I think he’d appreciate that. I know I do.
I keep trying to piece together the history of all this grief.
It was winter of 1999 when they told me I had lympho ballistic leukemia. The doc’s were worried because I took the news too calmly. Like there’s a choice.
The put me on the chemo’s that didn’t quite work. I mean, they did their thing. I went bald, it burned out my pancreas so I got the predicted diabetes. I dropped about 30 pounds of muscle mass. They just didn’t stop the leukemia.
They didn’t tell me, or maybe they did, that the second chemo, Lanvil or something close enough to that name, was laced with neuortoxins. I didn’t know until they told me a couple of months ago. Same time they told me that another of the chronic symptoms of diabetes was nerve degeneration. Diabetes was one of the contributing factors to the first heart attack.
So a couple of weeks ago I got a fire in my thigh. Started at the middle of my back and ran all the way down to above my knee. Hurt pretty bad. I took massive doses of ibuprofen and that settled it down. The doc gave me this pill Lyrica. At first I liked it. It stopped the painful burning. The pain and ache it dealt with by making the whole thigh feel numb, but not in a bad explosive way. Just sort of dead flesh numb. I could handle it even if I couldn’t enjoy it.
I followed the directions carefully. One pill a day for a week then on day 7 double them up, one in the morning and one at night.
I started the doubling up on Friday. On Sunday I noticed my feet and ankles were swollen to about twice their normal size. Real John Merrick style freaky ugly stuff.
I’d been noticing a pain in my chest when I was walking to work. Nothing over powering, but still there. I stopped taking the pill. Didn’t take my Sunday night pill before hoofing it in to work. There’s a severe hill at the start of the walk. When I got to the top the pain in my chest was pretty bad. It dropped me to one knee and I vomited up about two cups of liquid. Embarrassing stuff.
I called the doc first thing Monday. She was out so I talked to the Medical Student with the same last name as mine. She told me to stop taking the pills. Told her I already had. She said check back in two days.
It was a rough two days. The pain in the thigh came back, at least the burning was pretty subdued. Work was miserable. Its hard suffering in front of people who don’t care. I get no sick days. I had to work to get paid.
I walked back and forth to work. It was hard. I still got there.
I took comfort in the fact that my puppy didn’t seem too concerned. I was having a harder time breathing though and she slowed down when I started to gasp too hard. She still fought me for the bed. I considered it a win if I got a third of it, about a foot.
I called the doc on Wednesday. My doc was in. She told me for me to be in that much distress it was important that I go to the emergency room. I told her I couldn’t afford that, which is true.
I went to work as usual. I was getting used to vomiting at the top of the hill. I kept trying to tell myself it was getting better. I put a wedge in the bed so my feet would be higher than my heart. I did all I could.
On Friday I walked home, took care of my puppy and walked over to the Emergency Room. Something of a mistake I think.
Having chest pain rushed me to the front of the queue. Which was cool VIP stuff. They did my EKG, chest X-Ray and BP. I was freaked out. I hate hospitals now. My BP was 194 over 94. I’d never seen it that high. At home, on Thursday, my BP was 112 over 65. At the hospital it never went lower than 155 over 75.
The EMG doc came in and said that my EKG looked fine. I studied the tape with him and asked him about my two heart attacks. The last EKG I had the heart attacks were real easy to see. He looked harder and said, “I guess this could be them.”
That was when my BP dropped. I felt pretty good. My heart was healing. Even though conventional wisdom said it wouldn’t, it was. My program of acerbic self flagellation and puppy playing was working.
The next thing he was saying was that he still wanted me to stay in hospital overnight for observation. That shot my BP up again. I asked a simple question; “How much would that be?”
No body knew. It took 10 minutes to find somebody to tell me the base rate would be $3,200. I told them no thanks.
I had to sign a Discharged Against Medical Advice Form. Then they were in a big rush to get rid of me. I made the doc examine my feet and ankles. He said that he couldn’t see any swelling. I’m confident that I wasn’t hallucinating so I decided the EMG doc was a bigger idiot than he appeared. (And trust me, most doctors are idiots. A degree confers no wisdom.)
The blood tests came back and my enzymes showed I’d had an “incident” some days ago. They told me stay off my feet and to relax . . .
I had to stumble around to find my way out. I walked home. My puppy was distressed. She even let me lie down unmolested.
I figured that the pain would gradually fade away and that eventually I’d pass the disaster that was Lyrica out of my life.
I got a phone call Saturday morning. The X-Ray doctor was calling. She was alarmed that I wasn’t in hospital. She wanted to know if I was mobile. The X-rays showed a large amount of fluid in my chest cavity. I told her I was uncomfortable but not dying. She asked me to monitor things and to return to the hospital if pain got too bad or I were to pass out or collapse. (I avoided asking how I was going to get to the hospital if I was unconscious.) She agreed to fax or messenger my x-rays to my doctor asap.
This phone call really made me angry. I couldn’t believe the doc had rushed me out before they even looked at the x-ray. I told you doctors can be idiots.
And all I’ve gotten out of this is DO NOT EVER TAKE A DRUG THE BASTARDS ADVERTISE ON TV. Especially Lyrica. Congestive heart failure is one of their known possible side effects . . . And I love my puppy. Late at night I only have to whisper her name and she comes running happily to me. And I love my friend who puts up with me.
When I was young I thought I was twice as much man as anyone else. It sounded arrogant even to me. But I think I was right nonetheless. Because now I feel like about half a man but the funny thing is I’m still alive even if J.D. Salinger isn’t.