The first time I watched Eric Garner die on video was completely by accident. When the videos first surfaced on Facebook, I didn’t click on them. But after multiple shares by friends, I decided to watch. I did not realize that I would eventually be watching a man die before my eyes.
I experienced the video in a different way than some may have, and I continue to think about Garner’s death in the same way as it has resurfaced on social media. As someone with a history of asthma, I have experienced the feeling of not being able to get enough oxygen into my lungs. It hasn’t happened often, but it is always an unpleasant and frightening experience. As someone with Crohn’s, I must get regular colonoscopies; a procedure that requires you to be sedated (but not completely unconscious).
The only feeling worse than a severe asthma attack is the feeling I experience as the sedative kicks in. I don’t know that I can find the right words to describe it. In fact, I know I can’t because I’ve just spent the past ten minutes typing and deleting failed attempts to communicate it. My last try: It’s like your body is telling you that you are about to die while your brain is trying to tell you that you’re not really going to die because your vitals are being closely monitored by a medical professional. But the visceral experience drowns out the logical thought…It’s like your breathing becomes so labored that you eventually become too tired to keep trying.
I say all of that to say . . . I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I just know that that’s no way for anyone to die. I have endured intense levels of physical pain like a boss, but something about the inability to breathe knocks me down to the level of a frightened child.
I’ve been fighting an infection that has made breathing more difficult. There have been multiple times in the past week when I have had the thought, “I can’t breathe.” And I can’t help but to think about Eric Garner’s last moments. And it’s just not right…