For Context: This post is the second in a series which talks about my experiences of the last year, my illness, and subsequent hospitalization and recovery. There is a LOT of stuff that I simply don’t know. Things happened that I was not aware of at the time. I will NOT try to explain the illness too much, as I want this to be about what I experienced, and not a report on my health, nor a treatise on the health care industry. This is more or less a list of things that happened, and not a narrative story. Someday maybe I will get to write that. This post is a summary of events from around 12/9 to around 12/15/2009.
What is Real?
“If real is what you can feel, smell, taste, and see, then ‘real’ is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain.” – Morpheus, The Matrix (1999)
I’m honestly not sure these days, how much of what I remember was real, and what was a hallucination. I had a lot of dreams about what was happening to me. For a while I was convinced that I was captured or kidnapped. There were ‘Doctors’ in my dreams, and they were usually good guys who wanted to help me but simply couldn’t. They couldn’t let me go. That’s all that I wanted. I wanted to go home. I thought about my wife, our son, and the baby that was on the way, and all I wanted was to get back to them.
Sometimes I thought it was Al–Qaeda, sometimes it was aliens, sometimes it was the ‘Shadow Government.’ What I couldn’t figure out though, was what they wanted from me. I kept telling them that there was no reason to hold me hostage. “There’s no money. No one can give you money for me,” I kept telling them. But they wouldn’t listen. They never listened.
I did try to escape, and almost made it a couple of times. Although, where would I have gone? I can remember when they started putting the ‘mittens’ on me. They were huge wrapped pads on my hands that were supposed to keep me from pulling my wires and tubes out. They started with plain Velcro, but I was able to pull that off with my teeth. Then they wrapped them with tape. And I think they ended up doing something even more drastic, but I can’t remember. Pretty sure that I was tied down at one point.
What was really happening was this:
When I came to the ER at VVMC [see original post titled “Oct 31st through Nov 6th, 2009”] one of my lungs was half full of fluid. It turned out that this was “Community Acquired Pneumonia” which is really BAD. I also had the H1N1 Flu virus. Nice huh? They had put me under sedation and set up oxygen and all kinds of other stuff. Then, for some reason, decided that the best thing to do was to put me into a forced coma using… Drum-Roll-Please… Methadone!
Awesome, right? Who in their right goddamn mind induces a coma with Methadone? Isn’t there a better way?
During all this time other things were happening. Organs were shutting down and getting better and all kinds of crazy stuff. I had dialysis and several other procedures, and a bunch of blood transfusions. I don’t want this to be about that stuff though. I want it to be about the other stuff…
The following is not necessarily in the correct Temporal Sequence. The timeline is kind of jumbled for me, and I don’t remember everything in the order in which it happened. I ‘woke’ up and drifted off quite a few times, so “The First Thing I Remember” is not always the first thing that happened… so to speak.
Now, I’ve been anesthetized before. Several times, in fact, for various procedures such as minor surgery and dental stuff, and I’ll tell you, I do not react well. I hallucinate, and ramble and tell people some insane things. Methadone is a HARD drug. Do not let anyone tell you different. This is the crap they give HEROINE addicts. I told nurses that I was the Regional HR Manager for Subway Sandwiches. I went on and on about the number ’42.’ I tried to get my family to help me with my escape plans, and rambled on the phone to my friends about standing in fields and stuff (which, now that I think about it might have been about cows… Professional Cows, you know, those outstanding in their fields…). The biggest thing probably was when I started going off about the year 2012.
I read a lot of science fiction, and watch a lot of movies and TV (no, really Gabe? Not YOU?!?!). Not just awesome stuff like The Matrix, or Warehouse 13, but documentaries and even the news sometimes. One of my favorite sci-fi series of books was William Gibson’s ‘bridge’ trilogy. In it a guy named Colin Laney can see ‘nodes’ in the fabric of cyber space and predict certain things based on the data patterns. The final book (All Tomorrow’s Parties) has Colin mostly sitting in a cardboard box watching a huge node and predicting the end of the world, or the beginning (as Aughra said, “End, begin, all the same. Big change. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad.”). It’s a point in history where certain events converge and the world is forever changed. This is basically what I told people that 2012 was. An underlying shift in how the world operates; something that changes the essential fabric of everything.
Sound crazy? Does it sound even crazier coming from an induced coma patient who is now addicted to methadone? Frankly, this is what I believe, although I’m not entirely convinced that it will come on December 23rd 2012. It may be sooner, or later, or may have already happened. We don’t know. Most people will never even notice when it happens. Just remember that the ‘end of the world’ is not Armageddon or the Rapture, just a change.
