There are some things that stay just below the surface. You know that they are there you just keep them at bay. One of those things for me is my sister’s illness. My sister is this really beautiful woman with this smile that is over the top. She has this gap that seems different every time she smiles. She is a 30 something mother of 3, who to this day is your typical little sister. She can be the biggest pain in the rear ever. I often say that even if she is 90 with advanced Alzheimer’s she will still be able to tell you my age and some embarrassing story from my youth.
Eight years ago my mom called and said she was sick. She was mid 20s then, so her being sick got an “oh, tell her I hope she feels better. I will call you tomorrow and check on her.” No major concern because after all what could be wrong with my little sister? The next day my mom called and said your sister is really sick and you need to get here. I got everything together and went home or rather to the hospital. I got in just in time for the doctors to explain that they were going to amputate just below the knee. WHAT? It was like someone had pushed me down that rabbit hole. I had to be dreaming. Amputate what? It turns out for some unknown reason my sister’s body had turned on itself and her leg needed to be amputated. They were talking about doing everything in their power to save her arm. I felt like there was that roaring in my ears that you get when there is too much water in them. I could not be hearing this correctly. My sister my 24 year-old sister could not be this sick. We needed to get a second opinion. There was no time as she was dying. To this day I cannot comprehend a lot of what went on during those weeks and months my sister spent in the hospital. I remember when she was in critical care and she was put on life support between the time we had seen her at 3:15 and the time we saw her at 4:00. I still don’t know why I remember the time but I remember my mom losing her ability to stand when she saw her baby hooked up to all those machines. I remember the look in her eyes the first time I saw her after the amputation. She later said she told me not to let her husband turn off her life support, which may be why she looked so lost and frightened. I remember the doctors telling us that they did not why and did not know how to treat her but they were working on it in the meantime the best thing we could do is pray. What?!! We had a minister there and it took 12 yes, 12 of them to crowd into a room and tell us that? I do know that I cannot spend more than 5 minutes really remembering that time without feeling scared sh*tless. My sister did since have her arm amputated in one of those repeat visits to the critical care ward; I lost count of them after # 7. She spent months in the hospital and in rehab. Then another few months in outpatient therapy.
Today for the most part she is just that same kid who was gonna tell no matter what. When we talk about her time in the hospital or her illness it is with a joking tone. I love to see the look on a salesperson’s face when I ask them if it makes sense to spend X dollars on shoes when she can only wear one? Or her telling us that we can rest assured that if she had passed she would have felt no pain as morphine is an amazing thing. We talk about how the nurse called us the Kentucky relatives because we just kept multiplying. She said no one wanted to take her on as they were afraid of us rioting. Her doctor looked like Doggie Howser I swear this kid looked 16. We never talk of the tears and how much we prayed. How utterly terrified we were. There are times when I talk to her that I do not even remember that time. Then there are those days like today when one scene or another keeps coming back to me. Do not get me wrong my sister leads her life as if there is nothing different about her. She gets a little miffed when people tell her what an inspiration she is. She says “What? I have 3 kids sitting around looking out the window is not an option for me.” You see my double amputee sister is a working teacher who cares for her family, drives wherever she want to go, the ultimate fashionista, a businesswoman and a wife. She sees no reason her illness has anything to do with how she lives her life. This post is just her big sister who could not protect her from this and am afraid of something else happening to her. This is about my fears not hers. She lives her life in a way that tells me to keep my fears out of her life. These are the times when I do not know what to do with the fear. I would not dare put it on her she was the one who went through the tubes, the probing, and the mystery that has never been solved. So I put it here. I try to come to terms with my fear and my helplessness because this chick seems fearless. It would be wrong to impose my fears on her life. But does she really have to drive 4 hrs with just her kids? Does she need to be the advisor on the school trip? Why can’t she just finish her master’s already so she can get out of the classroom and in a safe little office? Some time I think it is because she is just being that little pain in the a** sister who wants to cause me heartache. Then I think of this book I read by Maya Angelou in which she says in order to give up you have to have been taught how. No one ever taught us how to give up so she has no clue how to live within the realms of fear. But there are days like to day when I wish she would try.