Why I Don’t Freak Out

Sometimes, in the course of handling supervisorish fires at work, things can get a bit heated. My fellow supervisors will get frustrated or angry, maybe slam things around on their desks.

I don’t.  For whatever reason–whatever confluence of gifts and talents–I usually manage to remain calm. No matter how angry the client or how stupid our rep, I can usually defuse tense situations, often getting the once-hostile person on the other end of the phone to laugh.

A relatively new member of our supervisory team once asked me why I so rarely “lost it” on the phone. The reason is simple:

I eat 2 mg Xanax like Pez candies.

Okay, that’s not true at all.

Three years ago this minute, I was awakening in St Anthony’s Hospital’s post-op ward.  The nurse told me to cough hard. I did so, and he yanked out a long tube that ran from my mouth down into my lungs.  I was just regaining consciousness after surgery to save my life. 

I’d somehow managed to contract a rare infection called Fournier’s Gangrene.  It was “necrotising fasciitis” on my nardsack. (“Scrotum,” to me, sounds like a sentence fragment uttered in that Deliverance country store: “D’you give them city folks a good deal?” “Nope.  Scrotum.”)

After I was awake for a few minutes, they wheeled me into my new home in ICU.  They didn’t get all of the infection, so I got to have another operation that Christmas Eve.  The dressing changes and wound care treatments were horrifying; the hospital food even moreso.

All told, I spent 5 full weeks in the hospital, and had to regrow a body part I didn’t know you could regrow. It was off-the-chart bad, but I managed to laugh here and there, and I caught up on my TV watching. (I also used my room’s excellent acoustics to perfect my loud belching technique (tmi, I know, but I got good! ;)))

It was damned sure NOT the way I would have chosen to spend Christmas and New Year and the football post-season. 

But it taught me that traffic jams, loud kids in restaurants, even angry people on the phone–these are minor things.  Three years ago, it was 60-40 that I wouldn’t live the four days till Christmas.  Three years ago, I hadn’t met most of you, nor had I met Staceypunkin or the kids. I didn’t have a work wife or a partner-in-crime. 

When Ray asked me why I never seem to get rattled, I didn’t say, “Because I endured scrotal surgery and a month of IV anti-biotics and pain.”

Three years ago tonight, I began an ordeal that taught me how great the simplest things are.

And that’s what I told Ray: “They can scream themselves hoarse, but when I hang up with them, I’ll still have 10 fingers, 10 toes, 1 bellybutton, and a steady pulse. And I’ve been places a hell of a lot worse than this.”

And I thank God I’m still here, polluting the Interwebs three years later.

(If you go back to December 2008, I wrote a few more detailed (and oddly humorous) accounts of that experience; in December 07 and January 08, there are posts from my hospital bed)

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4 Responses to “Why I Don’t Freak Out”

  1. The world — at least a few parts of it — is better for having you with us. So thanks to the grand folks at St. A’s for rescuing you and your nardsack.

    • I’m grateful to St A and his crew as well. The thing I missed most in the hospital? More than IV-less-ness, freedom, and good food?

      It was a certain 11.6 lb ball of pure attitude and purry furriness, HRH ASV. (And my parents were definitely ready to give her back. :P)

  2. I first got to know you from the hospital bed posts. I’m also glad you stuck around.

    • One of the things I remember from my holiday in hell was reading about your cat-trapping missions, how you and your comrades fought blizzards and feline stubbornness to save the lives of those cats near the warehouses and boxcars. That, and in one sentence of the day, you used “poleaxed,” which is a lovely verb. Funny the things we remember.

      I’m glad we found each other.

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