What are we waiting for?

This is a very unique election year, unlike any I’ve witnessed in the past. It speaks to the burning dissatisfaction of the American people that we have such a diversity of candidates running for president. I’m not going to talk about the candidates here, who’s running against who isn’t important. It’s what they stand for (or stand against) that’s important.

The truth is everyone has a stake in this. This election is happening at a pivotal time in our civilization’s history. The leader we elect in November is going to face the realities of climate change whether they choose to believe in it or not.

This is a time for Americans to start digging deep and examining the root causes of the major issues in the world. We need to find the courage to face the facts, and to stop nesting in the comfort of the status quo.

The wealthy elite would love nothing more than for us to elect another President that will consistently vote in favor of their interests. We have a real opportunity to tell them no more, to demand accountability for their past transgressions against the people, and to ensure that our country is restored to a position of global leadership on social issues and environmental concerns.

What are we waiting for? What are we so afraid of? Change is inevitable, regardless of how we choose to run our lives or our country. Nature exists outside of politics and it’s not going to wait on us to get our shit together. We have to change our politics to address the concerns of nature, or our civilization will have an expiration date. Those are the hard facts that the scientific community is telling us.

There are many powerful people in America that would have us believe that things will be okay as long as we keep making small reforms, and heading in the general right direction. But that’s another way of protecting the status quo, and ignoring the real problems. We have to realize that all of the issues are ultimately economic issues. The way that our government manages and regulates the economy determines the outcomes of climate change, pollution, violent crime, and poverty.

One of the ways that the wealthy elite distracts us from this truth is to focus on the symptoms instead of the disease. They talk about banning guns as a solution to violent crime, instead of addressing that most violent crime stems from poverty. They talk about banning abortion, but are willing to do nothing to address the underlying causes of it. If we ensured every citizen of this country could get a college education, and guaranteed paid family leave at their jobs once they went into the workforce, I suspect abortions would fall to record lows. The problem is a lack of education, and lack of personal resources.

As I said before, all of our issues are economic issues. The root problem is a rigged economic and political system that keeps people under control. It’s essentially a caste system, where the majority of all new wealth is concentrated within the top one percent of earners. The system insulates itself against any movement that is organized to change it. In the past, societies dominated by brute force. Now they do it through social engineering, and psychological manipulation. The mass media is the culmination of decades of carefully crafted misinformation and propaganda. They are so good at what they do that most people don’t even realize they’re being fooled.

If we’re going to change society, we have to change the way we consume information first. We have to unplug ourselves from the mass media, and learn to think for ourselves. We have to reject the notion that the political and the corporate elite are separate entities with separate goals. The corporate control of our government is no longer deniable. The idea that we can challenge corporate rule without taking our government back is inherently flawed. How are every day people with very limited resources and free time supposed to overcome the will of the most powerful people in this country?

We need a government that fights for the best interests of the people. We need fair and transparent elections. We need to abolish the system of lobbyists and unlimited campaign contributions that has completely undermined our democratic republic. The way forward requires us all to take a stand. We have to be fearless.

We have to start by taking back our minds and bodies. We are the only ones who decide what we consume. I believe in peaceful resistance, and intelligent cooperation. I believe we are capable of creating a movement at the local level in every city and town in America that could begin to rebuild our country through community gardening, bartering, and charity. We need to take full advantage of the liberties we still possess. Self-sustainability is the goal. The more self-sustainable we become, the more the corporations lose their powerhold over our lives. We can challenge the status quo by opting out of it. This is the revolution I support. Organic fruit and vegetables on every street. Make the planet a greener, tastier place, and the bastards have already lost.

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I Always Wanted to be Saved by a Robot

I Always Wanted to be Saved by a Robot

 

A true story
By Joshua Monk

I’m going to tell my story while it is still fresh in my memory, but I have to start at the beginning. Don’t worry, we’re not going back to the very beginning. This isn’t my whole life story. We’re going to fast-forward a little bit to the good parts. It was January of 2015, and I was living alone in an apartment with my two cats, Floki and Lelu. We lived a solitary life just like any other old hobbit who had seen enough of the world to know how cruel it could be.

