It’s now day 18 of being out of the hospital after almost dying from a bacterial infection that suddenly exploded in my gut and decided to dine on my groin tissue. Within four hours I went from feeling fine to almost eating dirt.
The bright side is that if you can’t afford to go to Hawaii in the winter then a nice four week stay at the hospital isn’t too bad. Oh sure, you’ll complain at first and be in pain but don’t worry they have medication that will make you feel like you’re on a beach and the best part is the room service. Not a day goes by where you don’t have a nice choice of breakfast, lunch and dinner. How about a popsicle for a late night snack? You got it. When’s the last time you went to Hawaii and didn’t even have to place your feet on the ground or give yourself a shower?
When I left out the front door of the long-term care hospital, I quickly realized that I was still in Alaska. It was cloudy, cold and really cold and cloudy. I hobbled back to the front door which was locked from the inside and pleaded for them to let me back in. The vacation was over. At some point you have to get back to reality.
Taking a breath and doing everything humanly possible to get another one in, while your friend speeds you to the hospital is quite possibly the worst feeling I’ve ever had. I’ve never seen anyone die, but I’ve always heard stories about the last breath being the deepest and then suddenly they’re gone. I thought about that for about 20 miles as we headed to the emergency room.
I also thought about my family and all of the things I never got to tell them or do with them. I know it’s not a fun subject to discuss, but once I was stabilized and had multiple surgeries a lot of questions began to rise.
The administrators at the hospital asked if I had a living will and a power of attorney. I had neither and quickly asked for the paperwork and a pen. I, for one, plan on donating every organ of my body and I do not want to live on machines. I’m a plug puller all the way.
Getting the flesh eating bacteria made me think about all the things that we never want to think of as we age in this world, from the simplest questions of what will things be like when I’m gone to do I want to be cremated?
I quickly realized that I need to train someone younger than me to keep an eye on the politicians in this state and go after them when they get out of line. I also realized that I need to thank the friends that I have for being there in times like this.
All too often we take friendships for granted and assume we’ll have time to tell each other how much we mean to one another on some other day. I almost found out how bad of an idea that can be. I’m not saying that you need to go hug every single person that you care about and thank them for playing marbles with you as a kid or driving you to school when it was raining out. But it wouldn’t hurt to say, “Thanks for everything. You’re a good friend and the planet is a much nicer place with you on it.” It doesn’t take much.
Every time I went into surgery I took a moment to think about everyone that influenced me in some way. I thought about my friends and recanted in my mind some of the stupid yet funny things that we did growing up. I like telling those stories over and over again with them. It never gets too old to wake up in the morning with a face and stomach that hurt from laughing so much.
I also made sure that the surgeon called my mother immediately after the operation to let her know how it went. Moms are first on the list when it comes to getting updates on their children, and rightfully so.
In the end, the whole experience taught me one thing – to never give in again to fear. It’s our most primal instinct and most of us have spent our lives living in the shadows of our true greatness only to be disappointed by the outcomes of our weak efforts to make something of ourselves. Oh sure, we talk about how we’re going to do this, that and the other thing just as soon as we have the time and energy – but we never do. We’re filled with excuses as to why things never come to fruition. Yet we continue on doing some menial task that we think of as our destiny, polish it up, and sell it as if we’ve never been more content. It’s a terrible way to live, and the end result is usually a bunch of people conglomerating at a bar and complaining every Friday after work about how lousy their lives are.
I learned that there is no magic wand that will make your life fulfilled in an instant. Everything has to come from within. Forget asking your friends to join in with you to develop some joint venture. Go do it on your own. That way if you fail you can harbor 100 percent of the learning that is necessary in order to move on and do a better job next time. There won’t be any arguing or finger pointing. There will only be the liberating feeling that comes with taking chances all on your own regardless of whether you succeed.
My fake Hawaii trip in the hospital taught me a lot of things. You know what the best part was? No underwear. Try that on your next vacation.