When I was 20, I almost died.
There is no exaggerating that point. Some would even say that I did die – for a moment, for a blip in time – I went to the other side.
After fainting on the streets of Chicago, my mom thought it best that we head to the emergency room just to see if everything was okay. I had never fainted before, so this didn’t seem like such a dramatic response.
At the hospital, I was hooked up to machines and sent to take x-rays. I was hoping to get the hell out of there as soon as I could. When I got back from doing my tests, I laughed with my family about how cute my x-ray technician was and now I was feeling very unsexy in my potato bag of a hospital gown. Our laughter was halted as a doctor stormed into my room. His urgency was unsettling.
“You have blood clots in both of your lungs, and if we do not get you into surgery right now, you will die.”
I would die.
After I heard those words, the rest is hazy.
I remember calling my boyfriend. I remember calling my best friend. I remember hugging my family. I remember a nurse, holding my hand as I laid on the operating table.
“You’re going to be okay,” she muttered through tears. The nurses were crying. This couldn’t be good.
I counted back from 10. The room went black.
While I was off sleeping with anesthesia-induced dreams, a surgeon was cutting my chest open. He was taking out my lungs, making small incisions and squeezing out blood clots like a tube of toothpaste. While I was sleeping, I lost too much blood. While I was sleeping, I flat-lined. While I was sleeping, a needle filled with adrenaline was inserted into my heart. While I was sleeping, I died. While I was sleeping, I was brought back to life.
I survived. I was alive.
After the surgery and physical recovery, my heart never really caught back up with my body. My heart was heavier. My mind was cloudier. I was left with so many questions.
First off, why the hell did this happen?
After more tests, I learned that I had a very rare blood disorder. My body did not produce enough Protein C, a body’s natural anti-coagulant, and when that was mixed with a daily dose of birth control hormones. I developed giant masses of blood clot in my lungs. These clots led to my fainting spell. These clots almost killed me. But they didn’t. I was still here.
Why the hell did I survive?
What was I supposed to learn from this?
The recovery process has never really ended for me. Sure, the mind-numbing pain in my chest has faded, but a rough, crooked, 12-inch scar remains right in the middle of my chest.
I still carry this scar with me everyday. Though it’s presence doesn’t pierce my confidence like it used to, I still can’t shake what it represents.
Scars are natural tattoos. They are the physical representation of suffering. They are the reminder of the tragedies we’ve all faced. They speak to our hardships. They rise from our bruised and battered skin and make themselves known. They are unforgiving. They are flawed.
We collect these scars. We trace our fingertips over their lining. We allow them to be the roads maps of our lives. We walk down these roads, sometimes a little more hesitant than others, praying that they’ll take us somewhere promising. Somewhere that makes all this suffering worth it. Our scars may represent pain, but they can also represent promise.
Life is hard. Life grabs us by the hair, whips us around, and throw us off our course. Life can be a bitch. Life is draining and heartbreaking and can bring us to our knees. Life gives us the darkest scars. Scars that refuse to fade. Scars that remind us of our past – no matter how dirty or painful or dark it is. Many of us try to hide them and make them disappear.
These scars just remind us that we’re fighters. They remind us that we’re strong and powerful. Scars mean that we looked into the face of death and despair and complete devastation and we didn’t flinch. We won. We fought a battle, and we won. We might have flat-lined on the operating table. We might have had our heart broken. We might have lost our job. We might have gotten out of an abusive relationship. We might have lost a friend. We might have gotten a little hurt along the way, but we’re still standing.
Don’t hide your scars. Embrace them. Feel them. Show them off. Allow these scars to tell your story. Allow these scars to show the world who you really are – a warrior, a fighter, a survivor. Wear your scars like a badge of honor. Allow your scars to be your strength.