*** Programming Note ***

I’ve rarely written about my health travails, but when I do it is in the hope that others can get more information or the “inside scoop” about what it is really like to face certain issues. Most of mine revolve around a heart, or lack of one.

I woke up in the whee(ze) hours of Tuesday morning experiencing a bit of difficulty breathing. In my defense, I’ve never had lung issues before, otherwise I might have been more concerned last month, when the symptoms started.

I just figured I was out of shape, because I’m out of shape. I got serious about it last week when I started using the ol’ elliptical again. I call her ‘Murderous Molly’.

Me: “Well, Murderous Molly. We meet again.”
MM: “Buzz… Ping.”
Me: “How about another shot at taking me out? I’m weak. Vulnerable. Like Superman after swallowing Kryptonite or liaising with another dude.”
MM: “Beep… Beep… Whirrr…. Beep…”

— Six Minutes Later —

Me: “You might have done it, Murderous Molly. [deep breaths] I’ll see you again tomorrow.”

Tomorrow turned out to be Saturday, but I improved my time 50% and walked away unfazed and unconcerned. Little did I know…

So Tuesday morning arrived and I discovered that laying down made it hard to breathe. So did sitting at an angle. In fact, the only way I could “breathe normal” was either standing or sitting straight up. This was a problem. Neither of those stances are my go-to sleep position. Around 7am I went back to bed, had a coughing fit (the holocough has been around for a while) and proceeded to gasp for air a little too loudly. Codex woke instantly because after 25+ years of marriage you develop a spidey-sense that your spouse is drowning next to you.

Confessions were made. Doctors were consulted. Heart problems (technically, I’ve had two heart attacks) couldn’t be ruled out. Neither could Covid, and thus the medical system had only one step to take: go to the Emergency Room at your local hospital. Fun. I was kinda regretting the day, but the breathing thing seemed important. I checked all the people around me and they all seemed to be breathing normally, so my lizard brain concluded that it was just me, not 5G. Fine.

My last words to Codex in the emergency room waiting area were, “Nobody is going to care until they verify our insurance, at which point a myriad of tests will begin.”

The nursing staff whisked me off into a negative-pressure Covid room. They were taking this seriously. Some had protective gear, they all wore masks. Even I, the patient having trouble breathing, had to wear a mask. What cracked me up was that they had to keep pressing the inner door shut. If the room was properly sealed they’d have had trouble opening it. I texted Codex. Yes, they let you have your phone so your loved one will know the exact instant they kill you with the brain-penetrating Covid test.

They hooked up many wires and they did it with efficiency. They kept frantically adding stickers and reattaching wires since they were having trouble isolating my heartbeat. I kept trying to explain I don’t have a heart, but they eventually found something they liked and everyone seemed relieved that I wasn’t, at that moment, having a heart attack. They seemed well-practiced at this, like a Nascar pit-crew or the FBI storming an average mom’s villainous lair. Guess our tax dollars are going for extra training, ’cause what else could it possibly be?

Nobody seemed to care about my breathing problem. To be fair, I was cracking jokes and texting so it didn’t seem that serious except to me.

Next up was the nice nurse who wanted to give me a Covid test. She pulled a swab-like device that was 87 feet long and grinned with an amused, evil, grin. At least, I assumed it was an amused, evil, grin under the mask.

Me: “If that thing is going into my brain I’m crawling out of here right now.”
Her: “It doesn’t go that far. See this?” She pointed to a little bend in the swab an inch from the business end. “It only goes that far.”

She began showing the doohickey up my snout. It went a little too far. I pulled my head back and made many Fauci’s of Pain noises. Did I mention I developed a new pain scale? I was bored up until this point, so I made up the “Fauci Pain Scale”. Each unit is a Fauci, and each level matches a required booster. So it’s a sliding, infinite scale of pain, misery and death.

Nurse Sadist wasn’t happy with me. She tried it again, swirled it around a bit, and then I pulled back again. Hey, it’s a matter of trust cause she could shove that thing up into my brain in a heartbeat and I don’t trust medical personnel farther than I can cough on them. It was good enough. Everyone seemed relieved when the test came back negative. Nobody bothered to hold the door closed after that point.

Someone noticed I was having trouble breathing, my oxygen saturation level kept dropping down to 86%, and my heart rate was extremely elevated at 110 bpm or so.

A portable chest xray machine was brought in. Someone suspected fluid in the lungs, which was news to me; Murderous Molly had obviously done elliptical-machine-voodoo and transported my sweat into my aquasacks. Clever, MM, very clever.

They began taking blood samples, hooking up IVs, delivering supplemental oxygen, and the doctor arrived to explain all the tests they now needed to do. Yep, the insurance had proven to be valid.

They needed a D-Dimer test, which he thought would indicate a blood clot someplace important. They’d then do a C-Scan to try to spot it. Then we’d see how many more tests they could cram in before performing surgery or a vigorous waxing to remove it.

I told him of my pureblood status and asked if they could take extra blood and sell it on the black market to pay for all this. He wasn’t amused. He was a straightforward pill-n-needle guy, and our relationship soured when I told him I needed to get in shape, lose 30 lbs and stop drinking a bottle of booze each week. I wanted to see the freak out. He didn’t. “You aren’t that overweight, and alcohol really doesn’t affect your heart. But if you really feel you need to quit, don’t just go cold turkey, that’s bad for you.”

That might’ve been the single worst medical advice I’ve ever received. There’s a reason I don’t trust doctors.

It turned out there was no clot. There was no flu. My white blood cell count was normal. There was just fluid in my lungs. A lot of fluid. And no explanation of how it got there. Everyone blamed my heart, the poor thing.

I figured tubes and pumps were next. That’s how you empty tanks and plumbing vessels. It turned out to be much more entertaining.

They give you some kind of drug which acts like a desiccant, pulling water from everywhere in your corpse and drying you out. They can’t give you too much or you end up looking like Mumm-Ra.

Then you get rid of it the fun way: peeing exorbitant amounts of liquid into a liter-sized container. They warned me the stuff wouldn’t take long to begin working. Fifteen-minutes later I delivered half a liter. Kindergarten me was so proud he’d provided a life-skill still applicable 50 years later. After another thirty minutes, I’d delivered almost another liter. That’s a lot of liquid, and since my day had started so early it wasn’t from excess water. My lungs had been that full.

My breath-bags still weren’t empty, but I was off the oxygen and could breathe better. They insisted I spend the night for ‘observation’ as my heart rate was still elevated. I agreed, provided I could wear steel pauldrons to protect against accidental jabs. It turned out I didn’t need them.

There were many factors for why I got no sleep on Tuesday night (bringing it up to 40+ hours by the time I went home and crashed). First, a couple of patients had bed alarms that would go off if they rolled the wrong way. The alarms were so loud the nurses at the next hospital over could hear them. Two, the hospital was next to train tracks and a train went by every hour-and-fifteen minutes. Three, the poor lady in the room next to mine would give a high-pitched horror-movie scream which lasted less than a second but occurred frequently. Codex will confirm all of this; she freaked a little the first time she heard the horror scream.

In the end, it turned out well. My lungs were emptied. My heart rate is slowly returning to normal. I could breathe again normally, although I still get winded easily. I got at least twelve hours of sleep. I need some followup care. And I walked in the driveway (it’s 200′ long), slowly, in 37º temperatures today. Without dying. There’s no way I’m giving Molly another chance. Not this soon. And when I do, I’m wearing a mask. It’ll protect me from whatever machine voodoo she’ll throw at me next.

Codex will have the comic out by noon tomorrow. She’s been a little freaked for some reason.

–> Q