Matters Of The Aorta

The first thing I remember when I came to was hearing that familiar line of “Beetlejuice… Beetlejuice…” echoing from somewhere. It’s a weird way to wake up. Especially since I didn’t know where I was besides lying in a bed that I couldn’t pull myself up on. My entire body was limp, and I had tubes sticking out of me from every angle. This would have all been alarming if I had any idea of what was happening. All I knew was that Beetlejuice, I mean I was being summoned back from whatever happened. Only instead of wacky ghost powers like Michael Keaton had, the only thing I could muster was throwing up on myself and passing out.

And such is life after a major trauma.

This was all very new to me, as I had been a beacon of health over the last forty years. How could this happen? I was doing so well, in fact, that I never even went to the doctor. Well, rarely. Why would I need to when I felt fine? Little did I know that not going to the doctor meant that my healthy lifestyle of eating cheeseburgers for every meal and all that nonstop drinking could create underlying issues.

Me in my ideal habitat.

One of those issues reared its ugly head one night last October when I stood up from another lovely night of drinking — only to fall down and die. I remember feeling like I was having the worst back spasms of my life and then falling to the ground not long after. An ambulance showed up at some point and made me walk myself out. I remember being fairly mad about this.

I would come to find out later at the hospital that I had a thing happen called “an aortic dissection.” It is about as pleasant as it sounds. You see, thanks to my years of healthy living via caloric abuse, my aorta (the thing that supplies blood from your heart to your legs) decided to explode and spew blood inside my carcass. Surprisingly, very few people have a good reaction to this happening to them. In fact, most die. I was fairly lucky in my case, as I was able to get to the hospital fast enough before all of my blood filled up inside my chest cavity.

My diagnosis before surgery was dire, with lower body paralysis being the good outcome, and the possibility of still having the use of my legs being downright laughable — but not the humorous, good laugh. My chance of survival at all hovered at about 30%. I don’t really remember much about any of this, but I was told later that I responded to this news by trying to punch a nurse.

The weird chicken wire tube sock thing next to my spine is my “prize.”

After that, everything went black — right until Winona Ryder broke through. I was alive, and I could even feel my legs. Beetlejeremy was back, baby! I now have a foot long stint stuck inside of my chest, and enough gnarly scars to look like I was in a horrible drunken knife fight. I was able to leave the hospital two weeks later with a new lease on life, sixteen or so prescribed medications, and a terrifying addiction to Ativan thanks to the truly heroic amount I was given to try and stop the aforementioned nurse punching.

Now I hope you aren’t worried that I am going to be one of those people that had a traumatic thing happen and is suddenly a born again Christian, warning everyone about the dangers of living a heathen lifestyle. I’m not that person and hopefully I never will be. But I do want to tell everyone to be smarter than I was (attention: this is not hard). The stuff I went through (and am still going through) is not fun and will take months, probably more like years, to recover from — and it could have been so much worse.

So go get checked on every once in a while. Maybe learn to enjoy a salad every now and again. Take some walks. You really don’t want to be resurrected via an all day marathon of Beetlejuice on AMC.

It messes with your head.

Illustration of O M G Jeremy, a white bearded man with dark hair, drawn in the style of the old Saturday Morning Cartoon of Beetlejuice. Beetle-Jeremy is casually holding a busted up human heart with a rotten aorta. He looks at it askance.

Sneer Back

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