By Christopher Green
But today, after putting it off for almost two months, I finally went. Pulmonary Rehab, that is. A place where those of us who are Oxygen challenged can go and strengthen the muscles that help us breath. It also gives us a great excuse to get a whole bunch of us semi-shut ins out of the house so we can mingle with people who just might be floating around in the same boat.
What was difficult about today for me and why I put it off a lot longer than I should have is that about six years ago, I walked into this very same Rehab program a very different man. Back then, I was clawing my way back after a 36-day stay at Fairview Hospital. Twenty of those days were in Intensive Care in a drug induced comatose state.
I was in bed with tube feeding for so long; I could barely walk let alone function in the temporal world upon my release. For instance, it took me about an hour, using my cell phone, just to reorder my drugs from the pharmacy trying by trying and failing to touch the correct touch-tones.
What was different about today was painfully obvious to me. When I walked into Rehab back in 2004, I was determined to recapture as much lung function as I could. I was resigned to the fact that I would be hooked into an Oxygen supply forever and I knew a possible Lung Transplant was looming for me. I simply refused to let any of that medical doomsday stuff stand in my way from living my life as fully and for as long as I possibly could.
My determination to beat this pesky lung condition consumed my life. By the time I walked out of that session of Rehab for the very last time in November of 2004, I was riding my stationary bike every day and started to lift weights again. I had energy and drive and I knew I my future was going to only get better.
Of course the inevitable happened, it always does with a chronic disease. I started to slip both physically and mentally. It was slow at first but by the time I found myself coughing up blood in a Motel Room this past October (a week before my 52nd birthday), I knew that the Lung Transplant thing I was hoping to keep pushing off into the future was now, now.
Here is the problem I have. After I pulled myself back from the brink in 2004, I made all these plans about writing and was determined to get around to doing some of the things I had put off in my life. Some might call this a bucket list even though this all occurred way before the movie of the same name was released.
For instance, I took two creative writing classes at the community college and attended a Creative Writing Seminar. Laurie and I did do a lot of traveling and stuff around the area that I always put off doing. All this made the mundane part of my life that centered on pills and inhalers and chest thumpers bearable.
Of course, the obvious happened; I never did get around to doing any serious writing. I kept putting it off.
So when I walked in that Rehab today and a lot of the nurses remembered me and were genuinely glad to have me back, I made another pact with myself. I would write everyday no matter what. And it would be on top of this blog.
You see this blog is important to me and goes far beyond the obvious narcissistic exercise that it truly is. Someone I really care about suggested that, by doing the blog, I just might reach out and touch someone. This person convinced me I might even help someone get through a similar challenge. (I think that someone was just trying to get me off my fat ass and start to write again. In that sense, it worked.)
Today’s trip to Rehab was humbling to say the least. I was the youngest one in there by about 20 years. There were people deep into their 70’s and some probably in their early 80’s that were doing better than I was. I could not believe how much my physical condition had deteriorated.
Somehow, I did manage to complete the whole program. We are talking very low impact aerobics here. I was out of breath and it felt like I had actually done some real exercise. Those sneaky nurses and rehab techs.
Just to rub it in, when I got back home, I looked up the charts I kept back in ‘04 and ’05 (I am an accountant, we quantify everything!). I saw that I was regularly riding the bike for 25 – 30 minutes every day. I lifted weights at least twice a week and my weight was down to 185. I went from a 44-inch waste before that hospital stay all the way down to a 38.
Suffice it to say I have sagged and slipped. I guess wearing sweat pants all the time just masks the whole weight gain thing. I was probably becoming, subconsciously resigned to my fate. I think it is because I have not been able to bounce back from that last stay in the hospital. Five months and I still feel totally wacked out. Besides all that, I was scared. Coughing up the amount of blood I did back then is sure to scare the beejeebees out of even the strong at heart.
Anyway, I made a promise to myself today. I would with all due diligence stick with the program, give me a chance to get the old body back in some other kind of shape besides round before I go under the knife (saw?).
As far as the writing goes, it really all comes down to this; I want to have something of me left behind, I want to leave a mark, however small or insignificant it may be, that I was here, on this earth and that I truly enjoyed my gift of life.
I keep mentioning that 36-day stay in the hospital back in 2004. The only reason I am putting off writing about that life-changing event is that I want to get it right when I finally put it all down on paper. I want people to understand what I was going though and put the revelations I had in some kind of perspective.