What a long, weird week I've had, man. If we're friends on Facebook, you probably already know what's been going on, but if you haven't, well...
I went in to work last Wednesday (I work as security in the ER of a major hospital) with my left arm getting sore and uncomfortable. I didn't think much about it, really. But over the course of the evening, the arm started to swell until it was like, twice its normal size. I snagged a passing nurse, who looked at it and said, "Dude, that could be a blood clot. Get it checked out." I said, "Okay, I'll do that tomorrow morning." She said, "Uh, no. Like, now." So I checked in, they did an ultra-sound on my arm, and sure enough... blood clot. A BIG one. It ran from the crook of my elbow to behind the clavicle in my shoulder. I didn't even know blood clots could be that big.
Anyway, got checked in and all that, they hooked me up to a blood thinner to prevent further clotting, and starting almost immediately they began drawing blood from my right hand every four hours. The blood thinner made me bruise easily and by the end of my stay the hand was black and blue with puncture marks. That was actually the most uncomfortable part.
They did a CT of my chest, trying to determine what caused the clotting. I asked, "What are you looking for, exactly?" and the nurse, somewhat reluctantly, said, "Well... we just want to make sure there's nothing cancerous."
And I don't care who you are, when someone mentions the C word in connection with your own body, there's a little part of you that freaks a bit. I nodded, smiled, said, "Okay." But sleeping well that night would've been impossible, even if they HADN'T been waking me up every two hours for blood drawing and taking vitals.
Late the next morning, the nurse swings by my room, says, "CT is clear," and hurries out. Okay, so no cancer. All good. But they still didn't know what caused the clot. Testing on my blood continued.
Surgery was scheduled for Friday afternoon but because of unavoidable circumstances was delayed until that evening. I was annoyed and maybe snapped a little at the staff because I hadn't eaten anything and was cranky. But I got over it. They did the surgery that night, stuck a tube all the way up my arm and started pumping clot-busting stuff in there. The next morning, they checked it, saw it was working fine, and pulled the tube out. They also figured out what caused the clotting-- my clavicle was pressing up against a major artery.
So-- no cancer, no blood disease, just a weird fluke of anatomy. I suppose I'll have to have surgery in another couple of months to fix that.
After the surgery, I had a free hand to wander around the hospital whenever I felt restless. At one point, I wandered downstairs and outside to get some air and sneak a cigarette. I was standing there feeling a little sorry for myself when this older guy came up and lit a smoke and we started talking. He was there for his son, he said, who was up in the cancer ward. The son was 21 years old, learning disabled, and they'd just learned that he had intestinal cancer. They were putting him on chemo, but the prognosis wasn't good. He would probably die, and soon.
The father kept it together, smoking his cigarette, looking old and tired. He'd lost his wife a few years earlier, and his son was all he had. Because of his disability, the son didn't really understand what was happening to him. We talked for a few more minutes and I wished him well. We shook hands, and he went back upstairs to be with his boy.
When he was gone, something weird happened to me, and I hesitate to mention it, but here it is: I turned away so no one could see me and I started crying. I'm crying a little now thinking about it. I pulled myself together before the crying could become sobbing, wiped my eyes, and went back inside. I was fine. I had a blood clot that, while life-threatening, was fixable and I was going to be okay. But this man was about to lose the last thing in his life that held any meaning for him.
I made a point of being extra-nice to everyone that day. The staff was terrific and they took good care of me. My wife was there every day, studying for her next test while I slept fitfully on morphine and read and watched stupid shows on TV about cute animals.
I'm back home now. Tired, weak, etc. But I'm okay, and I realize how lucky I am. Not like the man I met outside. I suspect my thoughts will turn to him, and his son, often.