Fourteen Months Ago
A little over fourteen months ago today, January 16, 2011 I came home after a late shift at the corner market (arriving at 4:30 am) I was inspired to work out with some free weights mixed in with some situps and pushups. I was feeling really good after a Summer and Fall of riding. I was finally getting back in shape on the bicycle and had actually managed to get over the hump that had previously derailled prior attempts. Then someone ripped off my roadbike in October, but I still had enough physical activity to stay on top of it. When the workout was over I seriously thought that there was a possibility of running a sub five minute mile, and a sub 25 minute 10 mile time trial. In other words I thought I was getting my mojo back, and that this would be the year (2011) that my luck would change (it been a shitty five years prior, luckwise, but I had my health, and a positive attitude, if not a shitty job).
Two days later I caught the stomach bug that had been going around and while I could feel that my immune system was dispatching that particular grievance, something else seemed awry, a new addition to my extensive catalog of pain that was not recognisable (always a worry). Having no health insurance and full faith in what had been an amazing immune system, I was reluctant to seek medical attention. Within 5 days I was an invalid, in extraordinary pain, unable to walk (imagine attempting to walk when it seems like every bone in both feet are broken...At one time on day four of the crisis it took nearly a half hour to circumnavigate a city block, a journey that had to be made to acquire provisions). I had an enormous difficulty in sleeping and eating all the while hoping that my body would take care of things.
It was taking care of things alright; the research that I conducted regarding my symptoms led to only one conclusion: I was dealing with an auto-immune problem and that my immune system was now trying to kill me (or at least had run amok asking every joint for papers and or to provide friend or foe codes. Fascists had taken control and the browshirts had gone full beserker). Just when I thought I had found a place where i could get more than 20 minutes of sleep, that which I thought was a case of pink eye appeared, providing yet another level of sleep denying discomfort.
Fortunately I was staying with an old friend who has some means and a couple of days later when I was forced to use a wheel chair to get around he offered to cover the initial money to get me in to see a Doctor. Of course I was immediately transferred to the Rhuematologist (fuck) and of course was given a prescription for cortical steroids (prednisone) which tracked exactly with both my worst fears and matched my own internet diagnosis.
I have never been in so much pain (only six months prior having taken a bicycle down voluntarily at 43 MPH resulting in numorous lacerations, a broken thumb, a hole in my elbow and any number of roadrash tatoos, and while painful, all of that pain was in the known catalog).
And by voluntarily, I mean I had to choose the lesser of two evils; over the guard rail into a tree filled ravine resulting almost certainly in blunt force trauma with a decent liklihood of death, or lay down the bike and hope I would stop just short of the guardrail. I was lucky and slid to a stop a couple feet short of the rail.
The only thing was that cleaning all of the mud and other debris out of my wounds as a result of that wreck in the shower and with a scrub brush was going to be even more painful, and I had the pleasure of riding another 7 miles to get to a place where I could endure that suffering.
All of this is to say that I have some experience with pain and have a rather proven threshold, and desperately hoped that I could "gut it out" while waiting for my immune system to knock whatever the fuck it was, out, without having to make a trip to the hospital for services that I would not be able to afford.
Eventually it was derermined that I did not have a simple case of Pink eye but something that the initial specialist was unable to diagnose and sight was becoming splotchy so a visit to anothe specialist was inconclusive but some anti-biotics and steroid drops were formulated and an insane regimine of treatment requireing an application of every couple of hours was concocted (which would make sleeping nearly impossible, but shortly before entering the Hospital it was working, and my sight was clear).
I was sent to the hospital for some bloodwork, which was followed by a
spinal tap to rule out meningitis I was admitted (meningitis ruled out). The halucinations I enjoyed for the lack of sleep (maybe 4 to 6 hours total over the course of 6-8 days) were amazing and completely benign. And while everything that I saw was completely real to me at the time there was a part of me that knew that I was through the looking glass.
The first two and a half days after being admitted to the hospital I was out of it. Apparently I had a fever that was spiking to 104 and I was being filled with antibiotics and steroids. (Those fever dream/hallucinations were much more menacing) And that is when I lost the sight in my right eye, (much better to live than to enjoy binocular vision) they were simply trying to save my life, relieve my suffering and stabilize my condition.
On the third day with that sweet, sweet, sleep under my belt, I felt much better ( I will say that it is amazing how your perspective changes when encountering a dramatic reduction in pain) and was very much interested in getting the fuck out of there as quickly as possible to avoid any more of a liabilty, yet as the doctors were not certain of what flavor of auto-immune disorder I was dealing with kept me around for a couple of more days.
Having missed a couple of weeks of work I felt compelled to work the day after I was discharged and the two days following even though the doctor that released me said I should take it easy for a week. Ultimately I came back too ealy and worked too hard out of the gate not having any idea that my enthusiasm (steroids helped in that department, to be sure) would be a hinderance to my recovery, yet I was hoping to get back on my feet ASAP. I was hoping that I could return to a semblence of normal (minus the eye that would never again focus light on the retina) as quickly as possible. Another manifestation of my illness has resulted in my right index finger has a permanent 30 degree bend at the middle knuckle, which can be a nuisance, but can also be worked around.
I had hoped that within six months I would be able to trust my right knee enough to run again. Six months later I was hit by a Truck while riding to work (blindside ally crossing-fortunately neither of us was traveling very quickly) I was knocked off the bike, but both the bike and I seemed ok (adrenaline is a hell of a drug). Later that evening I realized that I had pretty well tweaked my ankle and started cursing myself for letting the driver off the hook. Fortunately the ankle was OK after about three weeks.
It has been a long hard fourteen months, the hardest of my lifetime, and I am approaching the begininning of my 48th year around the sun.
I have spent a year trying to put the experience in the rear view mirror while coping with the extraordinarily (in my experience) lengthy healing process. I am slowly beginning to feel something like myself again, though I have a very long way to go. I still manage to wake up every day with a sense of hope.
To this day I still can't trust my right knee enough to run. My joints feel arthritic from time to time and I have to be very careful with my back. In short, I am not remotely close to the physical condition that I was 10 days prior to entering the hospital. If I could have traded my right eye and bent index finger as a condition for the oportunity to return to my previous physical condition, I would have done so in a heartbeat, sure I will miss the opportunity to play hackey sack (depth perception mandatory), though oddly enough I can still juggle (for a short period of time at least). I really miss chasing frisbees, soccer balls, footballs, baseballs, pretty much everything I could do when I could run.
As far as disability goes, I am apparently not disabled enough for SSI and am looking at a number of years to get a judgement on partial dissability.
However, having been recently displaced from a job and losing my glasses, I feel that I need to put my pride to bed and ask for help. I have always been happiest when I can return a wallet or jump off of my bike to help push a car out of the snow, or give someone advice about anything I might have a slight bit of expertise and have always done so freely.
Lending a hand or a hug has never been a problem for me, yet asking for help always has.
I need some help, I need to beg for some assistance so that I can keep this roof over my head. I need some breathing room so I can nurture the healing process and find time to find a job that will complement me rather than frustrate me. I have definitely learned a good deal about what I need to enjoy a life of limitations, and have been able to put to bed some of my prior ambitions, which is not to say that I have in any way shape or form given up or in. One of the things that makes this so difficult for me is knowing that there are people in far worse shape than I am.
If any of you who make it this far feel like rummaging through your couch cushions and coat pockets and feel that you won't miss the change, feel free to hit the donate button on the sidebar. Any contribution will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks in advance for your kindness,
kent aka Provider_UNE fka UpittyNegroEmbigulator, UnitedNegroEmirates