Look, I nevr thought I was immortal. I always knew that I could get hurt or killed in an accident, and so I was always somewhat creful to at least look before I leapt my entire life. But I never really came to terms with my mortality; never really accepted that no matter how careful I am to avoid accidents and so forth, I’m going to die anyway, until I got hurt and sick a few years back. It was ain interesting process; one which I’m sure all men experience at some point in time, at some event or another when the immoderacy of youth finally catches up to the wisdom of age.
I hurt my back. That was the beginning. There were several steps to the final result, but the final result is all that mattered - Ruptured discs in l4/l5 and l5/s1. The pain was debilitating.
Then, I got stressed out. The project that I was working on at the time was the remodel of a PAC-10 Stadium. $15 million dollars worth of work had to be completed in 7 months, prior to the first football game of the 2008 season. Never mind that this stadium is two hours from my house, and I decided to commute instead of hauling the 5th wheel down and staying there for the week. Four hours of commuting, every day. I had to be there at 7 am, so I left home at 5. Got up at 4 every morning. Yuck.
The combination of stress and pain during this time period caused an otherwise controlled, regressive genetic condition that I have to rear its ugly head. By July, only about a month and a half before Grand Opening, I was covered head to toe in a psoriatic rash that felt like a 4 day old 3rd degree burn. The doctors told me I was 80 some-odd percent covered. My scalp, body, legs, face, and yes… even down there, was covered in a throbbing, burning, itching rash. The disease was auto-immune, so as I went further down the path, my immune system crashed. I woke up for work one morning in the following condition:
1.) It took me 15 minutes just to get stood up straight from bed, because my back hurt so badly that I couldn’t move. I took three Vicodin and waited for them to kick in before I could get into the shower.
2.) The water stung like blazes on the rash, everywhere it hit, but it was almost like relief, because at least the sensation changed for a minute from dull burning and itching to stinging.
3.) I had gotten 2 hours of fitful sleep that night, because the rash kept me awake. And the back pain. And the Vicodin.
4.) I realized as the pain in my back subsided from the vicodin that I couldn’t see out of my right eye. I checked it in the mirror, and realized that it was glued shut with pus. I had a case of pink eye. Wonderful.
5.) I realized that my other eye was infected, too, just not as far along. I was very sensitive to light at this point, and so I shut off the light to keep the discomfort down.
6.) With no light, I couldn’t see very well, and lost my balance immediately. Until I managed to stumble to the light switch and turn it back on, I had no sense of balance at all. It was about then that I realized that I had a dull pain in my right ear, and figured I had an ear infection. It became excruciating by about 10 o’clock that day, to the point that I had to have my assistant drive me to the emergency room. But more on that later.
7.) I’d had a chest cold for about five days prior to this, and it came back with a vengeance that morning. I was coughing badly on my way to work, which sucked because every time I coughed, it hurt my ear so badly that I wanted to pass out.
I made it to the emergency room for the ear infection by 10:30 that morning. By the time they were done checking me out, the list of damages was extensive. My fever was 103 degrees. I had a skin infection (staph) in one of my rash-inflicted areas, presumably from scratching at night during my fits of sleep. I had double conjunctivitis (pink eye). I had an ear infection in my right ear, which was spreading to the other ear (and did by the end of the day). The kicker? My chest cold was actually a case of pneumonia.
I was admitted to the hospital. My doctor called my office and told them to find a replacement for me because he said there was no way I was coming back to work for – get this – at least a month. I went on short-term disability, and had the strong belief that I would get back to work in a week. 5 weeks later, I finally came back in. I was reassigned to a different project for a month after that, until I was allowed to go back to my stadium project and finish it out.
I learned that day that I was not immortal, for sure and for certain. I’ve since managed to get control of my auto-immune condition, and am living happily (although much, much greyer – people think I’m 45 from how grey I am, when I’m only 30) doing the same job I was before. The big difference is that I appreciate life much more now. I don’t get upset about the little things. I don’t worry about losing my job, or not being able to pay bills, or any of those things because none of any of that matters as long as I’m not living the hell that I lived in the year of our lord, 2007. They say what doesn’t kill you can only make you stronger. I agree. I’m not really afraid of anything, because on that day in 2007, I wanted to die. I prayed for it. I hurt so bad, was so tired, so miserable, and had been for so long, that I didn’t care if I lived or died. What could I possibly fear now?