My tubes are out.
My IV is out.
My infections are mostly gone.
My kidneys are back to normal.
My aspiration-induced-cough is almost gone.
My white blood cell count is much improved.
My wound is healing.
My body looks less like a war zone and more like a place of unformed scars.
I am finally cleared to go home. My muscles have atrophied noticeably, especially in my legs.
A nurse brings a wheelchair for me. I look at that wheelchair as if I have never seen a wheelchair before. This is for me, I wonder. I debate with my sister and Nathan about whether I should just try to slowly walk to the car, but mostly I am in denial. I am scared to acknowledge how weak I have become as I slowly sit in the wheelchair.
After the nurse wheels me out of my little room and through all the hallways with patients in ill-fitting gowns, I arrive at the window at the entrance. The big window with sun streaming in brilliantly. Every cell in my body loves it. It looks like joy.
“Melanie, can you believe it?” my sister marvels for me. “You’re going home.”
My mind spins through the unexpected place I find myself. I get to go home and live my life. I get to mother. Not as a mom at a hospital, but as an ordinary mom. All of this trauma, all of this pain has started to strip away my sense of independence. I remember Nathan giving me sponge baths when I could barely stand and joking with him that we already know what it’s like to be old people together. I do not want to forget these experiences. They made me realize more deeply than ever that life is a gift. I must treasure it and live it, fully.