Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Skinny

Skinny

Being a thin man, I am often perturbed by the double standard of mockery when it comes to weight.

Hey Skinny Boy!
Is that all you are going to eat?
Why don't you eat something?
You never eat enough.
Are you OK? You are skin, and bones.
Hey, a breeze is going to blow you down.

All of these comments are tiresome, and old. I would be completely out of line, if things were the other way around.

Hey Fat Boy!
Are you going to eat that much?
Why don't you stop eating?
You eat too much.
Are you OK? You are skin, and fat.
Hey, a breeze will stir up, if you fall down.

It would be phat to sit, and enjoy a meal without others observing, and commenting, on my habits.
That's the skinny.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Mazdaratti

Mazdaratti

Once, I had a 1984 Mazda 626 -Hatchback.  Once.

During a typical blistering summer here on the coast of South Carolina, I needed a car.  My relationship with my previous car had run its course, so to speak.  By that, I mean, I drove that sucker until it quit.  Since my job was not within walking distance, I needed transportation, pronto.

My father came across this gem that was, in fact, a motorized vehicle.  It had a tepid blue-grey paint job, that would suit any cold, and dreary February sky.  It came fully loaded with all of the gadgets of a 1984 compact car.  A throttling 1.8 Liter engine, bumpers, lights, tires, and most importantly disc brakes in the front end.

With $475, and a handshake, this beauty was mine.  I would blaze through town, pimpin' my ride, with my AM/FM stock radio, and all of the treble it could muster.  Cruising about my neighborhood, I always had the power windows down.  That was the best way to cool off, as the air conditioner was busted.  The delightful summer breeze felt as if someone was holding a hair dryer up to my cheek.  It was absolutely chilling, and my skin zings with goose bumps, when I think back to those few days that I owned her.

I ran into some girls that were renting a beach house for a week,  invited me to have some booze, and party favors at their vacation spot.  "You don't have to worry about driving home.  You can stay the night," they said.  I held out as best I could, and reluctantly agreed to go.
"I just hope this car will make it," I thought.  I didn't let that stop me, though.

In order to complete my journey, I would have to drive over The Cooper River Bridges.  On the way out, I would take the Silas Pearman Bridge  It was a rust colored steel truss bridge opened in 1966.  A relatively steep bridge by today's standards, and by far the highest climb in Charleston, South Carolina.  As I was descending the final span, I felt the brakes of my new, previously owned vehicle drag.  There was enough friction to slow the car down while rolling down the grade in neutral.

Damn.  I had to turn the car around, in hopes of getting the car back home before it completely died.  This was going to be a serious test for the blue rocket, as I had to return over the Grace Memorial Bridge.  A bridge that was opened in 1929, and deemed obsolete by 1979.  It was considered so dangerous at the time, that a federal bridge inspector refused to travel over it, in the late 1990's.

I was able to get my car motoring to a blazing 60 miles per hour before I began the first steep incline.  The car slowed immediately, as I jumped down to fourth, then third gear.  The pedal was to the medal, and I managed to maintain 40 miles an hour, while causing a traffic jam behind me. 

After much tension, and worry, I was finally approximately one mile from home.
Just then, the car directly behind me began to flash its high beams, and I blew it off.  "I know, I am moving slow," I thought.  However, when I checked the side mirror, a crimson shower of sparks was flowing  from the front of the car.  I immediately jerked to the shoulder of the road, and when I took my foot off the gas, my whip screeched to a halt.

I bailed out to inspect the source, and the rims were white hot, glowing intensely in the shadow of dusk.  Some guys were hanging out on their front porch, and come to survey the situation.

"Hey man!  You could fry chicken on that rim!", one of them said confidently, as if this were an everyday occurrence.

"Ha, ha.  Yeah, that's right," I replied.  This was followed by the sound of a gas grill igniting.  Wooofff!

