Breathing and Other New Difficulties

I’m gonna dive right in here: You’ve more than likely been filled in on my whole situation. I mean, how could you avoid it, right? I won’t shut up about it. “My poor lungs,” I bellyache. “My heart is weak,” I bitch and moan. “I can’t even shower without running out of breath,” I complain. I’m mildly sorry if you constantly hear these things, but as of now I think it’s quite alright for me to worry out loud. Bear with me for a while until either A) I’m a bit more “stable” or “normal” in the coming months or B) one of these pesky clots rushes to my brain while I wait in the checkout line at Walmart. Whichever comes first.

If I die young, bury me in SAVINGS!

“If I die young, bury me in SAVINGS!”

Now, for those of you left in the dark, here’s the deal: On Monday December 21st, I decided to help a friend out during a cleaning spree by taking her trash to the dumpster. I had woken up at around 10:30AM and immediately threw some shoes on, grabbed the full bag by the door, and meandered outside, not a care in the world. Once I was about halfway to the dumpster — which is only about a hundred feet from her building’s exit — I began to feel a bit winded. “You’re just fat,” my brain said. “You need to wake up and get your energy back. No biggie.” So I kept going like nothing was wrong. The problem? There indeed WAS something very wrong. I made it to the dumpster and you’d swear at that point I was taking a break from a marathon. I was out of breath, struggling from one gasp to the next. I dropped the trash bag and tried walking back to the apartment, but my equilibrium was thrown off. My ears were ringing, my vision was blurry, my chest was tight and burning, my whole body went weak. Luckily (if I can say that), I made it to the outside apartment door, where I collapsed just as I put my hand on the knob. I waited on my knees for a few seconds as I gathered myself, then picked my body up and stumbled back into the apartment. I made it to the couch and collapsed, trying my hardest not to freak out. Each breath I took hurt like no other. I wanted to burst out in tears and call the ambulance, but my dumb ass decided it was something that would pass on its own. As I rested, my friend came out and told me to migrate to another spot so she could clean around the couch. “No worries,” I said. “I’m about to leave. Gotta go to the doctor. I’m… I’m not feeling too well.”

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“I really don’t know.”

“What the fuck do you mean you don’t know? Do you need medicine? What’s wrong?”

“I… Don’t… Know… I’m going to drive myself to the ER.”

Yes, I drove myself in that condition. I don’t know why I thought that was a good idea, but you know me, man. I’m not one to hinder on other people’s lives with my silly problems. You’d be happy to know, however, that I did make it to my destination.

Which, at first, was not the ER.

I'm an idiot.

I’m an idiot.

Being a stubborn bastard really bites me in the ass. See, before I went to the ER I decided to stop off at my friend Chris’s house, where I had been crashing for the weeks prior to this whole ordeal. Making it there wasn’t so bad, but making it to his door was a chore and even after feeling the pain all over again, I still didn’t go to the ER. No, I went inside, lied down on the bed, and thought about what was happening. Heart attack? Maybe. Pneumonia? ‘Tis the season. A debilitating STD? Yeah…OK. Unsure of what to make of all of it, I called my mom. I wanted to let her know what was going on in the event that I passed out and no one was around to find me. Yeah, another golden idea: CALL MOM AND WORRY HER! Once I said all of what I had to say, she told me to quote “get [my] fucking ass to the fucking ER before [she comes] down there and drags [my] ass.” OK, that was just the shove I needed, so I hopped in my car and drove down to the ER at St. Joseph’s on Broadway, less than a mile from Chris’s place.

Fast forward to my ER visit. I told them what was going on, they ran some tests and scans and whatnot, and immediately informed me that I was to be admitted. After hours of waiting, bouncing around, getting a finger shoved in my ass, and wondering what the hell was wrong with me, I finally got to see a doctor. He came in, sat down, and ripped it off like a band-aid when he said, “Charles, you have pulmonary embolism, which means that there is clotting in your lungs’ arteries and their “branches.” Not only do you have a few clots, you have SEVERAL clots. The damage is quite extensive, actually. Because of this, you also have right ventricular failure, meaning the right side of your heart is dangerously weak and is having an awful lot of trouble pumping blood into your lungs. We’re going to keep you here for the foreseeable future until all of this is sorted out.”

