Is That All There Is to Dying?

Yup, there I was, 5 years ago, late Friday night/early Saturday morning in the emergency room at the Little Company of Mary hospital in San Pedro. It was then and there when I almost died.

As that Friday progressed at work, I started get a dry cough. I didn’t think too much about it. It was probably because I was out the night before at the Bonaventure for Brendan’s birthday. That was a lot of talking which probably made me raspy.

As the night wore on, the cough kept getting worse. If only I could get whatever is clogging up my airways out, it would be better. I tried going to bed at 11 and put on old episodes of Sex in the City to lull me to sleep. But I could not get comfortable since I was coughing more and more.

I then figured a hot shower might loosen up the phlegm in my chest, and I can finally get some rest. As I was scrubbing down, I realized that there was no clog per se that I needed to cough out. No. I, in fact, could not breathe.

I tried to calm down so I could dry myself off, clothes myself and get myself to the hospital – since I lived alone, there was no way I was going to die and have my body be found days later in the bathtub completely naked. At the very least I should be a lot skinnier if my body is found naked. That really is a horror.

Thankfully I was able to clothe myself, and somehow I managed to drive myself to the emergency room as I kept gasping for air. I did have to run a red light because it was on a fucking timer and not a sensor. Fuck it. It was almost midnight, and there was no one on the San Pedro streets. Aside from that, I managed to get to the hospital in one piece.

To show how far my condition had deteriorated in the 45 minutes or so from when I started to go to bed to being at the check-in desk at the ER, I had gone from an annoying cough every minute or so to barely able to get the words, “I. CAN’T. BREATHE,” in between gasps as I tried to stay as calm as I could but finding it impossible because oxygen was not getting in. They took my vitals at the desk and the only thing I remember was my blood pressure being 212-over-something.

They got me in right away and gave me the oxygen-through-nostrils thingee (which I have learned is called a nasal cannula,) gave me tons of antibiotics and blood pressure meds and took about half of my blood supply for tests. I did an EKG, chest x-rays, a couple of breathing treatments and all, and they gave me an initial diagnosis of pneumonia. All in all I was in the ER for about five hours before they got me a bed in intensive care.

All day Saturday in the ICU, I was constantly complaining about how hot it was. I was sweating through the bedsheets like no one’s business. And since I was hooked up to monitors, I couldn’t get up to pee, so they gave me a bucket. It’s a good thing I’m a fucking pig and will piss in front of anyone. The breathing treatments continued that day, and I was progressing well enough to get a room on Sunday. Between the breathing treatments and the endless hours of nothing, they couldn’t tell me definitively what was wrong with me. They stuck with the pneumonia story even though there was no illness that led up to this. But whatever. By Monday I was well enough to be released.

A couple of things that kept running through my mind:

  • I need to get out of here ASAP so I don’t go broke. The daytime ICU nurse, a middle-aged Filipina lady, kept telling me not to worry, that insurance would take care of it. Did she think I was fucking stupid? This is the fucking United States of America. That’s why I drove myself to the fucking hospital. While insurance covered most of the $40,000 bill for my weekend, my share ended up being just over $3,000.
  • I’m really bad at selling my illness. So aside from Sammy stopping by 10 minutes to get me a phone charger and moving my car from the emergency room parking lot to the normal hospital parking lot, and my cousin Gina and her mom staying a while on both Saturday and Sunday, no one came. Not my mom, aunts other cousins or anything. I mean, I told them that I couldn’t breathe but I got myself to the ER so I’m feeling better but I didn’t know when they would release me, but no. No visitors. I guess I better make sure my dying actually has me sound like I’m actually dying.

A couple of days after I was released, I went to the doctor to follow up on all of this. Well because my high blood pressure was out of control, it caused my heart to say fuck it. I had heart failure. Stupid me. I thought that if my blood pressure would kill me, it would give me an aneurysm, that I’d feel dizzy, have headaches and all of that good stuff. But I had none of that. I felt perfectly fine. Until that Friday when fluid started collecting in my lungs because my heart was enlarging. Fuck.

So even though I didn’t feel like I was actually dying while I was in the hospital, I guess I could have died. Serves me right for joking that I would be dead by 40. Prophecy almost self-fulfilled. But really, it was all underwhelming. I felt like I was in a Peggy Lee song.

Is that all there is to dying?