When I scheduled an appointment to go see a general practicioner — the first time in seven years — I expected my cough + my nausea + other assorted unpleasantnesses to be chaulked up to “well, you’ve got a nice little bug there, but here are the latest marvels in medication to save you from yourself.”
Six hours later, two hospitals, seven tubes of blood, an EKG, two sets of blood cultures, and an ultrasound of my heart, I finally found myself crawling into bed with the words “heart murmer” and “heart failure” ringing through my head.
I’m sure the same diagnoses are difficult for people of all ages, but I think that I’m only 25 is making it especially difficult. I took the opportunity, naturally, to be all Sally Fields about it and cry privately whenever anyone wasn’t look and generally be a bitch to anyone who was, and I kinda enjoyed the pity other people were giving me. I was enjoying the sadness in their eyes… I felt justified in my grief, and I think I wanted other people to share in it. I could imagine someone saying to someone else: “He seems like such a bitch” to which someone else would respond, “Well, what do you expect, he just found out he has heart failure… and he’s only 25.” Then they would feel bad for judging me.
But, the idea was short lived because I soon felt really stupid for feeling so bad about it. It’s not as bad as it felt at first. In fact, I think the doctor — and his annoying student — was a little surprised I started to cry. It just … is. I’ve been telling people I felt a lot more Julia Roberts after a nap this afternoon.
Whatever, I’d premised this with the fact that I’ve had a hard year.
In truth, and in the interest in not covering up genuine emotions with flippant witticisms, as per my usual trajectory, I am scared. Terribly terribly scared — and the lady at the outpatient blood-draw center in Mercy West Hospital who took 25 minutes total to perform my blood draws, barely hit my prominent veins, and kept repeating “this is a lot of blood” and “wow, they really want a lot of blood out of you” was not helping. I know that it means a lot of changes. I know that it means that I have to change habits of mine — not just because of some generic idea that it will be bad for me somewhere down the road. Rather, because it may kill me the next time.
The heart problems stem from an infection that seems to have rooted itself onto one of the left valves of my heart which, thus called the heart murmur and may have, ultimately, caused damaged to the valve itself. The question that we are still waiting on is how extensive is the damage and, if it is bad, how much can we reverse. We’re waiting on the ultrasound for those answers (and the nurse doing the ultrasound was no help — she was very cool and professional, but that’s a whole other rant against professionalism). The coughing, which has led to retching and vomiting, has been my bodies to “fix” the problem by “jumpstarting” everything in my chest. Like restarting your car after it has stalled.
At the moment, though, I have an answer for a lot of things that have been weird for me health-wise for the past year or so — the chest pains, the difficult working out, the unclear thinking, the constant exhaustion, and the overwhelming tendency to get sick.
On a very brief note, I know that these are the times that people experience great realizations about their life. I rarely, if ever, do, but my senses are always piqued in case that great life changing event occured. When I found a page ripped out of worship book in one of the toilet stalls, my heart nearly stopped (hypothetically, not really). Before I even read it, I read my life twenty years from now, a prominent Christian writer, writing about my conversion from the little leaflet I found in the stall in the appropriately named Mercy West Hospital after weeks of bad behavior. It would touch lives and lead to the desecration of many worship booklets, which the devoted would then place individual pages in hospital bathrooms.
If anyone likes that idea and decides to use it, here’s an idea: place something of greater general and more specific interest than on the school shootings. Perhaps the story of Lazarus (which seems to be recurring theme in my life these days).
On the bright side, I was nearly out of toilet paper.
Update: There is more to this heart problem we have since discovered and, after a brief surgical consult and discussion with my fabulous aunt, the problem is rooted in a condition known as Left Ventricular Hypertrophy which is associated -- briefly with a decrease in the ability of my heart to pump blood effectively out and into the rest of my body. It's functioning at something like 65-70% of normal. The original infection theory is still partly true, as I was genuinely sick, but it was aggravating the problem and thus helping to create that fabulous cough all of you had heard.
…all of my good natured friends have already decided to take it upon themselves to inform me of the many, many, many things I am doing wrong and the many, many, many things I can’t do from now on. All under the guise of “I’m just looking out for your health.”
Well, here’s two words I’d remember in the future that show how much I care about your health when interacting with me: fuck off.
You have the right, as a friend, to criticize my behavior once. And that’s the first time you hear about what’s going on. That’s right — once. ignore you for a few days because then you become pedantic and you’re just doing it to proveAfter that, I have every right to curse you out and something. It’s annoying, and, honestly, I know what I should and shouldn’t be doing. Don’t assume that I am so stupid as to not know that smoking is bad for me. Don’t assume that I’m under-informed and all it takes is just one person to tell me and life will get better. Now, that may be true for some things, but that’s why you get to tell me once.
My dear friends, you have been warned. Maybe I will continue to smoke, and maybe I’ll slip up and do a night where I do something stupid. But that does not give you the right to ever say to me, “You know, you shouldn’t be doing that.”
Because, in the end, I have to make those decisions for me. And they’re hard decisions.
In light of this recent annoyance, I’d like to apologize to my mother for pestering her about her diabetes.
I’m sorry, mom. If you’re vacationing with me, of course, you can have a pop or actual sweet tea, and, of course, we can get desert. On the flip side, though, I will never offer them to you.
I picked up The Crazed by Ha Jin today — a Chinese author and a book I had purchased at Half Priced Books a year or so ago, but was dropped off by my roommate today. It’s not bad. Interesting, but I wanted to share some lines.
From a German poem: Who, if I cry, would hear me among the angelic order? (unk. origin… no google results)
Regarding the Divine Comedy:
I felt that my suffering was meant to help me enter purgatory. I had hope. Suffering can refine the soul. Beyond purgatory there’s paradise… I’ve never been truly religious. But at the time, under torture, I often wished I were Christian so that I could have prayed to God wholeheartedly. Religion is spiritual opium, as Marx has taught us. No doubt about that, yet once in a while human beings need some spiritual narcotics to alleviate pain. The flesh alone cannot sustain us.
The meanings and the reason they sing to me is clear, I think.
People don’t want to hear your shit; people turn to God to help deal with their shit. There is no spiritual comfort in atheism. I have always relied upon the belief that my faith in humanity would be my greatest trait. I feel abandoned, and I am doubting even that humanism. But I still feel an emptiness in spirituality, like nothing to cry out to.Is it time, again, to resume the spiritual quest that I left behind when nothing was found? Is it time to seek something outside of myself that can help me?
Is humanism enough?
I don’t think my roommate realized what she handed me when she did.