I recently had a life-threatening medical situation arise, from which I’m still recovering. I was in such a state of shock and terror and had so much to cope with before I went into the hospital that I told my friends, but didn’t tell the world at large. I had just enough time for the new website to go live, but no time to promote it. Enough time to schedule my Patreon rewards for when I was recovering (assuming I recovered) and tell my subscribers what was happening. Critical obligations were met, but I bowed out of everything else, then after hustling from doctor to doctor, having tons of tests and pre-op procedures, I was sliced open. The doctors all tell me I have a beautiful incision/scar. I feel like I look like Frankenstein’s monster. I’ve never cared all that much about my appearance, but coming out of the hospital with scars, black bruises almost everywhere, many from the innumerable holes for multiple IVs, ports, drainage tubes, and blood draws with my extremely bad veins, I was horrified. But I am healing. Eventually I’ll get sensation back where a gazillion nerves were cut and I will stop hurting and pondering why if I have no other outward sensation I can feel pain. Eventually all the myriad pills I’ve been prescribed will one by one (mostly) go away and I won’t have a perpetually upset stomach. Perhaps my appetite will come back. I’ve finally stopped losing weight. This is why one should always carry a bit more weight than the charts say: so you’re not dangerously emaciated when a catastrophic illness strikes. I lost both fat and muscle and I have to say that even though my weight is now down to ideal it’s not a good look on me. I look like some sci-fi alien has sucked the life out of me. Everyone says I look good. By that I think they mean they’re really happy I’m alive. Everyone looks better alive than dead.
The initial medical situation was a heart valve that had gone very bad, very quickly. I was asymptomatic. I was lucky it was caught when it was during what was supposed to be a routine check. As it turned out the situation with my heart was worse than initially thought---and a further complication arose at the time of the surgery. It seemed like the whole thing got more complicated and risky every time someone looked at it. Which was terrifying. But I’d definitely die---and pretty soon---if I didn’t have the surgery, so we went with the most highly recommended surgeon, and hoped for the best. As Thoreau said, “We say our prayers and commit ourselves to uncertainties.”
In some ways I’m bouncing back quickly, or at least more quickly than someone who has had a heart attack. My heart is strong and undamaged aside from surgical trauma. In one of those amusing bureaucratic things, my surgery, though it was necessary to keep me alive, was categorized as “elective” simply because I didn’t enter the hospital on a stretcher via the ER.
In hours between all the medical stuff in the run up to the surgery I was surprised to find that working on fiction--specifically writing material for my Patreon--was a great distraction from the medical hell that was hanging over my head. If someone had posed this as a hypothetical, I’d have said that under those dire circumstances there was no way I’d be able to concentrate and get any work done, but just the opposite was true. When things get really bad, immersion in fiction--even the work of writing it--is the best way to go, at least for me. For reading, I went with the literary equivalent of “comfort food”; I reread the Sherlock Holmes canon, starting just before the surgery and finishing it while in the hospital.
I have good days and bad days. I tire easily and sleep 10-12 hrs out of every 24. I sometimes feel sick. I sometimes feel great. I can walk for an hour at a time, which isn’t bad considering I’m a month out of surgery, not back to full strength, and sometimes sick or tired. Neither my cognitive abilities nor my imagination have been impacted at all. There’s much to be said in favor of the life of the mind when the body betrays you. And this was quite the betrayal.
A vegetarian with an active lifestyle and no symptoms isn’t someone one expects to have fatal heart problems. The cardiologist kept reassuring me that I’d done absolutely everything right; there was nothing I more I could’ve done to avoid this. My situation was not what one expects, but it’s not unique. Everyone should get checked out by a cardiologist, get all the tests run, every once in a while, just for peace of mind, because bad shit can happen quietly while you’re just getting on with your life.
Thankfully, I can still get on with my life. I’ve got a lot more stories to write. I’m still pouring fiction, book reviews, and flights of fancy into my Patreon, building an edifice of imagination for my subscribers. Join me if you haven’t already. The fictional fun continues! I am very grateful for my life, my friends, and my faithful readers.