Saturday, May 19, 2012
This is Bad Bunny. I received him as a gift in the summer of 2006. I died that winter.
I have a chronic liver illness, and at some point in October of that year I start feeling kind of crappy with some strange pains on my right hand side so I immediately think, 'Holy-Moly, Cirrhosis'. I go see the Dr. and get an ultra or an MRI or one of those obscenely expensive tests, and the doctor tells me that I have gallstones, not cirrhosis, and that I need to get my gallbladder removed. Easy Squeazy, like my boss likes to say, right? No problem. In fact, it's so simple they don't even cut you open anymore, they just inflate you and stick a couple of cameras in with a tube and snip snip - they pull your gallbladder out through your belly button. Delightful. "Ms. Naranjo," (I wasn't married at the time... well, I am married now and I didn't change my name so I guess I'm still Ms. Naranjo, except that when you’re in your forties it isn't really that cute anymore. So... I'm the one that wants to be the librarian right?) Where was I?
"Ms. Naranjo, you know, since you are due for a liver biopsy, I can just go ahead and do that for you while I'm poking around in your abdomen with my pointy little toys. Yes?" I'm paraphrasing. Yes? I don't know if you've ever had the pleasure but, if you want to know what it feels like to get stabbed in the stomach with an ice pick, then I highly recommend getting a liver biopsy. As much as I wanted to go through that again, I told the doc, "Yeah, maybe you should do it while I’m out." I trust this guy to take a piece of me out of me, why in the world would I think that anything bad was going to happen? The last time I had the biopsy I was wide awake and nothing happened so this should be a frigging mimosa.
I get the outpatient procedure and go home. Everything seems to be ok for a day but I suddenly start to experience a pain in my belly. It feels like my stomach is tied in a knot and someone is squeezing it in their fist. I rush to the hospital, get a dose of gamma rays and well, long story short you better not piss me off because you wouldn’t like it when I’m angry. No, that’s another super hero. Eventually they were able to figure out what was wrong with me. The biopsy needle nicked the artery in my liver, and unbeknownst to anyone, I was hemorrhaging.
When you start to bleed out from an artery the blood loss is exponential. While they kept pumping plasma into me, they couldn't figure out how to cap the cut in the artery in my liver, so I kept bleeding and losing blood pressure. Plasma doesn't have white cells, and my white cells were evacuating my body along with my red. If you recall what they taught in biology, it’s the white cells that coagulate. SO, they couldn't cut me open to get to my liver either because, basically, I would have bled out and died faster. Eventually and twice, my blood pressure zeroed out and I had to be resuscitated with fluid. By that time my family was holding vigil outside of the OR. My sister reminds me of The Phone Call telling her "you better come quickly, she's in grave condition". And she reminds me that my dad kept telling her that I was going to make it. And I did. Some maverick doctor came in and threaded the stent through the artery itself.
I don't remember much of it and what I do remember comes back in fragments, like a dream. The few hours before I fainted I remember I kept asking for morphine, because of the pain, but to be honest, also because I really, really like morphine. I remember getting up and trying to go to the bathroom and calling the nurse because I was dizzy and then falling into her arms, fainting for the first time in my life. Then, stadium lights over the bed and looking over at the bag of plasma which looked like a big white pillow case with a giant letter A and a giant negative sign on it, like it would look in a cartoon. I acknowledged that they had gotten my blood type right. And then, I remember being really, really tired and wanting to stop though I wasn't sure what it was I wanted stopping. But mostly, mostly I remember the fearlessness.
I have lived with an underlying sense of fear since as far back as I can remember. Sometimes it is subtle, subconscious, I’m hardly aware of it. When I was reaching my bottom in my addiction, the fear was a flamboyant, pink haired, LOUD transvestite; impossible to ignore. Sometimes it was downright petrifying and the only thing that would get rid of it was alcohol, but by the time it became Lola, it was the alcohol that was perpetuating the fear. So, anyway, I have never known fearlessness. Not that I can remember, but I'm pretty sure we're fearless when we come out into the world. That was a long time ago, though. I clearly remember being in a state of awareness with a part of me that is other than me. I want to call it unfamiliar but that's not it. Maybe the words that fit better are disconnected or unused. That part knows nothing of fear. Nothing.
That otherness scared me. Sometimes it doesn't seem right to have experienced that feeling only because I was dying. It doesn't seem fair. I guess that's laughable, but only when I'm in the mood to acknowledge irony as it pertains to me.
I don't think about that November all the time anymore. The experience haunted me for a long time afterward. My dreams were filled with the walking dead and I experienced intense de ja vu a few times daily for months later. It sounds cool but it started becoming really disorienting. Eventually all of that strange stuff stopped happening and I got comfortable again. What does Bad Bunny have to do with anything? Well, Bad Bunny was with me in the hospital room that night. I didn't bring him, but he was a favorite toy at the time, because of the Stephen King reference and the writing reference all woven into the maniacal rabbit and I had a friend that knew I would think it was funny. Even if I had died I'd have loved the idea. So, there, in the corner of the room, watching the scramble as the blood seeped from all of my nooks and crannies, holding his bloody little axe, covered in REDRUM and blood, cigarette in mouth ready for battle, was my bunny. I wonder if the nurses ever glanced up at him in horror or with humor.
I keep him nearby reminding me to live my life to the fullest. Or else.