Underneath my yellow skin

The lessons I’ve learned

It’s been almost eight months since that night. It’s something t hat is always in the back of my mind, if not the front. I don’t talk about it much, but it’s there. I was reading Ask A Manager (one of my stories) and there was a question about what to answer when someone asked why they were still wearing a mask. Ask A Manager’s response was to educate people because there’s still a goddamn pandemic going on. My immediate snap response in my head was, “I died twice last year–I would prefer not to due it a third time.” I have always had a morbid sense of humor; it’s only gotten more so since the medical trauma.

I am pleased that many of my lifelong issues have disappeared since then. First of all, how freaked out I was by the pandemic. Granted, this was before there was a vax and reasonable. I did not want to get COVID because I have a weak immune system with the tendency towards bronchial issues. I got bronchitis quite often and every winter, I had some kind of cough for several months. I was terrified of getting COVID and rarely went out because of that fear. I went to get my meds once a month and that was it. I had my Taiji classes online three times a week and had my groceries delivered to me.

When I woke up in the hospital, I did not have to wear a mask, obviously. Except when I was being transferred from room to room, which wasn’t that often. Everyone around me had a mask on, but I did not. I was tested for COVID when I was first admitted and did not have it. I DID have walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, which started the whole mess. This may sound weird, but having something that terrible and traumatic happen to me freed me from my pandemic-related anxiety. I hasten to say that I was vaxxed by that time (twice) so that did help in my assessment of my situation. But, my point is that I realized there was more to life (and death) than the pandemic.

Would I have wanted to go through what I did? Meaning walking non-COVID-related pneumonia, two cardiac arrests, and a stroke? Hell, no. It’s why I have some difficulty talking about it with people who struggle with, say, body image issues. I had those all my life. I hated my body for many reasons and spent most of my life studiously ignoring that I had a body. I hated it and would prefer to think that it didn’t exist. Taiji helped me become neutral about it, but that was the best I could do. And it was a conscious choice to deliberately work on not hating it. However, I still didn’t look in the mirror and I still didn’t like my body. I put up with it, like a long-term partner whom you did not love any longer, but were mostly comfortable with.

Then, the medical trauma happened as I mentioned above. A week of unconsciousness, followed by a week in the hospital while I was awake. One minute I wasn’t, and then the next minute, I was. I was scared, upset, and mad as hell when I woke up. I was angry and ready to fight. I didn’t know who needed fighting; I was just sure that someone did. I had a conversation with Ian the second day I was awake in which I rambled about being like the Dark Souls III ’80s video (staying true to my fandom even when I was drugged to the gills). “When you pick a fight with the devil, you better be stronger than hell.” I told him that I did it–twice–and I won twice!

I apologized to him later once I had myself under control for rambling on and on like that for hours. He laughed and said it was only two minutes and that he would have listened to me talk about anything because he was so grateful I was alive. Which, you know, I was, too. Profoundly so. I was grateful for the ice water in the hospital–repeatedly. Every day, I was thankful for the best goddamn ice water I’ve ever had.

My hospital stay was also when I completely got over my body issues. I had a team of 2-4 people watching me 24/7. No, they weren’t there every minute, but they could be there in five seconds with one press of a button. They took my vitals every four hours or so, which was the opposite of fun. But, understandable. I was hooked up to several monitors at all times. I had a shit tube literally hooked up to my ass. When I could totter off to the bathroom, I had aides literally wiping the shit from my ass.

I cannot tell you what a vulnerable position this is to be in. Being weak on my legs, shaking, as I walked to the bathroom. Having to press a button to have someone come in to wipe me. It could have been deeply humiliating, but it wasn’t. There was one guy who treated it like one of his chores that he wasn’t particularly fond of, but he was still fast and efficient about it. He wasn’t rude or disrespectful–just completely divorced from the process. He didn’t make me feel like a non-human, though, which is all I cared about. And I appreciated that he was really good at it.

All the rest of my aides were fantastic at taking care of me and making me feel like a human being. They were respectful and cheerful, warm and efficient. They kept my humanity in the forefront of their duties, which was much appreciated. I had no control over anything for the week I was in the hospital awake (and the week before, but I was unconscious then and didn’t care). They could have been nasty about it or even just disinterested, but no. They were engaged and respectful, warm and caring. Did they care about me, the person? Probably not. Did they care about me as their patient? Yes, they did.

Imagine waking up from a void, being scared and angry, not knowing where you are. Also, being drugged to the gills. Surrounded by a bunch of people you don’t know. That was my reality and having a bunch of professional, warm people doing a top-notch job of taking care of me ameliorated much of my discomfort.

Side Note: One of my favorite stories from that time is still talking to my heart doc three months after I was out of the hospital (for the second time). He mentioned for the second time that I had been funny when we met in the hospital (which I didn’t remember). I finally asked what I said that was so funny. He said that he had introduced himself and went through what happened to me as he always does because his patients don’t always remember. I interrupted him to ask if that meant I had died. He said, yes, and I said, “That’s so fucking cool!” which sounds exactly like me. He said it was hilarious, which relieved me because I’d rather be funny than offensive. But I can see how that might not be a reaction he was expecting.

That’s me, though. Morbid sense of humor that has only gotten more so since that incident. I died twice and came back twice. That’s bound to change my view on many things. I’m thrilled that I no longer have body issues. In fact, I have nothing but love for my body because of what it saw me through. My body took all that shit and acted like it was nothing. I now have nothing but mad respect for my body.

Damn. I was going to talk about family dysfunction, but I didn’t make it there. Oh well. Next post!

 

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