There is this thing with surgery in the month of August with me, and I'm really getting tired of it now. Last year it was an operation to install stints in both femoral arteries. This year, just last week in fact, it was a more exacting and demanding bypass procedure to fix the failed stints creating a new exit ramp from my right femoral artery to the clogged and useless left side; & hopefully restoring my ability to walk. Again, I have to sincerely applaud the VA on their sense of timing; as I received notification about a week before the surgery that my claim for VA benefits has finally been approved after a wait of only 1460 Days, and 2 appeals. My two previous visits to VAMC SFO were nothing short of fright fests, and when you include the emergency removal of my Gall bladder on new years day 2005, well my track record pretty much sucked. I was determined it would be different this time. The approval notice arriving just in time to finance my funeral went an awful long way towards setting that positive mindset. Who wants to leave debts behind, which is why I have always been a Grateful Dead fan. *
It's about 50 feet or so long and wide enough for 3 wheel chairs. I spotted the only likely target, an old army puke with an electric scooter and an assistant. They were ahead of me, and just about to make the left hand turn on to the expressway. I gave my wheels three big strokes to pass them, then quickly froze the left wheel...making a pretty impressive "Batman" style 90 degree left turn. As I passed the army boys I hollered, "Race on - no unseated drivers!!" and put three more power strokes on the wheels just as they synched up again. The chair wobbled just a bit rounding the corner but seemed fine for never having practiced the maneuver before. I can hear the army boys laughing behind me as I raise my arms up like rocky, getting close to the automatic double doors at the street level exit. It wasn't until I was maybe 8 or 9 feet from those big, solid glass doors that it dawned on me that they don't work either. I stopped my chair about two and a half feet from smashing into the still closed doors, and hit the big square 'open' button. We're having a good time now, I even texted Scott about my first wheel chair race victory.
So, when my first nurses assistant told me those same old lies as always before, I was ready for her. When she mentioned the call light, I asked her to demonstrate it was in working order, because so very many aren't. That's a pretty consistent number one on veterans list of complaints and grievances. Once convinced the call button works - I then request a 7-Up from either a vending machine down on the ground floor or from the cafeteria; saying I had some nausea - everyone knows 7-Up calms down the flutters in the tummy. It is the one liquid you can give even when placed on the fasting diet for the 8 hours before actual surgery. When I kinda obliquely mentioned availability of the drink, the CNA told me that it wasn't carried in the galley (Kitchen services). I informed her I was aware it is regularly stocked in at least two of the many, many vending machines on campus...and would gladly pay later for a 7-Up today, as her comrades had confiscated my personal property, right down to my dentures, & locked 'em right up in jail - for safekeeping, you know! Nope, not even my certification as a fully recognized
I was doing some light chanting when they came for me, silently over & over,
Sam re-appeared, with a walker that was some years older than me. It was a worn out, kinda ugly thing and because it reminded me of myself, I liked it. Once up and at the cubicle doorway, Sam says, pick a direction, and lets go. I aimed myself in the direction of Bob Marley, I wanted a closer look at my brother who had been checking me out since my arrival. As we rounded the corner I could see his clear glass sliding door was open, and he was sitting up having some nice chipped ice. I paused until he glanced up at me, then I snapped a sharp salute, & said, "Hey Captain, I hope you get out of here before me." After we'd passed the room, Sam looks at me with those unreadable dark beady eyes and whispered softly, "That was an incredibly nice thing to say to him...but he's gonna be here for a while, his condition is critical. My heart just sank in my chest, and I wanted to scream in rage, dashing the walker on the floor. My mood was sinking, my soul was awash with unchecked empathy for Bob Marley. We finished the lap in silence, and as I climbed back into bed Sam says, "Tomorrow, we do two laps." I had no smart comeback for him, so I just nodded, and held up two fingers...for victory and "2" laps.
That evening was my first solid food in over 3 days. Pork chops, and down home mashed potatoes, and the best fake coffee I have had. It tasted like ambrosia to me! When Sam came around to collect the tray after my feast, I said to him, "Sam, you know I'm not here to bust your ass, but I really need my cell phone...any word on what the holdup is?" He immediately gets this look on his face of frustration with hospital politics, and replied sincerely. "It's my fault dude, you should have had that stuff here yesterday. There is no reason you can't have it back...we just got real busy and I spaced it out. It seems as the only person with a key to personal effects storage is the shift supervisor, who takes the key home at night. This of course makes zero sense to me, and I said so. Why in the world this policy is still in effect escapes me. No wounded warrior should ever have to wait for some bureaucrat to come back to work before he can communicate with his loved ones. This shit sucks, and I was nearing the end of my patience with it, and Sam picked right up on that.
