Casey Grisez

November 24, 2022

Sticky Notes Lesson #18 - Time Machine

I signed up for a month-long, email-based writing course from Cole Schafer of Sticky Notes, Honey Copy, and Chasing Hemingway fame.

He sends a lesson and prompt every day. I have 10 minutes to read and consider the prompt, 40 minutes to write, and 10 minutes to edit before posting publicly.

I’m posting here to not drown my Casey's Notes content. On to day 18...


"Are... are you sure you've been feeling okay?"

"I think so. Why?"

"Well, I don’t know how to tell you this, but your lung collapsed again. You're probably going to need surgery to fix it."

Today's writing prompt is to put a song you loved as a teenager on repeat and see what emotions it surfaces. I picked the song "Fingers Crossed" by the Swedish punk band Millencolin (can you tell my early taste in music was influenced by my older brothers?).

My lung first collapsed on April 29th of my junior year. The first sign that this was serious was that the pain started on my shoulder blade -- a weird place for pain. It got bad enough that I left school and went to the doctor. He ordered an x-ray, which showed my lung to be about 80% collapsed.

It's called a spontaneous pneumothorax. Basically, there were weak spots on my lung, bubbles formed, then eventually, pop.

The doc said these often resolve themselves. A week later, mine had resolved itself. He ordered another x-ray a week later just to make sure.

A week later, "Are... are you sure you've been feeling okay?"

I felt fine, but my lung was almost entirely collapsed. Surgery happened a few days later.

After surgery (more painful than open heart but less painful than childbirth, according to the doctors), an ICU stint, and five total days in the hospital, I got to go home.

Ten days later, I felt a now-familiar pain, this time on my other shoulder blade. The other lung collapsed. Since the first lung hadn't yet recovered enough to handle another surgery, I spent four more days in the hospital. With things stable enough, I got to go home for 10 days with a valve in my chest to continue recovering.

Another surgery, another ICU stint, and eight days in the hospital (the lung re-collapsed at one point), then I got to go home. This time nothing else collapsed and I was able to stay home.

The Millencolin album Home From Home came out in 2002, so it got a lot of play during my medical adventures in 2003. The song "Fingers Crossed" is about a girl getting back on her feet, but the song has a line that hit especially hard at the time:

'Cause after rainy days the sun will shine

Listening to the song now, I'm transported back to one particular night in the hospital. My mom, a saint who was in the hospital every day from ~8 or 9am to 8pm, headed home for the night. The room lights were dark, but you could hear machines beeping, see fluorescent light peeking through the cracked open door, and feel the bustle of the hospital. Maria was my nurse for the night and she was amazing. Nights were terrible, but I knew I was in good hands with Maria.

My brother brought my CD player to the hospital. It was navy blue Sony Discman that had amazing electronic skip protection. I clicked in the Millencolin CD, plugged in my headphones, skipped to the second song, and hit play. The familiar drum and guitar intro hit my brain. I kept telling myself, after rainy days the sun will shine.

As I listen to the song now, that night in particular and the whole experience in general come flooding back. The pain, the sadness, the frustration, the ups and downs, the confusion, the fear, the anger.

And, like the sliver of light shining in the hospital room from the hallway, I remember a sliver of hope that the sun would someday shine.

On you
I know the sun will shine
For you
I know you'll do just fine
Yeah you
I know the sun will shine
On you, yeah...