the fallout

So where was I?

Oh, yeah… Dwelling on inevitability. Surgery. All that joyous stuff that makes life grand for me. August 7th, 2007 was an extremely surreal experience in that my focus had to be elsewhere instead of impending doom and gloom (thank you Oren Koules, Jim Sherrin and Doug Maclean). Surreal may be a strong word for it. A grand, welcome distraction might be a better phrasing. Having a friend come over to spend some time with me and further distract me only aided to things.

The next day was no better – wanting to deal with that story and yet lying in a hospital gurney most of the day while waiting an angiogram: the pre-operative procedure as bad as I dreaded (but with a great staff of physicians trying to deal with my issues and some medical breakthroughs since my last angiogram that kept me from being bed ridden).

You know, I feel like I’m being shallow in the details but at the same time — there weren’t many meaty details before I was trucked off to the ninth floor at Tampa General Hospital where I stayed overnight before surgery. Besides pain issues with thanks to the angiogram, everything went swimmingly.

And how can I properly term my stay at TGH besides saying I was surrounded by good omens and positive energy? Days previous to surgery, I’d gotten a religious card sent to me with the only Patron Saint I identify with. It’s sorta grim but after I learned about him (and wrote about a poem where I invoked him) I didn’t see it as an ill omen as-so-much familiarity. I can deal with familiarity.

When I got to the ninth floor, who greets me warmly but an old friend from High School who works as an Registered Nurse on the floor? It was good mojo to see her, realize who she was and have come right up to me and say hi.

Another thing that was positive and yet drenched with negativity was a nurse I had overnight who I couldn’t understand due to her accent. She was warm, pleasant and tried her best to overcome things and I found myself mad that I had gotten frustrated with her.

Of course, all the while I had continued grim thoughts of impending doom. Was I due for a severe physical setback such as a stroke? Loss of vision? Hell, this was going to be the third time I had a variation of this operation and my luck was due to run out at some time — was this it? I started dreading the thought of the anesthesia mask and falling into the black void of the unknown outcome.

At 2 AM I asked for someone to talk to – anyone – and got a staff chaplain come up to my room. I’m not a religious person in the least but I know these people listen and speak where and when they need to and I needed to speak and get my worries off my chest. I’d already dealt with the unabashed “You’ve done it before, you will be fine” rhetoric from family and that did not address fears and concerns at all.

I felt like Neo in the original Matrix, facing Agent Smith’s “inevitability” rhetoric.

The Chaplain’s name was Ken and he did what I needed him to do — just to listen, just to interject where he could. I laid out my whole belief thing and rambled a bit about faith and my own cynicism… I told him that some of me was cocky and couldn’t see me not coming out all right from this major operation, and the other part of me was a realist that knew that things don’t go well all the time, things don’t always pan out.

I told him I was afraid of the reprocussions – being a burden on my family or leaving things unattended if the worst happened. And that’s basically been the hidden truth the past few months knowing that I had a major operation before me — I don’t want to be a burden on my family and I don’t want to be irresponsible and leave those I care for hanging.

There’s more but it’s been two weeks and I’ve forgotten it all by now. Ken prayed for me and promised to keep me in his thoughts during the day. It’s not the biggest promise one can make in the world but it’s something I needed to hear. It’s something I needed to be told. It was stuff I needed to say and needed someone to actually listen to and I’ll forever be grateful that I had this meeting.

So now the wheels are rolling and at 6:30 I’m carted off to pre-op. I ask the guy “driving” my hospital bed if he’s open to a bribe to take me anywhere else.

Not happening. Shit.

That sense of having to face impending doom was still with me but the staff — knowing i had hearing problems and what not already — were very accommodating. It was good mojo, it was good Karma. Fear was still there but something was working in my favor unbeknownst to me. I stress that… Everywhere I worried, things were working in my favor even if I couldn’t see them.

I saw two of my doctors in the OR emmediately before I was put under… It was reassuring, it was calming. I have to admit Harry van Loveren has a presence and Christopher Danner is a comforting soul. It really made a difference to see someone farmiliar in the room when you’re being prepped for surgery like that.

And then they gassed me…

One thing anyone who has never had surgery should wonders about is what you see and feel once you go under. I’ve had weird visions before, I’ve been able to fight anesthesia before and stay awake when I should have passed out minutes earlier… This time, the dark abyss came instantly when I went under. Besides some chaos and hockey — yeah, hockey… that’s what I think anyway — my sleep was pretty much fine. Fine, indeed, because I woke up.

I didn’t just wake up, I woke up knowing. I woke up comprehending. I woke up aware and whole. I was sure of it, I woke up whole.

I caught a glimpse of one of my doctors immediately post op when I was in recovery and I started touching my fingers to my nose — which is used as a test to see if you’ve had a stroke, doing this simple task. Me doing it caused the doctor to laugh but in reality, me doing it was a big “fuck you” to the guy for scaring me with this shit in the first place. He had laid the seeds of dread, of fear, of loathing and despair… and here I was…. Alive. Drugged. Whole.

Whole.

And it was proven further in ICU where I stayed Thursday night and most of Friday. One of my nurses wrote down a few questions asking me routine stuff and my first thought was “brain trauma questions” — something like a concussion victim would be asked. I tried to have (sane) fun with it but I was drugged and you never know how loopy some of the reactions may have come out. But mocking the president when asked about the year, making an odd remark about the floor which you are currently on in the hospital, that’s what came out with the honest to God answers of “2007” and “5th”.

I knew damn well where I was, when I was, what was going on, what had happened…

Good mojo, mon. Excellent mojo.

That’s the only thing I can take from my experience. People may have said they were sending me positive thoughts but it was like I truly was engulfed in it. I had my aunt and uncle visit most of the weekend and they made time fly. I had my younger brother visit — and I know it’s hard for him to see me in the hospital – which made a huge impact on me just because I know how tough it is for him. I had friends stop by over the four days I was in the hospital… Four days! That’s less than most of my hospital visits! It all had such an effect on me. Great staff, good company.

Oh, and those drugs kicked ass too, make no mistake.

The title of this post is “the fallout” and the truth is the fallout happens to be I’m still here. I’m still kicking and while I’ve had my bang ups and my misteps and my aches, pains and long nights of suffering since I was released from the Hospital, I’m alive and optimistic once again. I’m “trying to get my head on straight” and have bouts of tunnel vision from my hospital experience which pisses me off at times because there is a world going on around me… But I’m improving and broadening my horizons again daily.

The fallout is that I’m fine. I’m good.

And St. Jude and lost causes are what I identify with… yet I’m no lost cause, not as long as I want. And to want is to strive. To strive is to live and to live is to be.

…And I be back.