Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Dylan Thomas
It all started with a nosebleed…
Such an innocent thing the humble nosebleed. Nearly every child has had one at some point, most often from an inopportune collision with the environment they’re so anxious to explore.
Like most children, I’ve had my experiences with the ejecta of life-fluids from the proboscis, but, aside from a car accident that I’d rather not discuss, rarely since the gaining on man’s estate.
So it was all the more shocking when, on the way to the grocery store one Sunday, I suddenly began bleeding rather profusely from one side of my nose onto the sidewalk. When I say “rather profusely,” I am in no way exaggerating the point. Without resorting to graphic imagery, my nosebleed was not the usual “slow drip” one is accustomed to. This was a steady flow, as if a major vein or artery had been severed, emptying its contents onto the pavement below.
My initial consternation quickly changed to alarm as I realized that this unexpected evacuation was not slowing down. Despite my best efforts, panic began to creep in as I tried to determine what to do. I couldn’t enter the store to get help, as I was already covered in blood and any movement on my part would simply make a mess everywhere, a situation as unpleasant as it was unsanitary. I realized I was going to have to call 911 – something of an embarrassment as I still considered this a “nosebleed.”
Finally I was able to swallow my growing panic and dig out my cel phone – how ironic that I had only just recently purchased a phone after years of believing I didn’t need one – and called 911. The kind and patient gentleman on the phone helped keep me calm while I waited for the ambulance to come. He appreciated my attempts at humour to keep the fear at bay – not just the fear of bleeding to death on a Sobey’s parking lot, but also a much deeper, unspoken fear – a deep, abject terror of hospitals.
Interestingly, almost the moment I stepped into the ambulance, the bleeding finally stopped. Arriving at the Emergency room of the hospital (ironically just a 10-minute walk from my house) was a study in using humour to counteract fear. The jokes came fast and furious as I was poked, prodded and tested for everything from diabetes to an addiction to love.
It’s a truly terrifying thing not to know if you’ll be able to go home or not, and the wait to find out can be interminable. Your mind begins to race through any number of bizarre scenarios:
“How will I get things from home for my stay?”
“Is there anyone I can call?”
“What about my clients?”
“Will they understand that I may have to delay work?”
“Does staying in hospital for a long time cost money?”
“And how will I pay for it if I can’t work?”
“What if I’m dying?”
“What if I die here, and no one knows?”
These sound like silly questions, but they are all very real, and they ramp up fear to levels beyond those assuaged by humour. Luckily for me, I’ve gotten very good at hiding fear and pain from my face, so that people often think everything is going perfectly well, while inside I’m falling apart. “Fake it til you make it,” I suppose.
Fast forward to today, five days after my initial “bleed-out” on the parking lot of a local supermarket, and I’ve been seen by nearly every department of the hospital except Obstetrics and Psychiatry.
The staff here at the hospital have gone above and beyond, from sitting quietly as I had a complete emotional breakdown at 4 in the morning to offering a patient (pardon the pun) smile and a helping hand whenever it’s been needed, usually before it was ever asked for (I rarely ask).
Staying in hospital is a lonely experience, especially for someone like myself, and simple things like access to the internet goes a LONG way to countering that loneliness.
As of this writing, they’ve determined that I have an issue with my heart, elevated blood pressure (it was a mind boggling 200 over something or other when first admitted) and some kidney abnormalities. Despite the fact that I “don’t fit into a neat box” interms of easy treatment, the medical staff are confident that all these issues can and will be treated – it will just take a little time.
I admit, I’m still scared, it’s hard not to be. Hospitals have been the location (if not necessarily the cause) of much of the loss I’ve experienced in my life, so a little trepidation is understandable.
I’ll also admit that I occasionally wake up at night in tears from that very fear and the memories it brings with it. (Note: For anyone reading this who may scoff and say, “That’s not very manly,” two things: 1. Fuck you, and 2. What makes you think I’m a man?)
The bottom line of course, is that I will get through this as I’ve gotten through everything else – with a great deal of help and with some small degree of tenacity on my part. Depression and fear would take me down the path of least resistance, see these challenges as a sign that I shouldn’t be here, that I have used up (or worse, wasted) my runs around the sun.
Strong though those emotions may be, and as tempting as the end result may seem, I’m just not willing to, as Thomas put it, “go gentle into that good night.”
The truth is, I’m not ready to go yet, not while there’s the tiniest chance I can do something of some value in this life. I’m in no way religious, but I do believe that there’s someone waiting for me when the time comes, but that time is not yet here.
As Russell Crowe says in the movie Gladiator when asked if he believes he will see his dead wife again:
“Yes I will… but not yet.”