I had spent much of my two and a half years there reading, playing guitar (when I wasn’t playing video games), and exploring various intellectual pursuits. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a total hermit. I loved spending a lot of my free-time in nature, but usually by myself. Okay. So I guess was more of loner than a hermit. I had a few people I thought of as friends (more like acquaintances really), but I kept my life very simple. I worked at the warehouse full-time, and that kept me out of trouble, and slowly moving forward in life. I felt like I had everything under control, and my existence was pretty stress-free.

The only thing missing was my soul-mate. I knew she was out there somewhere, but I didn’t know where to look. I had given up trying. It was a strange twist of fate that brought her knocking on my door one night. We hadn’t spoken in years, up until a few days before she came to see me. She had found me on Facebook, and we texted back and forth for a while on there. I sent her a couple of the short stories I’d written by email, and she actually read them and liked them, which meant the world to me. She sent me her poetry, which I thought was equally amazing.

She was no stranger to me. Our love story truly began over a decade ago, when we briefly dated as teenagers. Things didn’t work out back then, and we were both to blame for that. We weren’t ready. Now everything had changed. She had three kids with a man who had never treated her right. I had to grapple with the reality of becoming a father with no experience, but I knew with all my heart that it was the right decision. I knew we were meant to be, the moment I laid eyes on her in that little apartment from a galaxy far, far away. And a few days later, when I met her daughter Amalie Rose for the first time, I knew that this love was deeper and more profound than I could imagine.

 

Trials and Blessings

We didn’t sneak around behind her ex’s back. Ashley let him know up front that she was leaving him for good (she had already left him emotionally long before I showed up), and we moved in together about a month after we got together. That was when my life began. The trials we faced were too numerous to recount here, but our love saw us through them all.

We were living in a small ranch-style home in Rockmart at the time, and our financial situation was very shaky. Shortly after we got together, Ashley’s transmission died in her car. That was the first major trial. She had to fix it right away because she was using her car to drive her sons Jaiden and CJ to school in Kennesaw every day. She didn’t want to transfer them to Rockmart, and I didn’t blame her. They had already been uprooted from almost everything they knew, and we couldn’t do that to them.

To complicate matters even more, she was also busy finishing up her BS in Psychology at KSU. Somehow we managed to stay afloat, and she got her degree. But it was a hard-won piece of paper. Not only was she spending two and a half hours on the road every day to get the kids to and from their elementary school in Kennesaw, but she was also several months pregnant with our son, and experiencing the worst morning sickness that a woman can possibly go through. A lot of people may have read this far and thought that we were out of our minds, having a baby when we had just gotten together, and our lives were in total upheaval. But we have no regrets whatsoever. We made Huxley Alexander in love, and that is all that matters. Furthermore, we knew what we were doing.

The next great trial of our lives was moving out of the place in Rockmart. We had very little money saved up, and very little options to choose from in Kennesaw. I had just begun to build my credit and my credit score was about 585 at the time, which further limited our options, because I was the main income earner on any lease we would sign. Ashley worked part time from home, but she could only do so much with the limited time she had every day. She had been driving the kids to school in Kennesaw for a good six months now, with a two month break for the summer, and we knew that she couldn’t keep doing it after Huxley was born. It would have made her life unmanageable, and severely endangered our son’s development.

The first blessing was getting out of the lease early in Rockmart. We were renting from a shady property management company, and so I contacted the landlord directly and pleaded our case. He showed us a genuine kindness in letting us terminate the lease with no penalty, even allowing us keep the security deposit, and I don’t think we could have possibly moved to Kennesaw otherwise.

The second blessing was getting approved for new credit lines. I got a 1,000-dollar credit card through my credit union, and Ashley got a 500-dollar Barclay card. This happened very close to the week we moved out, and we didn’t have even close to enough money to make it happen without it. We ended up maxing out all of our credit cards, and spending every last penny to get moved.

But none of that would have mattered if we hadn’t gotten approved. We had been denied for one place already, and it cost us $80 every time we applied for a new one, so we were limited by the money we had left as well as our limited options. Anyone who’s searched for a rental home before knows how difficult a task that can be. It’s even harder when you’re looking in Kennesaw, one of the most highly sought-after areas in GA. There was almost nothing for rent at all besides trailers in the trailer park, and we felt like that would have been a move backwards for a family of six. We would have done it if we had to, we didn’t think it was beneath us, but we wanted something we could all grow into.

