Saturday, September 1, 2012

Muddling Through and Looking Back

Two years ago today, I sat in my room on the rehabilitation floor of the hospital. The surgeon came into my room after lunch, and with a few snips of thread attached to my neck, cut and lifted out my tracheostomy tube. With little more than a wide strip of gauze across the open slice in my throat, I was told... "that's it."

Sitting there, exhaling with emphasis to feel the hot air pushing out of my throat... has to have been one of the most odd experiences in my life. No restrictions on food or drinking. It wasn't like they had to line things up in my throat, or sew things back together. Just pull out the tube, and all is well and normal. Weird!

Now here I sit, two years later. All the weight that had melted off while I sweated through fever after fever in the ICU, is back on (minus about 15 pounds.) I have more issues with my health than I can shake a fist at. I thought, at the time (in the rehab unit) that all I needed to do was get out of the hospital, start walking and everything would be fine. 

We never dreamed I would herniate so massively. We never expected the colostomy to be so problematic. I never imagined that diabetes would determine the course of my life. I certainly never thought that I would have heart issues or sleep apnea to contend with. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Two years on... and I am planning to go in for a gastric bypass surgery this winter. Yep. I am going to let them turn my stomach into a mini-pouch. The plan is to lose the better part of a hundred pounds and then the surgical team in Rochester will rebuild my innards and remove this colostomy. They also aim to remove the hernias and fix all of my abdominal muscles. Should be exciting!

In the meantime, I struggle. 

It's the little things... like trying to tie my shoes while maneuvering around this distension in my abdomen. I feel (and look) like a pregnant woman. I struggle with the MRSA that I picked up in the hospital... as I go through outbreaks on my skin about every 4-5 weeks. No fun. 

I try to think about what life will be like two years from now, when all the surgeries are done and healed. 

I try to think about going out in my kayak and not worrying that getting in and out of my boat might cause my intestines to burst out of my stomach. I try to imagine being able to lift groceries from the van, or hugging my wife as hard as I want to. And when I think of how it will feel to not be carrying around all this massive weight... it is wild. Strange. Wild. Alien. I am excited about the prospect. Scared out of my wits too. The PTSD makes damned sure to raise its ugly head every time I am in the hospital or meeting with a doctor. 

Which brings me to this week's self-portraits. It has been a good week. Lots to think over. Lots of things, small things, being accomplished. Some new opportunities. Some old issues coming to the surface. 

All of that shows up in these portraits. I think that's what draws me to photograph things every day. The pathos. The life. The hope of catching the story with just a glimpse and a flicker of light.

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