“Know the difference between a catastrophe and an inconvenience — To realize that it’s just an inconvenience, that it is not a catastrophe, but just an unpleasantness, is part of coming into your own, part of waking up.” (Bruce Lee)
I was really looking forward to the 4th of July extended holiday as a time of recharge, chillaxation in the sun and reflection on the events of 2022 so far - my 2nd converter-jacking, my covid, my dental surgery.
I really needed a reset away from the madness of my own life.
Instead of celebrating independence, I was reminded how truly dependent I am - on friends, family, loved ones, the medical system, and courage. Instead of recharging, regrouping and reassessing, I celebrated dependence with my foot up and regrets about my carelessness.
I spent many hours angry at myself for causing all of the hours lost to the accident. Hours paraded around naked in a poorly-tied gown with an IV cart. Hours strapped to an uncomfortable bed bound with tubes and tickers.
Hours imagining how my Dad felt when he was in this same position fighting for his life. I always imagined that I would create a metal sculpture to capture my last moments with him... the groaning face of agony, the myriad of tubes treating him like a drug puppet, the barely working catheters both giving and taking life. It was a goal of my #metalmorphosis that I never achieved.
In my head, a constant mental rotation of
"How did a splinter get me here?"
"What could I have done differently?"
"What should I learn from this?"
In reality, the answers are far more complicated than stitches and two-weeks off of my foot. Some wounds caused by time and society never fully close.
And some wounds don't show up until you least expect them to.
Closures and Openings (July 18, 2022)
I slept for at least 13 hours following discharge. In the days that followed, my theme was rest, elevation of my foot, and adaptation to life changes that followed my stay at Regions Hospital. I slept a lot and downed meds as if they were my new candy.
When closure day came on Monday, the stress wasn't about the procedure, but getting to the facility. The Specialty Care center wouldn't let me rideshare to the appointment, even if I had pickup covered. They also couldn't provide alternate transport for those without a wealth of options. With one handful of family members in the area and numbered accessible friends, my options on Monday noon were shockingly limited.
Thankfully, my girlfriend worked her butt off to get off early so she could take me herself, but it made me realize how isolated I've become. Wrapped up in my own little art world. Consumed by the drama and stress of these odd days.
The world is burning and I have been mostly silent. Too silent, I suppose. In posting these blogs, I realized that it's been almost nine months since my last one.
That will change. I have written much and shared little lately, been a passive spectator in these troubled times.
The closure procedure was fast and painless, especially with the anesthetics. I was given crutches, a post-op boot and more painkillers and wheeled back to my regularly-scheduled life, a very different person than the one who simply got a splinter in his foot.
As with anything, the answers drove more questions.
An Imperfect Science
In reality, shit went from urgent to emergent fast - within days.
I did what I thought what right with heading to the Urgent Care first instead of a Hospital, and it turned out to be a bad decision.
The first Urgent Care doc ordered x-rays on my foot, but didn't see a foreign object because wood doesn't show up on x-rays (only MRIs), so he didn't see a poisonous foreign body lodged beneath my skin. He prescribed useless antibiotics and sent me home, telling me to come back if it got worse.
The second Urgent Care doc looked at the state of my foot, painted lines to track infection growth, and gave me new, more aggressive antibiotics to fight the infection, telling me to come back if it got worse.
Less than a week after the first Urgent Care visit, I was in the Hospital getting an MRI and foot surgery scheduled. It went from uncomfortable to "worse" faster than any Urgent Care doc expected - but they were relying on an imperfect picture of my foot that didn't show what was really going on beneath the skin.
When I ask myself the question of "what could I have done differently", I don't have a good answer (besides 'wearing shoes'). I think the greatest fault lies on Urgent Care docs not insisting I get an MRI sooner, even if it required a Hospital visit. A week less of the infection timeline could've got me into surgery quicker and without such painful complications.
But I acknowledge that medicine is an imperfect science run by imperfect people involving imperfect patients.
Speaking of imperfect patient, the visit turned out to be about more than just an infected splinter in my foot.
Over the course of the first couple days in the Hospital, checks were run regularly on my vitals. Blood sugar and pressure were both running high. After tests were performed, I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic with high blood pressure.
Strapped to tubes and focused an injured foot, I had little idea what that meant - for me. I'd seen it in my Dad, watched my Grandfather wither away from it, and encountered friends with it, but was shocked that I was now part of that dubious club.
I don't know when it started, don't know how long I've had it. Blood sugar problems could've been behind the scenes for years as I consumed carelessly. But I've honestly never known the blood sugar highs and lows that most insulin-necessary diabetes suffer. My pescatarian life has been mostly comfortable. One too many sodas, for sure, but I don't have a sweet tooth anymore and am not a foodie thanks to my history with UC.
A little bit of me suspects this covid angle suggested by CIDRAP, as the timeline jives, but don't have true proof of when blood sugar started running high.
Again, I have to be angry with myself for not getting levels checked after my Dad died from diabetes. I understood his pain and struggle, but not in the context of living it.
A splinter from my past infecting the present.
Living it has given me a whole new appreciation of the disease. How my diet has completely changed to align to keeping blood sugar down. Multiple blood draws daily to monitor glucose levels. Taking things slower and more deliberately to lessen blood pressure. Managing stress and hunger pangs.
While healing from a wound, sore toe joints and infection-bruised swelling, I'm also having to undertake new dietary habits, check vitals multiple times per day, and take more pills regularly than I have in my life.
All of this from an inch-sized splinter.
I think we each hold splinters that are infecting our ability to live long, strong and healthy. The splinters are kept sanitized by positive reinforcements from culture and advertising, but the infection of greed can be seen in our ads alone.
The cost of being a care-free consumer in modern society is our lives - from the unhealthy foods and lifestyles pushed our way from birth, to the constant rotation of promotions that are sure to secure your death.
Strapped to a hospital bed, I watched daytime TV for the first time in decades. I was dismayed by the ad content directed at viewers during that window.
Ads promoting food terrible for humans, featuring people who most likely are diabetic and/or have an array of health issues that would keep them from eating what they're promoting.
Misleading, manipulative ads targeting seniors.
Ambulance-chaser and class action ads.
And countless advertisements for new drugs to fight Ulcerative Colitis, a condition I beat the last time I took my health into my own hands. It seems as though medicine is no closer to finding an answer for this debilitating condition. I made it out if its grasp; this time, though, I fear the meds have me.
As three different antibiotics worked to beat bugs back in my system, I found that propaganda is still a powerful form of infection that probably contributed to who I am now.
There is a hard road ahead for me. The visions of my Dad and Grandfather dying as a result of diabetes haunts me. Their gruesome ends are the stuff of my nightmares.
At a year-and-a-half away from 50, I have a greater sense of my fragility.
I never imagined that I would end up like my Dad, but I should've seen it coming. More proof that I'm not a seer, just a normal creative human with a keen aptitude for words, and good artistic vision and intuition, who is sometimes too smart for his own good, sometimes prone to stupid mistakes that result in suffering and surgery.
Pain is part of the plotline.
So is making better choices.
This splinter was not a catastrophe, not the end of my world. But it was a wake-up call to be more cautious and less careless, be more deliberate and less chaotic, be more here and less there.
There is wisdom in this splinter, and I will embody it.