WARNING: DISGUSTING, GRAPHIC PHOTOS IN THIS PIECE, SO DON'T LOOK IF YOU JUST HAD LUNCH!!!!!!! NO FOOLING!
Well, I've been gone a long time, longer than I intended, and darned if there isn't a good hair-raising story to explain it.
First off, hello everybody! Nice to sort of see you! Nice to be back.
I went to Peru in mid-June to take two groups of pretty intrepid travelers into the deep jungle. As per normal, I asked the universe to make sure that nothing bad--snake bite or whatever--to happen to any of the guests. In return I suggested--as always--that if something bad had to happen, well, it ought to happen to me, not them. They're on vacation, after all, and even if it's a vacation meant to change their lives it's still a vacation, with most of them having to go back home and get to work within days of finishing my 9 1/2 day Jungle Intensive course. And I think most people who've taken it will admit it's a pretty intensive course, not a lollygag in the park.
The trip went fantastically. Naturally, on the first couple of days in Iquitos I partied with my friends in Iquitos and drank too much--scaring the shit out of a few of the guests who'd come early. I told them I'd be cool during the trip but they weren't sure. Ayahuasca, however, or her spirit, told me to be very cool as something important was going to happen on the trip and I would need to be alert 24/7 to deal with it. So I was. I drank hardly any aguar diente--cane liquor--on the trip, and I mean hardly any, and yes, some big things happened. On one of the medicine nights three different guests needed me to get them through rough patches, for instance, and they were rough patches full of fear for those people. They got through, they always do, but when it's happening, when you are lost in the universe or reliving things you've tried to suppress, well, it's very frightening. And my team and I are pretty good at not interfering but still being able to ground people in that circumstance until they've got enough courage to walk through the scary space and deal with it.
Despite those difficult moments, the trip was spectacular. I think those guests will be calling me in the next several months to say they've been changed considerably and no longer fit into their lives like they did and can they come out to the house for a few days of work to help them adjust to their new skin.
And I got back to Iquitos praising the universe for nothing really bad having happened. Yes, there were a couple of poisonous snakes but the guests didn't even see them before my team had taken care of them--which, in the jungle, means killing them, because if you don't kill them now, they'll kill you later. It's horrid but once they get used to hanging around where people are, they become a very real danger that has to be eliminated. (Sorry, pit vipers, but you know the rule: If you don't let us see you, you're welcome to live a long life. If you show yourselves, you will be killed.)
Anyway, on the first night back from the jungle I had a drink or two--didn't even get high--with Alan Shoemaker and some of the guests and a few of my team and I was thrilled that I hadn't gotten a bad spider bite or anything else. It was fantastic.
Unfortunately I woke up the next day with furious red lines streaking my right calf from my knee to my foot. I mean angry streaks that indicate to me a flesh eating bacteria. Damn, I thought, because I don't like those and I've had them enough to say that honestly: The bacteria just make holes in your body and they hurt like mad. On the other hand, I've had enough of them to think my body and some basic washing and antibiotics and some good jungle medicine would take care of it, like always.
Well, the second night they'd gotten so bad that Alan Shoemaker sent my man Jorge Flaco to my room to take me to a local clinic to have a look see. They put me on an IV antibiotic drip and gave me some special cleansing fluids and such.
This is what it looked like after just a day or two:
No thank you.
I returned to the clinic for the IV three times a day for three days until the woman who owns the bar I use as my office when I'm in Iquitos--Miriam, owner of the bar El Noche on the boulevard overlooking the river--grabbed me by the hair and dragged me to her car and took me to her doctor, who turned out to be very good. He said the antibiotics I was using were not strong enough and gave me a regimen of three different drugs, along with some vitamins and probiotics to help my stomach deal with the antibiotics.
