(April 26th, 2018)
Typically, I avoid writing blogs in hospital beds. Just like I avoid having bachelor parties at funeral homes and birthday parties at landfills. It’s just not an environment conducive to inspirational output. But I’m going to be honest with y’all: if I don’t find something to distract me from the broccoli farts I’m cranking out like Trump Tweets, I’m liable to jump out of the fucking window. I’m not even exaggerating a little bit.
Luckily, I know I’m purposefully not going to finish this blog here. I’ll probably wait until I’m at my office and need a break (which is exactly what I’m doing). I learned my lesson when I wrote my last blog from a hospital bed 8 and half hours before my quintuple bypass surgery that ultimately killed me a couple of times. That one cut way too close to the bone. To the point where to this day I can’t read it. It takes me right back to that moment, and a knot is tying itself in my throat right now thinking about it.
But like I said: Broccoli farts.
I guess I’ll explain why I am here, and why I’m finally choosing to write about it…
On the morning of the 21st, my defibrillator decided to fire about 15 times and I’m pretty sure there was a lightning bolt that came out of my ass. If looking like a human version of Tampa Bay’s hockey team logo wasn’t bad enough, I found out I was in AFib, which essentially means that the top half of my heart had gone rogue. After drugs we given and prescribed, I was sent home, only to return Monday morning in worse shape. No defibrillator shenanigans, just nausea and exhaustion – which I’ve learned are not good signs. After waiting all day in the ER I was taken up to a room and settled in for an unknown length of time.
The next thing I remember is was people scrambling around me and hearing the familiar “code blue” chime going off. You spend enough time in a hospital and you hear stuff like that: Some chime or voice directing nurses and doctors to a room where a patient is crashing. I just wasn’t used to hearing my room number being the one being called…
Apparently, my kidneys had just failed.
Not slowed down, not strained.
Stage 3 kidney failure.
I remember nurses frantically rolling my bed down the hall to the elevator and riding down to the third floor. I kept trying to look around and see what the hell was going on, but I could barely lift my head. As badly as I wanted to go back to sleep, the nurses kept telling me to stay awake, and I generally don’t make it a habit to argue with them. Besides, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about (not realizing it was about me.)
As soon as they got me to the third floor a doctor came running up to us and started ordering people around. “This guy has his shot together,” my sleepy brain registered. Then, he grabbed me by the face and said “I have to start a central line, and I don’t have time to numb you all the way up.” I nodded like I knew what the hell that meant. “This is going to hurt,” he said very plainly, and went to work. Dude wasn’t kidding. Having an IV line inserted into your jugular vein and then sewn into place sucks. A lot.
Once they got the central line in, they then began pumping me full of every IV fluid known to man. Graciously I was finally allowed to pass out without any real idea of what the hell was going on.
The next morning I woke up to the news that I’d gotten close enough to dying to absolutely freak out the doctors involved. One doctor said “we work in certainties. 90-95% is what we like to deal in and you were a very, very uncertain case.” I told him I’d gladly come in a couple of times a year and test their mettle if he was interested.
So a day goes by, and while they had be assuming and preparing for the fact that I surely needed dialysis, my kidneys fired right back up and went to work. I was given the glorious blessing (read: torturous insertion) of a foley catheter (giant tube in my netherparts), and stuck in bed for 5 days. When they took the catheter out I was able to wander around a little and after 7 days I was sent home.
From death’s door to home free in 7 days. Not bad.
The consensus is that between a weak heart and dehydration, my kidneys took the brunt of the damage, but after all the drugs and adjustments to my medications – I was fine.
So, now to the gritty part. Last weekend I was with friends who I haven’t seen in a while and everyone asked “how have you been?”. It was awkward to explain that I felt great, but had almost been dead 10 days prior. I never said anything about being in the hospital to anyone outside my family. Not because I don’t think that people don’t care – but because I hadn’t taken the time to mentally and emotionally process how I felt.
One thing about having a life-changing condition like heart failure that people don’t consider is the mental and emotional stress it puts on someone. I can’t begin to explain to you what it feels like living in a time bomb. You do everything you can to stay healthy – and I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t do enough, but there is always that lingering fear of what’s going to go wrong next. I was talking to someone very near and dear to me and I mentioned that this particular hospital trip had me in a serious funk. She simply said “don’t lose your attitude – it’s the best part of you.”
She was right… I have fought day in and day out to get my life back to some semblance of normal. I landed my dream job, I’ve fixed old mistakes, and I’ve completely changed my way of thinking. I went through the depression. I fought to keep moving forward. And in the end – this is what I’ve learned:
Life, no matter how fucked up, is beautiful. I can’t tell you the joy that I feel just waking up. Knowing I’ve got another chance to grab life by the throat and push it around. But don’t be fooled: life will always swing back. No matter what you do – there are going to be days when life kicks you square in the mouth. It’s up to YOU to run your tongue across broken shards of teeth, spit out a mouthful of blood, look life square in the eyes, and say “You hit like a bitch.”
If I leave any lesson for life with you – let it be that.
Wow! I needed to read this Today. Thank you, Justin!
Incredible! I totally get the not being able to share with anyone what it is like to be in the hospital one day and back in daily life the next. It’s a surreal experience. Living with a chronic condition, I, too, am grateful for every breath, every new day; relishing in the knowing that life truly is beautiful. Thanks for sharing this…I enjoy your writing.