A New Life Granted or: That Time I was In a Coma Pt. III

“How nice — to feel nothing, and still get full credit for being alive.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

 

It was business as usual in the world while I lay there, dormant, being fed through tubes, hydrated through IV’s, a breathing tube keeping my lungs functional, multiple closed suction drain tubes pouring accumulated plasma and waste out of my body.

There was no sound, no smell, no touch, no sight, but most importantly of all, or so I erroneously thought later, no world to come back to.

 

I had finally gotten what I wished for.

 

For three days there was nothing. No light at the end of the tunnel, no choir of angels singing, no hellfire and brimstone searing my flesh; nothingness, that’s all there was.

 

And then three days later I woke up and realized how selfish and full of shit I was.

 

The first sensation I felt when I woke up was gagging; I now know that for three days I was an unwilling participant in the BDSM community*

*No offense, I’m sure you are all a lovely group of people, but having my mouth stuffed with a ball gag and deep-throated all the way down to my lungs is not exactly my idea of a good time; it’s funny how most people love to yearn and pine for the fantasy, craving the taboo, then spook the hell out when someone introduces them to the virtues of submission and domination, realizing they  have no self-confidence or sense of trust. Just a thought. 

Machines blooped and beeped rhythmically; the smells of obsessive cleanliness and sterility permeated my nostrils. I’ve walked into meat lockers with more warmth and inviting ambiance than the ICU where I was situated.

I couldn’t speak nor move; I would later learn that I had been restrained for my own well-being, strapped to the bed so tightly that my hands looked like Barney’s, and I was hooked to an artificial respirator due to the collapse of my lungs.

The shift nurse was checking my vitals and noticed my open eyes, blank, confused, scared. She greeted me back to the land of the living.

“That was quite the scare you gave everyone. We’re just glad you pulled through.”

My family was immediately notified of my woken state; they had never left the hospital.

Three days of seeing their child and nephew unconsciously trying to stay alive.

I put them through Hell.

 

Selfish.

 

Egotistical.

 

Cowardly.

 

That used to be the standard Seba modus operandi; sometimes, sadly enough, it still is. Old habits die hard, especially for mental illness patients; we are set in our ways, our routines define us, and most times we believe those routines are our best friends, except when we don’t realize that those rituals, those actions you think are helping you survive are making those around you suffer, because they care, they love, they feel, and feel helpless seeing someone they love suffering and not being able to do anything about it.

 

It was supposed to be a simple procedure. Three days.

 

I convalesced in that hospital for a month.

 

The pneumologist arrived to remove the oxygen tube from my lungs; my blood oxygenation levels were stable, so the decision was made to remove the intubation, that my body was strong enough to breathe on its own, lest the accumulation of bacteria surrounding the tube would cause further damage, a possible infection, or worse. There was a catch, though; if after removing the tube I were unable to breath on my own, I would have to be re-intubated. While fully awake. No anesthesia.

Ouch.

I leaned my head back as staff cut the tape from my mouth; the tension was thick, I trembled, and tears began to stream down my cheeks.

My father held my hand tightly.

The doctor yanked that sucker right out; objects always seem so innocuously small until they come within sight. There was a freakin’ proverbial Go’auld-albino-mandingo-phallic torture device shoved down my throat, now being thrust out of my body by spastic heaving and violent coughing. I felt violated.

Suddenly, someone smacked my back. It was a thunder-clap to my lungs. For a few seconds, I struggled to breath; I thrashed around for a bit, desperately clutching whatever I could get my hands on, my body anxiously battling to take in the smallest bit of air.

A few seconds later, I heard the sound of gasping, felt the comfort of a simple breath, the burning sensation in my lungs as blood rushed with oxygen and life.

 

I was reborn.

 

I endured poking, prodding, constant vigilance; I wallowed in waste when my bowels were trying to adjust to my new physiological changes, so sometimes I would lie on my own filth for hours, until staff would come along and clean up the mess. Bath time was always a treat; I would lay still on the bed while the medical staff would fit me unto a padded sling, like transporting a whale into captivity.* My bloated living carcass would be hoisted up, and spray washed like a caged animal, wiped down, and sterilized; my wounds ached horribly, my tubes would tangle and pull, causing massive amounts of pain.

