Category: Autobiography

These writings are autobiographical.

“Get to the choppa!”

You may have just read the blog post’s title in the voice of Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie Predator: “Get to the choppa!” If so, that was my intention. Unfortunately, this post is my first in over a week. But, no, that fact does not mean I have floundered yet again with my blogging efforts. Once more, illness hospitalized me. Fortunately, this visit was of a shorter duration than even my November 2021 visit. Would you like to know what happened? Of course, you do, or else you would not be reading.

Who opened the main valve?

Well, where do I begin? I might as well relate it to atheistic cosmology. First, there was nothing, and then there was a big (wet) bang. Suddenly my universe materialized in the form of dysentery. Naturally, that is not the kind of start to any pleasant cosmology. The bottom line, which is not a pun when you have an ileostomy, was that I could not replace my output with sufficient input. Even the water I drank made a hasty exit through the esophageal sphincter. I dehydrated within a matter of hours to the point that my kidneys were noticeably affected. I knew I was in a losing battle and asked for transport to the local ER. I’ve mentioned before that my small town’s hospital is competent enough to realize their incapability to handle specific medical issues properly. Hence, they often provide transport to the larger hospitals in our region.

Wasn’t Future Shock a Herbie Hancock album?

I know that I should have just made the drive to the large hospital in the city “over the mountain” from my home. But I felt miserable. I was weak as water and could hardly even stand. My thoughts were that my wait time at the local ER would be less and that the local hospital could help me bypass the very long wait time I would have experienced at the larger hospital. In the interim, they could start me on IV fluids. Little did I know that my body was going into shock. My blood pressure and heart rate were unusually low. Since my lost year, my blood pressure has been lower, but my heart rate still reflected my tachycardia. But now, my heart rate dropped into the upper 30s to lower 40s a minute. So the medicine of choice was Levophed.

A quick rise is not always the best outcome.

I reacted badly to the medication even at a lower dose than is typically administered. However, upon reflection, this is likely because the nurse put me into the Trendelenburg position. When the medicine began working, the high blood pressure made it feel like my heart was rapidly beating throughout my entire body. I was throbbing in my chest, neck, and head. Indeed, my blood pressure had risen to a systolic pressure near 200 mmHg! The nurse raised me to the Semi-Fowler’s position and cut the dosage of Levophed. Once again, I experienced the throbbing of my heart, necessitating yet another cut in the dosage amount. Luckily, the nurse found a happy medium.

“Get to the choppa!”

The ER doctor had previously noted the surgical drain that remained from draining my abdomen’s internal abscesses. He asked who had put it in, and I replied with the name of the larger hospital in Gainesville, Georgia. In addition, I had mentioned that one culture revealed C-diff and that I had been septic a year prior. As I now was a hot potato, the doctor would hand me off to the hospital that had placed my surgical drain. I had counted on this. But what I had not counted on was the unavailability of an ambulance until 8 AM. It was four in the morning. Given that I was rapidly deteriorating, the hospital decided to put me on the last available helicopter flight from Air Life Georgia. So, in a way, I was told, “get to the choppa.”

Interesting statistical data?

Blairsville is nothing more than a village from a statistical standpoint. The latest census estimates list 718 residents. However, if you zoom out a bit on Google Maps, you will note that Blairsville is the county seat of Union County, Georgia. Union County’s estimated 2020 census is 25,521. And to be honest, I don’t think that the 2020 census accurately reflects the population growth rate. COVID-19 saw the influx of people escaping the virus, tax tyrannies, and rising crime rates. Many of these began moving in after the government conducted the census. In addition, the local infrastructure shows the strain from increased vehicular traffic.

Up, up and away in my beautiful…helicopter.

After being loaded into the “choppa,” we took off for Gainesville. The paramedic advised me that there might be some turbulence as we had to fly over the mountains to reach our destination but that I should not worry unless I saw that they had begun panicking. The motions one experiences in a helicopter are different from that of a jet with its sudden increase in G’s as the aircraft’s nose, pointed to the sky, pierces the heavens. Instead, a helicopter has a gentle rocking motion as the aircraft achieves its lift. And the chopper gets buffeted by winds, as you might experience when driving your car on a blustery day.  

