Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Once You Pass Its Border...

Four years ago this month is my unhappy anniversary of a grueling thirty-day hospital stay. While the first forty-four years of my life were patient free—save a brief stay upon birth—that all changed in one fell swoop.

I’d like to borrow a line from the Christmas song classic "Toyland": “Once you pass its borders, you can never return again.” Unfortunately, I’m not speaking of a “Little Girl and Boy Land” chock full of every imaginable plaything, candy canes, and wide-eyes beaming innocence and wonder. This is Hospital Land I am talking about: a place replete with pain, suffering, and the ultimate humbling. Once you have ventured beyond this border, you can never return again. You can never quite see life the same way.

Despite making it out of Hospital Land alive, I feel something deep down now that I didn’t feel before—something very unsettling and forbidding. Finding yourself in Hospital Land could happen at any moment and without fair warning—that’s the scary reality. In fact, it’s even more likely than not to happen at some point in your life and times. What particularly haunts me four years after the fact is the knowing. That is, how relatively easily I acclimated to the hospital regimen and resigned myself to pain, and the days and nights of getting shuffled around like a stick of furniture, and pricked and prodded like a slab of meat.

To make a long story short, I was rushed to the emergency room with a foot that had turned completely white and numb, not to mention snowballing amounts of pain rippling up my leg. I was informed in the ER that one of three things would likely be done to me—A, B, or C—with the last possibility the most in-depth and serious. In other words, to reestablish blood flow, transplanting a vein from my groin area to my lifeless foot was as bad as it could get. Wrong! Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t procedure A, B, or C that I experienced on the operating table, but D—none of the above. The surgeons unexpectedly discovered a mass of tissue behind my right knee, which very nearly caused me to bleed to death on the operating table. Considering the massive blood loss, if I survived at all, I was certain to have irreparably damaged some vital organs.

First the good news: I not only have lived to tell but with no lasting damage to a single organ—not a one. Now the bad news: My post-operative leg looked like it had been the main course at a coyote-vulture barbecue. It really did. More good news: That mess has been cleared away and replaced by a computer. I plug in my right knee before I lay me down to sleep each night, take no medications for anything, and am as fit as a fiddle. Lucky me....

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