Underneath my yellow skin

Learning to live again

It’s been a year since my medical crisis. Over a year. The first year, I was just adjusting to the fact that I was still alive when I should be dead.

I have no problem talking about it, by the way. I have no issue with making it clear that I should be dead. It’s not something that trips me up, but it does occasionally feel weird tripping off my tongue. It’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d say, and it’s weird to look back at what happened to me. I don’t feel like it’s me, but I know it did  happen. It doesn’t help that I was unconscious for all of it so I have no memory of it happening. I can only rely on what other people have told me about it.

I want to find the cops and EMTs who brought me back to life and rushed me to Regions Hospital. This shouldn’t be too hard because I live in a sleepy suburb where not much happens. Brain damage starts at three minutes without oxygen, so I’m pretty sure the cops came before then.

I was not breathing when they found me collapsed in my front hallway. They bagged me with oxygen and waited for the EMTs. I had a cardiac arrest when the latter arrived. They gave me CPR and rushed me to Regions Hospital, which is 20 minutes from  my house. I had another cardiac arrest on the way. They gave me CPR again. During one of these incidents, they jabbed me with an EpiPen. Before we arrived at the hospital, I had an ischemic stroke as well. I was unconscious by the time we arrived at the hospital and remained so for a week.

I write all this easily because I’ve told this story over and over again. It’s just an accepted fact for me by now, but I’m reminded how unusual it is every time I tell it to someone who doesn’t know it. When I got my booster shot at my pharmacy, I gave the pharmacist the rundown to make sure that it was ok for me to get my booster. He stopped what he was doing (typing into his computer), looked at me in amazement and said something about how incredible it was I went through that and that he  was glad I was ok.

That flummoxed me momentarily because I wasn’t expecting him to comment on it. In retrospect, that’s ridiculous because of course he’s going to say something. Every medical person I’ve talked about my experience with has had this reaction. I mean, ‘normal’ people have a similar reaction, but medical people are especially aware of how dire the situation had been.

I didn’t realize it myself until after I went home. I understood that I was very lucky to be alive, but not exactly how lucky until I got home and Googled. I could not find anyone like me. No one. I was joking with my brother that it’s difficult to find a support group for people who have had strokes because most people who survive them are not in much shape to attend a meeting, even if it’s on Zoom.

He replied that looking for one  with cardiac arrest survivors is even more difficult because they’re dead. Macabre? Yes. True? Most definitely yes as well. I’ve said this many times, but the mortality rate for a cardiac arrest is 90%. 80% if you’re already in the hospital when it happens. 70% if you get immediate and sustained CPR right after it happens. So even in the best case scenario, you have a 2 in 3 chance of dying. That’s the BEST case scenario.

Why did I survive two cardiac arrests and a stroke with minimal brain damage? The best my heart doc could say was because they were all caused by non-COVID-related pneumonia and had nothing to do with my actual heart. Which is fine, by the way. He has given my heart a clean dill of health. My brain doc did the same with my brain.

In my second year of new life, I have some big ambitions. The first is to find a support group. Not necessarily for the medical trauma, but for dealing with the aftermath. In my case, that’s family dysfunction. My medical trauma has shown me how truly dysfunctional my family and how it’ll never change. My parents are nearly 83 (father) and 80 (mother) respectively. They have been like this all my life. They are not going to change at this late date. I need to find a way to deal with it and my lasting anger at how they reacted after my medical crisis.

Would I like to find a group that has people who’ve experienced similar medical trauma to what I have? Yes. Do I think I’ll find that group? No. Maybe if I look for a group that is focused on medical trauma in general, but I can’t imagine many people would want to belong to a group like that rather than one specific to whatever they had experienced. I honestly cannot find a group for people who have suffered cardiac arrests and/or strokes. I’ll have to do a little more digging and maybe get creative about it.

Videos. I want to make them. I know blogging is dead and it’s time to move on. I would like to have a kind of a coffee collab approach in which I talk about whatever is on my mind in a casual and chatty way. I want to be able to talk about anything from Dark Souls III to Taiji weapons to my medical trauma to eighties hair metal bands and their powerful love ballads. I also want to be able to rail about politics, discrimination, and how the world is so attuned to normality. Basically, I want to be able to blog in a video format.

I’m also thinking about going back to school to get my PhD/PsyD in psychology. I know I’d be a good therapist, but the question is whether I want to be one. it’s hard to do it on the regular for people I don’t even know. Maybe getting paid to do it in a structured way would make it easier to say no in other situations. Plus, it would be steady money.

I want to finish my memoir. This is the most important, but I am struggling with it. Not the writing part because that’s just me. I write. A lot. That’s never been a problem. It’s the shape of it. I have the part of me being in the hospital down to a T. I’m also decent at writing about the two months that followed, while my parents were still here. I go off the rails when writing about them and am not sure how to incorporate it into the ‘medical crisis’ narrative, which is part of the problem.

The medical crisis is done, but I still have to deal with it in my life. Not on a grand scale or in a big way ,but it’s still a part of me. I still have to go on and live my life, so there’s no real end to the story. I know a memoir by necessity has a cutoff date because it’s a living person who’s writing it, but I don’t feel like the extent of my medical trauma has been felt yet. By me, I mean. It’s been a year. That’s not much time in the grand scheme of things. That’s why I think perhaps I need to give it more time to settle before writing about it. Yes, I can write about the immediate aftermath and how I felt during that time. Yes, I can say how the experience has changed me. Yes, I can extol all the positives that came from it. But I don’t know what the result will be in the long run. I don’t know if those changes will stick, for example. Yes, I think my body is badass and that I’m cute AF now, but who’s to say that will remain the same in another year?

That’s the point of life in general, I guess. It’s not as if any of us are completely static. I can only reflect on what I know and feel right now and let the future take care of itself.

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