Listen, my child, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul… uh, