So… there I was, lying in a feeble state, with my chin covered from left to right with bandages. As if that was not enough, there was an NG (nasogastric) tube hanging precariously from my nostrils and a tracheostomy protruding from my throat. The tracheostomy, as I said in a previous post, was put in to prevent my damaged tongue from slipping into my throat. The NG tube was a feeding tube, placed into my stomach via my nostrils. This tube produced a lot of discomfort. I comforted myself with the thought that there probably would not be much more with which to deal. I was wrong.
It could have been the antibiotic, as the doctors said, or it could have been due to the injury itself. Whatever the reason, there was constant dribbling and oozing from the wounds on my chin. I ran through at least one roll of paper towels during the day. What made it worse was that I could not even feel those fluid invasions on my chin. I just had to constantly wipe or pat to keep looking clean. At this point, the injuries left by the bullets to my jaw, were open wounds which left two gaping holes on both sides of my lower jaw.
One morning a nurse attending to me asked if I had looked at my wounds. To this I replied a definitive no. I was afraid, I think, to see my own reflection. As I walked from the safety of my nest, my hospital bed, to the washroom or the shower, I passed the nurses station. That was not too bad, however I also encountered numerous persons waiting either to be seen by one of the House doctors or waiting to be admitted. What was the lesson here?
I imagined what I must have looked like to these people. There I was, significantly thinner having lost at least ten pounds, dressed in an oversized nightgown and with my latest accessories- the tracheostomy, the NG and huge bandages. I felt I looked like an alien. The stares did not help. I really felt sorry for those people. I was accustomed to people looking at me, mainly because I love to smile. It was a lesson in humility for me to be in front of so many people without my hair properly combed, without my makeup, especially lipstick, and without my smile.
I began to empathize with others who are stared at because they look different. I could not even look at other people directly, except from afar. I was actually happy that words could not exit my mouth. I did not have to explain anything nor answer any questions. My acceptance of this condition surprised even me. I, who would not even go out into my yard without lipstick, I was completely devoid of any enhancements and yet it did not perturb me. What was done, was done and had to be dealt with in all humility for survival.
The truth is that I realized that staring and gaping were inevitable. Fortunately I also recognized that what I looked like now, the defects being observed did not change who I was. I could still use my brain. I could still think and reason and analyze. Being able to communicate by writing and hearing was still possible. I could feel love, anger, hurt, happiness and sadness. I could be prayed for and say my prayers silently. I was still loved and protected by the Almighty.
Knowing these truths about myself shielded me from the futility of vanity, protected me from self pity and kept me humble not belittled. I dwelt on thoughts of our Maker, I focused on “trivial” matters necessary for quotidian existence and my spirit was elevated beyond my greatest expectations.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity