, and only worse now.
The reason I lay there, looking like Linda Blair in the Exorcist, was a complete mystery. At some point, a toxicology report was run. That’s when the real fun began.
Somehow, the nicotine levels in my blood were ridiculously high. The whole thing was nearly missed, being the least likely of the drugs abused and associated with the area where I live. But, after my drooling and convulsions, someone got a clue.
I was absent during my possession, really. I hope I dreamed good dreams, but somehow I doubt it. Dialysis came next. The suction device for my profuse drooling disturbs me to think about more than some of the other aspects of it all, strangely.
What really saved me, I found out later, was the fact that I had been an avid nicotine gum chewer for years. My tolerance of the shit was so high already, that I was able to survive it better than most. Meanwhile, the whole thing suddenly became an investigation when it was determined that I didn’t choose to drink a large amount of nicotine. My car was searched. The bottle was still on top of the car. Bingo! Loaded with traces of the stuff.
Better news was that there were prints on the bottle that didn’t match mine…
More of Run, Nicky Run coming soon. Hope you enjoyed…