The last post was quite rantastic.
I am sure some of you want to know who tipped it off. Instead of specifying who they are, I am going to do something different. I am going to specify who I am.
Once upon a time, a friend of mine (and a reader of this blog) said, “You know, you’re quite a mystery. You write a lot on your blog and yet, you don’t talk very much about yourself.” The focus of this blog is more about my experiences and less about myself. Although I did not write this blog with the intent of becoming well-known, a tidy readership has evolved over the years and the bigger the reach of my writing, the more I want to keep some things to myself. We live in the Age of Oversharing and as a rather closed person, I must admit living this contradiction gets — weird.
I’ve mentioned before that I always “want to know why” about people, things, and situations. I believe knowledge and understanding are the keys to everything. I may not like what a person does, but once I know why they do it, it makes things easier for me to bear.
In the Chinese Zodiac, this is the Year of the Rabbit. As this blog’s mascot is the “bitchy bunny”, I’ve decided to tell you a highly personal story about myself today. Some of you have heard snippets of it here and there in person, but now, you can read it in chronological order.
I’m going to do my best to be direct, but it’s going to be a very long ride.
Get a drink or snack.
And buckle up.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always been an adrenaline junkie. I’ve survived some scenarios (potential drownings, skydiving gone wrong, attempted muggings, fights, watching horrifically unrealistic romantic comedies, etc.) with nothing more than a bruise or two and gone back for more. I believed I was indestructable and I lived like it.
One day, the bacteria that live inside my appendix decided they wanted a window and knocked a hole in the wall. Some of them decided to explore outside the world of the appendix and left through said window. They set up colonies elsewhere and wrote home to their parents to come join them. Mass exodus ensued.
Meanwhile, in the world of multicellular creatures, I developed a fever. Thinking it was the flu (it was flu season) I ignored it. I ignored it for two months because I was busy with two jobs, pool, and being an adrenaline junkie.
Eventually, there came a day when I realized that I hadn’t been able to keep food down for the past two weeks and my insides had begun to hurt a whole F*CKING LOT. I drank some water and threw up some nasty crap that was orange. I hadn’t eaten in two weeks so I knew it wasn’t food. It was bile.
I went to the emergency room.
In the ER, I was a mystery case. No one could figure out what I was sick with. My fever hovered between 104 and 105 while my heart rate had shot through the roof and was approaching heart attack speeds. There was so much pain I was periodically blacking out. But, no crying. Crying is for sissies.
After being run through several tests and large machines over the course of several hours, the mystery was solved. I had a massive internal infection. It was hidden in between my organs, hence the difficulty in detecting it. It was a tad serious because I had ignored it for so long.
The ER doctor who had been quite calm, now practically yelled at me, “Why the hell didn’t you come in sooner?!”
“I didn’t think it was a big deal. Thought it was the flu.”
“How? How could you think it was the flu? Didn’t the pain tip you off?! Appendicitis is one of the most painful conditions, EVER!”
“I have a high tolerance for pain.”
“Do you know you were about four hours away from dying when you got here?”
“Do you even KNOW how serious this is? We’ll have to operate,” he drew a line across my abdomen, “and who knows what kind of condition your intestines are in!”
“So you’re telling me I’ll have a big ass scar come swimsuit season.”
“You need to be more serious about this, young lady.”
“That’s what I’ve heard my whole life.”
The next few hours were spent waiting to see which hospital ward wanted to take me in. I wasn’t exactly expected to do well in my advanced state of holy-crappery so I think I was being looked at as a possible morgue statistic. Three different doctors from three different wards debated where I would end up. The verdict, delivered by all three, was this: I would go to the Medicine ward where they would flood my system with antibiotics until I stabilized enough for surgery. “We usually would operate immediately and take out the infection along with whatever else is past saving,” said the Medicine Doc. “But, you’re young, and in excellent physical condition, so we’ll see if we can hold off on that.”
“Good, because I like my intestines. I need them to eat.”
The Med Doc looked at the ER Doc which elicited the dry response, “This one has a sense of humor.”
“Uh, yes… I see.”
Gastrointestinal Doc turned to me and said, “Do you have any questions?”
“Nope! You’re the pros! I can cut people apart, but you guys are the heroes for putting them back together!”
I smiled brightly. They didn’t smile back. Party poopers.
Eleven hours after I was first admitted, I scored a hospital bed.
What followed was a remarkable experience.
My case was unusual enough that the CDC took an interest in it and a report had to be sent to their offices daily. Apparently, there was a vague fear of biological warfare as this kind of illness rarely, rarely hit young people — it was more common in the 65+ strata of the populace (and then it usually resulted in death or a crappy standard of living after). However, several people my age had been mysteriously affected by this same illness around the same time as I.
