She Closed Her Eyes And Woke Up Two Weeks Later

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Self-care can be silly but it’s also required for survival

Well…that was awkward. Who watched the Insecure premiere last night? No spoilers but…yeah I need to know what Lawrence was listening on that car ride home. Don’t worry, we’re gonna talk alllll about it later today!

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This Week’s Story

I know we’re all SO over talking about covid, the panoramic, and all things that are keeping us from living our lives in the way we want to, but this story is about those things and needs to be read.

When we think about “self-care,” we usually think of splurge-worthy extras like elaborate skincare routines, getting our nails done, or taking an escapism trip to Paris. While all those things can do the trick to put you in a better mood, there are other forms of self-care that can literally change the inner-workings of your mind, body, and soul. Things like meditation, an exercise routine, or reframing negative thought patterns.

This week’s author, Kristin Tappan from Los Angeles, is also a blogger at keep up with k. tap. Fun fact: Kristin and I went to college together! She originally published this story on her blog, but it was so good that I reached out to see if she’d be open to sharing it here on Carefree. I’m happy she said yes because self-care can do many things, but as this story will show you, it can also save your life.

Enjoy,

Anayo Awuzie
EIC of Carefree

A New Job, A Wedding, And A Coma: Thoughts on Investing In Yourself

by Kristin Tappan

I’m a writer, yet it has been almost three months since I last put pen to paper. I wish I could say it was due to being on a luxurious vacation, preferably one with beautIful beaches and delicious cocktails. Unfortunately, that was not the case.

Back in August, I was making the transition to a new job that I was (and still am) incredibly excited about. I was working out with my amazing trainer four days per week (and one day a week outside of that), and spending quality time with friends to enjoy the last bit of summer. All of that came to a screeching halt on August 14th. 

Then, on August 31st, I woke up in the hospital. 

To say I was confused would be a gross understatement.

The week of August 9th, I had back pain one day. I linked it to moving a ton of boxes into my new office and figured I may have moved incorrectly while weightlifting. Having a slight headache that same week was not alarming after being in 100+ degree weather, and as someone that has suffered from migraines since 9th grade, I tried to sleep it away. On Thursday of that week, after leaving personal training, I had to pull over because it no longer felt safe to drive. It felt like I had been hit over the head. That scared me a bit, so I called my best friend, Anjelica. She helped calm me down by staying on the line with me until I got to a safe location, and continued to listen to my breathing while I slept in the car for about 30 minutes. 

Once I woke up, I drove to my office. Initially, my plan was to unpack but I figured it could be beneficial to nap on the couch in my office before driving 20+ miles home. I did just that. When I woke up, I didn’t feel 100% better but my head wasn’t throbbing and there was no dizziness so I drove home. It comforted me to be on the phone with friends – I knew I wouldn’t fall asleep and if something went wrong, either of them could place an emergency call for me. Thankfully, I was off from work that Friday, and my friends CK and Melissa came over to attend our other friend Jose’s wedding together on Saturday.

At the wedding, I felt myself moving slower than normal but I didn’t have a headache or any back pain that day so I thought all was well. Even still, I should have known something was wrong when I only consumed half a glass of wine and a beer at an open bar wedding. After the beautiful ceremony, a stellar cocktail hour, and a moving set of speeches during dinner, I asked CK to take me home. The wedding was only five miles away from my house so it was not too much of an inconvenience. 

During the short ride, I fell asleep. CK and I have spent countless nights out together where he has seen me fall asleep. We’ve known each other long enough that he was able to notice that my breathing sounded labored. My mom was feeling sick that day so he didn’t call her and instead called Anjelica to ask what he should do. Anjelica called my brother who woke up my dad. I was fast asleep in bed both when those calls were made and when my dad arrived. He took my temperature and asked me a number of questions which I was able to answer coherently. I had no fever either, so he sighed with a sense of relief. Even though he had to trek across town, he mentioned how grateful I should be to have such great friends and that it was better to be safe than sorry. 

That is the last thing I remember – the night of August 14th. When I woke up in the hospital, it was August 31st.