We had one week left before we had to move out when we got approved for our new place in Kennesaw. It’s hard to capture in words how big of a deal this was for us. Not only was it the house we really wanted, in the city we wanted to live in, but the kids didn’t even have to change their school district. The bus pulled up right to the front of our driveway! What a drastic change for the better, and we made it all happen on our own. Ashley’s step dad helped us move (which we greatly appreciate), but we didn’t get any other help from anyone, and that made it feel all the better. It’s the best home we’ve ever lived in, in a peaceful, safe, and decent neighborhood. What more could we ask for? Everything changed for the better over night. And the kids were just as thrilled as we were.

Before we could even finish unpacking, our lives were transformed again. About a month after we moved in, little Huxley Alexander was born, on November 24th, 2015. This was the greatest event of my life. I stood by Ashley’s side every step of the way. I was with her for the entire ten-hour labor and delivery. I wrapped my hand around Huxley’s little shoulder when it was time, and pulled him out of the womb. They call it “catching the baby”, but it felt more like he caught me. I was the first person to hold him, and that was an honor that I will cherish forever. He was so beautiful and serene. You could tell he was happy to be alive.

He was smiling at us a couple of hours after he was born. We got to spend the first few hours of his life with him, totally uninterrupted by the outside world. The delivery team at Cartersville Medical Center was to thank for this. They did an outstanding job, and Ashley did an amazing job managing everything to ensure the best possible outcome.

She was concerned about hemorrhaging the way she had when she gave birth to Amalie in her previous pregnancy. She had come very close to dying then, and she knew that she had to make very careful decisions this time to prevent that from happening again. We were both scared, and I had to be strong for her, and help her keep her spirits high. Positive thinking creates positive outcomes.

But you have to be more than just optimistic. You have to be willing to fight to protect you and your unborn child. You have to be the one in control of your medical care. You have to educate yourself, and trust your instincts simultaneously. You can’t just blindly go along with whatever the doctors, nurses, or midwives are recommending, and expect the best outcome. Every one has unique biological factors to consider.

 

New Beginnings

Watching Ashley fight to bring our son safely into the world changed my perspective forever. I believe that my experiences with her in childbirth helped set me on the path to solving my own health crisis. The first year of my life with Ashley and the kids was amazing, terrifying, and more stressful than any year I lived before it. I knew I was having problems with my heart by the spring of 2015, but I had no idea what was really going on.

We didn’t have a lot of money to spare when we were living in Rockmart, and I was averse to going to the doctor based on past bad experiences, so I had decided I was going to manage things on my own and hope for the best. I cut my caffeine intake down, and tried my best to relax on the weekends, but it wasn’t enough. I wound up heading to the emergency room one day in September of 2015 (thank you, Joe Melton, for driving me there), because my pulse was racing while I was sitting around watching movies one morning, and I had only had one cup of coffee.

In the past, whenever I had experienced tachycardia, I could pinpoint the underlying issues that had led to it, but I knew that what I was experiencing that morning was totally outside of the normal realm of experience. Something was wrong. The ER doctor at Cartersville Medical Center listened to my heart and told me I had a significant murmur, but he couldn’t say what was wrong. He said I needed to see a cardiologist and have an echocardiogram performed.

It pains me to admit this, but I put off his recommendation for several more months. Nobody wants to assume the worst about their health, especially not a new father. Things got better for a while after we finished settling into the new place in Kennesaw. We really loved the area, and we started going out and hiking all the time. My stress levels went down drastically, especially after Huxley was born. He was the most peaceful presence I had ever known, and I slept a lot better with him in the bed with us. But I was still having strange arrhythmias in my heart occasionally, and it was always looming in the back of my mind.

The only thing that delayed me from getting it checked out right away was my back problems. I felt like I wasn’t going to be able to function at my job for very much longer if things continued getting worse. I had a strong suspicion about what was going on with me, and I wanted to find out for sure. This is when my lady love made the decision that ultimately led me down the path that saved my life.

