Wednesday, July 28, 2010
I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part One: The Bees!
After nearly dying last Saturday, I waited all week long to feel well enough to get back to my regular life. And I was nearly back to that regular life, "regular" being measured in the number of chili dogs I felt I could eat (2), when I nearly died again.
Such is life, I guess.
That counts as wisdom, by the way -- witty, pithy sayings from people who nearly died two times in a single week count as wisdom and you're required by law to write that down-- "such is life" -- and keep it handy on a post-it note for at least a week, before you shrug and throw it out and go back to watching "Chuck" reruns.
It's not just the witty, pithy sayings, either: you pretty much have to listen to everything I have to say; everything I write or say or think from here on out is deemed to be wise, because I have twice stared death in the face and lived to tell about it -- lived to tell my cautionary tale about how precious life is and how we should treasure every moment, because I've been close enough, on the front lines, to bring you a detailed description of what's waiting, a depiction of what death looks and sounds and tastes and feels like. And here is what death is like:
And chili dogs.
And Mr Bunches saying "It's a poop."
So, not as dramatic (or classy) as you'd think.
I really did almost die, twice, in the past six days, and I assume that Sweetie is furious with me for it, although she's taking it well and hasn't yet hit me upside the head or lectured me (much) on things like "when your wife suggests calling 911 you should maybe take her up on that." And, for the record, I've promised her that I will do just that from now on: I've ceded to her the authority to decide when to call an ambulance or not. Because it turns out I'm not so good at making decisions like that.
It all began after our very romantic date last Saturday, when I treated Sweetie to a movie. We went to see "Toy Story 3," and I would have been embarrassed to admit, last week, that I got started to cry in it (not once, even, but twice), but that was last week, and I've got a clearer perspective on things now, so I'm not (completely) humiliated to have been a 41-year-old man crying at the prospect of some toys bravely facing death. In fact, I like to think that looking back on it, that movie was a precursor -- a karmic warning. As I got sniffly watching Woody and Buzz in the dump, fearing they were going to be melted down, it might have been the Universe giving me a message: when you face death, it might have been saying to me, do so at least as bravely as a TOY.
And I did; don't worry about that. I was an amazingly brave (and uniquely handsome) man in the face of death, in part because I was also an amazingly clueless man who never really knew just how much trouble he was in. So, thanks, Universe, for the advance notice, but I wasn't paying attention, as usual, so I kind of missed it.
We went to see "Toy Story 3," on the kind of romantic date that only I can treat Sweetie to (using her money). As mentioned, I cried a little, and ate a lot of popcorn, and then the movie and the date were both over more or less at the same time, so we headed back home for an end to the romance and a resumption of parenting. It was about 4:30 in the afternoon when we got back. The Boy had been watching Mr F and Mr Bunches while we were out, so they were restless and wanted to do something. They always are when The Boy watches them. The Boy's only states of existence these days are (1) being crabby, (2) Watching ESPN and being crabby, and (3) being on Facebook and being crabby. Mr Bunches and Mr F, meanwhile, exist in a constant emotional state best described as "being in constant motion."
They wanted to move around, and so to keep them happy, and give Sweetie a little bit of a break, I decided that I'd do something with the Babies!. Initially, I was at a loss for what to do. It was, roughly speaking, about a zillion degrees (Fahrenheit), and we don't have central air conditioning, so doing anything inside was out of the question. Doing something outside was only preferable, though, if it involved water, because it wasn't any less hot or more air conditioned out in nature. So water it was, but the problem arose because we'd already been to the Splash Park once that day, earlier that morning, before the romantic date.
While I wouldn't have minded going twice in one day, and the Babies! I don't think would mind going there more than once a day (because they can move around a lot there), I still don't like to do it because it seems weird. You just don't do some things twice in one day. Like you don't go to two movies in a single day. You don't eat hamburgers two times a day. And you don't go to the Splash Park twice in a single day.
I know, the only people who would've known that we were there a second time would be people who THEMSELVES were there a second time, too, so who are they to judge, right? Wrong: They get to judge. We all get to judge. I judge everyone, all the time. I'm judging you, right now, and I'm not even sure who YOU are. And you're judging me for crying during Toy Story 3, and for not getting to the point of this story, and for technically being clinically insane. We all judge each other all the time, and I know in particular that everyone is judging me all the time and I know, somehow, that if I had gone to the Splash Park a second time that day, and seen someone else there who ALSO was there for a second time, that we'd have each been judging each other and that I'd have come off for the worse of it -- being deemed the loser of that group. Just like in high school.
