February is for me the cruelest month. Winter has had that effect on me for as long as I can remember. At this time of year, everything appears quite dark and hopeless and beyond tolerable. I know, of course, that the mood will pass. But this is the low water mark. Adding a little insult to injury, it now appears that I have a constitution that is thrombophilic.
Some years ago, I came down with what is technically referred to as a massive PE. Because no underlying cause could be identified for the event, it was deemed ‘unprovoked’ and that I should therefore forever remain on anticoagulants.
I wasn’t entirely convinced of the ‘unprovoked cause’ hypothesis since at about the time of the event, I had sustained a nasty fall (broken ribs and such) and in my mind that had to have been the precipitating cause. Consequently, after taking the meds for three-and-a-half years, I decided last October to stop them and see what might happen.
So last week, I had to put up with three days of discomfiting chills and serious shortness of breath and then going into the weekend, a progressively painful leg, what felt like a leg spontaneously if incrementally spraining itself. Also, taking some blood pressure readings along the way, I noted unusually low numbers.
My wife knew what was up and talked me into going to the hospital. A ‘CT scan’ seems to have confirmed a new crop of clots in the right lung and the leg is apparently DVT-ied. So I got my answer: it would seem that despite the absence of all known genetic markers and other anomalies, my blood just has a propensity to clot. I see the specialist tomorrow. I’ve a few questions for him, but the outcome is already expected: back on the meds, this time for good.
A night in the ‘observation’ wing of the emergency department is always a bit surreal. Dozens of other people surround you, many of whom are hanging on but by a meager thread, some of whom are even actually dying.
Last Monday going into Tuesday morning, I was being referred to by the nurses among themselves as the ‘young one’ despite being decades older than they on average.
In spite of myself, lying there behind my privacy curtains, I found myself listening to bits and pieces of conversation going on around me. People a lot older than me, who really ought to have long ago been retired, but who yet talked about having to work to keep paying the bills, and in this case, in precarious conditions of health. After a lifetime of enduring travail — I thought — their recompense sort of comes down to this scene of curtains bathed in dim electric light, this chorus of labored breathing punctuated by the incessant beeps of monitors and the sounds of automatic IV machines administering their drips, all of it interspersed by murmured, effortful words intended for private conversation yet overheard. Yes, I know; they lived regular lives. It wasn’t all unremitting bleakness. But this is the end of February, the beginning of March, and bleakness is this time of year the preponderant prism of my perception.
Then over there, there is a sudden bustle of activity, and a call goes out over the PA system, “Respiratory, STAT, Obs A, 3.”
The medical personnel is rushing about; everybody knows precisely what their role in this emergency is – all is well coordinated and orderly. I can hear three voices conferring as to whether or not “she” is in “failure,” and in a minute the consensus is that “she” is. “Nitroglycerin” is called for, and I can hear sounds of suctioning as they prepare to insert a tube down “her” throat . . . more bustling . . . whoever “she” is, “she” is unresponsive . . . is already gone . . . and I force myself to stop listening to the ensuing goings-on of this particular affair. . .
We all die. That, too, is an insuperable limit. I long ago accepted the fact. Still, it casts a kind of a pall over everything — especially in the month of February.
I think of my children. Are they happy? Yes. Are they sad? Yes. By turns, they are one and then the other. But more happy than sad, on average. How else could it be . . . It is with them as it is with me.
I’m glad I lived. I’m also actually not terribly sorry that I will die. At least there will be a limit to the ugliness in life that I will have been made to witness. Mercifully, there is a limit.
I think that February would be a good month in which for me to die . . . maybe next year . . . what with spring just around the corner . . .