She did some research on spine doctors, and referred me to Dr. Plas James at St. Joseph’s Emory in Atlanta. He was a very well renowned spinal surgeon, who had spent much of his career treating the Atlanta Falcons and the Atlanta Hawks. Dr. James took one look at my x-rays and confirmed what I had suspected for years. I had Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative auto-immune disease very similar to arthritis. I had inherited the condition from my father, which is how I knew what was going on all along. This is what had been causing all my back problems at work the past seven years. Luckily, it was in the beginning stages still, and the damage wasn’t permanent yet. I still had time to correct the issues with my posture, but it was going to require a dedicated lifestyle of yoga, and proper exercise and diet. I could deal with that.

Dr. James referred me to a rheumatologist at a separate hospital to confirm his diagnosis. I needed to get a lot of blood work done. The rheumatologist there listened to my heart as part of her normal procedures, and told me that I needed to see a cardiologist right away. Her face was full of concern, and I knew I couldn’t ignore my heart any longer.

When I went back to my follow-up appointment with Dr. James the next day, I told him that I wanted to see a cardiologist, and asked for a referral. He referred me to Dr. Guest at the same hospital, who much like Dr. James, only needed one look at me to make a positive diagnosis. He listened to my heart for a few minutes and told me that I had a leaky heart valve, and that I was going to have to come back a couple of weeks later for some tests. At the time I was a little bit in shock, but he assured me that people can live normal lives with a leaky heart valve, without ever requiring open heart surgery.

 

The Light at the End of the Robotic Arm

Those two weeks before my next appointment seemed to stretch on forever. And once I did all the tests, it was still another week before I saw Dr. Guest again and he dropped the bomb on me. I did have a leaky heart valve. The echocardiogram and stress test had confirmed his initial diagnosis. But it was much worse than he had initially thought. My mitral valve wasn’t functioning correctly at all. Thirty percent of my blood wasn’t circulating properly every day, because the valve wasn’t holding it in. The technical term for this is mitral valve prolapse. There was good news though; there was no heart disease, and nothing to prevent me from getting the mitral valve repair. However, he told me that if I had waited one more year to get this looked at, it would have been too late. I would have died of congestive heart failure within the next ten years. He recommended I get the surgical repair without delay, and that was a piece of advice I had no intention of ignoring.

He referred me to Dr. Douglas Murphy at the same hospital, and somehow I got an appointment lined up with him within one week of getting diagnosed. I couldn’t believe it. I had done a little research on Dr. Murphy before I called, and I knew he was a rock-star. He was the leading cardiothoracic surgeon in the world with the method he had pioneered. He didn’t perform the surgery the way most doctors did, by median sternotomy (splitting the sternum open). This required a long, excruciatingly painful recovery, and there was a much greater risk of infection and other complications.

He uses a robot to assist him called the da Vinci Surgical System. It essentially acts as an extension of his own hands. He controls the robot while looking through an eye-piece that gives him 3-D hi-def images of everything he’s doing. It allows him total precision in a way that isn’t possible with a scalpel in his hands.

After meeting Dr. Murphy for the first time, I felt better about everything. He didn’t carry himself like I thought he would. He was very laid-back. That was my first impression. After he finished listening to my heart, he sat down on a chair in the corner of the room below me, while I was sitting up on the bed, and we had a heart-to-heart (no pun intended). Most men in powerful positions tend to stand and tower over you when they’re talking to you. It’s a subconscious way to assert their authority. But here was this world famous doctor, who was roughly 6’3”, sitting down in the seat below me to level with me. He clearly didn’t think he was better than me. And even more importantly, I could tell he actually cared. He asked me about my family and my personal life. He said he wanted to meet my son, and my soul-mate before the surgery. And before he left he put his hand on my shoulder and told me that I was in good hands, and everything was going to be okay. I believed him.

Before I left, he scheduled my surgery for a month later. Everything was moving much faster than I expected. I had to come back to the hospital for a CT scan in two weeks, but after that I was counting down the days until the big one. I had a lot to figure out, and I had already made some major moves in life that would soon unfold. When I initially found out that I was going to need open heart surgery, one of the first things I did was talk to my boss and ask him for a promotion. I knew I had a little bit of leverage, because I was going to have to miss at least three weeks of work, and there was nobody there who could handle my job for that long while I was gone. I needed to be replaced, and I had my eye on a better position running a printing press. I had asked them to promote me to the press a couple of years ago, and they had told me it would eventually happen, but they didn’t have an opening until just recently. Fate was on my side.