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*Actual picture from the ICU. At least the whale gets some swimming space. Silver linings.

 

It was a horribly humiliating, yet necessary; naked, exposed, blob-esque.

 

Most importantly of all, humbling.

 

I was allowed a second chance to make things right; my role in this world, no matter how minute and insignificant it may seem to me at times, was not over – it had just begun.

 

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(Taken one month after being released from the hospital, 2005)

 

It took me a year to recover physically from that experience, but every day I wake is a blessing, a constant reminder that things could always be worse.

 

Dying has a way of putting things into perspective. I remember all the times I attempted to end my life because I could no longer cope with the war raging inside my mind and body. After I literally lost my life, I realized that it was my ILLNESS that fantasized with death, it was the impulse, that never-ending push of the mind betraying itself, taunting, laughing, crying, screaming. The child, the king, the emperor, the pawn, the wise man, the warrior, the outcast, the hedonist, the harlequin, the monsters, demons and beasts, they all keep clashing for control, wanting to be the head honcho of SebaLand.

 

 

I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could learn to live again.

 

 

I died, I slept, and I woke up so I could live, so I could share my tales with all of you.

 

 

A Warped Wish Granted or: That Time I Was In A Coma Pt. II

Be careful how you wish, for wishes can come true
Be sure that every wish you make is one that’s right for you
So many people find their happiness in dreaming
But dreams can fool you, and they very often do
Be careful how you wish, remember when you start
To only wish for things you really want with all your heart
And don’t go chasing every rainbow in the blue
What more is there to wish than to know that the one that you love loves you
— Be Careful How You Wish, The Incredible Mr. Limpet

 

Voices over loudspeakers. Cold. Everything reeking of sterility and isopropyl alcohol. My blurry vision was blinded by intense incandesence.

I felt weak; I could barely move….

 

WAIT.

 

I FELT?

 

I SURVIVED?!

 

And then, what can only be described as the agony of a heavyset Sicilian lady stomping grapes on your abdomen while a Xenomorph is trying to dodge her gruff dance of joy to burst from your body kicked in.*

 

Unfortunately, the morphine had not.

 

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*Actual post-op picture; no, really, I’m serious. 

 

I kept moaning something along the lines of “man, this fucking hurts” over and over, a mantra of relief and regret, a plea to the gods of synthetic drugs to make the pain go away.

“Of course it hurts, you just got out of surgery”, said my father, gently smiling, serene, stroking my hair as I stiffened with pain as the general anesthesia kept sticking its tongue out mockingly, bidding farewell to another sucessful act of corporal mutilation.

Dad immediately paid $200 to the staff for them to integrate the morphine drip into my IV to alleviate my suffering.*

*Surgery is a complete package deal; post surgery amenities always cost extra, just like a cheap motel

 

Post surgery recovery went surprisingly well; though I had more tubes sticking out of my body than Geppetto’s dungeon dolls (don’t ask how I know this), everything seemed on the up and up. According to my surgeon, the procedure required a total of three days to complete – one day for surgery, the next for observation, and the third for early morning discharge.

 

Everything was going great.

 

And then I stopped peeing.

 

My body temperature went supernova; I went delirious.

 

You see, doctors had warned me that there was a 1% chance (if I remember correctly) that my body would perceive my sutures as a foreign object, invade the intruder with impunity, therefore unraveling the work done on my digestive system.

As luck would have it, I would not be part of the Wall Street 1%; I was now a member of the Profusely Hemorraghing Organs Club, leaking bodily fluids all over my insides, becoming a caustic human water balloon.

After an emergency X-ray, I was immediately wheeled in to the operating room in a frantic bid to avoid my body going into sepsis.

 

Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it.

 

I was put under, and doctors immediately got to work on repairing the damage to my fresh wounds, hurriedly stopping the spread of bile, chemicals, pus, and other delicious cocktail of fluids swirling around wreaking havoc on my immune system.

 

And then, a funny thing happened.

 

I woke up.

 

In the middle of surgery.

 

I’ve always said the Universe is not without a sense of humor; it’s just very dark, bleak, ironic, and precise.

