English Class

How I almost died

Essay for an English class

Why am I alive? What have the gods – Odin, Thor, Freyr, Freyja – intended for my future? What is my purpose in this lifetime?

My family, including myself, went out of town every weekend during the summer, always to the same place, Laugarvatn, a small RV trailer village near the uplands of Iceland. At first, this was the perfect playground, every single inch of the area a place for children to play, but around the time of this incident, I had become bored of this place and was no longer excited about our weekly summer trips there. There is grass everywhere with some copses and some hedges to show where people’s gardens were. There were swings and seesaws in various places in the village. There are five or six roads there for people to get to their RV trailer, and every one of them is an old-fashioned gravel road with a few speedbumps made of wood. A clear lake on the south side was the perfect place to go with some other kids in the area, usually kids from my stepfather’s family. We would play around, jump in, push each other in, or try to get as far as we could by standing upright without getting too cold.

There used to be a small river on the east side of the village running from the top of the mountain to the lake, but now, a rivulet runs down that road. This was the place we went if we had no time to go to the lake. A small town on the west side of the village was where we went to do our shopping in case we had forgotten something before leaving or planned a prolonged stay out of town.

To the north is a giant mountain (at least to the child’seye), in which, my brother and I were told as kids, a giant troll lives in one of the caves on top and protects the inhabitants at the base of the mountain.

My parents have one RV trailer, which they always keep in the area. By parents, I’m not talking about the typical mom and dad situation, but rather about my mom and my stepfather. Their RV trailer is on the road leading through the middle of the neighborhood with a fence of single rope around its garden. My stepfather has built a small porch around their RV, which gives us a little privacy when we go out to enjoy the sun. My stepfather’s parents keep their RV trailer in the area as well, just a little bit farther north. It is not a long distance between them, but in the eyes of an eleven-year-old, it felt far. In fact, I remember one time when my stepfather’s brother was helping their parents, he needed some tool – I think it was a hammer though I am not quite sure – and he just shouted over the area. My stepfather walked over a few minutes later with the needed tool. My stepfather has four brothers, some of whom have kids.

I was always a mama’s boy, up until I came out as transgender in 2017, which turned me into a mama’s girl. Although physically it’s the same woman, my mother is the woman that makes sure that everything is okay with her children and is protective and cautious while my mom is the woman who is caring for her children and does everything for them.

It was the first Friday in July of 2007, a sweltering day, quite unusual for Icelandic weather. We went swimming, like on any typical day, in the small town next to the village and when we came back, my parents began grilling chicken legs while my brother and I went bicycling. Our bikes were old and decrepit, and my brother chose the “better” one. I didn’t care about what bike I used at all. We went down the road towards the entrance and back up the west road, which leads toward the rivulet. Along that road, we rode towards a broken speedbump with its left half of the wood, from our perspective, a little off the ground. My brother went over it without any problem, but as I approached, the front wheel of my bike drove itself down into the wood causing me to fall off my bike with the left handlebar digging its way into my abdomen directly in the lower right part of the epigastric region. This is the area where the middle of the stomach and the pancreas connect. I went unconscious for a few seconds, or so I was told. I have no memory of going unconscious, and, in fact, my memory tells me otherwise. I was incapable of standing up straight. I walked back in more pain than I’ve ever experienced, and once my mother saw me, she immediately knew that something serious had happened. I laid down on the couch in our RV. I did not eat anything that night or the whole weekend.

Around 11 pm that night, just under three hours after the incident, I vomited, and my mom called the nearest doctor who said it was just a concussion, and this would be normal, “we should not have to worry about it” he said. The doctor had no intention of seeing me for he was sure this was only a concussion, and this would be normal. It did not pass. The whole weekend, I would not eat anything, I was vomiting all the time. My mom called the doctor, but the doctor said the same thing every time. “This is just a concussion. Wait and see if this passes by.”

The following Sunday, when we came back home, my stepfather took me to the emergency room. The doctors checked my vital signs. They were skeptical about what was wrong up until I vomited, which was of irregular color, while waiting for the results of the tests. They then put me through a CT scan where they found pancreatic pseudocyst as well as a hole in my pancreas which my spine created, causing pancreatic juice to go all over my body. In short, I had begun digesting myself from the inside.

I was moved to the children’s hospital in Reykjavik, where they regularly took tests to check my vital signs and carefully oversaw the conditions of my pancreas. My mom played for me the movie “The Secret” while I was in the hospital, which changed her way of thinking about the situation. For me, I just stayed there as if this was my new home.

The doctors allowed the pseudocyst to grow by intention, for the removal of it would be simpler. They put me through endoscopic drainage, and because I was a child and it was experimental, the doctors were ready to perform incision surgery in case something would go wrong.

After the surgery, the head surgeon went to my mom and told her it went effectively. My mom said to the surgeon, “I know, I told you so,” and the surgeon answered, “Yes, yes, you did.” There were no internal signs of this incident, not even a scar, when I left the hospital just before Christmas that year.

My brother has always felt like this was his fault for taking the “better” bike. My brother and I used to be really close, but after the incident, he has closed himself off entirely whereas no one has been able to open him up ever since I was in the hospital.

I never felt anything different at the ongoing moment with this experience. A few months ago, though, I noticed that I have never given up on any task that I take to my hand or anything that anyone challenges me in doing. I’ve also noticed how strong person I am and able to handle stressful situations. I guess it has something to do with me knowing I’m still alive and while I am alive, there is nothing going to stop me from my dreams.

I never realized how severe the situation was until I began drafting this essay. Had I not been to the emergency room when I did, I definitely would not be here today. I’ve always been told to enjoy my life, and now looking back to this experience and the severity of it, I understand why it is so important. Make sure you remember to enjoy your time alive – smell the air, see the colors of your surrounding environment, feel the rain fall on your skin, listen to the sounds around you, taste the food you eat – because you never know for sure when things turn around. Enjoy spending time with friends and family. Don’t just rush to work because you have to get paid, enjoy the route you take to work and work in a career you love. It might take a lot of practice for some, but it’s definitely worth it!

Death can come at any moment. No one knows for sure when it happens.

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