I had been training my replacement for the past month, and they moved me to the press three weeks before the surgery. I was already under a lot of stress, and learning the press wasn’t easy, but I gave it everything I had. I wanted them to know how grateful I was for everything. And I will keep giving it my all when I come back. But I’m skipping ahead here. The surgery, the inevitable day was fast approaching.

I took the day before the surgery off, so I could get my license and registration renewed, and spend time with my family. (Life doesn’t stop just because you’re getting ready to do something huge.) It was a beautiful day. We laid in bed and talked that night, and everything felt remarkably normal. I wasn’t anxious or distracted. I was in the moment. When I woke the morning of the surgery, I felt excited and happy. I knew it was the beginning of a new chapter of my life.

Ashley drove me to the hospital, and when we got there I got to spend a little time with our son, holding him in my arms. He was in good spirits. We were all laughing and smiling. That’s what I remember. When they called my name in the main lobby, I leaned over to kiss Ashley and say goodbye. I didn’t know that she would be accompanying me up to the point before they rolled me away to the operating room. I felt a little embarrassed, and she jokingly told me that I couldn’t ditch her that easily.

We met an older couple in the surgery waiting room, and they talked to us for a little while. The husband said nice things about Huxley, and he told us a little bit about his own past experiences with his kids. He was going in to get a biopsy done on a cancerous growth in his throat. I will never know what happened to him, but I was grateful for the connection he made. I was so scared, but I knew I couldn’t let myself be consumed with fear. I had too much to live for. Everything was going to be okay. That was the only possibility I would consider.

They walked us to a room where I was prepped for surgery. My spirits were high still. Ashley and I kept talking to pass the time. An old woman came in and shaved me. And then we waited. And waited. It was another thirty minutes or longer before I met the anesthesiologists. And I remember feeling grateful for that. I had more time to spend with my beautiful wife and son before the surgery. Well, I was calling her my wife anyways (one day she will be, if she’ll have me.) And it felt good every time it came out of my mouth.

The last thing I remember is them explaining the anesthesia, the tubes, and IV’s, etc. I didn’t really care much about the details. I kind of let it all slide over my mind. All I cared about was Ashley and Huxley. Waking up to their loving faces. Ashley told me later that she saw them roll me away to the operating room, and the last thing I said to her was “I love you. See you soon.” I was already under the effects of the general anesthesia when I said that, so I have no memory of it.

Five and a half hours later I opened my eyes and saw her, and I said, “You’re so beautiful.” I remember that as clear as day. I fell back asleep briefly a few more times, but I knew I had made it. I was alive, and Ashley and Huxley were there. I heard her talking to the nurse, and I butted in and said something funny to amuse them. It had only been thirty minutes since the surgery had ended, and I was already awake and cracking jokes.

I got to spend the next six hours with Ashley and Huxley in the private ICU room Dr. Murphy had given me. Most patients have to share an ICU room with several other patients, and they’re only allowed 15-minute visitation with 2-hour breaks in-between. I didn’t do anything to deserve a private room. But it was a kindness that went a long way to aid my recovery that first critical day.

The time I spent with them was the healing salve I needed to get me through the dark night ahead. I don’t remember everything that we talked about, but I remember that conversation came easily. I was so happy to be alive. I kept making jokes about morphine and ice chips. I wanted big buckets of them. And the nurse kept indulging me. Until I started puking everything up that sat on my stomach for more than a few seconds. After that it was just the morphine and saline drip.

I was hooked up to over a dozen different tubes and IV’s. But the one that hurt the worst was the catheter. When I saw Dr. Murphy later that day before Ashley and Huxley had left, I asked him if it could be removed, and he showed me another kindness by letting them do that. That was a horrific moment that I thought would stretch on forever, and I didn’t realize then that it would be the first of many to come. I was so grateful to have Ashley by my side through that. It was so hard to watch her leave that evening, but we both knew she had to go home. She stayed as long as she could.