The brake lines, and tires burst into flames, and we all stepped back with caution, and anticipation.  In an instant, I dialed 911, and reported the fire.  The fire station was only around the corner on the same block, so it would not be long before help arrived.

I heard the fire engines start, the wailing sirens, and belching horns, and I was relieved.  "I'm saved," I thought, as the fire truck raced past me, and my now obviously burning car.  I waved my arms at them, and the fire crew didn't even glance in my direction.

They continue to the end of the street, and returned, sans sirens.  By now, the fire had burned itself out, and was smoldering.  One of the firemen finally noticed the smoldering car, and they pulled over.  I was approached by one of the firemen, and he asked, "Hey, bro!  Where the hell were you?"

"What?", I replied.  "I was standing next to the burning car."

"Oh.  Well, what happened?", he asked.

"My brakes locked up, the friction caused a fire," I answered.

"Man, you gotta get that shit fixed", was his response.

"No kidding?", I asked sarcastically.

Afterwards, I had the car towed to the local brake repair shop.  When I asked them how much it would be to fix the car, the answer was "Forty five dollars for the tow, and $900, to fix the brakes."

"OK," I said.  "Let me pay the tow, and I will think about what to do about the repairs tomorrow."
"Aight, then," the man said.

I wonder what ever happened to that gorgeous car.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

49 -Sanitarium

November 16, 2011

I am tremendously relieved to see my mother, and step-dad, enter my room.  I have no desire to be in the hospital anymore, and the thought of how I am going to maintain, and improve my health, hardly crosses my mind.  Meanwhile, a few of the nurses are here to discuss my medical discharge, and provide my mother advice on what to do next.

My healing place has instantaneously become a whir of anxiety, an early reminder of one of the troubles that I used to medicate with alcohol.  The brief moment of comfort is vanishing in a flash with the help of my miniscule memory retention, and what ADD on LSD must be like.  There is nothing to be afraid of, and I cannot pinpoint the source of my panic.  There may be no need for fright, but my fear is real.

I understand I am losing my grip on reality, as I have been throughout this entire ordeal. Tumultuously struggling to maintain, during my incessant grind of survival, is absolutely exhausting.  I attempt to eavesdrop on the exchange between my mother, and the attending physician.  He will sign off on my discharge from The MUSC Hospital.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

48 -What Have I Become?

Mid - November 2011

For a few days now, I have been feeling as though my hospital stay is coming to a close.  I am undergoing much fewer procedures, and tests.  On top of that, all of the staff that is caring for me seem as if they are on autopilot, and going through the motions.  The somber mood of all my visitors is puzzling, too.

All afternoon, my friends, family, and acquaintances have been stopping by my hospital room to wish me well.  I am beginning to think that the coincidental gathering is occurring because I have no tests to undergo, and the doctors, and nurses have run out of reasons to poke me with needles.  Whether the syringes are for dosages of medicine, or drawing blood for testing, I am running out of veins.

I am reaching my breaking point when one of the nurses fills me in, and tells me that there is nothing more they can do, and I will leaving the hospital.  The rest of my afternoon, and evening, I am preparing to go home.  I am finally leaving the hospital, after what seems like six months.  However, I am not returning to my home where I nearly passed away, but heading to my mother's house in Beaufort, South Carolina.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

47 -Stealing Home


Mid November 2011


I feel as if I will never be released from the hospital.  From my perspective, I have been here for a number of months, but the calendar does not lie.  It is only mid-November, and I fell into my coma October 16th, and opened my eyes on the twentieth of October.  With all of my trips in and out of reality, I wouldn't be able to approximate the date, day, or time, if the nurses, and medical students didn't tell me.

As of now, the physicians are explaining that there are no more tests they can run.  The M.D. already extracted excess fluid from my abdomen during the most recent paracentesis procedure.  Today, I sense that I am retaining significantly more fluid. The treatment for distention of the abdomen, is caused by ascites, also known as abdominal fluid. 