A city on a hill cannot be hid.

As I looked down at Blairsville, I was impressed by the many twinkling lights that pierced the darkness of rural Appalachia. Of course, you would not have thought you were looking upon a burg with less than 1,000 residents. But this takes us back to the county’s population, whose distribution in a report from 2010 is about 66 people per square mile. So, although I was not looking at a big metropolis, it looked impressive set against the darkness.

Bright Lights Bigger City

I looked out the window from the stretcher as the lights faded away. There was nothing but darkness as we traveled over the Chattahoochee National Forest. As we increased in elevation to traverse the mountains, we experienced the most turbulence. Cleveland, Georgia, in White County, appeared off in the distance and was noticeably larger than Blairsville, judging by the lights. Finally, we came upon many twinkling lights. It was Hall County and Gainesville. Gainesville is a city of about 42,000 within a county of approximately 207,000 residents. The lights grew progressively brighter as the buildings began emerging from the darkness. Finally, we came to a gentle stop in the hospital’s parking lot. A transfer to an ambulance standing by took me to the hospital entrance.

What was it?

I spent about a week in the hospital, with the first few days being spent in the ICU until they got my blood pressure and heart rate stabilized. Once on the floor, I spent a few more days awaiting a CT scan with contrast and the results thereof. As to the diagnosis of the big hospital? It was shock. Ah, but what kind of shock? Toxic? Septic? Hypovolemic? The doctors did not specify, but hypovolemic shock seems more fitting to my circumstances since dehydration was the precipitant. Yet, what triggered the initial vomiting and diarrhea that led to this diagnosis? My home health nurse informed me today that a stomach bug is going around. That bug may have been the cause. Or could it have been related to the C-diff grown from the cultures taken during my surgical drain placement? We’ll call that our “How-many-licks-does-it-take-to-get-to-the-center-of-a-Tootsie-Pop?” dilemma. In other words, “The world may never know.” Thank goodness Union General Hospital told me to “get to the choppa.”                        

Olympic Team Member?

I wonder how external stimuli impacted my distorted perception of the world. For example, 2021 was when the world met in Tokyo for the pandemic-delayed Olympics. Even if I could not watch television, I imagine someone likely had the tv on in my room. So, the grand spectacle of the games and advertisements and news reports bombarded my subconscious. Nurses were also bathing me and changing my gowns. Apparently, I incorporated these things into my hallucinations while living an “alternate life.”

I was on the Olympic team…

I was a part of the U.S. Olympic Team’s staff. That is laughable given my physical condition. However, I was something of a canary in a coal mine. I was a guinea pig for SARS-CoV-2 medications. I was also used to test other treatments whose aim was immune system modification. At one point, there were even bionic modifications. I recall the latter because something done to my hearing created odd difficulties with “non-compatible devices.” I might hear some or none of what was said, but then I’d register sounds from beyond the normal range from compatible tech.

And it provided connections

This ability led to a profitable side gig beyond U.S. Olympic team staff. There was an avant-garde musician who wanted to create a sound one experienced with the whole body. He had connections and knew of my bionic hearing. He wanted to collaborate with me to make his new sound. I recall being uncomfortable because there was what one imagines with the rich and famous, the stereotypical debauchery. Though I helped him complete his project, it further injured me. I began hearing things I shouldn’t. As I had with some of my visual hallucinations, this, too, made me question my sanity.

And new experiences

Now, how did the bathing and gown changes come into play? First, as Japan is a “bathing culture,” there were visits to onsens and sentōs with the Olympic team. So, those strangers scrubbing me became compatriots washing my back and hair. My hospital gown became the yukata. That amuses me because my self-consciousness would never permit me actually to visit an onsen or sentō in real life. However, the fact that I was wearing yukata must mean that being something of a VIP landed me a trip to a lovely onsen ryokan (i.e., a traditional Japanese inn).

It is nice that even while wondering if I was losing my mind that I could still enjoy some pleasurable experiences.       


