Last Tuesday night I heard angel wings. They were beating the air powerfully, right above my bed.
So here’s the back story. A week ago Sunday, I woke up with a fever and beefy red splotches all over my chest and abdomen. Rather than call my doctor right then, as I should have done, I figured it could wait for office hours Monday morning. By the time I spoke with him, the red splotches were gaining land mass and the fever was 102.
“Pack a bag,” he advised.
I was admitted to the hospital with a diagnosis of cellulitis, a fierce bacterial infection of the skin and subcutaneous tissue that can be life-threatening. The only bed that was available was on the oncology unit, which, at the time, I was too sick to fuss about. Next time, I’ll wait in the car until something else opens up. I had a baby a long time ago; how about the postpartum floor? Or I was a baby a longer time ago, what’s wrong with pediatrics?
But there was a bed with sheets and pillows and a blanket, and I just wanted to roll my diseased and rotting self into them and sniffle. My admission temperature was 103, and a couple of nurses scurried. Ice bags for cooling. Needle sticks for blood cultures. A couple more sticks to get an IV started. Like being continually bitten by a hellish little dog. And a nurse telling me I had to take off my beautiful flowered jamies and put on a hospital gown. “No,” I said. The jamies stayed.
IV antibiotics up, fever down. The next day I felt a bit better. Still wrung-out and limp, but like I’d lived through a long night of swimming in a hot swamp. But wait…fever tends to be diurnal, and evening was coming around again. Back pain, headache, vomit, shaking chills, 103.4.
More scurrying, ice bags, needles. It’s hard to describe how miserable this was. But while I was gripping Jerry’s hand and recalling patients from my ICU past, long ago, who had not lived through overwhelming infection, I heard angel wings.
It was just three or four times, while my eyes were closed and the room spun a little. Whump-whump-whump. And again. It was coming from above me, toward the ceiling and a little to the right. I tried to picture the huge, heavenly being that would need wings as powerful as the rotor blades on a helicopter, and I wondered how it would fit into the room.
Such is fever, that the mind lends itself to wild imaginings. The next morning, temperature out of the volcano range, I laid in bed and listened to the vibrating thrum of the IV pump and the whoosh of the air conditioning vent above me. With my cooking brain serving as the sound technician, these two noises were the tracks that I mixed into flapping angel wings. By the cool light of morning, I was a little disappointed.
So if all I heard was an IV pump harmonizing with the air conditioner, does that mean we had been left alone, with the nurses and fever and pain?
I don’t think so. The angels were there.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday. Psalm 91