I remember the ice, how it soothed her. She dipped her feet and hands into the frosty water, filled to the brim with pieces of frozen cubes, for it was the only relief she could find. The shaking and fever of pain unrecognizable threw her head back and drew tears from her eyes. The screams, I will never forget the screams. Her hands, on fire. Her feet, on fire. Ice was the only salvation.
The frostbite set in. Her skin peeled away, revealing rouge blisters and wrinkles. She tried, oh how she tried, to resist the sweet temptation of emerging into the cold water. But she was on fire, and the savior never came.
I remember the shocks of electricity that shot through her body; it contorted and shifted into shapes unrecognizable.
I remember the night my mother called, and how as my husband drove us to the hospital, I fell apart. The seizures, almost like rigor mortis, left her shaking and then stiff. The three of us each took a part of her body to hold down, and we each struggled under the weight of her strength. She was seizing and hallucinating, not even knowing we were there. Her screams of terror, for my brother, for me, shot through my heart and crumbled it into pieces. Once, she cried out, “Sis, run! Sis!” She look right at me, through me, to the hallucination she was experiencing. I tried to whisper in her ear, “I’m here, I’m here sis, I’m here,” but she could not hear me. All we could do, my mother, husband, and I, was cry and hold her body down until it passed in the early morning.
I remember when she looked at me, with the desperate eyes of someone terrorized by pain. She did not have to say anything, for I knew what she was asking. I tried with all of the strength I had left, to not cry. I drew my fingers through her hair, knowing there was nothing I could do.
I remember when she was wheeled out of the room that night, falling into my husband, feeling the most heartbreak I have ever felt. I had failed her. I had failed her.
I remember seeing my husband sit beside her bed, staying awake all night, researching cures and catering to her needs. Watching my husband love her as I do.
I remember holding her hand while they put a pic line in. I remember holding her hand when they did the epidural. I remember hearing her screams when they had to redo it. I remember her torture when the third epidural kinked and leaked out every ounce of medicine that was supposed to be going inside of her. I remember holding her as they put the second feeding tube in, because the first one had gotten blocked. I remember them wheeling her off for surgery, and seeing her pleading eyes cut into my heart.
I remember a month. Day after day of sitting in the hospital room, watching my mother’s eyes grow darker. Watching my sister suffer. Feeling my body exhaust itself. I remember us three adults having nothing left to give, and yet, finding a way each and every day to give a little bit more.
I remember the day, two days ago, that my sister was finally released. She is not healed, and she still has a battle ahead of her, but knowing that the cabin fever of those four walls would no longer attack her.
I remember, and I will never forget, what I have witnessed. What my sister has gone through, twice now, is something that makes me faithless. The torture and suffering that she is experiencing is something that I will never understand, and something that I will forever feel ashamed for, for not being able to take away. I will never forget the toll it took on my mother, husband and I. And I will never get back the pieces of my heart that were broken and lost these past five weeks.
But I will also remember the strength, fight, and determination of that tiny girl. How she fought on when everything was failing her, how she fights on now with a body that will not submit to her will. I will never forget the awe I have felt as I witness her carry on. There will never be another human being that stands above her. Ever.
A girl, with hands on fire, now begins the journey of rebuilding. Her pain is not gone, her weakness just setting in, and the uphill trek of finding a way to regain her life is just starting. But sis, if you ever read this, just know that you will make it. You will conquer and succeed. You will be bigger than this because you are bigger than life. And you will never, ever, be alone. I would give another month, a year, or all of my life, if it meant standing by your side. You have people behind and beside you that will never let you fall. It is a privileged and an honor to be your big sister, and I am so very, very proud of you.