I thought I would take a brief break from hospital hallucinations to discuss my experiences with twilight sedation. Twilight sedation is the type of anesthesia that causes short-term memory loss, relaxes you, but leaves you open to the doctors’ instruction. Doctors had placed surgical drains in some abscesses I developed in November 2021. But since that was not the end of those problems, it became necessary to put in another surgical drain on March 24, 2022. (These procedures stem from the perforation of my small intestine in May of 2021 and the sepsis developing after that. Please read about my lost year here.) Each time I have this done, they administer the twilight drugs of Fentanyl and Versed.

I’m a teetotaler…

I have heard it said that “candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker.” In my case, I’ve never been one for alcohol. It smells and tastes nasty to me. However, that is a good thing since addiction can be genetic, and I’ve had drinkers in my family tree (e.g., great-uncles). I would be more predisposed to nicotine were it not a matter of the “sin taxes” placed on tobacco products. I used smokeless tobacco for a brief period but concluded I couldn’t afford it. So, that is all it took for me to quit. Yet, I have other family members that still wrestle with nicotine addiction. So, I suppose I dodged a bullet there.

But certain drugs have their appeal…

Though, if I had the means and money, I could see becoming like the late Michael Jackson regarding anesthetic drug abuse. Before his death, you may recall that he had a doctor routinely administer Propofol. Unfortunately, an overdose of this anesthetic killed him in 2009. If I were honest, and that is somewhat the purpose of this post, I would admit to enjoying the nanoseconds before going into the OR. You feel as if you are floating away. It is a rather pleasant feeling. But that sedation is not the same as “twilight sedation” I received within the last week. And despite feeling good, the latter has a scary attribute of which this latest experience reminded me.

Yet it comes with a price…

It is short-term memory loss without being entirely put to sleep. After being situated on the CT platform, the radiologists rolled me onto my left side. The doctor joked I was giving them a challenge since I required four punctures for aspiration and surgical drain placement. At some point, the technicians would roll me onto my right side. I think this was to aspirate the sac of fluid on my spleen. So, my anesthesiologist put me into twilight, and despite the hardness of the “translating couch,” I was able to feel comfortable. Everything else I barely remember. Suddenly, everyone told me what a trooper I had been throughout the procedure. But, wait, weren’t they going to flip me onto my right side? Oh well, whatever.

Did that happen?

The radiology nurses gave me the spiel about aftercare. I could remove the bandages from the aspirated sites after 24-hours. The dressing for the surgical drain is only to be changed by a nurse. So, it is a job for home health care which I am still receiving. After getting home, I took ibuprofen and slept. I also slept much of Friday, March 25. (Somnolence is a side effect of these twilight sedatives, after all.) However, I checked on a sore spot on my upper abdomen Friday evening. I had surgical dressing there! I realized they had flipped me onto my right side after all. And I could not remember them having done so. Pleasant feelings or not that is scary. I could talk with people, follow the instructions they had given me but not remember anything of what was said or done.

Maybe sobriety is best.

I discovered that Versed is a date-rape drug with some quick internet searches. So that makes sense to me now. And it shows how despicable a person would be to use Versed for that purpose. Imagine what unscrupulous people can do if I could be punctured four times and recall nothing! So, I now have mixed feelings about my pleasant twilight experiences. But, ultimately, it is why I shall leave it in the hands of professionals I can trust, even if I had the means and money of a Michael Jackson. During sobriety, there may not be any pleasant dulling of the senses, but it is preferable to “fly high and crash hard.”


Unlike other rock artists, Jeff Lynne from Electric Light Orchestra was never heavy into the drug scene; he was mostly into alcohol and marijuana. Yet, I wonder about Lynne’s lyrics for  “Prologue/Twilight” on ELO’s 1981 album, Time. It seems somewhat pertinent to this discussion. And, thus, I close with it.

Twilight, twilight. I gave you time, to steal my mind, away from me.

Jeff Lynne

The Scientists

As I have received positive feedback on these posts on social media, I will share another. There was a period when my eyes remained open despite being outwardly unresponsive. The doctors had me chemically paralyzed. Someone had left the lights on, and my mother saw my eyes “crinkling,” her description. So, nurses administered eye drops to keep my eyes moist. After they had released me from the paralysis and I was more cognizant of reality, my eyes continued to weep. I thank God I can still see. I share those details as a possible backdrop for the impetus of another series of hallucinations or dreams I had while in the hospital.