Well, it sounded good to some people. I guess someone heard me rambling, told someone who told someone, who told someone else who told someone else and the story ended up on Coast to Coast AM. [I have not listened to that broadcast yet, so i don’t know what part to listen for]
When I woke up I was pretty out of it. Also my legs didn’t work, some muscles had atrophied, or nearly atrophied. My arms only worked marginally well. I also had a butt-load of tubes and wires sticking on me and out of me. I include this only for context.
THE FIRST THING I REMEMBER is…
I can remember some people visiting me. My wife was there a lot. She said that they asked her if I was an alcoholic. She said ‘no.’ because I’m not. And then one time when I came around I asked for a beer. Hehe. I think my exact words were “My woman and a beer.” I cannot stress enough how much it meant at the time and still means to me now to have someone like that with me when waking up from such a nightmare. I didn’t trust any of the people in the hospital because I thought they were out to get me. With Nat and the rest of my family nearby I was able to be slightly sane. Even if it drifted in and out.
THE FIRST THING I REMEMBER is…
One thing I remember which turned out to be really real, was the sucker and the sponge. A small sucker, either a dum dum or a tootsie pop, not sure which, was in my mouth, and it was the greatest thing ever. It was my mom and her husband, trying to make me more comfortable, and it was good. They were allowed to give me a sponge with water and let me lick the sucker as long as I didn’t try to eat it or something. Which would have been nearly impossible anyway since I hadn’t figured out how to work my mouth yet. Also, my taste buds were f*ed to hell. Sugar was good, everything else was bad.
For the next 2 months my taste buds would slowly return, but there was a burnt taste to everything in those early days. The first meal I ordered from the cafeteria was the worst thing I had ever eaten. I think it was Salisbury steak, but it could have been sautéed wood shavings for all I knew. Almost everything I ate had a horrible smoky, just completely disgusting burnt wood taste.
THE FIRST THING I REMEMBER is…
Asking about Thanksgiving. When I was put under in Cottonwood, one of my last conscious thoughts was about Thanksgiving. I’d really been looking forward to it because I wanted to gorge myself on ham and turkey. When I woke up, that’s what I was thinking about. I remember groggily asking someone how long until Thanksgiving and being told that it was over. Man. That really hit home with me on what had been going on. I still wasn’t sure what was real, but if thanksgiving was over then something really serious must have happened.
THE FIRST THING I REMEMBER is…
Natalie. I remember Natalie being there when I woke up (or one of the times). She had some pictures in frames for me, so I could see people I knew whenever I wanted. There was a picture of her and Dylan at a booth at the fun center in Prescott, a picture of me, Raph and Luke together, and another picture, which at first I didn’t know what it was. Again, I was very out of it. I still wasn’t sure where I was or even who I was, so when she asked me who the picture was of, I said “Jimmy Hendrix,” which was the first name that popped into my head. I think that I lied on purpose because I was quite paranoid and didn’t want to give anyone any information whatsoever. In reality it was a sonogram picture of our daughter. Once I realized who I was talking to and understood what was going on, I told her that I recognized the picture.
And there was stuff there too. A plush Dilbert, a poster from Iron Man, a bunch of cards and flowers, some miniature remote control helicopters, and (for some reason) a jar of nuts. We found that jar in the garage the other day, and I still only vaguely remember having it with me at all. Also, a Monkey and a Wheelchair. The wheelchair was there because my legs didn’t work, and the monkey was there because he was stuffed and in bed with me. I took that monkey with me everywhere. My brother had a post on the now-defunct getwellgabe.com that detailed how he’d go for a walk with me, and I’d go “Oh No. We forgot Monkey,” and we’d have to go back to get him. That monkey and a few other things traveled with me to the rehabilitation hospital later on. And I keep him with me to this day on my bedside table.
OH. At this point I coughed and the plug in my trachea popped out! Yeah, just popped right out and I didn’t know what to do about it. I wanted to put it back in because I couldn’t talk with it out. A nurse came in and was going to put it back, but they decided that it wasn’t worth it, taped up my neck and said it would heal. Which it is still in the process of doing.
And that’s the end of the beginning. At this point I’m transferred to the Rehab Hospital, and will continue the series there. I was getting a little exercise, and walking with the help of a physical therapist and a walker. I was drinking a TON of juice and water every day and breathing in and out. I was wheeling myself all over the place and using my phone for texting, email etc. There was no 3G, but I found an open WiFi connection near the end of my stay there. However, I don’t think I started tweeting or anything until I went to Prescott. I will of course double check this later. [yes, its true. see below]
My first Tweet since Halloween, on December 18th, 2009:
Goodby hospital, I shall not miss thee. Hello new rehabilitation center, may our relationsship be brief.
Until next time…