These are my two largest physical scars. They are the result of an emergency surgery I had at the beginning of August of just last year. I was feeling pretty great just days before. I hadn’t been in the hospital for quite a while, my counts were holding steady, and my energy level was actually better than it is today. So I decided I could go somewhere.
I planned a trip for my wife’s and my wedding anniversary. We took the train to Portland, stayed a night there, and bused it to Seaside. We loved Seaside. We spent the day on the beach, had the best pizza I’ve had in ages, and stayed in the best waterfront little hotel that is basically a bed and breakfast. It was awesome. We bused it back to Portland to explore the city (bad, dirty, hot) & waited for the train to take us home. The train was very delayed due to unannounced oil trains on the line, and we were exhausted by the time we got back home at like 1 in the morning. We went to sleep.
I woke up to go to the bathroom about an hour later. I went to stand getting out of bed and immediately collapsed and yelped in pain. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t get up. And there was, what appeared to be a baseball on my leg under my skin.
My lovely, amazing, angel of a wife helped me to the bathroom. When I couldn’t walk my way out of the bathroom without holding the walls, we knew I should go to the hospital.
At the hospital, they took my vitals. My blood pressure had crashed. I had a fever of 103.something. They told me the anesthesiologist was ready and waiting. I was taken directly to the OR. I had two wedge shaped chunks taken out of my legs to ensure I didn’t have necrotizing fasciitis. The possibility of amputation was mentioned.
I woke up intubated in the ICU. My leg was still there. I was septic, the infection wasn’t necrotizing fasciitis but likely some kind of staph that also hit my blood stream. Some IV antibiotics for the course of about a week and a half later, and the infection was gone. I lived, and have those big scars from the incident.
But as huge and ugly as those scars are, they don’t even touch the mental scars left by that incident, or the many other times I almost kicked the farm, bought the bucket, moved to Florida (wait, that doesn’t fit).
The scariest part for me is that I was actually feeling better than I am now when I was so close to death.
Sure, the numbers are better now. I have 60% marrow cellularity as opposed to the 20% then. The need for Neupogen (white cell boosting medicine) shots aren’t as frequent. It has been many, many months since my last blood transfusion. Still, the mental scar tissue prevents me from seeing things rationally. I am constantly afraid something like that is going to happen again.
It’s no way to live. The rational side of me knows that we will all die someday. I shouldn’t be afraid but should instead seize each possible moment of this life. But I can’t break through the mental scar tissue that tells me to have crippling anxiety and panic attacks. I can’t get past the scars in my had that tells me going outside around other people will kill me.
It’s not entirely false after all, going outside around other people can kill me. It just might. But then again, so can taking a shower, crossing a street, driving a car, etc, etc… The rational post of me says life is worth the risks, but the scars obstruct that rationality, so it is a constant battle, just to go to the store or my appointments. And that’s if I’m feeling physically well enough.
And don’t even get me started on this whole measles revival. I have no B cells. None. Any immunity to those virus from my vaccinations was wiped out along with my bone marrow. If/when I get B cells again, I will have to be re-vaccinated. In the mean time, I have to rely on herd immunity. The problem there is that some of the herd has decided to put on tin-foil hats and listen to Jenny McCarthy, convinced she must be truthful because Oprah let her spread her already debunked lies on her program.
So a couple days ago, the weather was nice, I had a slight bit of energy, my stomach was cooperating, so we decided to go for a little walk on a trail in a park by the water. The trail is usually pretty empty, it is beautiful with trees and ferns and ends right above the beach. But as we neared the end, in the usually empty picnic/firepit area overlooking the water, was a nightmare. Tons of children. All the little disease factories running about, right where the trail dumped us off. Then we saw the Boyscout troop.
“Get me the hell out of here.”
We practically ran through the sea of children back to the car. As of this post, I do not believe I have the measles. Despite my irrational fears caused by the scars, I’d say the day was actually a success.
You see, we all have scars. We all have things that try to prevent us from living life to the fullest. They aren’t easy to overcome. But in the days, or even moments where you physically can, and you can mentally will yourself, you must live. You must live each and every single moment to the beat of your ability. Forgive yourself if it isn’t as many moments as you’d like, but keep striving for more. Live your life and earn those scars.