The night was filled with nightmares and visions. The morphine had fully taken up residence in my shell-shocked psyche. And I was having a serious problem. I couldn’t pee. My urethral sphincter had swollen from the catheter, and the morphine wasn’t helping. Neither was the fact that I couldn’t stand up on my own, and I was a little bit shy about doing my business under those circumstances. I tried and I tried, but eventually I ran out of time. The nurse had to “straight cath” me.

I can’t write this story without being totally honest, and including the darkest details. This was one of the most difficult moments of my life. I felt totally crushed. But somehow the nurse brought me back from that. She kept telling me how proud she was of me, what a great job I was doing with everything. She told me that I should talk to other young men before they go in for surgeries like this one, to help prepare them for it all. She said that most people my age completely fall apart the first night. But I was holding it together. What I never told her is that I couldn’t have held it together without her. She was kind and wise, and knew exactly what to say to a man in my circumstances. Eventually I slept, and I woke the following day.

The morning was slow, but I was still happy to be alive. I was still riding that high. They took me off the morphine, and switched me over to Lortab. I still couldn’t pee. Another drama was beginning to unfold. I really didn’t want them to have to catheterize me again. Especially not in the light of day. They called a meeting outside my room to discuss their options. I overheard them talking about me, and I butted in and told them that it was just bad nerves keeping me from doing it. They drew the curtain, and let me in on the discussion. There were six people standing in a semi-circle at my door. One of them was a doctor. I told them that I could do it if they could take all the tubes out first. We struck a tentative agreement. They asked Dr. Murphy to approve removing the tubes, and he granted it.

It was another two hours before the nurses got started. Ashley was on the way to visit me again. The tube in my chest was horribly painful. It went all the way into my right lung. There were two other tubes that went all the way down into my heart. And there was an IV in my neck that needed to go. It was actually a huge relief to have them all out, and it didn’t bother me to watch that whole process unfold. Once I was free, the nurses left to give me some privacy to pee. And it took me about five minutes to get the pipes flowing again, but I did it. I didn’t have to face the evil catheter again.
Ashley showed up just as I was wrapping things up. She later told me that she overheard them discussing the possibility of having to catheterize me soon. But the curtain was drawn, and I proudly displayed my pitcher of piss on the table. Victory, at last! A short while later they moved me up to my private room in the recovery wing. My stay in the ICU was officially over. I felt rough. I was still in a whole lot of pain, and I couldn’t talk very much because I was so short of breath. Ashley didn’t stay very long, but I was grateful that she had come.

I started to feel a lot better after she left, but that was only going to last for a little while. There were many more hardships to come. I was walking to the bathroom on my own from the moment they had left me in the recovery room. That was the beginning of me taking back control of my life. I must have dozed off several times that day, because when I think back on my experiences, I recall having spent multiple nights in the recovery room, but I know that I only spent one night there, and the following day I left.

I was having paranoid delusions and hallucinations from the pain medication. I’m glad I didn’t tell them about the latter, or they may have moved me over to the psychiatric wing. I remember going to the bathroom at one point, and my left leg went totally numb. I called the nurse in, and I told her what was going on. She had me walk on it around the room, and then my whole body went numb, and my heart started racing. I told her to call the doctor immediately, and she did what I asked. Dr. Murphy’s Physician’s Assistant came and saw me. She got me to push on her hand with my hands and my feet. And she told me I wasn’t having a stroke, that I was actually feeling the effects of a stunned nerve. She said that 98 percent of people fully recover from this, and the 2 percent who don’t learn to live with it with very little complications. I broke down into tears of gratitude at this point. I told her that my problems were so small compared to so many others there. And I was so grateful to be alive, and in good health.

After she left I couldn’t stop crying. I kept overhearing the nurses and the doctors outside of my room, talking about patients who were facing unimaginable problems. And here I was, with a fully functioning heart, and right on track to a fast recovery. I took my pain meds, and I wept. And I tried my best to ignore the numbness in the left side of my body.

Later that night I walked around my room a little bit to find my phone charger and plug my phone in. It wasn’t a whole lot of effort, but it was enough to steal my breath. I laid in bed for the next hour, fighting against my urge to fall asleep. Forcing my eyes back open when they fell shut. I was afraid I would stop breathing if I fell asleep this way. I started to hallucinate. The drugs were taking me to a dark place. But I finally got a grip on it all. My breathing steadied, and I fell asleep in peace around 10:30 P.M.

