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Friday, January 6, 2017

Cheating Death

Because I would not stop for Death, he kindly stopped for me.

I've cheated death twice that I know of.

The first time I was 5. We were just little things with weird ideas, exuberant fan experiences and a willingness to try anything once. One day when dad handed me a carrot as a snack I loaded it with salt like my friend, Terry and my sister did. I then proceeded to eat it like Bugs Bunny. There were two problems with that choice. One that much carrot can not be properly swallowed by a real live human throat. And two, that much salt will both tickle and irritate the lining of one's throat and over produce saliva. It was a bad combo.

I was munching away toward the living room to finish watching cartoons when the tsunami of saliva brought an over filled mouth full of poorly chewed carrot down my throat and the salt tickled it enough to cause a hic without the up. The mash was lodged well and good. I didn't really panic at that point. Instead, I went to my mother who was sleeping in her recliner, patted her on the arm until she woke up. She opened one baleful eye looked me over and went back to sleep. No biggie. Turned around and went to dad. Half way to dad I was starting to not be able to breathe. By the time I got back to the kitchen I was panicking. I grabbed at dad's pant legs while he was doing dishes. He didn't understand right away. He started chastising me for interrupting his chores, again, before he was done with dishes. I remember something about "You just ate a carrot you can't have anything else til..." I guess that is when he turned around to see me turning weird colors. As he was reaching for me I was passing out.

And I was out. I didn't remember the carrot coming back up. I don't know how I was at one point in the kitchen then the next on the couch in the living room with a fully alert and wild eyed mother yelling at my dad to do something. He'd already got the carrot out so there wasn't much more that he could have done. I almost died. No drama. No exaggeration. I almost died. And that was one of the only weekends in which I was allowed to stay with Gramma and Grampa by myself. My consolation for freaking everyone out was that I was sent away for a few days. I don't know why. I only know that the reaction to most of my mishaps was some Gramma Olive time.

The second time I almost died I didn't have Gramma Olive for comfort or Dad to rescue me. It was a year after he passed, to the day. I'd gottan an infection after I raked the back of my head on a low hanging branch when I was mowing the lawn at Dad's. I saw a doctor who treated it. It went away and I felt fine. But then after a week the infection came back. I was scheduled for a follow up. So I didn't think anything much of feeling woozy. I went to work. Came home and took a nap. I almost didn't wake up.

The alarm went off for  so long without me hearing it that I didn't have time for a shower. I couldn't have taken one if I wanted to. My feet were lead. I was short of breath and dizzy. I got into the car and wad half way to town when I lost most of the feeling in my legs. I had to use my hands to put my feet on the right pedals. By the time I got to the doctor I was so weak I had to use the elevator. When I got to the reception desk I had lost my ability to focus. There nurses didn't even make me wait for the doctor. I was taken right back into the exam room. He rushed in then told me to get to ER which was literally one half block away. And he would meet me there unless I wanted him to drive me.

I should have let him drive me. He'd done a swab of the wound in my head. He was able to put the probe in me a full 9 inches. I felt nothing. He felt my arteries and detected hardness to within a few inched from my heart. "You have 15 minutes to live if you don't get to ER."

And apparently no one at the hospital doubted him. I got in, got a bunch of IVs stuck in me and rushed into ICU. It was the shortest amount of time I have ever spent in triage including this near heart attack. I was flooded with antibiotics, tested every hour to see if any of the infection had reached my organs which would undoubtedly have lead to sepsis. It was a harrowing 24 hours to wait before knowing if the infection was clearing. I spent three days in the hospital before being told I would actually really be okay. And one more day of observation to be certain.

So this illness doesn't scare me. In all honestly. I've always been more afraid of living than I have been of dying. Death is the end of discomfort, suffering, depression, anxiety and worldly bullshit. I've always believed it was something to look forward to more than to fear. It will be the end to my student loans, my housing issues, my struggles to produce sellable art. It is the end of worrying what will become of me, my friends and the human race. It is the end of watching the doomsday clock and wondering who the Nero-esque fucktard who blows us to kingdom come will be. It is the end of abuse, the end of hyper-vigilance.

I'm not scared of Death. I'm scared of the complications of living with this disease.

It's another monkey wrench in my plans. It's another hurdle to have to get over, under,around, through or just plain stare at like a piece of street art. This isn't something that you cheat. Congestive heart failure isn't treatable. I don't have 30 more years. I am, as I have told some friends, on my last decade. I have to decide how that decade is going to look . I've cheated him twice. And at least this time, I am given some warning that he intends to visit again.

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