My Coming Out Party

Two months ago today, my husband, Ray, and I flew home to Florida from Amsterdam, where I’d become critical ill during a vacation. OLVG Hospital was my home for many weeks: the ICU saved my life and the 7AGastroenterology Unit helped me become familiar with myself again. We miss that amazing community, and this note from my doctor shows you why.

In the past two months, after being cleared by the University of Florida’s Shands, my new go-to hospital, I have made steady progress in holding up my own weight and walking: from a rented Rollator, the sturdy walker similar to the one my mother called “My Cadillac;” to a no-seater; to a cane; to no assistance most of the time.

My basket of home-gym tools is no longer dusty, and my workouts at FYZICAL physical therapy are encouraging and wonderfully exhausting. My body lets me know when I’ve done enough. Sometimes all that means is that I need to stop reading and do nothing for a bit. Sometimes I’m plain tuckered out. One rotten thing about lying in a hospital bed all day is that you don’t have the “ahh” moment when it comes to relaxing into a bed for sleep. I was never a napper; I am now!

As I make progress, I am frequently thinking back to the wise advice I got from one of my OLVG doctors: don’t stress about making it “all the way back” to however you were before your illness; aim for small goals and enjoy the process of being able to recover; and there will be days in which you will feel you are going backwards, rather than forwards.

I had one of those days on Friday. The most I achieved was watching recorded episodes of Dr. Who (we became BBC fans while in Amsterdam) and about six hours of House while lying in bed eating crackers and sipping milk. It wasn’t until I stopped feeling sorry for my sad self that I realized being able to watch a show about hospital life meant that I am indeed making progress. Even if it still hurts to roll over.

I wasn’t at all sure I would be strong enough to carry through on our Colombian neighbors’ invitation to lunch, and I knew it was a stretch for my husband, who is battling his own way back from being a shocked spouse in a strange city hoping his wife will live. We’ve kept to ourselves most of the past two months.

Ajiaco, pandebono and empandas, and avocados were yesterday’s luscious lunch

But, my friend was serving ajiaco, the stew made in Bogotá that I had last tasted in 1971, when my parents, sister and I made a return trip to the city we’d called home in the ’60s. We were treated to orchids and ajiaco by very dear friends, Luis and Andres Cárdenas, boys who had grown to be handsome young men in the five years we’d been away. Their sisters Mai, Isabel, and Teresa and a cousin joined Luis and Andrés for photos in our old house.

The Cárdenas and Amerson kids reunited in Bogotá, 1971

We went. We had a wonderful time eating delicious food in Bogotano hospitality. It is like a miracle to have a friend down my street who knows that the furniture in our entryway is not just a bench but a Colombian escaño, just like I know that our delectable lunch was not a chicken stew but a Bogotá ajiaco.

Magic from the past, like a path back to childhood.