A paracentesis is similar to releasing pressure in a garden hose.  A needle that is about five inches long, and about the size of a catheter, is inserted into my abdominal cavity.  A doctor is manipulating the needle while a nurse works the ultrasound wand to determine whether they are exporting liquid from my body, or removing body parts.  



When I suggest to the hospital staff that I could use another paracentesis, they inform me that my body cannot handle that kind of stress just yet.  This is on the grounds they exonerated three and a half liters of fluid that were trespassing in my gut only a few days ago.  My liver has already been diagnosed with cirrhosis, and my kidneys are borderline functional.  They have done all they can do.

Therefore, during my long, and drawn out stay, the doctors, nurses, professors, technicians, and medical students have simply kept me stable.  I am conscious, even if out of touch with reality.  Beyond that, I believe I am physically worse for wear.  


I have hardly eaten, and I am experiencing a nearly total loss of motor skills.  I cannot feed myself.  I am unable to roll over in bed.  More than two hours of sleeping, during a simple nap, is not part of my routine.  My paramount of success is my inability to walk, or failure to use the restroom properly, rather than soil my bed.


My mother, and stepfather have been traveling to Charleston, South Carolina, continuously.  They are here as often as they are able.  I know Mom & E wish  they could be with me at all times, however they live approximately seventy miles south of here, in Beaufort, South Carolina.  They will be here this evening, and my roommate/lifesaver is going to be here, as well.

Come to think of it, I have so many friends and family that plan to visit me today, that I feel as if I have missed something.  It is almost like they have failed to remember that I survived this ordeal.  The gathering could pass as a living wake.


Photo:  Faux Capacitor

By:  Donnie Wayne Todd

Saturday, July 14, 2012

46- Beyond 12 Steps

July 14, 2012

Present Day


I am back home this week, in Charleston, South Carolina. July the sixteenth, will be nine months since my esophagus ruptured. Since the day my liver became excessively scarred, inhibiting normal blood flow, and causing excess blood pressure in my veins. What began as an occasional drinking binge in college, eventually devolved into my complete, physical dependence to alcohol. A relationship with hooch that I never considered possible, after watching my father succumb to the destruction caused by his fixation with booze.
This is my first extended return to Chuck-town, and visit for more than one night. I have been walking around the city, and it is a tremendous relief to feel some manner of normal. This is what the physician's told me that I would never experience, for the remainder of my shortened life. According to them, I should have been dead three months ago. Yet, I have been walking for hours at a time, and while climbing a staircase, I am able to ascend two steps at a time. This is another sign of my progress, and it is absolutely gratifying.
Last Fall, my younger brother was pushing me around in a wheelchair. Looking back, I can't imagine how that made him feel. At only 38 years old, I had become immobile due to excessive drinking. My 34 year old, baby brother was touring me around in the hospital courtyard, during what could have been a beautiful afternoon, tossing the football around.
Instead, I was wrapped as tightly as Hannibal Lecter in "The Silence of The Lambs". Encased in a blanket from my hospital bed, to hold out the chilly November air. I could feel every fragment of debris on the sidewalk, and under the wheels of the chair, as we circled the park benches. A pebble, an acorn, or even a small crack in the concrete, would send shock waves of intense pain, throughout my body.
I could feel the massive amount of abnormally retained fluid in my abdomen, while it jostled, and moved my guts to wherever there was room. It felt as if something was twisting my bowels into knots, and shaking my belly to the point of nausea. Meanwhile, I had lost a lot of bone, and muscle mass, and I appeared to be much older than I actually was.
Now, that I am back in town, it is not apparent that I was ever sick, or near death, for that matter. I still appear to be underweight, but otherwise it has been abundantly clear, that most of the locals I run into are completely unaware of what happened to me. The most common greeting so far has been, "DWT! Long time, no see." Sometimes, "I haven't seen you in awhile" is added to the exchange. Furthermore, it is not surprising that some have mentioned, "You're headed to the bar, I bet." I throw an unexpected curve ball when I tell them I no longer drink.
What has been off putting, is the lack of seriousness when I drop the heavy news. "Yea, I have been in Beaufort. I almost died, last fall", I tell them.
"Ha, ha. You should take it easy", has been a common response.
Although, I reiterate the event of my near death, the conversation moves on, and is completely ignored. I don't expect anything from these acquaintances, I only find it odd that some things can be so easily brushed off.
However, I have seen some friends who were close to me over the years. Many of them haven't seen me since I was on my death bed. They have failed to be supportive, or congratulatory of my startling, and unexpected recovery. I simply cannot wrap my head around what must be going through their minds. I knew this was coming, as other addicts have told me, yet it doesn't make it any easier to deal with.
It has been a long, and difficult nine months, but overall I am extremely happy. I feel good, I am on my home turf, and actually mingling with people. Yet, most importantly, this is my first real test with being out on the town, among the ever present alcohol. There have been no urges, whatsoever.
Finally, I am staying with the new girl. She is someone I have known for quite awhile, but a real connection has developed with my sobriety. Without drinking, I am happier than I have been since...
I can't even remember the last time I was this upbeat, and lively.
Come to think of it, it takes about nine months to grow a new human body. This is my second.
Alcohol was not my friend.
Photo: Tim Todd Driving The Chair
About These Stories

