Tuesday, January 19, 2010

syncope, and paralysis in the lone star state

so here's how the economy caused me to faint-really. N is participating in an eczema study that requires participants to have multiple blood draws, do allergy tests, and receive the yellow fever vaccine. she has the added obligation of traveling to national jewish hospital several times a week, which, for those of you not familiar with denver, is located at colfax and colorado - or as the locals know it, hooker central. the upside is she gets paid 600 bucks. here's where the fainting comes in. one day she says something like, since you're not working you should participate in the study, too. they need people without allergies and you also get paid. translation: get off the couch and go make some money. so i call and look into it, and sure enough they still need some folks on the control side, and we schedule it for the tuesday after the kids and i get back from texas (keep reading for that story). tuesday morning rolls around and i head down to the hospital, picking up a burrito on the way - it's important to eat before bloodletting. after 30 minutes of paperwork and releasing the hospital from responsibility from all but the most criminally negligent acts leading to my incapacitation, or death, we proceed to the check up, the allergy tests, and then the first (and biggest) blood draw. the phlebotomist was outstanding - almost didn't feel the stick. and halfway through we're talking about jobs and housing and then my peripheral vision goes cloudy and the woman standing six inches away from me (bleeding me dry, apparently) seems to have teleported herself to the other side of the hospital, and yet due to the miracle of modern science i can still hear her, and more importantly, speak to her - and i say i think i should lay down. and the next thing i know i'm being drug by my shoulders and belt loops to the closest bed to recover, and finish the blood letting. the doctor is called, and while checking on me says he knows N, and no she didn't pass out, BUT, my reaction is entirely common with the young and healthy. how healthy you ask? 112/57. how's yours N?

and the texas trip that delayed this lovely episode was my first in quite some time. if you've spent any time around me you know that i am quite proud of my heritage - i genuinely love being from texas. i am proud of the fact that my forebears helped to settle the state, and that my family members are still prominent in their various communities. my grandmother lives on a sizeable chunk of land in what many of us would see as the middle of nowhere, and my fondness for it aside, it can be quite lacking - especially in the creature comforts. for whatever else it may, or may not be, it is where the earliest generations of my family struck out to live as they would, so that the generations since may also have that opportunity. wherever else i go, it is where i want to return. our last time through N was pregnant with K1, and our reception from my mother (we having fallen out over my decision to join the church, and some other issues that had limited out interactions) was less than overwhelming. but the kids had never been there, and while K-squared met my grandmother when they were very young, they hadn't met anyone else, and so it was time to go home again. a good majority of my time was spent visiting elderly family members, who were thoroughly pleased to meet K-squared and were appropriately enamored by their charm and intellect. another chunk of my time was spent just intercepting the sweet tea that flows like water in the south from K-squared, who found the long tea spoons fascinating and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. of course no trip for me is complete without experiencing the local cuisine and i was treated to the best bbq on the planet, courtesy of my cousins who happened to play in a band with Don Henley before he made it big. and i was thoroughly pleased to be able to spend some quality time with my favorite uncle, Bill. he is an intensely proud and independent man who says very little, but says it well, and embodies many of the stereotypes of the south - primarily, ungroomed, uneducated, gun-loving, gear head who loves his beer and would have absolutely no problem shooting you where you stood if you slighted him. the reality is that he developed a passion for airplanes and motorcycles at an early age, and after getting his pilots license, opened up a small hangar where he could tinker with his bikes and fly to his hearts content. and he would have no problem shooting you where you stood if you slighted him - gotta love the south! so riding over to my grandmother's last year he hit a sandy spot on the highway and laid his bike over. the fall threw him into a ditch where he laid for 5-6 hours until someone spotted the bike, and then him, laying in the ditch. he was later told that if earlier injuries to his neck had been treated he might simply have stood, picked up the bike, and rode on along, cursing the cosmetic repairs needed to the bike. but after several moto-cross, motorcycle, and plane wrecks, his vertebrae served only a ceremonial purpose, and collapsed quite easily when he fell, partially paralyzing him from the neck down. after a year of limited treatment and therapy he has use of his arms, extremely limited fine motor skills, and one leg that moves shortly after command, and one that needs to be drug along. so i had a captive audience in my uncle Bill! the majority of the time we simply sat watching the tv. but when the weather turned and the rain that plagued our first two days stopped, and the temperature climbed to 70 degrees (the locals were whining about sub-60 temperatures) we worked out. for him it was stretching and limbering, and circulating pooling blood from his lower extremities. for me it was an opportunity to help someone i idolized as a child and who would never have asked for help as an able-bodied adult, as well as a pretty grueling workout manhandling stiff and unresponsive limbs for an hour and a half. i loved every minute of it. i am amazed by his acceptance of his situation, and the dignity with which he carries himself. he is not bitter or angry, as many in his situation are. he is determined to pick himself up, whack the dust off, and regain his lifestyle. he has already surpassed what his doctors said he would be able to do, and he is sure in his conviction that he will have his life back. i don't doubt that he will.
i was on the fence with my decision to go to texas. it's an expense that we just didn't need, and there were some unresolved issues that i didn't want to confront. but the more i thought about it the more i was sure i needed to go, and to take the kids with me. i did see my mom while we were there, and though we didn't clear the air necessarily, we did talk for the first time in nearly six years, and i'm glad it happened - i needed it. seeing my uncle and the way he is dealing with adversity surely greater than my current job situation helped me find a little clarity. mostly i realized that regardless of time or circumstance, home is home, where there's always a place at the table for you, and where you can always find yourself again.