Wha– I jus– I’m only 24? HOW in the ever-loving hell am I dealing with a pulmonary embolism and fucking HEART FAILURE? They checked my legs for any evidence of deep vein thrombosis. Nothing. Nada. They hooked me up to machines, did some Doppler ultrasounds, checked on my heart some more and were baffled when they couldn’t give me a proper answer. These professionals have no idea how or why I have a sh’load of clots in my lungs. The answer they did give me was that I drew the short straw in the genetic lottery and am just an unlucky son of a bitch.

“Thanks for letting me know.”

After eight days of constant blood work, tests, scans, x-rays, etc, that’s as far as we’ve gotten. Seriously. The good-ish news is that I have to follow up with all of this every week for the rest of eternity, so odds are they’ll find out exactly what’s wrong with me eventually. I have to set up an appointment with a hematologist soon because apparently I might have a shitty blood disorder that’s causing my blood to clot up for no real reason other than being diseased. For the time being, I’m on a blood thinner that needs to be closely monitored for the rest of my life and a blood pressure medication that’s helping me not stroke out.



The point of this blog, other than to share my story for those who are unaware, is to let you all know that it’s gonna be a while before I’m back to being the old me. My whole life has been put on hold and everything I’ve worked at for the past few months of my life is now on the back burner. I can’t drive long distances. I can’t work until I know my body’s limitations. I can’t drink alcohol. I can’t smoke. I can’t eat leafy greens or other Vitamin K rich foods (this one’s not so bad). I can’t stand up for too long without getting winded. I can’t sit for too long without running the risk of getting another clot or pushing an existing one through my body. I can’t… Well, there’s a lot I can’t do. It’s really doing a number on my mental health right now. I don’t get to hang out with my friends as much anymore. I don’t have a way to spend time with the girl I was hanging out with at the time of the incident. For all intents and purposes, I’m a bruised, sad sack of sickness, loneliness, and helplessness right now as I try to acclimate to this new development. For once in my life, I’m feeling sorry for myself because, for once in my life, I have no idea what I’m doing. Zero percent. There’s not even a shred of life confidence right now.

Life is different.

And I’m scared.

This all being said, I’m trying to at least keep my humor about me. Every time I bring up this predicament or my overall health in a joking manner, please don’t see it as me being pessimistic. While my optimism is not what it used to be, my humor — no matter how dark — is what’s keeping me sane and happy. When a doctor gives you a list of different ways an illness could potentially kill you, you have to find a way to make each day a little easier, to take your mind off of all the negative. Do I think I’ll croak any time soon? I hope not. With a huge change in my lifestyle, I suppose I could someday find some semblance of normalcy in this fucked up situation. The fact of the matter is, however, that these clots aren’t all going to go away. Some will be broken down by my body naturally, but with the sheer amount that are in my lungs, there’s no guarantee they’ll all go away. Does that spell out certain death? ABSOLUTELY NOT.

I’m just saying we should name them all and start betting on which one will bust out of the gate first and race to the finish line in my head.

I’m just kidding! You really think I’m gonna let you get rid of me that easily? Forget about it!

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got. Before I go, I wanna ship out a big THANK YOU to everyone who has helped me through all of this, whether it be monetarily, morally, spiritually, whatever. I have quite an awesome support system that continues to make me feel better each and every day. Much love to you all!

And thanks for reading, you rascals. I’m gonna go count my bruises.





Camedyr Stoneforge and What Happens When We Die

I don’t believe in Heaven or Hell. I even feel kinda weird capitalizing the first letters to make them proper places, as I see that as a sort of a way of saying that they definitely exist and are for sure, 100%, exactly like some ancient text describes them. But, you see, I’m not here to put down everyone’s beliefs or belittle their ways of life by any means. Actually, I want to praise the believers for having a solid foundation in something that gives them strength and hope during this, the Era o’ Bullshit; it’s nice to see some people use their faith (in whatever) as their own personal set of Legos instead of a set of unreadable diagrams and instructions.