Instead of risking that humiliation, I opted to stay in our yard and loosely proclaim that I was going to do some yardwork. "Yardwork" in this case was being done in the guise of playing with the Babies! -- the way, over the past four years, I'd slowly replaced all kinds of activities, like "work" and "exercise" with "playing with the Babies!"
In this case, I wasn't pretending to jog while actually playing with the Babies!. Instead, I was going to pretend to do yardwork while actually playing with the Babies!. The plan was to water the yard, because a week before I'd re-laid a garden path and actually put in some new plants and had high hopes that in the next few days, I would mow the lawn and it would begin to look more like a backyard garden and less like a vacant lot. Watering the plants was my job for the day, and also my excuse to have a hose-fight with Mr F and Mr Bunches.
In a bit of what is probably irony, assuming that irony isn't as devoid of meaning as all those Shakespeare plays English teachers are still trying to foist off on us as meaningful ("Awft thee MacBeth twill Guise To Scow'd!" does NOT mean anything about the international banking system, Mr. Schaefer!) I had, in the week preceding all the nearly-dying, crafted newly detailed plans, written on a Post-It note on my dresser, to continue the makeover of the backyard (as I'd been doing for 4 years, only this time for real) and to also get serious about working out (as I'd been promising for 10 years, only this time for real)(You could tell it's for real because I wrote it, as I said, on a Post-It note, which I then put up on the mirror over my dresser. Only the most serious intentions get Post-It-ed onto a mirror.)
Life, as they say, had other plans.
We were near the backyard and the hosefight/yardwork was going great. Mr Bunches had tried to convince me and Mr F to quit and go for a walk, instead, but we'd insisted on getting good and wet before walking down to the lake to see if there were any boats, ducks, or ocean liners there. (Mr Bunches recently watched a video that showed all the kinds of boats. When we went to the lake, he saw several varieties of the boats from the video, and named them. "Sailboat," he said, and I agreed. "Motorboat," he said and I agreed. "Canoe," he said, and I agreed it was a canoe. Then he pointed in a random direction and said "Ocean liner." I was torn: Encourage him by agreeing there's an ocean liner, and risk him becoming spoiled and/or living in a fantasy world? Or crush his dreams at the tender age of 3 1/2 and point out that there's no ocean liners on the lake, leading him to someday become The Next American Al Qaeda? "Maybe," I said, in a fit of neutral parenting.)
So we were hose-fighting and not maybe-ocean-liner viewing, when I felt a horsefly bite me. I paid it no attention and sprayed the hose on my leg and then back at Mr F, then a little at Mr Bunches. A minute later, the horsefly bit me again and I again ran the hose over my leg to wash it off. When it got me a third time, I thought "Man, that is one persistent horsefly" and looked down and saw it was a small bee on my leg.
I brushed it off, too, because I'm a man and a man does not stop spraying their young children in the butt with icy-cold hosewater merely because they got stung by a bee. Then I felt a fourth and looked down and there were three bees on my leg and one was stinging me, and then two more were stinging me.
I looked around and quickly assessed the situation: Mr Bunches to my right, Mr F ahead and to my right, and a cloud of bees coming at me.
I dropped the hose and began yelling for Sweetie. "Sweetie get out here quick!" I yelled, hoping to be heard over the air conditioner in our room. I grabbed Mr Bunches and went for Mr F, who thought we were still playing and tried to avoid me. I took another grab at him, still yelling for Sweetie. I felt bees on my hair and made a quick decision: I ran Mr Bunches to the back door. Sweetie was there and I handed him off and said "Get him inside! Bees! There's bees!" and ran back. Mr F was in the middle of the backyard, wondering what was going on. I grabbed him with both arms, feeling more bees on my legs, and ran him inside, too. The bees tried to follow me in and Sweetie shooed them out as we stood in the kitchen and assessed.
I felt stings on my legs and head. The Babies! seemed okay: No stings; they were a little mad about coming inside but not crying or anything. We dried them off and got them into shorts, and then I told Sweetie I was going to shower off and get the stingers out. I took a brief shower and dried off and put on a pair of shorts myself and sat in the living room, counting the places where I was puffing up from stings.
We got to 16 and I took some Benadryl and Tylenol and sat down.
"We should go to the hospital," Sweetie said.
"No," I pointed out. "I'll be fine."
A few minutes later, Sweetie said: "How are you feeling?"
"A little dizzy," I told her, and took a deep breath. "And really itchy," I also said.
"We should go the hospital," she suggested.
"No," I argued back. "I'll be fine." (It had won the first time; why change successful tactics?)
