[Just an FYI, this is rather fucking long. I didn’t want to cut it as it’s all my thoughts and feelings in their raw and unfiltered glory. I have always given y’all my honesty and as such, it didn’t feel right to edit or censor this in anyway.]
Can I just take a moment to say that this feels really fucking strange? To be sitting here at my desk and literally typing up my thoughts as they swirl about in my grey matter. To put my fingers to the mechanical keys on this rainbow keyboard in a half-assed attempt at sorting through all that has been plaguing me for the better part of three weeks. The last time that I wrote up a post was at the beginning of September about the best books I read in July and August. While my intention wasn’t to completely drop off the blogsphere, it ended up happening nonetheless and rather than fight it, I embraced it for whatever it was and took the space and time I needed.
But now that I’m back… it feels strange, alien, unfamiliar. In some ways, I even feel like an imposter as I honestly didn’t think I would return to blogging again. My body and my mind had created an intense disconnect from blogging and content creating in general. I was chatting with one of my awesome mates about how I was ready to silently bow out since that is what my instincts seems to be screaming at me to do. Yet here I am.
I’m not sure if this is a full return to blogging or just a moment where I merely need to talk and expel all of the thoughts that seem to be suffocating me as of late. Either way, I apologise for going silent without a word. Sometimes life happens and the best thing we can do for ourselves is to get swept away by the tides. To let go and just be washed away to the far reaches of an epiphany. I haven’t quite found my way to the shores yet, and while I’m not sure if this is a full return or not, I have to admit that it does feel nice to be writing something again (non-creative works). Incredibly fucking weird and unfamiliar, yet comforting, like the nostalgic warmth of a long-forgotten childhood friendship.
Hi, chums. Welcome to a literal musings post where I shall conjure some sort of update of what has happened since I left for surgery and what my life shall be like moving forward, especially with recovery. Since I am writing this on the fly, I’d like to apologise ahead of time in case if my thoughts lose their (tattered) leash and run rampant.
Surgery & Post-Op
On Monday September 14th, I was admitted into the hospital for open-heart surgery. I got there at about 5:00am. My mum stayed with me until they took me inside. Since there is a pandemic going on, no one was allowed to stay at the hospital with me, which made the experience so unbearably lonely.
The entire time I was being prepped, all I could picture was the image of the large metal doors swinging closed as I waved goodbye to my mum. Her eyes were fraught with concern, her complexion pale with sadness and guilt. She is someone who loves to support others and to help ease other people’s suffering. So not being able to offer the same sort of comfort for her child was probably eating away at her, although she did her best to stay strong for me. That’s just the sort of caring person she is. That image was engraved into my mind as I got on the scale, changed my clothes, endured the stick of an IV, took deep breathes while laying back on the uncomfortably stiff cot, praying desperately for this all to be over as soon as possible.
I wanted to close my eyes and cry. Everything inside of my chest—the decaying heart and the weakened veins—ached to curl into a ball and sob. To say that I was scared would be the biggest understatement ever. After a time, the image of my mum was replaced with the image of my Bhaiya. He was also completely alone when he underwent his heart transplant. His transplant (both of them) failed and he died alone. In a pristine, sanitary box of a room, on a plastic slab of a bed, sandwiched in-between godawful blankets that smelled like the despair that must have haunted him. Would the same thing happen to me? Was I doomed to die just like him? Laying in a room surrounded by strangers with the gleam of pity in their eyes? Was I ready? Was death the better alternative?
Yes, I wanted to cry and scream into the starched, stiff pillow beneath my head. But then the filter changed, and I saw my mum again. She was being strong for me. So was my Abbu (dad) and Madame Gabs. I owed it to them to keep fighting. To stay strong. To swallow my tears and my fear and face this beast.
The procedure lasted about four to five hours. Afterwards, I was in the ICU for a couple of days. Apparently, I was in excruciating agony, so they kept the morphine up for all of Monday and most of Tuesday. I ended up getting severely sick from the pain and the pharmaceuticals they were giving to me. The five or six tubes that were sticking out of my didn’t help either. Neither did the complication of having a collapsed lung. Eventually though, the fog of the drugs and agony did lift somewhat, and I realised that I was alive.
I survived where my brother did not.
The urge to cry came back in excruciating waves. Only at night when I was alone did I finally allow those tears the reprieve they desperately sought. The hardest part of being in the hospital was thinking about him and the unfairness of the situation. I’m not sure if it were because of the morphine or not, but I just couldn’t come to terms with the reality of what surviving the surgery meant for me. At least not yet.
When they moved me out of the ICU (Wednesday), a part of me was relieved, but I was also really anxious. I was treated well and kindly in ICU. Once I was out, though, my hospital experience was completely different. Because of how fucking awful and traumatising the hospitalisation experience was, I won’t go into details. I walked out of there on Friday (when I was discharged) with incredible PTSD distress and anxiety that still keeps me up at night. Never in my life had I felt so dehumanised. Some people really shouldn’t go into healthcare, especially if they view sick individuals or people incapable of taking care of themselves with nothing but resentment and malice and disgust. When someone already feels their absolute worst, to have another person come in and just further emphasise these terrible feelings with such great disrespect and unkindness… let’s just say that it really changes a person…
By Friday morning, I was determined to leave the hospital, whether I was ready or not. I was not going to subject myself to being treated like a fucking heap of trash any longer. I sucked it up and I put on such a brave face of healing. I pretended like the pain had subsided. I even forced myself to take care of myself in ways that I probably wasn’t physically ready to do yet. When my doctor finally gave me the OKAY to go home, I knew my nurses weren’t happy about it. I was fucking frightened they’d talk him out of it, but I got lucky and they didn’t say anything. I was discharged in the afternoon and I spent the weekend with my parents.