Seen here: Timmy getting his shit together.

Seen here: Timmy getting his shit together.

To get back on topic, this little blog…essay…bunch of words is for me to let you know about a little drunken eulogy I had recited while I was playing D&D with some friends over the summer.

“Charlie, I thought you said we were getting back on track? How is this related to Heaven an–”

Shhhhhhut. Shut. Shut your mouth. Gimme a second.

Now, I don’t remember the whole thing by heart because aaaayyyyy, I was inebriated. Nevertheless, I remember bits and pieces and remember Jake and Nate telling me how fucking beautiful it was. In order for me to explain it, here is some back story:

Jake, Nate, and I were playing some D&D, throwing some dice, doing tequila shots bigger than the Hulk’s fist, and all-in-all having a merry time. I was Camedyr Stoneforge (thank you, thank you, please hold your applause), a Dwarf who was fond of the drink and even fonder of the bonds he had with complete strangers. The quest involved three men who were invited to a fallen comrade’s funeral to celebrate his life and, after all was said and done, receive specific instructions on where they could find unfathomable treasure and fortune…

Or sum’in like that. I was drunk, see? You can’t expect me to be J.R.R. Motherfuckin’ Tolkien after a night of nerd debauchery.

Anywho, the night went on and the drinks were getting slammed. In the game we were finally at the funeral, sitting in different seats, wondering why we were there for this dude’s funeral. Camedyr Stoneforge, a man with very few fucks to give, was not going to sit still during the lovely memorial. Nay, when asked if anyone had any kind words to say about the deceased, my bearded ass stood up to a towering 4′ 6″ and stumbled my way to the front of the crowd. Once the audience was captivated/too scared to boo him offstage, Ol’ Camedyr — ahem, I — spoke these (paraphrased and soberly enhanced) words in remembrance of the Stranger:

I did not know this man as some of you knew him. I did not pass him in the morning hours or visit him in the night. I do not remember his birthday or dammit, even his name. There are two things I do know, however. The first is that he was a good man. I know it. You know it. Otherwise, this ceremony would be one for the crickets. The second: he is dead. And whether you believe he will ascend to the sun or become a part of your vegetable garden, the fact of the matter is that we will most likely never see him again. The way I see it, he will not go to the sky and look down upon us, nor will he emerge from a cocoon as a colorful butterfly. He is dead.

Cheer up! That is not to say he will not have everlasting life. The opposite, in fact, is true: HE WILL LIVE ON FOREVER. In our memories. Each and every one of us holds a memory of this man in one way or another. His soul has been divided among the hundred of us so that he may never become less than what he ever was. That is heaven, my friends. Do not look to the clouds or to the forest to see him again. Simply close your eyes and remember. That is heaven. That is where he will forever be happy.

Me… Charlie Gallagher… I said that shit! Not only that, but I more or less said it while piss drunk at a card table. OK, Camedyr Stoneforge said it, but without me there would be no Level 4 Dwarf Alcoholic, would there? And for the past few months, I’ve been thinking that maybe that short, hiccuping prick had a point.

This is Hank, another drunk dwarf. He's nothing like my drunk dwarf, but eh, you get the point.

This is Hank, another drunk dwarf. He’s nothing like my drunk dwarf, but eh, you get the picture.

I had considered myself an Agnostic/Atheistic person before this game of D&D, though I had so many more questions and was kind of unsure about everything. Now that I’ve seriously thought about my own beliefs, I think this whole memory thing is a great way to think about life after death. Maybe there is no Heaven, reincarnation, second dimension, Tree of Life, etc. Maybe what we think of when we hear “everlasting life” is just the notion that the memories people hold within their heads are pieces of an always friendly, always happy, always smiling you. They’ll constantly close their eyes and see you, everyday, no matter where they are. All it takes is a split second and a reminder and POOF! there you are. The hundreds or even thousands of people that you’ve touched over your years each have at least one memory of you, and those little memories create an entire person when brought together. That is how we live forever. That, to me, is a beautiful thing that no one can ever take away.