Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tell Me How You're Gonna Breathe With No Air

When I was in third grade, my legs got kicked out from under me. We were outside playing soccer in PE, and I was participating enthusiastically, despite being one of the shrimpier kids in my class and not being particularly athletic. At one point I was battling for the ball against a boy in my class. He was no bigger than I was, but he managed to swoop his leg around behind me to kick the ball and instead, kicked my feet right out from under me. I fell down hard, flat on my back.

The game moved on down the field as the herd of kids followed the soccer ball, and I staggered to my feet, determined not to cry in front of everyone in my class. Another student asked me if I was ok, and I tried to say yes, but all I could do was make a weird guttural noise. This freaked her out almost as much as it freaked me out and she ran and got the teacher. I ended up having to lie down on my back on the ground while the PE coach pumped my legs to get air back in my lungs. So at the age of eight, I got a vivid realization of exactly what it mean to have "the wind knocked out of you."

Fast forward twenty years and I have pretty much managed to avoid soccer fields and other kicking-related sports that might put me in danger of reliving that experience. Between Jazzercise and Pilates and beginner yoga, I sometimes like to imagine that I have pretty good balance and that my agility and coordination have improved since I was a spastic little eight year old. Sure, the sidewalk can still sneak up on me sometimes, but for the most part I am capable of functioning in day to day life without putting myself in danger of having the wind knocked out of me.

Or so I thought.

Friday was a busy day. I taught my final class on the history of the British novel. I scurried over to the other campus to meet with my advisor, and then meet with a student. The department holiday party was that afternoon, and before I knew it, I was on the train heading home with not much time left before I needed to be changed and ready to go to the Christmas party we were attending that night. And I still had gifts to wrap and a cheeseball to make!

Once I got home, I was on a mission. Put on sequined top, skinny jeans, and boots (because, honestly, what's the point of a holiday if you don't wear sequins?). Decided time did not allow for the cheeseball so we would just bring extra booze and count on other people to supply the food (several of my friends have a flair for the culinary, so this is usually a safe bet, and that night was no exception). I edited David's outfit and made him change so that we were slightly coordinated without being too matchy (no sequins for him!) and then it was time to wrap the gifts.

I grabbed the roll of wrapping paper from its storage bin in the guest room closet and marched with it into the kitchen to use the big counter space for wrapping. I was really on a mission now, taking long strides and carrying the roll of wrapping paper at hip level, sort of like a jousting rod. David was sitting at the dining room table, so I walked by him, chattering about the party, the gift exchange, whatever. I lifted the wrapping paper roll to put it on the counter.

And that is when my hand-eye coordination failed me.

I made some kind of minuscule miscalculation and instead of placing the wrapping paper roll on top of the counter, it hit the edge of the counter and stopped. But I kept moving. I ended up jamming my entire body weight into the wrapping paper roll as it dug its way into my gut, just under my ribs on the right side.

Evidently it was a firm rather than flexible cardboard roll. And I was walking pretty quickly. So if this thing had had a sharp point, it would have impaled me. As it was, it simply knocked all the air out of me in a "whoosh" and I dramatically collapsed to the floor.

I was having a flashback to the third grade soccer game because I was gasping for air but it appeared that my lung had been entirely deflated. So there I was, on my hands and knees on the kitchen floor, unable to breathe in or out, wondering whether I needed to lie down on my back and start pumping my legs or whether I would just start to breath in a second. When I started making a noise that resembled a dog coughing, David got up from the table and came over to assist me. He put his hands under my armpits and dragged me up to my feet and told me to put my hands above my head.

I guess these are the kinds of things you learn to do in PE School, because it worked.

I was finally able to breathe normally again, although even that was a bit complicated because I was also kind of laughing and kind of wanting to cry. Sure, it was totally embarrassing and funny that I had just rammed my entire body into a wrapping paper roll, but it also seriously hurt and really knocked the air out of me. And I suspected that I had bruised a lung (which made for a great conversation starter at the party when I made that casual announcement, "So, I bruised my lung today," and then was forced to admit it was a self-diagnosis as the looks of shock and voices of concern compelled me to full-disclosure).

David continued to mock me for "jousting myself with wrapping paper" and making jokes about how I need to wear full body armor all the time. Until we were home putting on p.j.s and I discovered that there was a serious bruise and red mark on my ribs because I hit that damn roll of paper so hard. Then he felt a little sorry for me.

The point of this story is that my life has now been saved twice by PE coaches. And that it is, in fact, really hard to breathe without air.

No comments:

Post a Comment