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

45- Cantankerous

*This story is in my memory bank, and to me, this is how it went down.  As you read, you will agree that a lot of this is not feasible, or rational.  It involves a former co-worker, and according to my family, my most frequent visitor when I was in the hospital.  This is one of the visits that stands out.  I remember him being around a lot, yet, to not stray from what has become the norm, I have not spoken to him, since.  So goes the life of a recovering addict.*

"All this happened, more or less. The war parts, anyway, are pretty much true."
--Kurt Vonnegut

November 2011


 My private dormitory, that seems set-apart from the rest of the hospital, has reverted to its original appearance.  The room is saturated in a amber hue, and the 1960's art deco chairs are lining the left wall.  They have lime-green upholstery, and reflective chrome legs that run from the floor, encasing the dirty pattern.  Through the chicken wire laced window of my door, I can see another entryway.  It resembles a large, walk-in cooler door, and a heavy latch.  I think of the lock that Wendy used to imprison Jack, in Kubrick and King's,  The Shining. 

The length of my bed is uncomfortably lacking, and I am constantly in a hunched over posture.  I have no strength to right myself, and when I attempt to push my dead weight with my feet, an alarm sounds.  Its not a warning sound, "beep- don't do that", but the shrill of an alarm clock that could wake the patient on the floor above me.  The piercing noise does not end, until one of the hospital staff admits they can hear it.  If this were an emergency, the wait would be too long.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

44- Well Suited Disgrace

Autumn 2011


My physical trainer reminds me that I have only accomplished half of my goal.  My intention is to show the hospital staff that I am regaining my strength, so they might consider letting me out of this hospital.  I realize I will not be going  home, and fortunately my mother doesn't live far from Charleston.  Since she will be working, I must demonstrate some sort of self-reliance before they consider my release.

When I finish the trip down the long highway, and back to my bed, it will be the furthest I have traveled by foot since The Incident.  I remind myself that the best mindset I can muster should be the advice I was given by my high school, cross-country, and track coach.  He used to help us discover an extra reserve of energy during the third lap of a four lap race.  The slowest, and toughest lap.  This is my symbolic third lap and final fourth lap kick, today.

Mental anguish is causing serious doubt of whether any of this is worth the effort.  The hows, and whys of what it took to put me in this situation are upsetting, and cause for self-degradation.  Every time a rubber walker wheel is caught on a metal door jam, each instance that I drag a fattened toe on the cold tile, I question the culprit.  Me.  I did this.