They Told Me It Was Gas
Most dates on the calendar pass by with no real significance. We each have a handful of days, though, that we think back on with clarity. We can remember exactly what we did that day, where we were, how we felt: Our wedding day, the dates our kids were born, or the day of some other life-altering event. The JFK assassination, the Challenger tragedy, September 11th.
April 9th is such a day for me.
I was nearing the finish line of my freshman year of college. I had survived moving over 700 miles from home, living with a total stranger, making new friends, and being completely independent and responsible for myself. Not only had I survived, I loved it.
April 9th was a gorgeous, sunny, unseasonably warm day. After a morning full of classes, I couldn’t stand the thought of being cooped up in a windowless room for one more minute, so I played hooky for the first time ever. I met up with my roommate, Erin, and we decided to don tank tops and get some sun. It had been a few days since I’d shaved, but… ‘No matter,’ I thought, ‘It’s not like I’ll be lifting my arms over my head.’
As we basked in the warmth of the spring sun I thought over the fact that I’d been having trouble taking deep breaths lately. I’d noticed it off and on for several days, but the frequency and intensity were getting worse. The night before I had asked a friend, “What does it mean when it hurts to breathe??” His comforting answer: “You probably have gas.” Not exactly what a teenage girl wants to hear. Still, it bothered me enough that I paid a visit to the college clinic earlier in the day. Everything checked out, so I was back where I started.
When it was time to go inside, four short flights of stairs stood between me and my dorm room. I slowly made my way up, in tears by the time I reached our floor. I called my mom, who knew something wasn’t right and told me to go to the emergency room. Erin didn’t have her license and I was in no condition to drive, so we enlisted the help of two more friends and headed off campus.
There were two hospitals nearby, but we planned to drive to one that was an hour away because it had a better reputation. My friend Andrew joked about the one closest to us, St. Mary’s (name changed to protect it’s reputation!), “I’ve heard they kill people there.” It was all fun and games until we met up with someone who knew the area better than us and said, “Follow me. I’m taking you to St. Mary’s!”
On the rest of the drive, Andrew decided to further comfort me by relating a story of the time he had horrible pains and thought something was terribly wrong… until he farted and the pain was miraculously gone. What was with these guys?? “Great,” I thought, “I’ll get to the hospital, pass gas in front of everyone, and be on my merry way. At least they won’t have a chance to kill me.”
Was it gas? Something more serious? And how do my hairy armpits tie in? Stay tuned for Part 2!
Part 2 can be found here.