 

And so, I felt an itching at my nose that I needed to scratch very badly. That’s the moment I mindlessly decided in my feverish, anesthesia-induced delirium to start pulling out the nasogastric tube (NG tube from now on, for the sake of brevity and laziness) and rip it straight out of my nose, in the process tearing through my esophagus and causing further damage to what was already a delicate, fragile body undergoing extreme duress.

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*A handy creative commons picture of an NG tube; definitely not for the squeamish.

 

Did I mention I used to smoke menthols like a chimney?

 

Here comes the plot twist.

 

Everything was dark, yet audibly clear; I could vividly hear the voices of doctors and medical profesionals losing their shit, barking orders, desperately praying to the gods of malpractice to spare them from the wrath of a lawsuit.  I felt the equivalent tonnage of the Titanic pressing against my chest; I couldn’t breath, yet I was strangely calm, dreaming.*

*Later I would learn that’s how it feels to go into respiratory arrest.

 

You see, my lungs were weak from years of smoking, and the stress of pulling out my NG tube, doctors restraining me, and two straight days of anesthesia was the perfect condition for my body to stop fighting.

 

 

And so, ladies and gentlemen, I died.

 

 

Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it….

 

 

PS. No worries, the coma is just right around the corner.

 

 

 

 

I Wish I May, I Wish I Might or: That Time I Was In A Coma Pt. I

“When the gods want to punish you, they will answer your prayers.” – Karen Blixen, Out Of Africa

 

The rain pitter-pattered constantly against the car window, as I stared out at the Cayey mountains on October 11, 2005. It was fairly dark out still at 5am, and I am sure I was quite groggy still, but the streetlamps glimmered orange with blurry halos; the rain, the slight tangerine glows, the mist over the mountains, the whole car ride was sublimely surreal, yet I remember it vividly.

 

Little did I know that less than 48 hours later I was going to drift into a coma.

 

Let’s wind back the clock, say, maybe a decade and a half. For most of my young adulthood, my body weight usually maintained itself at around 155lbs. (Another example of my lack of education – I have no idea how the Metric system works, but I’ve heard it’s the be-all-end-all of measurement. Whatever.) The point is, during my teen years, I was on the heavy side, robust, not flabby nor chubby, just husky, and many other adjectives that superficial people use to politely describe the exact amount of disgust they hold over what standards of beauty they deem fit and appropriate.

Personally, I prefer the term husky; it always reminds me of snowy, majestic hounds. Either that or it sounds way better than rotund.

Once I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began medicating, though, my weight skyrocketed; many have adjudicated blame to medications stunting my metabolism due to harmful side effects. They may be right, but I have another take on the subject:

 

I ate my pain away.

 

A lot.

 

Sadly, overeating is a very common symptom of many mental illnesses, including bipolar disorder. It’s all a cycle of filling the emotional void with whatever immediate self-gratifying element seems to be lying around and within reach, whether it be drugs, alcohol, sex, food, or all of the above.

I was never one to take my medication regiments seriously. I always considered psychiatry to be a hoax, a conspiracy theory-laced pharmaceutical cash grab that offered magical pills to dimwitted dopes like me that were aching for a quick fix permanent solution to life’s problems. And so, I would lie to my family, like a good reverse-junkie, fooling them into believing I was following my medication regiment, all the while abusing alcohol, stuffing my face with two BK Double-Whopper combos, chugging down at least 2 liters of soda a day (it’s a damn miracle I’ve never had kidney stones; they’d probably be the size of Kanye West’s ego – pretty damn big, painful, and insane).

You think hobbits had too many meals? Amateurs.*

*The fact that I am even considering comparing my former eating habits with those of fantasy literature races should be alarming enough

In any case, haphazardly taking medication, while combining it with massive alcohol consumption, scarfing down massive quantities of junk food, all of this on a daily basis….well, do the math. At 345lbs (damn that stupid Imperial system again; what’s a damn pound besides somewhere you keep cartoon puppies?), I had officially ballooned out to behemoth proportions. You’ve never lived until you can’t even fit in 2XL clothing, people staring at you as if you’re a walking genetic anomaly; there’s an odd sense of freedom in not giving a flying fuck about people’s opinions.

 

That, of course, was a lie.

 

I cared.

