Photos and Words of Patrick Calder

I live in Washington, DC with 1 cat named Pixel, 6 cameras, 3 computers, 158 movies, 286 books, and 1 bowling pin. I own the Design Foundry and pretend to be a graphic designer by day.

Please keep in mind that this post is more than 3 years old. Opinions change. Tastes change. Everything changes. I may still agree with or like this, or I may not. But everything is kept up here for archival purposes.

weak… week / September 17, 2006

I just stabbed myself in the stomach for the first time at home. These tiny little needles, that cost ohhhhhh so fucking much money.
See, earlier this week, while out with friends, my shoulder and side started to bother me. Not particularly bad, but uncomfortable. For all I knew, I could have slept on it wrong, as I often wake up in contorted positions with my cat curled up in the empty space. But, no. Not really. It got worse throughout the day. And by the next time I went to take a shower, it hurt too much to just stand there leaning on the wall. But I spent a long time resting in as neutral a position as I could find, and my body felt better. I actually slept comfortably that night, and was sure the worst had passed. Until. I woke up with my arm across my side and stabbing pain beneath it. I tried the whole comfort thing again, but my body reallllllllly wasn’t falling for it this time. By the time a scheduled meeting came around, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to make the walk 6 blocks over to it, I decided that was the sign for me to go to the hospital.
In that gotta-see-the-car-crash-bodies kind-of way, I like that I can walk into a hospital and tell them I’m having debilitating chest pains, and they had me a clip board and ask me to sit about three hours in the waiting room. My one real comfort was that there was not even a discussion about the lack of health insurance; an argument I’d been building up steam for.
This was also the first place where I really experienced a feeling that would stick with me the entire time I was in the hospital. The only symptom of my soon-to-be-diagnosed problem was a pain in my side, (the shoulder pain disappeared). But if I slouched down just a bit while sitting, I didn’t feel a thing. So in full couch-potato mode, I’m as normal as I ever am. But I can almost hear the meter running, ringing up ungodly charges and bills. All while, if I’m smart, I don’t feel a thing, I’m really suffering from a serious condition. It’s a hard conflict to wrap your head around.
But you know, I do get past the double doors into the ER proper, where they run the standard battery of tests… x-rays and blood tests and such. And of course, as with any chest problem, they want to run a CT scan. (Yup… there goes another $3,000). But you know… chest problems usually mean, at least for me, that I cannot lie down flat. I really tried. And the CT tech was unbelievably patient. But I just curled up into a little fetal ball of pain every time I tried. And the initial painkiller they gave me was just enough to shave off the irrational part of the pain. So now I was perfectly conscious and able to force myself to feel giant stabbing forces in my side. Okay… maybe not “able”. But then they came in with the reallllllly big tube, with all the glowy lights and pink sparkles in it. And the nurse wasn’t even halfway done injecting it into my IV yet, when it started to wash over me. I entire body felt like it was being slowly drenched in a vat of TV static. White noise just washed through my brain, and all I could do was put my hands over my face and wait for my head to melt. I can’t really say too much about the rest of that night, because it was mostly experienced through occasional blurry glimpses of just one eye at a time. But I do remember feeling nothing at all by the time we got around to the CT scan again. And I kind of floated around the first floor for a few hours before they wheeled me upstairs and put me to bed.
By the time they woke me up to finish off the paper work now that I was no longer stoned, they reminded me I had a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot in my left lung.
And then they jabbed me in the stomach with my first needle. Which really doesn’t hurt anywhere near as much as you’d think. Although it does still freak me the fuck out every time it happens. But that was really the highlight of the rest of my week. I spent the next three days reading, watching CNN, and sleeping. Phone call from a relative every 2 hours. Blood pressure/temperature/pulse-ox every 4 hours. Needle in the gut every 12. Pill every 24.
But as I said, I’m sitting in bed, feeling mostly in perfect health, knowing I could have died. And every day, they doctors tell me I will go home. Until they disappear after their shift, and I’m still there. Without knowing how long my sentence was for, I couldn’t make long term plans, for clothes, or entertainment, or work. I barely got my cat fed.
And that was it. A surreal, distant environment and situation, with no tangible control or end. Surreal enough to change every day. It started off hotel quiet, with just the occasional obligatory stranger walking down the hall. That turned into a day of Law and Order, listening to my neighbor beg for pain pills at 3 AM. And finishing it off last night with groups of incredibly cheerful yuppies being supportive of each-other.
(Just one angel, visited me on the third day with gifts of chocolate and magazines.)
But this morning, they sprang me. It just sort of nonchalantly happened. One minute I’m being poked and prodded, and almost literally the next, I’m free to go. (Except, of course, since I was stoned off my ass when they brought me in, I didn’t know where I actually was). And all of the sudden, surreality shifts again. And I can’t help suddenly noticing how disturbingly real the outside world is. And it’s dirty. And the people aren’t very bright. And I’m incredibly conscious of every tainted breath I take with my faulty lungs. And while the pains in my side are still around, just waiting for me to turn the wrong way, I feel immensely better than the day I checked in. But since I’ve only been sitting on my ass for the last 3 or 4 days, I don’t know if even the exertion of getting my prescriptions filled will wear me down so much I won’t be able to make it home. (Admittedly, many of these thoughts dissipated quickly when I got a bill of over $1,300 for 1 week’s worth of drugs. I am sooooooo incredibly screwed).
But I’m home again. And Pixel is content. My life is now so incredibly fucked up and in trouble, but I’m tired beyond belief and a bit staggered by all this. So for just these few minutes, I’m smiling and walking around bare-foot.

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