The bleary world…

I heard a voice saying that my parents were coming to see me. Unfortunately, all I could see were blobs of color. Perhaps a more accurate description is that everything looked to be melting. Thus, something in motion looked like the color left behind by a pastel crayon dragged across a canvas. First, I thought I was going insane. Then I would tell myself that I was not going but had already gone crazy. Periodically, I heard something like a blaring alarm. Unfortunately, I received no respite from this save eventual oblivion. I lost awareness of even my inner world and awoke to another inner reality. Whether or not this was a recurring experience and its repeated trauma has caused this to remain with me, or it was an isolated experience, it continues to haunt me.

Neither here nor there…

A hallucination with a fantasy or science fiction twist also occurred in the context of a parental visit. (My parents faithfully visited me despite driving many miles to do so.) I was in a surreal world with alien-looking creatures. There were people in white coats, but they were scientists rather than doctors. These scientists endeavored to create new lifeforms capable of existing in parallel realities. I must have lived in this parallel world because my situation is what kept my parents away. Suddenly, there was a bit of excitement. The scientists told me that they could bring my parents to me but that I could only have a short visit before leaving the same space. A better way of putting it is that they had to trade places with me.

Therefore, the scientists put me into a position to choose whether I wanted to take the chance that my parents would become stranded in this strange place or if we would remain separated without even a visit. Naturally, I was anxious because I could not make that choice. And then the scientists managed to open a means of communicating. I suppose I don’t have to tell you what my parents said. They wanted to see me, even if it meant taking my place. I felt it selfish but agreed to see them since they were willing. There was a portal off to the side of where I was sitting. Then, a fog began filling the space. My eyes made out shapes in the mist, which were my parents. They came closer to me and embraced me in a hug. We spoke for what felt like hours. And I even recall asking them about the tiny house by the railroad depot.

Presented Opportunities…

If the cold metropolis was my brain’s “save point,” this bizarre phantasm was my “warp zone” to other worlds, a cheat. I put in gamer terminology because it seems most apropos. And to my joy, the scientists had a surprise for me before I left. I could periodically return to this space to visit my parents. I did so. As it turns out, they got to experience a comfortable life. They had “pets” and even fostered some of the strange little beings made by the scientists. I did apologize to them for stranding them, but they told me everything was okay.   

The House

There was a house whose nebulous location must have been sufficiently distant enough to present difficulties for the day-tripper but close enough that one did not have to take a plane to reach the site. (About a day’s drive?) It must have been in the mountains of either eastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, or southeastern Virginia. As for the year, it seemed to be the early twentieth century, despite my realization that I was a twenty-first-century man.

The house was a refuge…

I met with my parents at this location on one occasion. I retained enough awareness of the outside world to know that I was sickly, unable to move much and knew I couldn’t take myself to the bathroom as I wanted. The strange thing is that it wasn’t our house. It was furnished but empty of occupants and adjacent to a railroad depot. A fire burned in the fireplace, and I could see the cardinals flitting about in the gently falling snow out of a picture window. I was comforted by this scenery, but couldn’t shake the feeling something was wrong.

But the only constant is change…

Eventually, we learned that the house belonged to a family whose circumstances put the house’s future in jeopardy. So, I might lose my refuge. Fortunately, a community of people came together to assist the family in preserving the house since it provided such comfort to wearied travelers. Someone suggested that the family covert the house into a place where people could convalesce. By opening the residence up to such usage, the family could receive outside financial support. The family agreed as long as everyone decided to leave their family’s heirlooms untouched.

Does it sound as if something were wrong? I suppose it does not. On the contrary, I was happy that things worked out to preserve the house but understood that my place there was limited. After my reunion with my parents, it felt as if they had left and gone far away. I was alone again, despite hearing the voices of others in the house. And soon, I was transported to another location, though I know not how or why. I was lying on a cold street amid a sprawling metropolis.

And all good things…

In the cold city, people walked past me lying on the concrete. Finally, a good Samaritan contacted the authorities, who had an ambulance transport me to the hospital. I recall being relieved as I would receive care. And though I felt cared for, my thoughts kept returning to the house and my parents. (As an aside, this metropolis was not unlike a save point in a video game. So I returned there often during those days of my lost year.)

