Death Card For Cutie

“I take pleasure in my transformations. I look quiet and consistent, but few know how many women there are in me.”
― Anaïs Nin

When I do tarot readings for folks, inevitably the Death Card comes into play.  I watch their faces turn white, hands start to shake, audible gasps, tears.  Sure. I get it. Damn card looks ominous right? Right.

Now as I reader, I know the meaning of this card overall is TRANSFORMATION.  Depending on where it falls in the spread and what other cards are present, it has various connotations as to what that transformation will look like.

So when I started to pull it for myself these last few months at every turn, I paid attention.  Something major was coming and I better be ready.  Thing was though, I WAS ready. In fact, I had begged the universe for it.

And on January 4th, the card beared it’s teeth.

2:45AM, blizzard outside, I awoke to horrific adominal pain. There had been a recent stomach virus floating around and thought perhaps this was that. But as I came to, I realized no, not virus.  I had felt this before. Upper right pain, sharp, intense.  That’s a gallbladder attack.

For the next few hours I paced, stretched, drank apple cider vinegar, took Ibuprofen but nothing was alleviating it. I watched the snow falling more rapidly, building up, and knew that if I needed to go to the ER, we had to go now.

That 4AM ride in the blinding snow and slippery roads, me violently ill in the passenger side, doubling over in pain and seeing stars, I remember thinking maybe the Death Card isn’t just transformation, but real Death. I know I’d rather have been dead than feel like this.

Once admitted into triage and being pumped full of anti nausea and Dilaudid, I was wheeled off to get a catscan. The results showed gallstones and one was planted against the duct, inflaming the organ. They sent me home with pain meds and anti nausea remedies, telling me I needed surgery asap. I was too high to question why they weren’t just sending me to the hospital now. Surely they weren’t going to send me back into the snowstorm in pain and make me deal?

I remember stumbling to the car in a wall of white. You couldn’t see 50 feet in front of you.  Our car was buried in the few hours we had been there. It was surreal.

Miraculously we made it home.  I don’t recall other cars on the road. I do remember seeing a few cars slid into ditches.  I also vividly recall that as the pain meds and anti nausea wore off, I was increasingly feeling worse.

Within hours, it is the violence of it that I remember most. I couldn’t keep anything down. The pain increased to an off the chart number. The storm raged outside, now a foot of snow on the ground. I cringed at the thought of going back into it but I knew, I had to go to the hospital. This damned thing had to come out. Whatever was going on, it it needed to stop.

Ambulance called. Town plow had to dig us out to even get the emergency services into our driveway. I recall the blue and flashing lights, reflecting off all the white.  Like my mother, I hoped we weren’t disturbing the neighbors. My mother could be dying but worry it was an inconvenience to everyone. I get that.

Then, the comedies began.  The ambulance doors were frozen.  It took 5 minutes to get it to open. Then,  one of the girls on the EMT crew, told me this was her first night, first call ever.  I remember saying to her, as she held my hair back, that “you must have had practice at the prom with your drunk friends vomiting, holding their hair the same way.” Ya, she was that young.

At the ER, they almost dropped me out of the ambulance, I hung at an odd angle dangling out the back while the senior EMTs tried to teach her proper release techniques.

Once back to horizontal, our next challenge was getting the frozen ER doors to slide open. They knocked, banged, yelled.

Comedy and Agony.  That is what I remember those hours. That and a Dilaudid drip with enough punch to finally take the pain down to tolerable.

This was Thursday night. I never left the hospital until Sunday.  There were a sea of doctors, nurses, gastro people, cat scans, MRIs (worst machine to be in with a migraine), Dilaudid wooziness and the worst period of my life showing up to the party.  At one point, there were so many fluids leaving my body at once, that I started to laugh in a madness sort of way, thinking, yes… hello Death Card. I hear you loud and clear.

Again, I wasn’t sure if it was foretlling my actual demise. I had clear understanding though, that when you are that compromised, you really don’t care if you die.

There was some reprise in all of it.  It came in the form of a gorgeous young doctor, dressed in scrubs.

The Anesthesiologist.

For one, he was really beautiful to look at. Gentle natured, gentle eyes, held my hand, calmed my nerves as I was wheeled into surgery. Told me he was going to make it all go away.    And he did.  Goodnight and no pain, no thought, nothingingness.

The next thing I knew I started to become aware of my surrounds and thought perhaps that was what Death really was. That nothingness I had just come from.

As I became more aware,   I remember lucid dreaming that I was holding a sack of presents and handing them out to the surgeons and his staff.  They just smiled at me and said “your so cute.”

Back to my room for recovery, minus one organ, which turned out to be on the Maternity Ward Floor.  Oddly, the room I was occupying happened to be the same room I labored in with my daughter Annalise fifteen years earlier. S313 Middlesex Hospital. Nurses loved that.

I recall now, they also loved my new winter boots and kept threatening to steal them while I was sleeping.

My mom conveyed to me during one of her many phonecalls to my room that weekend, that she had had her gallbladder out, right after I was born. In fact, her attack happened while she was pregnant with me and they couldn’t operate until I was out.  She laughed and told me we were even now.

Organ removal is a strange thing. Everyone keeps telling me, you don’t need the gallbladder. And I kept thinking, then why do I have it?

Regardless, I am glad to be rid of the little demon. It’s showed its claws more than once over the last four years.

Last year, prior to the Death Card readings, I kept saying to the universe, I am ready. I am ready for different. I am ready to put down the wine glass. Put down the decadent eating. Put down the past traumas that on occasion wreak havoc in my sensitive nature.

I had turned 50 and I was ready to meet myself on the road, wholly sober and in good health, sans toxicity. I was ready to adopt new eating habits, new workout routines, and a rekindled love affair with life.  And I had begged the universe to intervene to help me do that. I am undisciplined and I needed a helping hand to get started, to get ahead as Twain would encourage.

During a horrific blizzard, when we were cut off from the world, the universe Answered. Challenged. Catapulted.  And the Death Card sang.

It’s three weeks later now. My abdomen looks like someone was testing a potato with a steak knife. It’s not too bad. I will tell people I wrestled a croc when I lived in Florida. And won. But I feel good. I have lost 18 pounds, I haven’t had a sip of wine or beer, and I am clear. The transformation is under way.  I look forward to this new road and meeting who I am on it.

And I thank the Death Card for giving me the heads up.  His message was absolute. Transformation is coming. It’s coming, but fear not. The outcome will be worth it.

And so it is.


This blog is dedicated to everyone who got me through those four days. My husband and his fearless driving and unwavering care, my family for a middle of the night phone call to the ER to let me know they loved me, my care team at Middlesex Hospital, the East Haddam Emergency Services, the plow guy and Middlesex Emergency Department in Westbrook, my friends who came by with flowers and the greatest stuffed elephant I have ever seen and my daughters, who tracked me on Life 360 wondering nervoursly why Mom was at the hospital in the middle of the night.  They watch, they care.  Dee[ thanks to everyone.




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