I need to point out that in refusing to go to the doctor, I was not being stupid, or prideful, but instead, I was being a man, not a pup. There is a long tradition in my family of not being a pup, which means staring bravely/incomprehendingly into the face of whatever discomfort, unfortunate situation, pain, or life-threatening condition is staring back, and saying "I'll be fine." To do any less is to make yourself a pup, and to be ridiculed by the rest of the family at future gatherings. Now, granted, I don't talk to most of that side of the family anymore, but I don't want them coming to my funeral and saying "What a pup."
Instead of going to the doctor, I did the next better thing: I googled "Symptoms of bee sting allergy," and read the brief paragraph on the first website that came up. (I think it was bee.stings.blogspot.com; it wasn't very entertaining, but it didn't have any misspelled words, so it seemed authoritative.)
A few minutes later, Sweetie said "How are you feeling?"
"I've got a little tightness in my chest," I admitted, and said "I'm a little dizzy."
Sweetie said we were going to the doctor, and I dutifully said "No, I'll be fine." I added, "I took Benadryl," in case that convinced her. But she called Oldest and Middle and asked them to come and sit for the Babies! while we went off to the ER. They agreed to come over and said they'd be there in about 30 minutes.
About 10 minutes after that, I stood up from where I'd been sitting on the floor in front of the couch. My legs were on fire and had bumps forming from the bee stings. My chest had four of them and I had two on my head, all burning. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton and was also held in a vice -- as if someone was trying to squeeze cotton into the shape of my head. My chest felt like the skin was two sizes too small and I was short of breath.
"Let's just go to the doctor," I said, trying to be cool about it. "Call the girls and tell them to meet us at the ER."
"Should I call 911?" Sweetie asked -- immediately upping the ante. Here, I'd agreed that maybe a doctor was necessary, what with the not-breathing and all, and she wanted to call an ambulance?
I called her bet: "No, let's just go on down there," I said.
We got the Babies! together and I put on a shirt and we got into the car. The Babies! were happy -- they like going for rides. Sweetie was concerned. I focused on trying to get some breath.
"Should I be running red lights?" Sweetie asked as we got to the top of our hill and waited to turn left.
"No," I said, "But drive aggressively. Drive like you're me."
Sweetie's aggressive driving can best be described, though, as slightly-less-than-extremely-polite. She waited until there was an opening in traffic, then put on her blinker and pulled ahead. I couldn't argue with her: I was the one who'd said we shouldn't call an ambulance, so I'd sort of ceded the moral high-ground here. Instead, I made suggestions, that went like this:
[thinking: breath, breath, breath, ignore the legs, dizzy... dizzy] Say: "Maybe get into that lane there and pass this guy."
It's about 30 minutes to the hospital-- driving from anywhere, to anywhere, in Madison, takes 30 minutes, period-- but we were making good time until we hit the construction. About 10 minutes into the drive, I said "Maybe go a little faster. Start some passing." When my chest started to hurt more, I suggested that she be a little more aggressive. Sweetie responded, I think, by using her blinker a little more ferociously.
We were about 3 blocks away from the hospital when a wave of dizziness washed over me and my chest tightened more. "Now start running red lights," I told her.
Sweetie agreed and then stopped at a red light because there was a car in the intersection. I focused on breathing and then waited for her to go through after the car. Instead, she sat there.
"Why aren't you going?" I asked her.
"There's a car coming," she said, and pointed to a car up on her left. That car was about a half-block away as she said it. Once it was through, though, Sweetie very aggressively punched the gas pedal and went through the now-green light.
We got to the hospital and I hopped out. "I'll go in. You get the Babies!" I said. She agreed and I walked into the hospital. The nurse at the desk looked at me.
"Can I help you?" she said.
"I got stung by, like, 15 bees," I said, hoping to sound cool about it. "And I'm having some tightness in my chest and I'm dizzy."
She leaped into action with the best the medical establishment has to offer:
"Do you have your insurance card?" she asked.
I swayed in front of her and said I didn't.
"What's your last name?" she asked. I gave it to her, and then she said "What's your religion?"
(I don't know why that's among the first questions they ask people checking into the ER, but it's a worrisome question at such a time.) I answered her and tried to stand up straight.
About 30 minutes from then, I'd be sitting on a bed in the ER, feeling the effects of the bee sting drain away and getting ready to go home, sitting up and joking about what a great story this would make.
About 10 minutes after that, I'd be almost dead.
Next: Almost dying can be kind of relaxing, provided you don't know what's going on.