July 12th, 2017, Motherfucker!!!


There are many dates throughout our lives that we remember for whatever reason, good or bad. The title of this blog is the date on which my life and its course changed irrevocably.  Up until July 12th, my life was difficult but it was what I was accustomed to. You see, I have congenital congestive heart failure, Left ventricular to be more specific. I have had it for 20 years and became accustomed to the limitations it put onto my life, which were some, but not many. Then I developed chronic kidney disease, which comes with the heart failure territory, sooner or later. I thought, “Ok, this is just another issue to adapt to. No biggie.” Medications kept my fluids in check and my kidneys, though compromised, still did the job they were designed by biology to do. I did most of the things other people my age did, but mostly, I drank. 

 

July 12th, 2017 was probably the worst day of my life, other than my parents’ deaths. Many days before, I was preparing to celebrate my 42nd birthday, ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ style. This was going to be the year of 42!!!! The answer to the question: Life, the Universe, and Everything. It was going to be grand. It started slowly with slight weight gain, which I just brushed off, then it progressed to a feeling of fullness, lethargy, and ultimately, extreme nausea and a loss of appetite. This was on my birthday. I remember not wanting to see my birthday movie, ‘Spiderman: Homecoming’, but you see, I have this character flaw wherein I feel great panic if I think I am disappointing people, especially my friends. So I pulled it together and went to the movie. It was a great movie, of course, but I couldn’t truly enjoy it in my condition. I was stubborn. I thought it was just a stomach bug and it would pass. I let this ordeal continue far longer than it should have. Maybe I truly, deep down realized what was happening, but I did not want to admit it. Admitting it made it true, you see. I didn’t want to admit my fear that I was in kidney failure, again.

 

After a few instances of almost passing out, I drove my stupidly difficult self to the emergency room. It was July 8th, I believe. I don’t specifically remember. They told me I was fluid overloaded. This was something that has happened before so I knew the drill; Intravenous diuretics to help my kidneys eliminate the excess fluids. Only this time, nothing was happening. NOTHING. I wasn’t urinating. I should have been pissing buckets. I was getting really scared. “What if this time was different? What if my kidneys were done?” On July 12th, that question was answered. My nephrologist at the time was a nice man named Larry Davis. Although he was nice, he was a matter of fact type of guy. He came in my room and broke the news to me: I had developed ESRD. End stage renal disease. This was it. I was always afraid of dialysis, but thought, “That’ll never be me.” Well, now it was me. I thought my life was done. Therapy three times a week forever, or I would die. This news was like being hit with a wrecking ball. It altered my life, but I wasn’t aware of that yet.

 

As I lay in my hospital bed, hooked to a large machine cycling my blood out, cleaning it, then cycling it back in, I was hit with all the things I believed I could no longer do. Drink, smoke weed (I really miss that one), urinate. You’d be surprised how much you miss peeing until you can no longer do it, cause sometimes you just need a really good piss, amirite?! I was under the impression that even though I had advanced heart failure and a newly minted diagnosis of ESRD, I could still work full time. My body made it abundantly clear that that was complete crazy talk. Who listens to crazy talk?! No one, that’s who! So I dragged my body through each day, struggling more and more. The work days after dialysis treatments were especially challenging. Challenging like climbing Mount Everest without supplemental oxygen. That means it was super hard and sucked super bad, just saying. I had filed for social security disability and Medicare coverage. I was counting the days until I was approved, then I would quit magnificently like Scarface from Half Baked.

 

Then October 17th came and my illusion came crashing in. I was denied disability because I was still earning too much money. So, the decision was made. I had to quit my job. What a scary thing to do! It had to be done, cause to get help, the government wants you to be completely destitute. Who needs to pay bills or have a roof over their head while the government takes 4 to 6 months to review your case? That’s just plain nonsense. Being homeless is so underrated!!!  So as of right now, I wait, praying that my meager 401k and driving Uber and Lyft part-time can sustain me until my benefits kick in. I would work full time, but I have an earnings limit of $1160 a month. That’s not even $300 a week. I’m on the razor’s edge here. I’ve crossed over from the safe zone into the danger zone. I’m riding the lightning. I am in uncharted territory and I am terrified. Change is difficult for me. This whole process has been difficult. There have been multiple emotional breakdowns and I imagine there will be many more.

