Sunday, February 7, 2016
So This Happened
One year ago today, this, O Best Beloveds, was my view. It had not been a good day, and there was worse to come. But, as dear Mr. Savage has so eloquently and consistently reminded us: it gets better.
And so have I, elhamdulileh.
In retrospect, I knew that something was wrong, and had been for quite a while. My powers of denial are, even for an Upsonian über-WASP, remarkable and tenacious. In my mind, I had to have known that it wasn't normal for even a portly and exceedingly sedentary fifty-odd-year-old to not be able to walk a block, or climb a flight of stairs. It had been years, I now realize, since I'd had a good night's deep sleep or felt really well, and I truly believed that all sorts of aches and pains just came with the territory of no longer being a bright-eyed 20-something.
Twice already I'd had scares, incidents that crack medical teams at two top hospitals had investigated, tested as thoroughly as they thought wise, and dismissed as nothing more than heartburn or fatigue. I really, truly respect the medical profession, but if there's one thing the past year has taught me, it's that you have to be your own best friend, and push, push, push to get at the root of what's going on. One more test, early on, would have caught all this, but because it was a mildly invasive one, I didn't insist. I should have.
But that's as may be. In any case, there I was, mad as hell on an emergency-room gurney, having just had a distinctly unpleasant couple of hours. It had been a quiet Saturday like a hundred others, spent puttering around the house, doing laundry and enjoying the company of two contented terriers, always happier when someone's home. And then suddenly I was sitting on the floor in front of my usual sofa, feeling Something Very Wrong. I give myself some credit, for in the next few minutes I had the forethought not only to call 911, but to find my wallet and phone, unlock the front door, and get myself and the rattled, suddenly anxious dogs settled to wait. The Something Wrong got worse. Eventually though - in minutes, really, although I wouldn't have believed it at the time - the EMTs got there and went to work. Commotion, sirens, cold, and beeping of unfamiliar machines (how used, over the next two weeks, I'd get to that).
And then bad news that, next morning, got worse. The heart attack - the Something Bad - was minor, nothing really. But it revealed something far worse: remarkably advanced, in fact nearly total, obstructions of the vessels around the poor beleaguered heart: end-stage coronary artery disease. The very worst came when a doctor pulled poor Mr. Muscato out into the hall and told him that nothing was certain, but he really ought to make sure our papers were in order, will and medical directive and all. His eyes when he came back into the room - the horrid, shared, dark, uncomfortable room of the first benighted hospital we had landed at - reminded me for the remainder of the ordeal that was in store that what I was going through was bad, but that what he had to endure was almost certainly worse.
Through great good fortune, things got a little better; My Dear Sister swept in, and took things in hand. Soon enough we transferred to a better hospital, to an excellent one, in fact. If one has to have oneself cut for all practical purposes in half, it's best, I think, to have it done by experts. Open-heart surgery is no picnic, but the good people of Prestigious Regional Medical Center did all that could be expected and more.
Enough bad news. I'm happy to glide with some rapidity over the operation, the messiness, the discomfort and worse, and the first days in which misery alternated with druggy calm. Fast forward.
Technically, I'm not better, in the sense of being cured; coronary artery disease, once you have it, is something you have for good. But I'm doing well, better certainly than I thought I would stretched out on that gurney the uninspiring view from which we see above. And I have every reason to believe that if I continue to be a Good Boy, it will be a very long time indeed before I wind up on another gurney, or even anything like it. Diet, exercise, and medicines can really work wonders. I'm down something on the order of 80 pounds, and I have to admit it's really rather amusing, after all these years, to have an actual waist.
I try not to be a scold and a bore, but my patience for people who continue actively to undercut their own futures has grown, I have to admit, a little smaller. Smoking, in particular, drives me mad - it's stupid, and expensive, and nasty, and even though it's not something I ever did myself, I can't help but believe that having spent the first 18 years of my life surrounded at home by chain-smokers (and many years after that at school and work) didn't help. I also try not to be that most annoying of modern scourges, a Diet Bore, but I do admit that when asked, I'm happy to wax eloquent on the virtues of carb-restrictions, meal journaling, and portion control. Oh, and the many, many ways in which strong flavors - curries, peppers of all kinds, fresh herbs, and rich sauces in small quantities - are a boy's best dietary friend.
And I'm alive, and very aware what a gift it is, every day. And so, so lucky: cherished, looked after, loved and loving.
So here's to life - and in no small part, here's, as well, to you: to all who were so kind and thoughtful when I was ill, to all who drop in here now and then and add something amusing to the conversation, and to all of you whose own little corners of the Internets are so consistently delightful. It startles me, sometimes, what strong and interesting friendships I've made with people whom, in the conventional old-fashioned sense of the word, I've never met. I may never be as dapper as the daunting TJB, or as polymathically omniscient as dear Thombeau, or even as consistently, amusingly filthy as that old roué Peenee (just to chose three at random from so many more, with all regards and great affection for Cookie, Bill, Ms. Merrill, Yank, IlDuce, MJ, Miss Lethal ... see, you start down the garden path and one could go on all afternoon...), but it's truly great fun to try and keep up, and perhaps one day our actual as well as virtual paths will cross.
As the fictional but still formidable Miss Carlotta Campion is wont to observe: I'm still here, and (to steal from yet another great creation) life really is a banquet...