After coming off of sedation, I was still intubated. I looked at my hospital bracelet, my surroundings, and remembered some of the conversations I overheard while I was sedated that told me I was in a hospital.  But how long I had been there or why I was there was a mystery. Since I couldn’t move my legs when I woke up and had no recollection of how I got there, I thought maybe I had been in a bad car accident (which could explain not being able to move my legs and the memory loss). Then, I noticed the whiteboard across the room, which had a bunch of information written on it. Shout out to my perfect vision because it helped me read everything from my name to the names of my nursing staff for that particular shift to my mom’s information (which at least let me know that she knew where I was) to the current date to the reason for hospitalization. The date read “8.31.21” which I assumed was an error. There was no way that I had been unconscious for 16 days. Then I read the reason for hospitalization: COVID-19. I was floored.

Not only had I been tested regularly and wore masks whenever indoors, but the symptoms most of us had been told to look out for were not present: I never had a fever, lost my sense of taste or smell, or had any symptoms that resembled the flu. The next couple of days in the ICU were bizarre. So many doctors and nurses were grateful that I made it. I found out that my blood oxygen level was at 41 the Sunday that I was transported. If it had not been for Melissa reaching out to my mom (paired with my mother’s intuition), I may not have made it to the hospital to receive the care I needed. 

One of the conversations that stood out the most to me in the ICU was with a doctor who has been working there during the entire pandemic. He told me he had seen more COVID-19 cases than he could count with patients from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, ages, body types, and of course, both vaccinated and unvaccinated. Though he noticed there was one thing in common amongst the people that had the highest recovery rate – the overwhelming majority of them had been physically active for at least the previous 90 days. Something about being physically active seems to increase the lung capacity which is crucial in beating covid. The doctor had been in touch with my mother while I was sedated and found out that I had been consistently working out for five months before being hospitalized.

When the doctor asked me what inspired my change in lifestyle back in March, I told him that the only two things in life I have ever been completely sure about are being a therapist (which I am already doing) and becoming a mother. And when I thought about what it would take to have a healthy pregnancy, especially with my medical history, dropping weight and taking better care of myself was a non-negotiable. I get ultra contemplative around my birthday, and when I thought about what I wanted to accomplish in the next year, five years and 10 years, starting a family was on both the five and 10-year lists – that was in February. By mid-March, I was seeing my trainer Angel from Grit and Gratitude Fitness regularly. As soon as I was strong enough to use my phone, I called her and I wept. Hearing the doctor say that I probably wouldn’t have made it if not for the work I had been putting in with her made me incredibly emotional. I could not have been more grateful. The time, money, and effort were all worth it. As the doctor said, I was “preparing my body for a war I did not know I would be fighting.”

I came across this quote during my recovery process and it stuck with me.

If you poll 10 people, you will probably get 10 different answers on how each of them defines self-care. For me, especially in my 30s, self-care looks like self-prioritization. When I was figuring out how to incorporate personal training into my monthly budget, I reminded myself that if I am willing to spend money on wine club memberships, music festivals, and various items from Nordstrom, I could and SHOULD be willing to spend money on my health. After waking up from a terrible case of COVID-19 with absolutely no respiratory issues, it truly proved to me that choosing to train with Angel was not an expense, it was an investment. I would not be telling this story otherwise.

The start of September was a whirlwind. After leaving the ICU, I was transferred to the Covid wing. Once there, I started physical therapy – well, I attempted to. With the help of three physical therapists, I could not stand up. I was devastated. I allowed myself to mope for exactly one day, then it was time to saddle up. I requested as much physical and occupational therapy as they would give me and did hours worth of exercises on my own each day, especially once transferred to the recovery wing. In less than two weeks, I was standing without assistance, using my walker to get around my room and the hallways, and overall needing less assistance. While I was almost due to be discharged, there was no way I could go to my apartment – there are too many steep stairs. So, my mother graciously offered to host me in her home over the next few weeks. By October 5th, I was able to conquer my stairs during physical therapy without assistance and returned home shortly thereafter.

While I am still moving more slowly than what I was previously accustomed to, I have retired my walker and only use my cane from time to time. I go back to work for the first time later today and am anxiously anticipating meeting my new students.

One thing is for certain: I have absolutely no regrets when it comes to investing in self-care.

How are you taking care of yourself?

Kristin Tappan is a Pasadena-based counselor working towards licensure for Marriage and Family Therapy. Kristin does not shy away from tackling the taboo topics, and she wants all people to be able to do a deep-dive into unaplogetic self-exploration. Outside of her work as a counselor, she writes about all things lifestyle for her blog, keep up with k. tap.

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3 Comments
  1. This story was captivating, I couldn’t put these words down, and super inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing Kristin!

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