Within These Walls

By: J.L. Berg

WITHIN THESE WALLS, he became my solace, my sanctuary, and my strength.

Like a white knight, he saved me from a life of gray and showed me a world full of color.

Within these walls, I gave myself to a man who said he would always fight for me and love me until the end of time.

But sometimes, not even love was enough when life got in the way.

When your heart was already damaged beyond repair, what was left to break?

Within these walls, I gave my less than perfect heart to the man I loved.

And then…he walked away.


Ever so slowly, I began to register my surroundings. My ears kicked in first as my sluggish, tired body came awake. I heard the sound of the pulse oximetry monitor as it beeped away in the background, tugging me out of dreamland. Like most days, before I even managed to crack open my eyelids, I’d take account of my surroundings, listening to the world around me and mentally checking off the things I could hear to determine where I was.

Someone wheeled a rickety cart down the hallway, its wheels spinning and squeaking, as she pushed it to its final destination. Across the hall, someone chatted outside a room. Close to me, the ever-present sounds of the equipment beeped and buzzed while monitoring my oxygen and heart rhythm.

All these sounds together could only mean one thing.

I was in the hospital—still.

Most kids had a favorite grandmother’s house, or a special friend they couldn’t get enough of—I had Memorial Regional. It had been my home away from home since I was an infant.

It was definitely not the same.

Home was quiet and warm.

The hospital bustled with noise at every God-given hour of the day, regardless of whether the sun or the moon was currently occupying the sky.

Staying here also felt like spending a night in a meat locker. I’d learned through my many years here that heat bred infection, which is why nurses buried patients in blankets rather than cranked up the furnace. Standing barely five and a half feet on my tiptoes, I weighed a little over a hundred pounds. No amounts of blankets could ever keep me warm. I seriously loved heaters.

I rubbed my chest as I took a labored breath though my lungs. It crackled slightly as I exhaled. Biting down on my lip, I tried to ignore it, focusing on my one and only goal for the day.

Going home today. I’m going home today, I chanted.

My eyelids reluctantly lifted, my vision blurry at first until the room came into view. Nothing had changed since I fell asleep last night. I saw the same boring, lackluster eggshell-colored walls and the same white board listing my nurse on shift with a little happy face drawn next to her name.

Grace was working this morning. She was young, around my age, and she’d just recently graduated with her nursing degree. She loved happy faces, hearts, and anything else she could draw with a dry-erase marker. She reminded me of a Disney princess. Even in scrubs, she was over-the-top girlie. I swore, one of these days, she was going to break out into song, summon an entire forest full of small animals, and perform a musical, complete with dancing squirrels and singing larks.

But all that would have to wait for another day because I was leaving—today.

What was supposed to be an in-and-out routine procedure had turned out to be another prolonged hospital stay. I was more than ready to get home to my own bed. I hated hospital beds. They were uncomfortable, hard, and never felt right.

Seriously, who makes these things? Do they actually test the beds out? I know the beds are supposed to be functional, but really, they could add some padding.

I’d arrived at the hospital two weeks ago, expecting to stay a couple of days, to switch out the battery in my pacemaker, but as always, things hadn’t gone as planned, and I’d ended up in the hospital—again.

Story of my life.

But not today. Today, I was free—well, as free as my life would allow.

I was born with a heart defect. Basically, my heart was larger than it was supposed to be. It made breathing and mostly everything else difficult because my heart had to work ten times harder than normal. In a nutshell, this little defect controlled my entire life.

It was also slowly killing me, which was why I couldn’t wait to break free of this prison. When you were living your life on borrowed time, every second you had to spend watching the days pass by through a hospital room window was one moment less you had to be doing something meaningful.

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