My husband’s recent heart attack taught me something. A life lesson that I think I could have done without learning. The fear you feel as a parent when your child is facing a life threatening situation is completely different then the fear of losing a spouse.
Twice in my life I have seen a family member hooked up to a crash cart. Twice overwhelming fear has gripped my heart as I watched someone I love hooked up to a machine because their blood pressure is crashing. Thankfully neither time was the machine actually used. I have no words to describe the emotions that course through me when I see doctors, nurses and assistants gathering around the hospital bed with a scary looking machine.
But, although fear held me tight in its embrace, it was different. I would not have believed how different. For some reason, I thought I could relate to others who have experienced a near loss of a spouse because I have nearly lost a daughter. Both are family members right? Both are loved so it should be similar right? Oh I know its different. I knew it then but I thought it would be similar enough. It’s not. Not even remotely.
It is as different as night and day or apples and oranges or any other cliché for opposites that you choose. I’m not denying that both are similar in that they are both fear just as both apples and oranges are fruit and day and night are parts of a day but having something in common doesn’t make them the same.
You see, nearly 16 years ago when I stood outside the CICU room and watched the crowd around my daughter, I had my husband with me. He was my rock, my strength. He was the other parent and we shared the fear and the burden of the stress. He was strong where I was weakest and I strong when he was weak. I wasn’t alone. And I knew I wouldn’t be alone.
When I stood outside the ER room, all I could think was “I didn’t tell him that I love him.” My thoughts went more like this “he didn’t say I love you. but that’s ok. I know he does. Wait. I didn’t say I love you.” It really bothered me that I had not said I love you before leaving the room.
I think what scared me the most about that day at the ER is how laid back and relaxed everything was until the blood work revealed the dreaded elevated enzyme. And then everything started happening. My husband had a reaction to the nitro which caused his BP to drop. Hindsight being so perfect and all, it wasn’t nearly as serious as my daughter. But it was scary and the reality is that at that moment we (the doctors too!) had no idea what was going on with my husband’s heart.
Father and daughter now share more in common. Both have experienced being hooked up to a crash cart. Both have experienced heart catherizations. Both have spent at least one night in a Cardiac Intensive Care Unit. Thankfully one doesn’t really remember her experiences. These are not the kinds of things you want to have in common with anybody let alone your parent or your child.
I’m just thankful though that both of them are still around so I can practice saying I love you about a million times a day. (I’ve been reassured that he does not, in fact, get tired of hearing it.)