Ninth grade. The whole idea of a new school left me in anticipation of great things to come. I don’t remember being afraid of starting high school. Moving up to a bigger school where I didn’t know many of the students didn’t scare me. It was a new experience. I saw it as an adventure. I’d meet people and I would finally attend the same school as both of my brothers. Just for one year.
Ninth grade was one of my favorite years. Maybe it was the new friends or the chance to see my brothers throughout the school day. I was eager to embrace all the fun. I went to many football games; I cheered for my brothers in their sports: tennis, soccer, cross-country…If I could go, I was there.
I was never the type of child who relished a sick day. That was not my kind of excuse for skipping school because sickness was more common for me as a child.
I would wake up with the sore throat, which usually meant I also had a fever, and not want to admit any of it to my mom. But eventually I had to confess through tears, “I don’t feel well today.” I cried knowing I would be staying home. I felt stuck in a different way. It wasn’t like having back surgery or healing from a broken leg.
I felt stuck in a pattern of illness that kept me away from school, friends, and the activities I loved. And stuck because almost every time it was more than a cold. A runny nose would turn into bronchitis and there goes a week of school. One day of fever and it would continue until I had to go to the doctor. I couldn’t fight sickness on my own very well.
Ninth grade was put on pause halfway through the year. My active life as a freshman was interrupted in February 1999. I woke up to sickness that lasted longer than normal. I went to the doctor several times. I’m not sure how many appointments it took, but I continued to go. The medicines weren’t working so we switched to a stronger antibiotic. I still wasn’t improving. I actually felt worse.
This illness went on for a month. The pulmonologist (AKA “lung doctor”) helped diagnose and bring me back to health. Apparently I wasn’t sleeping well and that was affecting everything. My breathing slowed down too much during sleep. I hadn’t grown for months and I was left without the stamina to recover from any virus. I had to start using a ventilator at night to restore my breathing and regain deep sleep.
I didn’t like the idea of using a ventilator. There was a major adjustment period. I guess I was willing to do anything if I could be well again. Of course, the doctors knew what they were doing. I just couldn’t comprehend it all because I was sick.
I was tired of coughing, feeling bad, and struggling through each day. And I wanted to return to youth group at church where my community of friends waited and to ninth grade where new friends and my brothers carried on with high school. I wanted to go, do, and be everywhere, except stuck at home. After the month, I could slowly emerge and rejoin activities one by one.