 

Very much.

 

Too much, in fact.

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*The only existing picture of Seba at 345lbs. circa 2005 BM (Before Maria)

 

My only saving grace to avoid social exile was my inexplicable way of charming people and getting them to like me, by any means necessary. That became an addiction as well; there is no better drug than the subtle art of social engineering, knowing that you are able to get your way when others cannot. I was always the wingman in our hunting pack at night clubs; I was the scout who would point out targets of opportunity, would lull the ladies into a false sense of security, while the hyenas closed in for the kill.

Unfortunately, I didn’t want prey; I just wanted, and needed, love and acceptance, a sense of connection, unity, to belong. Making friends was not the hard part; it was keeping them that I truly failed at.

(That, as I always say, will be another story for another time)

 

*insert record scratch here*

 

Enough backstory, let’s get to the part where I get cut open on an operating table!

The year 2014 was spent in massive preparation for what would become THE defining moment of my life. I underwent extensive physical checkups, had a team of cardiologists, nutritionists, pneumologists, shamans, witch doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, etc. just prepping me for the road that lay ahead of me.

 

I was pumped! I was excited! I was motivated!

 

All because I expected to die the morning of my surgery.

 

I had elected to commit suicide by doctor. *

*I had many suicide attempts in the past, unsuccesful of course, just attentionwhoring pityparties, cries for help; for the sake of not triggering anyone or having someone get any ideas, I will not divulge any details. Needless to say, I know I was unsuccessful every time because I had hope that someday, my mind would find peace, magically, through fairy dust, alcohol, and blissful ignorance. Seba, always the dreamer, always the dumbass. 

 

On the morning of October 11, 2005, I was about to undergo gastric bypass surgery, otherwise known as “let’s staple this dumb shit’s stomach so he’ll be obligated to eat right under the threat of rupturing his insides, and he’ll naturally starve his body so rapidly that all muscle and fatty tissue will be gone, leaving a saggy husk of drooping, scarred skin loosely draped over bones, Ed Gein style”.

I arrived at the hospital; my whole family was there. They had no clue that I had selfishly signed a death warrant.

My grandmother, my best friend in the whole world, the one source of purity I was never worthy of being gifted, joined me during the prep procedure. My mom was in the prep room as well; may aunt and father would take turns coming in and out of the room, but they were visibly anxious, not wanting to witness what might have been the last few moments they would see their child and nephew alive.

Grandma held my hands, kept making jokes as she would always do, smiling softly, gently patting my shoulder, rubbing me with warmth and comfort in that freezing room, while the nurses were injecting anticoagulants into my abdomen, tapping my veins for the IV, shaving my stomach to clean the area.

I lied on the cold stretcher, naked except for the surgical gown and pressure socks that would pump air in and out to promote blood circulation during surgery. I trembled, not out of fear, but out of the cold quietness that permeated the waiting room. They wheeled me to the checkpoint; it was time to say our farewells.

 

I cried.

 

Hard.

 

I held their hands, squeezed, and they prayed for me before being wheeled off into the sterility and loneliness of the surgical prep area. The nurses came to take me on my way. I kissed each member of my family on the forehead, and I told them that I loved them very much. That was not a lie.

Staring up at lights in a hospital hallway while being carted off to the unknown is quite the experience. It is silent, lonely, yet oddly peaceful in a very creepy way. The only sounds present was a TV with the local morning news, which I paid absolutely no attention to, and the sporadic, curious beeps and sounds of heart monitors, and other assorted medical gadgets .

My surgeon arrived (a tiny doctor who, I was told, needed ladders to be able to reach over our grotesquely immense bellies to work her voodoo magic); she was a genuine sweetheart. She tried to comfort me, gave me the pre-op pep talk, and then the staff proceeded to slide me unto what could be considered Antarctica’s butthole; I would assume White Walkers would shudder looking at that infernal slab of ice and doom.

The anesthesiologist arrived, asked me some questions, tried to crack a few friendly jokes (bless his jaded ass for trying, lame as he was), and proceeded to instruct me to count backwards from 10.

10….

9….

8….

7….

The blanket of shivering cold was gone; everything was gone.

 

 

No worries, we’ll get to my coma soon enough.