I sensed my pain and discomfort and wanted to be well and return to “normal” life. I wanted to see my loved ones again. And I wanted to return to the tiny mountain house with the picture window and playful cardinals.

Interesting Hallucinations

I had mentioned that I experienced hallucinations (dreams?) I interpreted as reality. Perhaps, you will find them interesting or even entertaining. But, I wonder what Carl Jung would make of them? So, here are my various “hallucinations” in no particular order.

Why won’t anyone help me?

I had entered an empty warehouse-like structure and became trapped beneath some debris that had fallen on me. Why had I entered this place? I do not know. People were entering the building and were stealing items. Calling out to them, I desired deliverance but to no avail since they acted as if they could neither see nor hear me.

The reality was nurses had me restrained. I had pulled out my ventilator while loopy, after all. I imagine I must have repeatedly pleaded with them to release me from the restraints. However, until I was lucent, they could not do so.

“Paint me like one of your French patients…”

It may surprise you that I became a desirable model. It is true. However, before you start hearing Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy,” I was not that kind of model. I knew I was having health issues leaving me debilitated, and I wanted to do something to earn money. A CGI artist, a woman whose name I don’t recollect, used motion capture technology to make works of art using people with mobility issues. Since I could lie still and allow the artist to pose me however she wanted without complaint, I became one of her favorite models to use.

The artist had friends, most of whom were also women, and they would sometimes have gatherings at posh restaurants after the artist had completed her work. I seem to recall her thanking me with meals and letting me crash at her house when I had need. She had a daughter, but I remember no father.

Being unable to move in this hallucination had an apparent cause; it was a subconscious realization that I could not move. I have no idea how that related to art. I remember being thankful for the kindness shown to me. All of that “feminity” around me in the hallucination must have been because most of my nurses were female. There were a few fellows, but I know there was one I did not like; I thought he was plotting something against me.

“I don’t trust him.”

I had a male nurse whom I was able to become better acquainted with after becoming lucid. He is a nice guy and a joker. Thankfully, I got the opportunity to apologize to him for what I did while out of it. However, in my earlier hallucinations, he was a trickster like the Norse Loki. He was always trying to trick me into elaborate plots. He kept asking questions like he wanted information from me. And he promised he would help me if I helped him. I did not trust him, writing as much on a whiteboard for others, including this nurse, to see. Oops. In my haze, I knew he wasn’t being candid with me. He and a particular female nurse would do the “good cop, bad cop” routine. I wish I had committed these false memories earlier as the details become fuzzier with time.

The nurses did ask me a lot of questions. For example, “Do you know where you are?” “What year is this?” “Who is the President?” Given this particular nurse’s personality, he likely tried to interact with me whenever he provided care. Again, though, I’m unsure why I decided he was a bad guy.

There were other strange realities I inhabited during my four-month hospital stay in 2021. These examples were just a few that popped into my head as I sat down to write. I will share the more bizarre examples of hallucinations with you in another post.

The Lost Year

I call 2021 the lost year. Though I realize that the world continued suffering physically and financially from SARS-CoV-2, the year was extra tough on me. I had thought to relaunch my blog for the umpteenth time. And I posted as much in January of 2021. Little did I realize that I would lose four months of my life lying in a hospital bed and several months in rehab. Was it the dreaded COVID-19 virus? No, it was not. Instead, it was gastrointestinal; my small intestine became blocked and perforated in May 2021.

Emergency surgery…

Living in a smallish town, our hospital is good, but only for what it has the capability. Unfortunately, that capability does not include surgeons capable of doing intestinal surgeries. Thus, the hospital transfers such patients to either Gainesville, Georgia, or Chattanooga, Tennessee. I chose Erlanger in Chattanooga. I was in considerable pain when I arrived. Upon arrival, A team of nurses and doctors greeted me. They quickly prepped me and took me into the OR. Naturally, the details have remained hazy since they anesthetized me.

My loved ones tell me that the surgeon opened me up, removed a foot of the small intestine, and cleansed my abdominal cavity. However, a detail I have not yet disclosed is that I am an ileostomate due to a colon cancer diagnosis in 2010, which necessitated the removal of my entire colon. Thus, it wasn’t fecal matter that the surgeon removed but a substance better described as “chyme.” (The curious may learn more about chyme here.) Unfortunately, as a blockage preceded the perforation, there was much chyme that infiltrated my abdominal cavity. Nevertheless, the surgeon did his best to wash me out.  

