On Wednesday afternoon at work, I began to feel increasing soreness in my back. At 5 p.m., as I walked from my office to my car (I work on a large campus; the walk is about a block), the pain was so increasing that I was having trouble catching my breath. By the time I got home, my dentist appointment at 6:30 was becoming problematic, but I kept lumbering around with the thought I could still do it. At 6:05, I asked my wife to cancel the appointment and take me to the emergency room. I grabbed a book I'd been reading as we rushed out of the door.
Off we went. They got me in right away -- Wednesdays aren't like weekends for an emergency room. The x-rays showed I had (have) three broken ribs, a fourth with a minor fracture, and a partially collapsed left lung. My Sunday bike crash (see previous post) was more serious than it seemed or I had thought.
It was the lung that had everyone, including me, worried. Broken ribs hurt, and hurt a lot, but the lung issue was nothing to play around with. Fortunately, it was only a small partial collapse. The ER doctor talked with my doctor (who's also a cyclist) and they agreed I could go home and come back in the morning for an x-ray, or stay the night in the hospital. The ER doctor leaned toward the "stay" option. After almost fainting and being laid in the bed in the ER examining room, I agreed with the "stay" option. They rolled me upstairs, hooked up to an IV and oxygen, about 11:20 p.m., once a room was ready.
Hospitals are no place for rest. They're designed to heal you, not give you a mini-vacation. I hadn't expected to be staying the night, but I'd brought with me Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places by L.L. Barkat, which I'd started reading. The pain medicine had kicked in, I was settled for the night, and I picked up where I'd left off.
This slender work of prose is many things -- a memoir, a devotional, a journey of faith, an invitation to join a journey of faith. It is also incredibly fine writing. Barkat shifts the normal frame of reference for a Christian, and you discover yourself looking at God, faith and yourself in an entirely different way. It's like you've been lost in a forest looking for water, holding on to the compass you've owned for years but thinking it's not doing you much good, and then suddenly you stumble into a small clearing with a spring-fed pool. Stone Crossings is that pool.
The story she tells is searing, honest and vulnerable. At several points, it brought me to tears. I could blame it on the pain meds, and in fact did that once, about 2 a.m., when the nursing assistant came in to take my blood pressure and temperature.
"Are you hurting?" she asked.
I nodded. "But it's not my back. That's OK."
She glanced at the book in my hands. "Good book?"
"No," I said. "Great book. It's ripping a hole in my heart." And I'm glad.
My x-ray this morning showed my lung is stable. I'm home now. I'm taking my meds for pain and I'm rereading parts of Stone Crossings. My ribs and my lung are mending. So is my soul.