Then she says, "if you don't mind staying visible a bit longer I'd like to check your heart rate...so I sent it to the basement for her. When I caught her surprised eye, I told her, "Darlin, I just figured out why you folks communicate so poorly, none of you listen for shit. All I ever said to anyone was 'You can see me?' ~ I never once told anyone I thought I was invisible, I was just checking to see who here is awake and alive." Doc Castro starts giggling like a schoolgirl, then says, "I have one last question for you, How would you like to go home today?" I smiled and said if they'd had enough of me and thought it medically sound, sure I'd go home today. She stands up to leave, and smiling said to me, "If your heart is strong enough to handle what we've put you thru, and your little brush war with the iron maiden, yeah, you're good to go...but before you do would you mind going through the chakras one more time, I think I had them all backwards, I thought the crown chakras was number 1. Starting to feel like old home week at the VAMC-SFO.
A couple hours later Scott and I were back on the 101 crossing over the
People DO care, and not just about their own little orbits of life either. People sent money to my PayPal account, everyday working folks who probably had other uses for that money. This windfall came at a time before my VA benefit claim was approved, and the generous funds permitted me the ability to bulk purchase my regimen of supplements for the next year or more... which only helps my body heal stronger & faster....which is exactly what I mean when I tell you that money is just a highly portable, convenient, globally accepted form of energy. That was several months back, yet the influx of this caring compassion has only increased, growing stronger, and making me a stronger, better person for it. Every single day I get emails from folks all over the planet, expressing their desire to send me healing energy and positive uplifting vibrations...to help me in my darkest hour. All that was before the surgery a week ago. When I went medical missing in action somewhere in the bowels of that hospital, Zen Gardner and Edna Spennato banged on the walls until they got results.
When I first got my hands on my droid phone, BAM brand new tsunami!! All these authentic human beings were concerned for me, and more to the point, were sending me energy and keeping me in their thoughts, much as Edna held the energy for me this time. Again, I would not want to see my possible reality had those folks not done so. As I keep saying over, and over, energy follows thought, and We Are All One! To see such an outpouring of compassion was without a shred of a doubt why I had the energy to thrive in that hospital, and it is exactly why my recovery has been so rapid. I tried to answer every email sent me, and if I missed anyone it was because of the wooziness of sedation aftereffects. You are all in my heart now, forever, and I find that there is more space in there than ever before. I love each and every one of you, we are all one!
I suppose because he likes my particular brand of insanity, Steve Seymour, of The Philosopher's Stone website began posting some of my blogs, and somewhere in between when I wasn't paying attention, we became friends. One of the first emails I got when reunited with my phone was Steve's response to the news that Zen Gardner had talked to me on the phone. It went something like this. "YeeaaahhhhYesssWhoraaahhHoooraaayyy!!!!!!" I gotta tell ya Steve, ya brought tears to my eyes and made my heart glow with your articulate and scholarly response. I love you, brother, thanks for supporting my insanity.
Throughout this whole ordeal lasting more than a year the one connection closest to my heart is my daughter, Nova, who still lives in Alaska and jogs with the Moose & Grizzly. Where I once thought I was nothing more than a noisy ghost from her past, she has patiently shown me that she loves & cares for me in a way my words are insufficient to describe. She was down for a visit a few months before the surgery and we spent the days doing wine tastings across Sonoma county and keeping the neighbors awake by reminiscing and drinking wine till the wee hours. She asked if I still owned a cribbage board which to my eternal shame I had to answer in the negative. Yesterday while shopping I found a nice cribbage board, and as if programming the universe for another wine tasting visit, I bought it. I can't wait for the first game, dear Nova. If there is only one thing I can convince you of it would be how very proud I am of you ~ you already know how much I love you.
Last but certainly not least is my long time friend Ivan, who not only came 45 miles to see me the day I got home; he hand made some ground beef and cooked me a burger that would put Carl's Jr. to shame any day of the week. He knew I needed an infusion of high protein food in me just as surely as I needed the spiritual support I was getting from him, his wife, and all the rest of you out there.