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When Death Was Near
Just three short years ago, I was faced with the most prolonged and distressing twenty-four hours in my life. I was filled with more dread than ever before. My fear was possibly losing my six year old sister.
For two weeks in early August 2006, my sister Erin was gravely ill. She vomited on a regular basis, about four times a day. She visited the doctor multiple times, but he thought that all she had was a harsh case of the flu. He never could have been more wrong or imagined what was really going on inside her. Erin was sprawled out on the couch everyday and looked as if she was dying. It was so frightening, that I couldn’t bear to look at her anymore. No one realized that she really was dying until it was almost too late!
I can recall the day in which everything unfolded very clearly. It was a day that I will never forget.
“Bye,” shouted my mom, “I’ll be back soon.”
“See you later” I shouted back.
My mom was off to the doctor with Erin yet again. This was becoming an extremely frequent occurrence in our house, so I thought nothing of it. Three hours passed and I realized that they had not returned home yet. The appointments had usually only lasted an hour. My first thought was that something was wrong and as it turned out, I was right. I attempted to think about what could have happened, but I didn’t have the slightest idea.
By that night, I still hadn’t gotten any news from my mom, dad, or sister. I went to bed feeling so helpless. I didn’t know what had happened to my family members and had a deep ambition to at least hear their voices. I slept in intervals of forty-five minutes or so and then woke up to a mess of errant feelings.
At first, an overwhelming feeling overtook my body. I didn’t know what to do and felt that there was something that I should have been doing to aid my parents and sister. The problem was that there was nothing that I could do. Then, a horror feeling struck my mind. My thoughts began to run wild with possible things that could have been happening as I lay in my bed. Had someone died? Finally, a curious feeling took over, one that even now is difficult to explain. This abnormal feeling was a combination of both dread and happiness. It was a strange feeling because these two aren’t usually associated with one another and it was both good and bad. The dread came from the fact that I didn’t know if all of my family members were safe. I didn’t have a clue about what could have happened to them. I was also relieved that I didn’t know how severe of an event had occurred so that I wouldn’t over worry about the situation. This feeling of dread and relief led me to recall a time in which I had the same curious feeling.
It had come just one year earlier and in a similar situation. My grandfather had been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease, a type of cancer. I wasn’t told what was going on but sensed it when the adults in my family acted preoccupied and panicked. I dreaded the fact that something horrible may have been happening. I was relieved again that I didn’t know the severity of the event.
At about midnight, the door opened and my mom walked in. I was overjoyed to see her! We sat and talked about the events of the previous day. Erin had had an abscess full of bacteria growing in her head. It had been pushing her brain back into her spinal cord and almost out of her head. Only one other case of this had ever been seen in the world before in Italy. The doctor had to open her skull and pop and drain the bacteria from the abscess in an emergency brain surgery. Had the abscess not been seen for a few more hours, Erin would have been dead as we spoke. I was in shock but so relieved that Erin would be alright after all.
I didn’t know what to expect. I was on my way to the hospital with my grandparents to see Erin. I could tell that they didn’t know what to expect either. The car was silent. Too silent for my comfort. The only sound that could be heard was the rush of the rolling tires beneath us. I was dreading the sight that I would see and I was shocked that something so terrible could happen to a six year old girl let alone my own sister! I almost felt like I wanted to turn back rather than see Erin in the horrible state that I was told about. The twenty-minute ride felt like hours in the eerie silence. I began to shake as we entered the elevator. My heart was beating faster and faster and my stomach lurched as the elevator jerked upward. As I reached for the door handle to Erin’s room, I could hear my heart beating like a drum in my head. I turned the handle and slowly opened the door. I jumped as it creaked. Inching my way along the floor, I passed by the curtain and looked to my right. I will never forget what I saw. It was a wall of plastic tubes and bags full of liquid. In the middle of it all, I saw a little girl that I hardly even recognized as my sister. She looked like she was encased in a plastic ball of IV’s and tubes. I glanced at her a few times as we all sat in silence, but after a few glances, I couldn’t look anymore. It was too painful to see her like that. Last month she was a healthy little girl and today she was a child who had stared death in the face.
I took for granted that I had a great family. I took for granted that I had a great life. I took for granted that I had great gifts in my sisters. I took for granted… until I almost lost it all.