I made doctors and interns alike uneasy with my bizarre cheerfulness. My jokes were documented in the medical reports. At one point, GI Doc turned to my stern Chinese mother after I made a joke and said, “Is she…?”
“…always like this? Yes. She finds everything funny.”
I stayed there for twenty-one days.
They drew blood every four hours.
I refused, as much as possible, the generous allowance of morphine.
I was not allowed to eat or drink.
All sustenance was delivered intravenously. There was one bag labeled “lipids” that looked like bacon grease. Awwwesome. Glucose was also delivered via the needle and they had to constantly change veins as the glucose would eventually burn them out and they would collapse. I began to run out of veins so they resorted to using pediatric needles to utilize every possible capillary. I looked like a Connect-The-Dots activity page with all the needlemarks. Several times a day, medical interns and their doctor-teachers would visit and discuss my situation. I was a very teachable case. I told the interns I needed to charge them admission to pay my bills. The doctors were not amused. The interns were amused — when the doctors weren’t looking.
I was on a twenty-four-hour drip of various antibiotics.
These antibiotics were capable of dissolving my kidneys, but the alternative was death. I had to take regular doses of this ABSOLUTELY HORRIFIC SH*T that smelled like open sewage and tasted how I imagine untreated sewage would taste, in order to protect my kidneys as much as possible. Most patients mixed this Aqua Shittae with juice to make it (barely barely barely) more palatable. This stuff was bad enough that even I, on a strict no-food no-drink diet, was allowed juice as a mixer.
I took it straight up, like a shot.
After a while, nurses would gather to watch me take this stuff and see if I’d throw it up immediately after (like most people did, even with juice). I managed to hold it down. I told them I had practice from drinking cheap tequila with friends (which I dislike with a passion — the tequila, not the friends).
I developed a potassium deficiency.
The doctors opted first to send the potassium intravenously but it burned out my what was left of my burned out veins even more. The area around my veins swelled up and I felt like I was on fire as the potassium so very, very, slowly went through. I once set my finger on fire as a kid (playing with matches) and this was exactly what it felt like. Except that insted of enduring the searing pain for thirty seconds, I had to endure it for twenty-four hours. That is some FINE F*CKING pain, my friends.
After twenty-four hours, I was told the potassium drip was too slow and that to avoid death (a motif in this post), I would have to ingest the potassium. The doctor told me matter-of-factly that it would be similar to drinking battery acid. It would burn on the way down and the best thing to do would be to keep it down. Why? Because it would burn off the lining of my esophagus on the way down and if I threw it up, then the battery acid would be scorching my newly-flayed esophagus.
I needed to take two full shotglasses of this stuff.
It took me an hour to work up the nerve to drink the first one and the doctor was right. I’ve done shots of Bacardi 151 with bronchitis, but compared to straight potassium, that experience was like drinking ice cold milk on a warm summer day. I couldn’t hold down the second shot and when it all came back up, it was like being skinned alive with a red-hot blunt knife while sitting in a vat of vinegar. It burned afterwards and the pain was just — incredible. This time, I had to cry.
When my eyes are dry while playing pool, I call up this memory and tears will always come to my eyes.
Very useful, this memory is.
Well, we couldn’t have me die from a lack of potassium, could we? Who would make all the corny jokes and entertain the nurses with my ability to drink untreated sewage? I signed off papers to authorize a PICC line, which is a catheter that goes straight to the heart. The technician who came in to install that line in one of my main veins (hey, that rhymes) was THE BEST, they assured me. This was her ONLY job, all day, every day — to install these highways to hearts. She came in with a load of equipment and covered me, the bed, and the floor with those towels dentists put around your neck — you know, the ones with the plastic lining that they attach with a little ball chain and clips like a bib. These towels were big. I asked why they covered such a large area and she said there was a possibility, a very small possibility, a very, very small possibility, things might get messy.
She located a vein in my upper arm via ultrasound and sent in the catheter. Abruptly, the vein collapsed and a geyser of blood shot up. I laughed. My brother turned pale and left the room. So did my mom. They don’t like blood. I seriously thought it was funny. The technician apologized effusively over and over again and I assured her I was all right. I just found it funny. I’d seen these exaggerated fountains of blood in Kill Bill and now, here it was, in real life.
She got it right the second time.
I didn’t die from lack of potassium.
Don’t take bananas for granted.
All right, so here I was, soaked in antibiotics, watching a bag of “lipids” drip into my arm, and having various liquids shot into a vein that went straight to my heart. They had to clear my PICC line periodically with Heparin, an anti-coagulant, so that blood wouldn’t clog the line and kill me. Whenever they shot saline in there afterwards, I’d get a whiff of permanent marker scent in my nasal passages, near the back of my throat. The nurses said everyone said the same thing about the smell of markers. I still wonder why.
