Crossing the border was uneventful. It usually is in Coburn Gore, Maine. But just after we entered our home state, things got interesting.
I started coughing as we approached the border. I coughed as Ryan communicated where we live, what we were doing, who we were, etc. Once through, I tried to clear my throat. This is when I realized my spit was red, bloody.
I turned to Ryan and told him I was coughing up blood. Our heart rates went up along with the engine’s acceleration. As the minutes passed, I coughed up more blood. Then more. I vomited large volumes into our container of french fries, our only souvenir from the weekend we just spent in Montreal.
Ryan tried calling 911 while he drove, faster still. We both monitored the temperature outside, thankful for a surprisingly moderate winter day near Chain of Ponds. Everything was cold, but the roads were wet, not icy. Cell phone reception was spottier than the blood I coughed up.
I begged Ryan to just drive, knowing 911 would not help us anytime soon. In between coughing I told him I was scared. He told me I’d be fine, but when he finally connected to a dispatcher on the phone, I knew he didn’t believe what he was telling me. The dispatcher told Ryan to pull over. He refused – we were still 60 miles from the nearest hospital. The ambulance was dispatched to meet us.
I started to feel better, started breathing more. The road and my thoughts straightened. Ryan prayed for me. I prayed for Oliver, the little boy brewing in my belly.
I vomited more blood. I added tears to the french fries. Ryan added weight to the accelerator.
Just south of Stratton, we met the ambulance. And of course, the bloody coughing stopped.
We went to the hospital. Pneumonia was the thought. Antibiotics, and I was sent home. Tuesday, more coughing up blood. Sent home. Wednesday, a specialist. Humidity would be my cure (or so I hope).
Amongst a very stressful few days, blessings arrived in full force. It was, after all, the end of my birthday weekend. There were cards, gifts and kind words.
Money just appeared. To add to the stress of the situation, our insurance won’t cover any of this – not the ambulance ride, the hospital visit or the office follow-ups. But on Monday, I discovered that we may receive financial assistance from the hospital. Not just for this, but for Oliver’s birth too. And there was a check in the mail – payment for two stories I wrote last winter. I had a photo gig on Wednesday. More money I wasn’t expecting.
When I was coughing up blood, Bronson was with my parents. If he was in the back seat of our car, stress levels would have been higher. He would have been crying or hungry or bored. I would have been nervous about Ryan driving so fast. He would have sensed our fears and been terrified himself. Instead, he was loving life, grandparent-style.
On Tuesday as I coughed up more blood, I received two wonderful cards and a new book from friends now afar. That night, we drove south on 27 to call the hospital, and when I called my parents to let them know weren’t going to the hospital after all, they had more good news. They were scheming with a long-time family friend and communications guru to find us a cell phone booster. (We have no reception at our house.) The day after they asked him about it, someone dropped one off. “If you know of someone who needs one, give it them,” they said. My life made easier. A little miracle.
On Wednesday, a new stove arrived to replace the one with the broken oven, and the cell booster was installed. More blessings.
And of course, in the end, the blood appears to be nothing serious. Just seriously scary, but not serious medically.
Sometimes my life needs a little shake-up. I’m slothing through my days. Everything seems mediocre, normal. But coughing up blood doesn’t live in the category of normal. It’s not. It got my attention quickly.
And while I endured a few days of fear, confusion and concern, my senses were heightened not only to the fear but also to the blessings, the mini-miracles that brightened my days, reminding me that God is in the business of turning blood into blessing.