Initially, I was supposed to stay with my parents for about two weeks, but I began to miss my cats and my own bed and just being able to do things beyond just sitting around and “resting.” My mental health felt like it was fraying further, and I was barely holding on as it were. So, Tuesday afternoon (22nd), I convinced my parents to take me home. They were reluctant and not happy about it, which I understand. However, I needed to get back to normal as much as possible or I’d completely fall apart. I think even though it bothered my mum that I wanted to be independent again, some small part of her understood. Honestly, after that hospital stay, being dependent on anyone for anything just felt like a gut-wrenching stab every time. It exasperated my trauma. When you’re already someone who finds it challenging to ask for help, situations like these can just make everything a million times worse anxiety-wise.
Since I’ve been home, I’ve been trying my hardest to be serious about my recovery. I haven’t been acting like too much of a delinquent. I’ve been taking great care of my incision and making sure not to exasperate my cracked sternum too much. To be perfectly frank, it has been absolutely excruciating. I ended up developing an allergy to the pain killers they gave me, so I’ve been surviving on Tylenol and gritting my teeth through the rest of the pain. I have probably cried every single night from the pain to one extent or another. While it has gotten a little bit more manageable every day, it’s still the worst fucking thing I have ever experienced in my entire thirty-two years of living (shite, I feel so old).
But living I shall continue to do. And that’s the big picture, ain’t it?
Learning the Value of Recovery
When I finally woke up coherently after everything was done, my doctor looked in me the eyes with complete astonishment and asked me point blank, “How are you still alive? There is no way you should still be alive after what I saw.”
The hole in my heart was really fucking large and so close to the wall of my heart that, according to my doctor, I should have been dead a good while ago. In the weeks leading up to the procedure, I could feel my body reaching its limit. There were points where I didn’t think I’d make it to the surgery date. When I think about what my doctor said and compare them to how close I came to my heart giving out completely, I feel the same sort of astonishment that he probably felt when he cracked me open. I am someone who should have, for all intents and purposes, died years ago. Yet, there I was. Still breathing. Still fighting. Still trying to live, no matter how much I told myself I was ready to die. Something inside of me wasn’t ready. And it made me mad.
For the first week to two weeks after the gig, all I could think about was my brother. He was professionally successful. Kind-hearted and so fucking giving and generous. Absolutely brilliant, intellectually and empathetically. His potential to change the world was far more superior than mine could ever be. So, why was I spared? Why didn’t Boss Man give him life? I would gladly give my life for his. But that’s not what happened. For whatever reason, Boss Man wants me alive and I think that scares me far more than anything else has up to this point, more so when I consider how close to Death’s door I came.
I’d be lying through the wire holding my bones together if I said that I wasn’t angry. A part of me will probably always be furious that things turned out this way; that I’m here instead of him. Especially when I consider that I had my chance at joining him in February (my heart stopped and he came for me, but I wasn’t strong enough to go with him). The rage that lingers is so strong it could be its own entity.
Even so, I’m not ungrateful.
The hardest part of recovery isn’t the agony of my bones reconnecting or the piercing ache of my lung trying to function at full capacity. It’s not the fact that I can’t lift anything more than five pounds for the next few weeks. It’s not the terrible restlessness that I get from not being able to drive. Or even the frustration of not being able to shower without sitting down or having to hug a pillow when I need to sneeze or cough to prevent my sternum from becoming misshapen. No, the hardest part of recovery is accepting that I am alive. Knowing that I survived something that the most important person in my life didn’t and that for some fucking reason, I was given this fresh slate; this clean, second… no… third chance at life. Taking that and finding gratitude for it and learning to respect it and to value it is the hardest part of recovery. As much as I want to have a bitch tantrum and say “Fuck You” to this brand-new shiny existence, to do so would be the greatest disservice to the man that my brother was and to the person that he raised me to be.
After almost a decade of fighting this illness, my congenital heart disease is 100% treated. Once everything is properly healed, I will quite literally be a brand-new person. For the first time in my life, I can live like a normal, healthy human. There is nothing that I won’t be able to do with my life, so long as I have the dedication and drive to make it happen. This is an opportunity that not many people are blessed with. There are so many individuals out there who aren’t as lucky as I am. When I think about that, I can feel my anger fade into the background. How selfish can I be, to complain and whine about something that is a literal miracle of sorts? When I think about the lessons that my brother taught me about compassion and mercy, being a pissed-off brat definitely doesn’t equate. Although I am human and can’t help myself sometimes.
Recovery for me is learning to accept that I have received a gift that will finally allow me to accomplish everything I’ve ever wanted. I just need to face it head on and not allow my fear—or anger—to consume me in the process. It doesn’t matter how unworthy I may feel that I am of this fresh, new existence. Boss Man and my brother saw something worth saving; something worth investing in and at the end of the day, that’s really all that matters…
The next couple of months shall be my convalescence in compassion, a mending of mental fortitude. An acceptance of the aspirations that I was ready to give up on so long ago. Recovery is learning to live without sorrow or regret or guilt and shame. That’s what recovery means to me.
While I’m grateful to Boss Man for his help on this… fucking atrocious journey of a lifetime, I give my thanks to my brother. Thank you, Bhaiya, for everything that you have done for me. Even though you can’t be here with me, I shall carry every lesson that you taught me, every moment of laughter and joy that we shared, along with the tears and heartache, and everything in between with every breath that I shall take. Thank you for being my best friend, my confidante, and the essence of my heart. This life is dedicated to you.