And then four days later it was time for my second group of guests to arrive and they did and the doctor gave me clearance to go to the jungle with them. Now don't kid yourself. I was not going to do a lot of hiking with them, but I still thought it important to be there with them to explain things. And then I also took the boat ride and short walk to help collect the ayahuasca and admix plants our curandero, Jairo, was going to utilize in the medicine. And it was important that I was there when they drank the medicine to make certain they knew they were being taken care of--they had a great deal of faith in my team, and several of my team are "watchers" when people drink, but I think I lend just a touch of extra protection, maybe just because I speak English or because they know I've gone through whatever they are going through.
Other than those occasions, though, I was just a talking head who helped out cooking and answered questions. And during the trip I kept up the IV antibiotics (with the help of a generous recently-retired anesthesiologist who changed the IV location every couple of days) and my team washed the leg with different plant--and animal--extractions daily.
I wasn't getting better but I didn't think I was getting worse. Nonetheless, the damned thing didn't look great and by the time I came home about 15 days later--during which the doc sent me to a wound specialist for washing daily, which included lots of medicines and such--it had gone a little gangrene. This is what it looked like by the time I got home:
I took his advice the next day and to my surprise they told me they needed to operate. When? That night. No, no, no. I left the hospital against doctor's orders and went home to explain to Chepa and Madeleina and the boys that I'd be gone a few days and what was happening and where I'd be and then I went back to the hospital. The first of two operations, called debriding, was done the following morning. We started at 7 AM with a CAT scan to see if the infection had gone into the bone--in which case amputation would be called for--and luckily, it hadn't. And the surgeon at Huguley Hospital was great. Don't know how to judge surgeons but I liked him right off the bat. I got a needle in my lower spine at about 8 AM--along with something that put me in a very foggy heaven during the operation, and when I woke up at 9 AM I was being wheeled back into my room. They showed me what it looked like at about noon. This is it after they took away the dead black and yellow skin. It's gross so close your eyes if you like.
I spent 13 days in the hospital and had a second operation to get rid of more dead skin on the sides and back of the wound, then they sent me home. So I've been back from Peru since August 1, in the hospital from August 2 until near midnight of August 14, and in a freaking fog here at home for the last few days.
That's my excuse for not writing and leaving you all out in the cold. The damned pain pills and the antibiotics sap my strength and I'm on the IV three hours a day--four hours including set up and clean up--then have a two hour nurse visit to clean the wound, then spend an hour getting the meds ready for the next round--hell, having this is nearly a full time job!
By luck, my surgeon likes that I walk and so I walked--gimped to be honest, with the leg fully wrapped so as not to get more bacteria and not make people puke at the sight of it--between 2 and 4 miles daily during the last 9 days at the hospital. And I'm walking about a mile or so here at home, plus doing regular housework and cooking and such. Had a great barbeque on Sunday, for instance, with shrimp and ribs and chicken and marinated and barbequed broccoli, asparagus and cauliflower and a knock-out key lime pie that my friends Michael and Dian made--though I'm sure it was Dian who did the actual making with Michael doing the store runs to get the necessary limes and such.
And now I'm healing. If things go well, I will keep my leg up some, rest some, live life some and after a few weeks get a skin graft. I asked them to take the skin from my stomach but they said they don't want fat so they're going to take it from my bicycle-honed thighs. Oh well, I was just trying to get in a little liposuction at the same time I'll be getting a skin graft or two.
Since this whole thing started I've lost about 20 pounds and I'm aiming to lose another 20 so that I will be back to being thin and strong after too many years--about seven--of being a fat pig. And then I'll spend 10 years paying off the hospital bill. They said they'd be patient. Nice.
Anyway, that's my story. Hopefully, I can get back to other things--like Marco having decided to move back in here when I wasn't looking--in the coming blogs. I just needed to bring you all up to speed. I hope you didn't mind. Cause this leg is really taking almost all of my brain space at the moment.
Thanks for listening. Time for another hydrocodone and then another IV. Ah, the life, eh? Ain't it grand and mysterious and fantastic?