Desert Vision's final sailing blog post
26 February 2013
Michael in sunny San Diego
After considering my last blog entry of 2012, I presume I must have known something was very wrong. And now, after two weeks in ICU and another week in the oncology ward, I have just completed my first round of chemo therapy. I am so lucky to still be above ground and were it not for Iris, I would not be found here.
Upon returning to Desert Vision from Oregon I was diagnosed with congestive cardiac failure and pneumonia in La Paz, Mexico and immediately ambulanced the two hour ride south to San Jose Del Cabo. The Mexican doctor riding shotgun with me proudly displayed a very large syringe to reassure me that he was ready and willing to pierce my heart and suck out the excessive fluids should I go into cardiac arrest along the ride down.
At the hospital in Cabo, they took me into surgery and with the assistance of an ultra-sound machine and localized pain killer, stuck the syringe into my chest and sucked out a high percentage of the fluids inside the Pericardium. I was conscious and able to communicate with the team of doctors speaking broken English. As I watched the large syringe sucking the black fluid out of me I recall them joking with me about it and commenting that it looked just like chocolate milk. This helped me breathe and pump my blood but after a few days in the intensive care unit, x-rays revealed that the fluid was building again.
The doctors agreed that I would not survive a metavac flight to the United States so we all agreed that I would go back to surgery for the installation of a Pericardium window into the lining of the heart with a drain through my chest wall in order to reduce the stress from the excessive volume of liquid squeezing against my heart. I went back to surgery and this was completed professionally and competently.
Meanwhile, Iris arranged to get me to Scripps Hospital in San Diego via an $18,600 Metavac ride aboard a Lear Jet. I remained intubated and on life support after surgery, and on a Saturday evening, post banking hours, Iris and Sharon managed to come up with $70,000 so that the Mexican hospital would release me to fly out of Mexico before my health insurance cleared. Unfortunately I have no memory of my only ride on a Lear.
Arriving at Scripps Memorial with tubes in my chest, lungs and stomach, my scariest moments were the days I spent unable to speak or write, my arms lashed to my sides with no possible way to convey to anyone that I was continually running out of air due to my severe cough. I now understand why they outlawed "Water boarding" as a form of torture. If I could have, I would have told anyone anything, truth or lie, for relief of the pain and fear.
Pain medications soon brought along days and nights of horrifying hallucinations that only Iris could comfort. Each time she came I knew I could live a little longer. Each time she left, I knew that would be the last time (in my life) that I ever saw her. The experience of those many endless, terrifying hours has begun to infiltrate my soul with a different perspective to many of my life's values.
Love is not only great and wonderful, but it is the only thing truly important in life. And family, friends and God are love beyond all possessions, transcending pride, pleasures and passions. I am not so much the "ask for help type personality" and retrospectively it seems I've been so directed to running my life by my rules and the realities that made sense to me that the Lord had probably become very impatient with me. So at sixty-one, with the clock running down, he decided to get my attention by knocking me Right Square to my ass for a long overdue cram session about life and related subjects. I am grateful for the lesson now and trying very hard to live long enough to thank him with more than just a prayer.
Family and friends both old and brand new have been amazingly kind and supportive to us. From the east coast to the west we have been overwhelmed with prayers, strength, generosity, and support for Iris to help her remain her pillar of strength that I so desperately need during this time. The list is astonishing and will require one additional lifetime to repay.
All my sisters have rallied for me down here and have blessed me with the reassurance of their love. I have such a wonderful family. My brother in law Glenn will be driving our truck back up to the states this week and some friends will bring Desert Vision up to here soon after. Having been now diagnosed with stage 3B cancer of my lungs and lymph nodes, I have undergone my first chemo treatment and we are staying at a very nice little beach front bungalow for a month until Desert Vision arrives. Hopefully I will be strong enough for Iris and I to live on board her near the hospital until the months of chemo therapy have been completed.
Now down to 155lbs I look a bit like the walking dead doing my "lobotomy shuffle" but people stay out of my way. I'm sure they are frightened of catching something from me. This is alright by me because I am more afraid of getting something from them with my immune system compromised by the chemo therapy. I am walking a couple of blocks two times a day and hoping to make three by the weekend. I wish I could boast of feeling better and stronger each day, but so for the graph has been pretty bouncy leaving me pretty uncertain of the future. Like I really need to know and control my life again instead of just putting it in God's hands. Some people are just slow learners I guess but believe me I am trying to learn. My greatest regret in life is not raising my children more god fearing than I did. Hopefully I am not too late to turn this around. My largest complaint is that I am completely exhausted all the time. Even sitting for an hour requires a nap to recover and you all know I am not much of a sit-around guy.
The message I hope to convey to you all is, live, LOVE, laugh and give thanks for each and every day for none of us can know if tomorrow will allow us another opportunity.