Removing a foot of the small intestine also necessitated creating a new stoma site for my ileostomy. (It is higher than my previous stoma, so it has been an adjustment. My appliance now hangs higher on my abdomen. The top of my pouch touches a few inches beneath my “man underboob.”)  My new stoma is smaller than my previous one. I christened “him,” his preferred pronoun, as “Billy, II.” Yes, ileostomates have a peculiar habit of naming their stomas. I am not alone in this.

Everything seemed well…

Around June 10, 2021, my sister and brother-in-love visited me. I vaguely recall their visit now. My sister tells me that I seemed fine but became sleepy toward the end of her visit. I went to sleep and did not truly awaken for at least a month. Then, I developed sepsis, and my organs began shutting down. The prevailing opinion of the doctors tending to me was to allow me to die. They said I would have no quality of life. Death is not something my family or I wanted. As I could not advocate for myself at the time, my father stepped up and threatened to sue unless they put me on dialysis.

I slowly returned from the brink with dialysis and began improving, surprising the doctors and nurses. Unfortunately, I retain no knowledge of this time other than the weird hallucinations I believed to be my reality. (Now, those would be a fascinating story to share on another occasion.)  Suddenly, it was late July, and the nurses had me restrained in bed, and I could not speak. In their defense, I had pulled out my ventilator early on while in my stupor. So, they feared I would pull other things loose. A trach now allowed my use of the ventilator.

I no longer had a voice…

It is exceptionally frustrating to be unable to communicate with others. I admit now that it was something I took for granted. But, eventually, as I came to myself, the doctors and nurses loosened my restraints, and I could write messages on a whiteboard. By August, they had granted my freedom, and I could get their attention by banging on things, much to their irritation. At one point, I even threw a ball someone had given me. Typically my insistence resulted from having a trach that needed suctioning. I felt like I was drowning in phlegm and would die without assistance.

On August 12, 2021, Erlanger, now swamped with COVID-19 cases, transferred me to Landmark Hospital in Athens, Georgia. Landmark is a long-term acute care facility, the type of care center to which doctors typically send patients receiving prolonged mechanical ventilation. Landmark Hospital was different from any hospital I had ever been in before. It didn’t feel like a hospital. I met my new doctor, and the first thing he asked upon seeing me was, “Why do they still have you on this ventilator?” He managed to wean me off the ventilator in about two weeks. Around September 1, 2021, I was speaking and eating.

The final hurdle…

One challenge remained before I could go home. I had to be able to walk again. Physical therapists began visiting me to get me up and seat me in a chair. Unfortunately, the first time I stood up, my atrophied muscles made it feel like I was standing on someone else’s legs. I had essentially lost my sense of modesty by his time. Strangers had bathed me for months, and I felt numb to my self-consciousness. Typically I would have found that disturbing, but I was thankful since it helped me get past my final hurdle before I could return home, showering.

Per my luck, an attractive young woman would be the one in whose presence I would bathe. (I know they are used to it and pay no mind, but I would have preferred the fellow with whom I talked about Georgia Bulldog football and anime .) I got up out of bed and moved slowly and painfully toward the shower with a walker. I showered. The pretty young lass gasped at clumps of hair falling out as I shampooed my hair. But I passed the test. And the hospital arranged for my home health care.


It was September 10, 2021, when I returned home. I somehow climbed the steps and collapsed into the first comfortable chair I found. With the help of physical and occupational therapists who came to the house, I walked without a walker or cane by November. But the fallout from my perforated intestine was not over. I had imaging done in November that revealed internal abscesses near my liver and left kidney. I spent two weeks in the hospital in Gainesville, Georgia, missing the Thanksgiving holiday. Doctors had to drain the abscesses and treat me with IV antibiotics.

That more or less brings us to the present day. Unfortunately, the details I have offered are not a comprehensive explanation of all I endured during my lost year. I will be going in a week from the time of this writing to have more “fluid-filled sacs” drained. Yet, I feel much better than I did. Of course, I still have a long way to go, but I will make it with God’s help.