 

 

New normal is a motherfucker.

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I Don’t Need A Backiotomy!


I hadn’t planned to blog about anything else this week after One Lone Black Nerd I Be, but my experience over these past couple of days needs to be shared. My close friends are aware of my struggles with chronic pain from gout and more prominently, from my lower back, sciatica, and numbness with tingling in my feet. I have suffered for years, partly due to insurance deficiencies and mostly due to my own stubbornness.

I hadn’t seen a doctor not just because I hadn’t had the insurance, but because, frankly, I was afraid to go. I feared the doctor would find something major wrong with me and add it to the already long list of ailments: heart disease, gout, abnormal kidney function, inability to do math, weakness for tall brunettes, and high risk for diabetes. That was the big fear. My father was diabetic. He had it really bad. Even with all his efforts, he lost the battle at 61. I am so scared that my ending will be the same so I try to take things more seriously when it comes to my doctor’s orders and recommendations. I’ve been diagnosed as diabetic before. I started working out and lost weight and got things back under control, but then my heart decided to crush me down to the brink followed by my back. I sat on my ass for almost 2 years now; my back not even allowing me to walk any length without extreme pain and my feet turning into numb bricks. I needed my back so I could get to work on making my heart better through exercise, so I finally decided to address the problem.

I made an appointment to see a highly respected and regarded local spine specialist a month ago and yesterday was the appointment. I do my research. When you go to the doctor as much as I do, you want someone capable, with a good bedside manner. They often have to give you news you don’t want to hear. It’s easier to take with niceness than with a cold detachment. The specialist did her exam and basically told me what I feared it always was…neuropathy. I immediately had thoughts of losing my feet like I’ve seen happen to so many others. I got x-rays, scheduled a CT, and an EMG (Electromyogram) to test for nerve damage. She also prescribed me two weeks of a drug called neurontin. I was like, “Great, another medication”, but this one has done a magic trick.

The medication has alleviated my back pain, numbness, and burning nerve pain in my legs, lumbar, and even my cervical spine by at least 85%. I still have the occasional twinge or sciatic ache, but let me tell you the near immediate change after I took this medication was mind-blowing. I felt like I was Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz where she opens the door from Kansas into Oz and everything goes from dirty, Dust Bowl black and white to majestic Technicolor. The Dark Side of the Moon was playing in my head, yes, because I know you were wondering. I must have stared at the ceiling for at least 5 minutes, looking at the tiles as if I had never really seen them before. My nerves no longer fired off in excruciating volleys of searing pain. I didn’t have to sit down once today to make the feeling come back to my feet. When I stood up, it was as if my legs were awake again and not merely rickety beams holding up an old rusted bridge. They wanted to move. My back wanted to move. It felt free, like it was unbound from the chains of torture. I honestly felt kind of stoned. That makes sense, as neurontin is a nerve pain drug. I felt….really damn good. I felt like I was the God-Damned Batman!

I was at work, at my desk, having a giggle fit. People thought I was crazy. The waves of pain relief that crashed through me put me in a state of near euphoric happiness. Nothing got to me today. Everything was ok. I was untouchable. I wasn’t on edge like I usually always am. I was so relieved to the point of tears. I did not realize I got used to the misery and torture I put my body through unnecessarily. I could have solved this years ago. I’m stubborn, just like my father. Hell, just like most men, especially african-american ones. “Just put some Vicks or Tussin on it!” My mother basically kept us alive with Vicks, Tussin, and Nyquil. Broken bone? Tussin. Ebola? Vicks. Coughing up blood? Nyquil. That’s how we rolled.

I walked around today, feeling like I had conquered a planet. I felt a king. I felt more hilarious (as if that’s possible!). I felt more intelligent. I felt more handsome (again, inconceivable!). My back DIDN’T hurt. My feet DIDN’T go numb. I’m anxious to get the results of these tests to see if there is anything more to be done, but I think I’m on the right track. I feel stupid for waiting and for being afraid. I won’t hold my GVTV crew back any longer. I won’t be the weak link. They won’t have to stop for me. They won’t have to leave me behind. I will be able to dance the good slow dances I owe to some special girls. I’ll be able to get my workouts on. I’m going to triumph over this obstacle just like all the others.

I DON’T NEED A BACKIOTOMY!!!