Tuesday, March 15, 2016

'Scaredy Cat Gorman

I think I mentioned that when I hit 65 recently I got Medicare health insurance. It's the insurance pool every worker in the US has paid into every week since its initiation. You know the one: The one the politicians call an entitlement. Sure: Pay in since 1971 or so, whenever it started, and then collect in 2016, and after 45  years worth of paying into the system, it's an entitlement, rather than an earned benefit.
    Okay, I'll stop the politics before I get started, cause if I get started, I ain't gonna stop.
    As soon as I got the insurance, my surgeon, the fantastic Dr. Ford from Huguley Hospital recommended a full check up. All was good, despite years of abusing myself with cigarettes, coffee, alcohol, jungle trips, being a dad and all the rest. Except for this little nodule--swear to god that's what they call it--in my lower left lung. Naturally, I panicked and looked it up on the Internet: Turns out it could be anything from a coffee stain on the hospital gown I was wearing during the X-ray, to a little nothing, to cancer. But Gritter, my Alabama doc, said not to sweat it. Given the size and location and the fact that I've had several illnesses and conditions that facilitate the formation of nodules in the lungs, it was surprising that I didn't have more.
    But the doc in Texas, Doc Thomas, he needed a CT scan to be certain.
    Today was the day for it.
     Not saying I'm not nervous and that I wasn't a little nervous going up to the place where they do the CT scan. What if it's something bad? Yes, I'm a little nervous.
    But things fell apart in the CT room.
    A CT (pronounced cat) scan machine is like a huge donut into which a bed is fitted that slides in and out of the donut hole. The patient lies on the bed and the part of the body that needs to be scanned gets slid in electronically so that the scan can be done. When they did it on my leg just prior to operating on it for the debridement of the dead material from the flesh eating bacteria, it was no big deal: Slide me in up to my thigh, take the pics/scans, pull me out.
    Today was different. Today I was having my lungs looked at, which meant that when I was slid into the donut I was going pretty far into it: Like, far.
    The machine operator was a peach. She needed to take a blood sample to check that I'd be good for an intravenous injection of iodine so that after the initial CT scans they could take an additional scan with the iodine creating bright contrast. No problem. I've had so many injections, intravenous drips and so forth in the last 5 years I don't even notice them.
    But then she had me lie down--I insisted on pillows under my head so I wouldn't totally freak out from needing to cough--and ran me into the machine to check position and so forth. Then she had me raise my arms and put them over my head so that I wouldn't bump the machine with my elbows or block the scans. Well, I had no idea just how deeply I was going into that hole and how close the operator was going to raise that table, and my face, to the inside of the donut hole. I made the mistake of opening my eyes and realized I wasn't one inch from the machine. I swear I felt like I was in an Iron Lung. You know, the tube you saw pics of that allows a person to breathe but only their head sticks out for the rest of their lives. One of my childhood fears--one of my big ones, and I still have a deal with Chuck in NYC that if I ever get put into one, he has to pull the freaking plug instantly, even if that means going to jail forever. I'll do the same for him.
    So here I was, eyes open, arms unable to help, just like in an iron lung. I did my best. I swear I did my best but could not, NOT, stop from calling out to her and telling the operator to pull me out.
    She did. In a few moments I went in again.
    Again, utter panic and I asked to be pulled out.
   She did. I apologized and asked for a few minutes. What a chicken! I called myself every name in the book. I tell people all the time that frog sweat medicine will only terrify for the first 10 minutes and that they can do 10 minutes standing on their head. I tell people in the jungle that Ayahuasca will only last two or three hours and they can do that standing on their heads. And here I couldn't do 5 minutes in that damned machine.
    I breathed in and breathed out. After I stopped calling myself names, I thought about what was at stake: I've got a small nodule in my left lung. Probably nothing. But the docs and I need to know for sure. If I walked away from the CT scan, we wouldn't know for sure. And if it's something bad, it's vital to identify it as early as possible. So was I going to allow my terror, and it was abject terror to force me to have the operator pull me from the thing twice, keep me from knowing something my doctors and I needed to know?
    I finally said, "let's get it done," and lay back down.
    She slid me into the machine. I kept my eyes closed but could feel my breath hitting it nearly the moment it left my mouth. I just kept breathing. Then the machine told me to hold my breath and the first scan was done and I was slid out for just a moment before being slid back in for the second scan. And then the third. And then the iodine was pumped in and I had to sit there in the machine for 40 seconds for it to get to where it needed to go, and then the next scan and then I was done and she pulled me out and I sat. I nearly puked. I was so sick of my terrified behavior. Big tough guy? Not on your life. Little 'fraidy cat.
   The operator handed me a cold water and said she was glad that I got through it. She said that a lot of people don't. I'm not surprised.
   But I am glad that it got done. Now, good or bad, we'll know. And that's a good thing.


AR said...

I am currently deployed and just finished your book about Ayahuasca. It's about midnight here. After I finished I noticed you had a link to this site so here I am commenting on the most recent post. Honestly, a lot of what you said is hard for me to get my head around but I would like to believe it all. I'm not sure though. I did really enjoy your book, though. I'm in the Navy (not ships anymore, thank god) and find myself in a lot of interesting places but the jungle you described sounds like it beats them all. Hopefully, one day I will be able to try the medicine because I think I could use it. Anyway, thank you for the book and I hope you've had a chance to learn a little about "fresh meat."


Jenni said...

I don't want to nag, but the silence is getting rather loud here.... Is everything OK?

spiral347 said...

psychic high five from scotland. Hope you're ok, peter.

Unknown said...

worried about ya. Hope you are doing ok

MrOdysseus said...

Amazing blog and work Peter! A big fan, that had bought your books and read all your posts!
Hopefully some day I can do the Jungle trip too.