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I Dare You to Live
“I love you,” she gasped through her painful breathing, as the anesthesia begin to take its course. She had told me this before, but something was different about this time; it shocked me, made me speechless. Without saying a word, I leaned down to kiss her, brushing away the tear that fell from her eye; my tears replaced hers as I wiped them away.
I was once told that I should dare to dream, but how can I dream when every day is a nightmare for me? Sitting down, outside the operating room, I panicked. What if something bad happened? What if something happened because I didn’t say it back? So many questions shot through my mind as tears fell openly around her family who surrounded me. It was shocking, the people I had come to comfort were now comforting me. The family I was there for was now there for me.
I remembered standing there while the doctor told her family that she needed this operation, an operation that had a fifty percent chance of making things worse, a fifty percent chance of killing her, but if she didn’t get this surgery she was dead anyway. I couldn’t believe it; the doctors were literally telling her parents that she had a fifty percent chance of living. With a flip of a coin, her life would be over; my life would be meaningless.
This past week had been a blur for me. I was sitting in my dad’s car on the way to school when I got the call:
“Meredith got into a car accident; we’re on the way to the hospital now.”
“Is she okay?” I asked, knowing that it was obvious she wasn’t.
“No one knows. There was so much blood. She was unconscious when the emergency crew got there.”
“Oh… I’m on my way.”
Click. And with the sound of a phone hanging up, my life was spiraling down to the bottom. My dad went eighty down Volunteer Road and ninety down St. Rose, as I slowly told him what happened. We were there before the ambulance even arrived, carrying Meredith in its metal cage: caring Meredith, the girl who felt like family, the girl I would do anything for. I held her hand as they rushed her into the Emergency Room, and eventually to the Intensive Care Unit. The doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her, other than a few broken ribs, and a tear on her right side, she physically (from a doctor’s perspective) looked fine. And yet, she could barely breathe. I had to watch as she groaned through each breath while the doctors kept trying to guess what was amiss. They spent all of Thursday trying to stabilize her, and were finally successful towards the end of the day, but something was still wrong.
Knowing that she was in a regular hospital room, my parents decided that I should go to school the next day. Every bit of me wanted to stay with her, but I knew there was nothing I could do, so I agreed and went to school on the condition I could run to the hospital right after. That Friday at around eleven, I received a phone call from her parents telling me that she was moved back to the ICU because she was having trouble breathing. It took all of my willpower to stay in school for the next hour while I kept glancing at the clock, telling myself that she would be fine. I even had to lie to a few of my teachers that asked if everything was okay, just because I honestly wanted to believe things would be okay myself. The bell rang after fifth period and I said good-bye to my friends and made for St. Rose Hospital as fast as I could, only to find out my worst fears were about to be upon me.
When her car slammed into the other, her ribs broke on impact. What the doctors didn’t realize until now, was that part of her lower right rib splintered off and lodged itself in her lungs, it was a matter of time before the bone fragment pierced her lungs and by then it would be too late. They had to keep her still, and operate on her as soon as possible, but she was afraid. I ran my fingers through her hair while I lied to her and told her everything would be okay, because if I kept saying it, maybe it would be true.
The doctors operated swiftly, opening up her right side, inspecting her lungs, and eventually extracting the three inch fragment of bone that was imbedded inside her lung. My heart was racing, they were almost done, and something could still go wrong. Being a fan of House, and Grey’s Anatomy, I knew that people died on T.V. all the time, what if it happened here? Hoping for the best, but fearing the worst, I prayed for her safety, or what was left of her safety. With quick stitches, the doctors closed her side, and left the room. Nurses came in and brought Meredith out, while the doctors washed their hands in the sanitation room. I waited for what felt like years, with my heartbeat sounding out the minutes, I thought that I might need to go to the E.R. soon myself. As the doctors told her parents that the operation was successful, I relaxed some, but there was a but… there is always a but.
“But, she is not responding still. The anesthesia has worn off, but she is still in the induced coma we gave her.”
My heart stopped, and I could barely breathe. I ran into her room and saw her lying there. Meredith, my friend, with pale lips and cold skin, was lying unconscious in front of me for the rest of the night. As I said, I was dared to dream once, and I dreamed how everything would be fine if she were just awake, if she could just talk to me. So I nodded off and yes, I dared to dream. I dared to dream of life, love, and happiness, dreaming for compassion and completion. And yet, these dreams brought me nothing but emptiness, a desire for something that wasn’t there, desperation for a perfect life, a dream.
I woke up in the chair next to her bed Sunday to see her staring at me attentively. It must have been early in the morning because her parents were still at home with her family. As I grabbed her hand, I could feel her grasp it tightly; she was back. Thousands of words went through my mind at once, wondering which one I should say first. She made up my mind for me.
“I’m glad you’re the first face I saw.”
“I couldn’t leave you,” I muttered softly.
And in the silence, as my hand gently touched her arm, I knew what to say next.
“I love you”
“It’s about time you said it back.”
I drew close, my hands gently brushing against her cheeks, while I leaned in to kiss her warm, soft, pink lips.
I was dared to dream once, and those dreams brought me nothing. Dreaming got me nowhere, but living, living got me everything. To those who dare me to dream next, I merely dare you to live.
San Francisco, California
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"The greatness of a nation and its moral progresses can be judged by the way its animals are treated." ~Gandhi