Saturday, August 12, 2006

The Pain Principle

I was gone a for a wee while there. Ended up back in the hospital for another skin-of-my-teeth, hair-raising adventure in US Healthcare. Woo Hoo!!! Getting tired of this narrative? Me too, brothers and sisters; me too.

My platelet count tanked, which in and of itself is no big deal. But my gums started to spontaneously bleed around 5pm, hadn't stopped by 6:20pm and were still going strong at 7pm, prompting me to inquire of The Baby Daddy if I might perchance avail myself of a ride to the ER. Hung out, as most ambulatory, "non-critical" people do, at the ER for a while, soaking through gauze pads like I was a new investor in Johnson and Johnson. A bit freaked out, to be honest, at the incredible power of the human gums to produce so much blood through such small crevices; less worried about the gums themselves and more about what the leaks represented, ie, the potential to massively internally bleed by bumping myself on the edge of a table or on a car door. Supah!

As every one of these episodes does, much like every episode of Little House on the Prairie, it made me laugh a little, it made me cry a little, and also Learn An Important Lesson About Myself. So what was last night's Very Special Episode about? Wherein I learn that Ma and Pa Ingalls are heartbroken about Mary's blindness? Or about Almonzo's hard work at the mill? Well, I realized last night that having all of these medical experiences has fundamentally changed the way I think about life and about how I approach--and what I expect from--relationships and friendships.

The nurse was trying to find a vein for the IV, and the pressure was on because I wasn't clotting for sh*t, so as few holes as possible was the name of the game, since there is no point in springing additional sanguinary leaks courtesy of the people trying to plug the existing ones. As expected, she tried twice and failed, and had to go get someone else to get the vein. As she was leaving she said, "I went for the veins in your hand because those are less painful than ones in your forearm, but unfortunately they both blew." Gee. Ya think? I'm bleeding out the gums, lady!! Why would the small, delicate veins in my hands hold up under a needle puncture if the small cracks between my gums and teeth aren't holding up under nothing but the standard 14.7 pounds per square inch of atmospheric air pressure everyone else seems to thrive under quite happily?!

In comes Michael. I said, "So--I assume you're The Closer?" He laughed and said, "Well, I don't know about that." He looks at my arm for .03 seconds and says, "I can get this vein but it might hurt a bit because the skin is sensitive on the underside of your arm." I said, "Whatever you have to do, Michael, just nail it." .05 seconds later, the IV is in, taped up, and I am rockin' with Dokken. I said with no small amount of relief, "Thank you!" and he said, "Well, now that it all turned out okay I can answer your question: Yeah. I'm The Closer." I laughed and asked him to marry me. We laughed, chatted some more, and as he was walking out of the room I jokingly said, "Thanks again, Michael. Call me!"

So what life lesson did I learn via Ma and Pa Phlebotomy? What nugget of self-awareness did I glean from my time at Doc Baker's office in downtown Walnut Grove? Put simply, that I am all about the quick and the painful if it saves us both some time.

The human animal is programmed to avoid pain and seek pleasure, sometimes using the latter to facilitate the former (hello alcohol, heroin, deceit, infidelity and one-night stands). Now, while I'm all about pursuing a life of sunshine and lollipops like everyone else, I'm also becoming less and less committed to avoiding pain at all costs. Maybe, as ascetics would argue, a certain amount of physical privation keeps you mentally clear (as in, the more needle sticks you get, the less you feel them or worry about them). Or maybe I've just decided that evading and avoiding inevitable pain for short-term relief is a theft of valuable time that could be spent seeking long-term pleasure (as in, put the damn needle in the damn "painful" vein already, so I can get back to reading about Assica Simpson in this here issue of US Weekly without two extra "courtesy" holes in my rapidly bleeding hands).

All I know is that I don't really enjoy games anymore (if indeed I ever did). I just want to say what I mean, mean what I say, and expect the same from my friends. If you want to break up, just say so. Don't cheat. Don't lie. And certainly don't cheat then lie then lie again. Just put the damn painful needle in, and be on your way so I can spend the time I'd otherwise spend pondering the delta between what is real and what is rhetoric, on actually being happy elsewhere. If you don't like my work, just say so and I'll make it right, rather than spending time tiptoeing around the issue to our awkward mutual discomfort. Deliver the pain and then let's get back on the right track. If you feel that I have hurt you just bring it up so I can explain or make amends. Don't do the passive-aggressive, please-read-my-mind stuff from freshman year. Just deliver the pain and let's get back to being friends.

It's just that simple. Deliver the pain, and also be willing to accept it. If you messed up, take your medicine. If you disappointed someone, say you're sorry and resolve to do better next time. You know when you've done wrong, and you know when amends must be made. So just do it, pain be damned. Because what is the alternative? Wasted time, wasted effort, wasted opportunities to be truly happy in the skin you're in. Which, now that I think about it, is the worst medical condition of all.

1 comment:

Joe Tornatore said...

not too vein to tell us about it your humility.