I didn’t sleep for more than an hour at a time that night. There was a nurse tech, a young black guy with a good sense of humor, who kept me tethered to reality. I remember telling him that I was afraid of permanent nerve damage, of waking up paralyzed, because my left side was still numb. He said I shouldn’t worry about shit like that, that I should just take it easy, and watch a movie to take my mind off things. I never turned the TV on my whole stay there, but I did finally start to relax.

Then they gave me a new medication to lower my blood pressure, and my blood pressure dropped down to 80 / 40. I woke up in a daze. I wanted to say something, to express my concern, but I was too sleepy to let myself succumb to the fear again. I went back to sleep telling myself that everything was going to be okay, that I was in good hands with Dr. Murphy. I woke up again later that night and my blood pressure had jumped up to 156 / something. I only remember the top number. I was shocked. I said, “Wow, I’m all over the place tonight.” But the next time they took it I was normal, and they didn’t give me that medicine again.

The following morning, I woke up feeling a lot better. I scrubbed myself clean as best as I could in the sink, and walked around my room a little bit. I used the mouthwash I didn’t know I had in my bags. I did a bunch of tests that morning, and I got to leave my room for an x-ray. The nurse rolled me up to the top floor after the x-ray and let me look out the window at the view of Atlanta, and Stone Mountain in the distance. I was grateful for that. When she brought me back, I did my first walk around the nurse’s station. My gown wasn’t tied properly in the back, and I think I mooned the whole hospital before a nurse came and helped me tie it up. After I made it back to my room I was determined to leave the hospital that day. I got myself fully dressed without help. My board said, “Leaving Sunday / Monday”. I said, “Fuck that, I’m leaving today.”

I went for another walk after I was dressed. This time I made it two laps without help. And then I rested for a while, sitting down in my chair in my room, texting Ashley back and forth. Then I did two more laps. Rinse and repeat. During one of the walks, one of the nurses said, “You’re trying to walk you’re way out of here, aren’t you?” And I said, “Yeah, I think I’m breaking out of this joint today.”

All of my tests came back normal, and the doctor approved my release. They asked me if I wanted to leave that day, and I told them, “As long as it’s medically safe for me to leave, then, yeah, I’d like to leave.” I was certainly scared to leave, after everything I’d been through, but I didn’t want to waste precious hospital resources if I didn’t need to.

I kept doing laps every thirty minutes, even after I signed the release papers. I couldn’t walk very fast. I was still in a lot of pain. But I was mobile. I could do things for myself. And that felt great. The drive home was stressful and exciting at the same time. Ashley asked me if I was nervous, and I told her, “Yes.” Of course I was. I had been through hell and back. But I knew that everything was going to be okay.

The first night I spent in my own bed was restorative. The hallucinations were gone. The opioid demons were silent. I woke up in fine spirits. But then I had to take the beta blocker that they prescribed me when I was released. It made me feel horrible, utterly horrible. My right hand and foot went partially numb, and stayed that way for as long as I was on it. I was dizzy and light-headed, and short of breath all day. I started taking frequent naps. And then the fevers started hitting me. My temperature shot up to 101 the first day I was back, and I fought to get it back down by keeping a cold wet towel over my head while I shivered miserably. I made Ashley call the hospital, but they said I shouldn’t worry about coming in unless it got over 101.5 and stayed there. I was on my own, in other words.

The first three days after I came home were the hardest. But we survived it, and we did more than survive it. The whole experience changed us forever. It’s made me stronger, humbler, and more in touch with the people around me. It’s brought Ashley and I even closer. It’s shown me the power of love, and the kindness of strangers. It’s given me hope, and restored my faith in humanity at a time when I felt more than a little cynical about the world.

I saw Dr. Murphy for the follow-up appointment a few days ago, and he took me off the beta-blocker. He told me I could eat whatever I wanted, and do whatever I wanted. He said I was doing great. I shook his hand and told him thank you. Those word will forever fall short, but I want to say them once again in writing. Thank you for giving me a second chance at life. You said I had a lot to live for, and you were right. Thank you for everything, Dr. Murphy. I always wanted to be saved by a robot, and I couldn’t have picked a better man to control it.