Anyways, I’d been through a lot of pain so far and I was still alive. In fact, I was better than alive. It was noted that I was unbelievably tough and my body had stabilized much, much faster than they had expected.I had been getting regular CT scans so that the doctors could monitor the state of the infection. The minute they felt they could operate, they would.
One day, people came and took me for a ride in a gurney. My mom freaked out because she left my room and I was there. She came back five minutes later, and I was gone.
I was taken to what I could only describe — somewhat generously — as a glorified storage room. There was a young doctor there and he told me in a straightforward manner that his specialty was a fairly new field. It was Interventional Radiology. Basically, surgery by X-ray. I looked around the room and said, “So… uh. How new is this, uh, technology?”
He said, “A couple of years.”
“Well, I’ve done it about five years, and our — facility — here has been here for three.”
Also, we won’t be able to give you general anesthesia because your blood pressure is too low. If we do, you could go into a coma–“
“–and die. Yeah, I hear that a lot nowadays. So, I’m going to have — surgery — without anesthesia.”
“Well, you’ll have as much as we can give you–“
“But it’s not going to help is it.”
“Um, not really. Sorry about that.”
“Can we get you anything?”
“No, let’s just get this show on the road.”
It was a surreal experience, because I was able to watch my own surgery on a monitor set on the ceiling. I could feel the cuts as I watched the knife on the screen. When they cut through the side of the abcess, I felt it pop.
I’d rather take a thousand shots of potassium in a row than go through that kind of surgery again.
As I watched them drill into my side, going through muscle and infected ickyness, the drill stopped and they took it out. Suddenly, the masked face of the doctor was right in front of mine and he said, “We misjudged the angle of the approach. We’re going to have to do it again.”
HORSEF*CKER ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?
I stared at him and the nurses anxiously waiting next to him.
“Well, s—! You ain’t gonna charge me for the first attempt, are you?”
The doctor stared at me in disbelief. “Umm… no?”
“Good. Then go to it and DO IT RIGHT THIS TIME!!“
The got it right the second time and I had the fascinatingly grotesque experience of watching them take away a container of infected material and blood. There was a lot of it. There was so much of it that they couldn’t remove it all and they installed a French drain in my side. The French drain (really no idea why it’s important that it’s French) had a tube that went to the infected site and over the course of the next few days, the rest of the infected matter would drain out into an attached bag. Deee-licious!
The tough part was over.
There was no doubt (at least to me) that I would live. After the next two days, something very interesting came to light — my body was unusually resilient. It had begun to repair itself immediately at the surgery site to the point where my wound had already closed around the French drain and they had to cut it loose to make sure I didn’t assimilate it (resistance is futile!). As the days progressed, my improvement was exponential — and remarkable. It was projected in the very beginning that I would have to stay in a hospital for three months or more. By the middle of the second week, I was healing at an alarmingly rapid rate. One of the nurses referred to me as “Wolverine”. They told me that if I had healed to a certain point, I could be released early. There was nothing more I wanted than to GTFO of there so I willed myself to heal.
They dropped a bomb at the end of the second week, telling me they decided to keep me for another week, just to make sure I was healthy enough to be released. This was incredibly depressing. I had been confined to a hospital bed for two weeks with no food or drink or movement and now I was told my sentence had been extended.
Those last seven days were the longest days of my life.
When the doctor finally signed the release form, I picked up my stuff and left. They had sent a wheelchair thinking I was too weak to walk, but I said, “F— it, they might change their mind,” and did not wait for the wheelchair. Or the food they sent. I hobbled the f— out of there.
the making of a monster
Being near death ever-so-slightly changed my view of the world.
Prior to being admitted to the hospital, I was your average pool player. I had had a good year, and yet, things were going badly for me in the social realms of billiards. For one, people in the local pool scene kept telling me I needed to behave like this other local girl player. In fact, this local girl player, who I was friends with at the time, told me the same thing — I needed to be more like her. I needed to be nice to everyone. I needed to appreciate the awkwardly pervtastic flirting of men everywhere. I needed to change the aggressive style of my game to something more accepted. I needed to stop swearing. I needed to be ladylike.
I was affected by societal pressures like everyone else and I truly, madly, deeply wanted to be liked.
While I was in the hospital, I had just three visitors: two childhood friends who did not play pool and my APA league operator. Seriously. That’s it. There was no doubting the evidence: billiards didn’t give a shit about me. That was all right.
Let’s go off topic for a moment.
