By Christopher Green
These are the first words that came croaking out of my mouth when my brother came to visit me during my 36 days of hospitalization in the summer of ’04.
My sister had tried to warn him that I wasn’t really “with it” and that I might say some “crazy things”.
It still didn’t make it easier on my soon to be befuddled brother.
Trouble is, at that time, I had adopted what I referred to as “my new persona’ and I was, for all intents and purposes, Alan Devereaux. God only knows where that came from but suddenly, somehow I was a certain southern gentleman who wanted nothing more than to wander through the south as a chronicler of antebellum society.
I did have in mind the setting up of a succotash farm and that it would probably be best in Alabama. This thread went so far as to setting up a processing plant in Mobile and working hard to get the blacks and whites to work together. Even when under the influence of mind-altering drugs I still have idealistic inclinations.
But Mr. Devereaux was one of the very last personas that I adopted while left to recuperate in the Grace hospital floor of Fairview Hospital.
As I explained in my previous post, part of my recovering depended on my being made to be quiet and to get the rest I needed. What I had was acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). In case you did not click on the link I provided last time, ARDS is treated as such:
Typically, people with ARDS need to be in an intensive care unit (ICU).
The goal of treatment is to provide breathing support and treat the underlying cause of ARDS.
This may involve medications to treat infections, reduce inflammation, and remove fluid from the lungs.
A breathing machine is used to deliver high doses of oxygen and a continuous level of pressure called PEEP (positive end-expiratory pressure) to the damaged lungs. Patients often need to be deeply sedated with medications when using this equipment.
Treatment continues until you are well enough to breathe on your own
Notice the key passage “Patients often need to be deeply sedated” which in my case meant gobs of morphine and Ativan. The combination of those two drugs drove me deep into my own little world. The perplexing part of this is that I vividly remember not so much what was going on outside but what was going on inside of my head.
These memories are as vivid to me as say the trip my mother took us on the year the divorce was decided upon. We went to Washington DC to see her best friend from college then up through New York, Boston and then across into New Hampshire and then back across New York to Cleveland.
The episodes that I now know were hallucinations are so real, so vivid that I can recall most of what happened and how I got to the place that made me have the “visions.”
For instance, Laurie has told me more than once that I was moved twice, well three times while in the hospital. I was taken first to the Emergency Room then moved to the ICU and finally to Grace Hospital where I was weaned off the drugs and medical devices.
To me, well, I was moved around more than three times. I am certain to this day that I was in at least eight or nine different hospital rooms. It’s funny, even though these episodes were taking place around and to me; I was never an active participant. I was always an observer.
Another point is I felt there was someone in the room watching over me, someone who would just watch from one of the corners in the room, up by the ceiling where the room’s boundaries met. This phantasm never said anything, never adding anything but always was there, watching. When that entity finally left, it was then that I started to come out of the twilight space between being comatose and being awake.
It was at that point when I became Alan Devereaux.
Remember in the previous post that I mentioned the TV was on 24/7. Now I had no control over what was on or what I would watch; I couldn’t follow what was going in on this state anyway, but I do know that I must have taken snippets from what was happening on the TV and incorporated that into my dream world.
One example had to do with Drew Carey. I had met Mr. Carey a few times because he came into the bar I worked at back in Parma during the late 70’s. Drew was a struggling comic back then and came in on occasion. He was kind of full of himself, but he was one of us. Anyway, one of the caregivers that had been assigned to me, because I needed eyes on observation 24/7, was Hispanic and had been watching the Drew Carey show in Spanish.
Now I saw that and immediately thought that Drew was in cahoots with the Anti-Christ and that they were making plans to take over the country one small town at a time. This is still in my head running around in the loop of film that is my life.
I also had a run in with my own version of the devil. It again had something to do with Spanish. I remember being tempted, enticed, really, to give up my struggle for rewards. I remember that the man doing the enticing was a cross between a flamingo dancer and Poncho Vila. I got through that by standing fast and not letting what it was to pull me down from my hard grasp on life.
Later, when I talked to the psychiatrist after this whole grand episode through my mind was winding down, he told me I could have been fighting against myself. Perhaps I knew I was in dire straits that I was literally battling to keep my mind on nothing but recovery.
Another good friend of mine is convinced that it was God who was speaking to me through my dreams to strengthen my will so that I could battle with the devil and win.
Perhaps they are both right. I was told that having ARDS is tantamount to a death sentence for many. Only about 40% of the people who have a case as bad as mine make it out on the other side. Perhaps I knew this, knew that I was fighting for my life. It could very well be.
The four years that preceded my illness were the worst four years in my life. Both Laurie and I suffered professional setbacks; mine far worse than Laurie’s but both of us taking a hit was devastating to our financial life. Laurie’s mother was starting to decline. The rental property we had was literally falling apart and there was nothing I could do about any of it due to my condition.
We were literally at the end of a very short rope when I was rushed to the hospital.
When I came out of the turmoil inside my brain, I was better able to handle all the problems that we faced. Did I mention my dear aunt Millie died while I was in the hospital?
Anyway, if you believe in a higher power maybe God was acting to save me. If you do not believe, well, maybe it was the last ounce of my survival instincts that kicked in to save the day.
All I know is that this is at least the seventh or eighth episode of the continuing saga called Chris should not be alive today. Four maybe five of these episodes, all of them earlier in my life, centered on my abuse of alcohol. I quit drinking 26 years ago and this stuff just keeps on happening. It’s called life.
Maybe I have a calling. Maybe I just have a very strong will to live. But maybe I am here to tell this story, this terrible and wonderful story to give other people hope. Hell, if I can make it through all of this, what’s a lung Transplant to me.
When I think about it this way, I am not nearly as frightened as I was when I first heard the words Lung Transplant.