Saturday, April 29, 2006

Honk if you love breathing

Ben is much better now. He was a big pile of misery for 48 hours starting around noon on Wednesday until yesterday, when he got 85 pounds of sodden, packed cotton out of his nasal passages after day surgery for a deviated septum. We knew he would be uncomfortable post-operatively, but not to that degree. He was more or less OK when I picked him up Wednesday afternoon, but it turns out he still had some good drugs in his system even though he was awake and alert. Then they wore off and he took Percocet and tried to eat something, all of which resulted in him tossing his tacos repeatedly and feeling panicky about all the crap in his nose and throat, so we went to the ER and they have him some saline in an IV and calmed him down. I felt very helpless since I couldn’t make his fear and discomfort go away. Sort of like he felt in February 2001 when I hit the wall, post-partum-depression-wise, as I woke up one morning at 6:00 and realized I was so anxious and unhappy that I felt like I was on the ledge of a burning building and I had to call the mental health folks and they called in a prescription for some fine, fine antianxiety meds and I got back on Prozac and have never parted ways with it since.

It can always be worse, of course. In our cubicle in the ER, there was just a curtain separating us from the elderly patient next door, so we could clearly hear everything. Her son and daughter-in-law brought her in with what turned out to be mild heart failure and dehydration because she couldn’t eat due to persistent mouth sores. She was 87 and already had diabetes and heart disease. Plus she had abdominal pain so they X-rayed her and found, as the doctor said, an “impressive” quantity of poop stacked up inside her, partly because she was taking a lot of iron for another problem. She had been in assisted living but in dodgy health for months, though she was quite coherent. At one point she said poignantly, “I’m so sick of being sick.” On one hand, it would be great to live a very long time if you had reasonably good health in mind and body, such as Ben’s 82-year-old tennis-playing father. But if you’re in bad health and elderly, you never know without 20-20 hindsight at what point you’re just not going to feel better ever again and it would really have been better to just take every pill in the house washed down with a bottle of vodka. The natural human instinct is to survive (and help loved ones survive) as long as possible, so we have all this high-tech medical treatment for people who would have died fairly peacefully at home, though perhaps at a younger age. The $64,000 question is, how young is too young, or how old is too old, and at what point do you just go for pain relief and let nature take its course? Maybe the ideal is to die painlessly after a brief illness when you’re mildly but irreversibly debilitated so it’s not like you’re fine one minute and gone the next. Ironically, that’s how my mother went -- she felt extremely weak and tired and finally went to the hospital in an ambulance, only to find she had leukemia that was untreatable since she was already quite weak from other long-standing medical problems (the chemo would have killed her right away, probably), so she went into a hospice and died about a week later. It was a wonderful hospice -- they were compassionate and sensible, meaning they gave her pain relief and also brought her a gin and tonic.

OK, enough morbid stuff. Here’s a book which I simply must have, and you must too: “The Amazing Mackerel Pudding Plan.” It’s an expansion of the funniest web site in the universe, which I found several years ago and return to periodically when I need to snort with laughter.

And this site resonated with me at a time when we were preoccupied with all the cotton plugging up Ben’s nose. Warning to the squeamish: it involves scientific experiments involving tampons -- in vitro, not in vivo, never fear.

Finally, let’s rant some more about Bush, who just hired a Fox News guy as his spokesman. As Geese Aplenty points out, this is “kind of like Belgium hiring Ellen DeGeneres to come over and be a lesbian actress. It’s not a change of career; it’s just a change of location.” Also this week, everyone’s peeved about high gas prices which oddly enough coincides with a 49 percent rise in first-quarter earnings for Chevron, but Bush is against a windfall profit tax on the companies -- the real solution he says, is to increase mileage requirements for cars. Which, IF it ever happens, will be when he’s dead of old age and everyone else is riding horses. Right.

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