The joy of starting my journey to becoming a woman was beyond any emotion I had ever felt. After taking my first dose of estrogen I walked to the ocean and stood ankle deep in the cold water. I could see my bright coral colored toenails clearly through the sun-filled sea. The water felt refreshing and I decided, despite the cool temperature, to walk out even deeper until I was almost submerged under the waves. But, I was still wearing my wig and worried it might fall off. I imagined someone coming across a floating pile of hair and being terrified at the site of a middle-aged bald man-like person in a bikini, so I decided not to go under completely.
After an invigorating moment and feeling anew I began to move back towards the beach and thought about the start my new life when I reached the shore. As walked on the warm sand to my awaiting towel and chair, the glow of the setting sun on my face made me smile as the confidence of the women in me starting to emerge. It felt like my spirit was stronger than the sea’s embrace.
In the few steps to my car, I almost collapsed. But I made it to the safety of my air-conditioned vehicle and I thought I could make it on my own to the hospital. Driving well above the speed limit, I arrived just in time. The air was dense and I was unable to get a full breath crossing the parking lot. Inside the hospital, the greeter asked my name and what my problem was, but as I tried to answer they recognized I was in danger and a wheel chair was brought to me. I was rushed through registration. Fortunately, the doctor at the office had called ahead to let them know I was on my way. He had also included in his notes to call me Gia. Even though it wasn’t legal yet, it was comforting to hear new name during the entire ordeal. Lying on an emergency room bed I was given fresh oxygen mixed with other medications, I began to breath a little easier. The doctor on call arrived as I was being stabilized, and his urgency and personal attention was reassuring. Gia, how you feeling?
As the afternoon wore on, my condition slowly improved, but questions about the sudden attack and persistent erratic blood/oxygen levels keep me in the hospital all day. While a battery of tests ruled out a pulmonary embolism, I was admitted and brought to my room on the 3rd floor of Southern Maine Medical Center to monitor my condition overnight. It was the first time I staying in a hospital overnight since I was 3 years old at Children’s Hospital Boston. I wondered about my parents and their emotions 42 years earlier, having to leave their scared child behind after visiting hours ended. My roommate returned from our house with some items to comfort me, including my Hello Kitty pajamas. That bought a needed smile to my weary face. The floor wasn’t crowded so I got constant attention from the techs and nurses through the rest of the evening and night. During the sleepless night I thought about how fragile I really was and also how dependent I was on the kindness of others.
This past week, nearly 2 years since my first asthma attack and beginning hormone therapy, the Boston Marathon was bombed and my hometown was terrorized. Even before the horrific events transpired, I had been wrestling to understand my lifelong struggle with life and death. I had been in Boston this spring for Easter, but also to support my mom, visiting with her as my dad was at Tufts Medical Center for heart surgery. During my visits I spent a few night at my parents’ house and usually went for long walks around my old neighborhood. On one bright sunny morning I decided to walk by a park where 28 years earlier I first tried to end my life. I had been visiting the area for years since that event, but I guess I had buried those dark memories in a life full of confusion and fear. As I walked on the sidewalk alongside the fields and woods, I looked over the moss covered stone wall toward the hill and the grove of trees where I put a belt around my neck. Looking into the past for answers and feeling like a ghost of myself, I felt a sudden coldness on this warm morning. I couldn’t dwell very long, so I kept walking and within minutes my goose bumps had vanished.
A few days later I found myself home in Maine. I left Boston and my mom and dad on Sunday, the day before the Marathon. Fortunately he was recovering and was discharged from the hospital that evening, sent to rehab outside the city. In the aftermath of the disaster I was haunted by the horrific events. Like many, I took the attack very personally and was deeply affected. All week my nights were restless, fighting off demons and a darkness I couldn’t seem to escape from. My asthma and a persistent cough were keeping me from my daily runs as well as keeping up at night. After finally falling asleep I had another in a series of jarring dreams. This one stayed with me for days. In it I agreed to be put to sleep. A friend from my distant past appeared holding a gun. I calmly lied down on a carpeted floor and felt the barrel against the back of my neck. I waited for my life to be over and all my memories to be erased like they never existed. Before he could pull the trigger, I reached out and pinched my friend’s ankle as he stood straddling my back, I guess I was signaling him not to go through with it. Suddenly I awoke in a dizzy and sweaty haze, unsure if I really was alive, awake, or still dreaming.