Monday, August 18, 2014

From the Glad to Be Alive Dept.: One Year Later

(This post contains frank language that may offend some delicate, shell-like ears. That's your warning.)

This week last year I nearly died.

That's not an exaggeration. Every doctor I've talked to ever since has remarked at how close I was to dying. At first I was all "they're just saying that" to "holy shit it was way worse than I thought" to "how the hell do I avoid this happening again".

I'm not going to preach to you about taking care of yourself. You'll either do that or you won't and I don't judge you one way or the other. I will only point out that if you sit for more than an hour you need to get up and walk around. And that the 10,000 steps a day thing isn't bullshit.

The update is that I weigh less now than I did at this time last year. My blood pressure's good. The ulcerative colitis is very much under control. In short, I'm as healthy as I've ever been. I am still working on losing more weight just so I can keep feeling better and better. I am diligently monitoring everything I can, changing lifelong habits slowly but surely. I hope.

And the real point of this post is look back and note the things that were warning signs. For instance:

  • From about mid-March I'd had an occasional, often really painful, stitch in my left side, like I'd been running a quarter mile at top speed. Which is something I haven't done since junior high and would never dream of doing even now. That stitch was apparently a large clot on my left side. The doctors told me that the heaviest burden was on my left. It hurt like a bastard my first night in the hospital. 
  • There were other little pains that added up and added up in retrospect. In my legs, my shoulders, my chest. I went for a walk early in May and had a terrible time breathing. I hadn't been walking in a while back then so I figured I was just really, really out of shape. I was out of shape, but I didn't recognize that sucking for air on a brisk walk over even ground should have really shocked me.
  • The Sunday before I landed in the hospital, I mowed the yard. In increments. Normally it takes about an hour to mow the entire yard and I had to stop and catch my breath four times. I actually sat down for that. Still, I thought maybe it was something more to do with my heart than with my lungs. My chest hurt but I was going to get my heart tested in two days so I didn't worry too much. But I should have been terrified.
  • I went to my son's open house at school and made it through exactly two classes. I was out of breath, sluggish and sweating. No way was I going to go up stairs. Feeling awful for missing the chance to talk to his teachers and feeling bad physically are not a good combination. I was going to the heart test the next morning. I would tell them about that night.
  • After the heart test - 6 minutes on a 10% grade - I was completely incapacitated. The next morning would be when I would go down hard. I called in sick and spent the day on the couch and then in bed. I felt the worst I'd ever felt.
Until the next day, the worst day of my life.

So I'm watching everything, waiting for those little signs to amount to something less than half what I remember from the experience before. I can't go through that again. I won't.

And if you notice aches and pains that are out of the ordinary, go get 'em checked out. Don't wait for these things to add up. Really, don't.

All this applies to every aspect of your health. Don't be afraid to ask for help. 

Finally, I've been appreciative of you putting up with all these health updates. I've survived a year beyond nearly checking out, that's enough. Things are good, stable. So I expect this'll be the final update on my health. Unless something else happens we'll return to occasional posts here about writing, entertainments, politics, or whatever may be on my mind. Thanks for reading.

I'm glad you've been here, as much as I'm glad to still be here, too.