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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Eh.. At Least It's Not The Gaza Strip

Being sick sucks...

It sucks more when your whole world is reduced to a two foot by 6 foot hospital bed, which is what happened to me about 2 years ago when suddenly I became inexplicably ill. There are quite a few people in our life who have heard this story and others who went through it with us. It was a horrible time for Chris because we had just got married (no, not because of that) and in addition to celebrating our first anniversary in a hospital wing (and letting his brother and my best friend go on our Hawaiian cruise), unbeknownst to me, he was being told that I was dying and they didn't know why.

We lucked out when they sent us (in an ambulance no less) to UCLA in Santa Monica where within days they diagnosed me and started treating me. However, in the meantime, I had lost my ability to walk (which apparently staying as little as 7 days in bed will strip you of this ability, so what the hell's up with "Misery", Stephen King? She breaks his feet, leaves him in a bed for months on end, drugs him, and THEN he's still able to get up and go? [I love Stephen King, honestly. I used to seek out his work after being forced - yes, forced - to read his work in a high school Horror in Fiction class. Yeah, I fault. After being too scared and intrigued to put down "Salem's Lot", I was hooked. I found myself two years later in the horror section in the college library, picking up some guy named Richard Bachman, reading it and wondering, since I had never read any other horror writer's work, if everyone in this genre wrote in this style. {before you SK lovers start writing, yes, I know SK is RB, but I sure as heck didn't know it then. There weren't no Internet back then and my dinosaur was a bit slow on the retrieving my research off the microfiche...children, ask your parents about microfiche...or look it up on it's replacement, Google.}])... I love that I just had to use braces, then brackets, and then a parenthesis to end a thought... ah, the writer in me...

Anyway, these sorts of days can get very depressing and quickly. I think this particular day was one where they had done a lung biopsy AND a bronchoscopy... The lung biopsy is where they give you a sedative just to do the damn thing and then tell you that you're going to taste blood AND that they may not get it since it's only 3mm big and the smallest they've ever managed to capture was 10mm, so be very still or this could be bad... and then bad means that even with the patient nurse (ha, ha) standing in front of you holding you still and the sedatives strong enough to take Floyd Mayweather, Jr. down and let you dress him up like an Oompa-loompa complete with tiny overalls, you don't just taste blood in your mouth, you feel it in your lungs as you - get this - gurgle blood. You've been told not to move or speak, but even under the sedative you're quite convinced that gurgling blood was not an expected outcome of the procedure, otherwise they would have mentioned it. I mean, they bothered to mention that you might poo yourself and that hasn't...wait, spoke too soon.

The bronchoscopy is where they give you a drug where you're awake, but you won't remember anything. They have to do this so that you can tell them when you are feeling pain. I told them beforehand that I was feeling pain constantly so I didn't know if this was such a good idea. And she, the doctor, tells me that this is when I feel new and additional pain, only I don't remember her saying that because I'm already buzzed out.

Chris had to tell me later that's what she said. She also told me, apparently, to do a certain signal when I was feeling "new and additional pain", but it morphed into this strange sort of half Koko the Gorilla move where I beat on my chest with my left fist a couple of times and grunted. My husband thought this was hilarious. I know because, though I could remember nothing else, I could hear him in the room laughing like crazy while I was drugged up and I clung to that memory as they finished up.

The procedure itself is where they put two devices into your mouth and down into your lungs (hence the twilight drugs) - one to numb the way, the other a camera to capture the scenery of your interiors. The beating on my chest, though they tried to correct me because I was causing the camera to jiggle and record as though an earthquake were occurring every 16 seconds, was to signal to the one operator to spray basically a topical that would take the localized pain away while her miniature Range Rover scurried along inside my inner lung caverns. Chris remarked to her that it was like watching video gamers, the way the two of them handled themselves so easily and deftly. She told him it basically was. "Unless you get something unusual - and that's what we're hoping against - it's pretty much all the same. Cute lungs though." - which I guess translates into "pink and no smoking evidence".

So, after these lovely events, I was a bit worn out, mentally, physically, and certainly emotionally. Chris and I were picking at each other most days because I was frustrated and he was frustrated because I was frustrated and there was no one we knew in town. We bickered a little and I cried a lot because I didn't know what would happen and I was frustrated not knowing if this was the way I was going to be forever.

I rolled over and found a small pile of goodies Chris had brought up for me to entertain myself (other than the 4 local stations that were the only forms of TV found in the whole of the hospital. Cable, anyone?). He would get piles of my favorite crack - entertainment and gossip magazines, which of course I never believed a word of but instead treated like my own fairy stories to help me sleep. The top one, though, was the New York Times. On the front page was a woman washing her 6-month old baby in an abandoned bath tub in the middle of the Gaza Strip. I showed him the picture.

We knew the truth. Had that been me, had I been in the Gaza Strip, washing away, trying to survive, I would have been dead and nobody would have known why, and likely they wouldn't have had the time to find out or care. We had the heard the stories about how mothers would die even here in the US, and nobody would have a clue as to why until they did an autopy. We heard how only 15 years earlier they would have only have been able to extend my life by 6 months, and now I could live at least 20 more years.

I was lucky. I am lucky. Very, very, very, very lucky. Though the doctors originally had misdiagnosed me multiple times, one doctor had mistakenly given me a drug that extended my life long enough for them to figure out what was wrong and treat me. I ended up in the hospital where the two top people in the rheumatology field practiced and therefore got back on the road to being better within days.

I'm lucky.

I don't fight lions for my dinner and I don't have to travel miles for clean water. And it sure as heck ain't the Gaza Strip outside my door.

So now, when things are getting bad, Chris and I turned to each other and say...

Eh... at least it's not the Gaza Strip...

copyright - All rights to the work posted on this site are retained by Cass Van Gelder. If you'd like to use some of my work, please ask. To do so, the permissions must be spelled out in writing...from me...I meant it. I have mean cats; don't make me use them.

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