The powerful antibiotic drip they started me on the day I was admitted didn’t end until the day I was discharged. In fact, it didn’t technically end for another month after that — they gave me the same antibiotics, in pill form, to take at home.
One “minor” side effect of these antibiotics was insomnia.
Insomnia is minor when compared to the eternal sleep of death, I know, but think about this for a moment: I DIDN’T SLEEP FOR OVER A MONTH.
You read that shit right.
I was in medically-induced insomnia.
OMG, I cannot even begin to tell you how f—ing terrible that was.
In addition to the insomnia was a sort of ADD-type syndrome. I could not focus my eyes and my brain could not concentrate on what my eyes saw. I could not read books. I could not watch television. I could not move from the hospital bed. The only thing I could do, was watch the clock, and doing that slowly drove me insane.
I began to think.
It was all I could do.
I decided I would think about the noble game of billiards and my place in it.
For twenty-one long, agonizing days, I called up every single memory of losing in pool that I could. I asked myself why I lost and, like many people, I had my excuses. I knew they were excuses, and I forced myself to take responsibility for my losses. This difficult inner battle help time drip away at a faster rate.
I periodically thought about why I was unhappy playing pool when I was actually playing quite well and improving. It came down to the people in pool. I burdened myself with everything everyone said about my game and how I should play, my personality and how I should behave, and my life and how I should live.
When I left the hospital, I knew this illness was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I looked at all these people who wanted to run my game, my mind, and my life and I said, “F—. YOU. ALL.”
and there it goes
I was supposed to have bed rest for a couple of months after being put on medical parole. After all, I had lost fifteen to twenty pounds while in the hospital and could barely walk. I tried to do the right thing and recuperate gracefully. I started this blog. I read a lot. This was not pleasing to me.
Just prior to being admitted to the hospital, I had won a local APA Singles qualifier. The regional qualifier was in a month. I decided I had to play in it. I sent my mother home, against her wishes and my better judgment, and took the bus to play pool.
I could barely hold the cue correctly. This thing that was only a few ounces heavier than a loaf of bread might as well have weighed as much as an aircraft carrier. I couldn’t even do a stop shot. I kept trying. After a week, I could do a stop shot. Then, I started to work on draw shots. I tired quickly, but I kept going.
I won the regional qualifier.
I was now headed to the nationals, the big time. I was not an eight-ball player at this time. In fact, I was terrible at the game. I had a month to be a national-caliber player. I enlisted the help of a local eight-ball expert and for three hours a week for four weeks, which was all I could handle at the time, we argued, yelled, debated, and worked on my shitty eight-ball game.
At the nationals, I played, crippled as I was, in the SL6-SL7 bracket for eight-ball and finished third. I should have made it to the finals, but I seriously dogged it. Sucks. But, hey, guess what? I had myself and my game under control and it showed.
All because I stopped giving a damn what the world thought.
This is why the persona I show on this blog is not a “front” or an alter-ego. This is actually what I am like. People think I have a “tough girl” persona in order to impress them. Ha. I played Death a race for my life and squeaked out a hill-hill win. I don’t have a need to impress ANYONE.
My eight-ball coach commented once, “Usually, when people have near death experiences, they end up being nice to everyone because they understand the value of life.”
I responded, “Because I understand the value of life, especially my own, I refuse to waste it on people who bring down its quality.”
Life is precious. I’m not spending it doing what you think I ought to do — because then it would be your life, and not mine. In the same vein, I completely understand people shouldn’t have to tolerate me and my assholic nature, either.
I don’t care whether people approve of my life or like me as a person. This freedom from the constant pressure of pleasing society is the ultimate luxury and I’m a selfish bitch who will never give it up. I didn’t go the edge of life and sanity just so YOU can feel good about telling me ME what to do.
Let me worry about my life.
Go enjoy your own.
The frivolous IPT tournament write-ups I did brought this blog to the attention of many, but if there was one post I would prefer everyone forwarded, it would be this one.
We are all shaped by our experiences. It is not possible to know why everyone behaves the way they do, but I try, as much as possible, to remember everyone has their own reasons, even if they are not known to me. I want the freedom to live my life the way I see fit, and someone else has to right to live their life as they see fit. No one person is so important that they may impose their values upon someone else and declare it as the right way, or the only way. Reserve advice until asked for it.
When people get too negative or pressure you too much to fit their ideal, let them go. I have cut people from my life, and I know people have cut me from theirs. It’s all good. Not everyone is meant to be friends.
You don’t have to like everyone.
I did the right thing parting ways with the people who inspired my rantastic post because after I posted it, I felt the weight drop from my shoulders. I felt happy. I lost the worry. I could breathe. Life was, and still is, great.
Then, I went and snapped off a tournament.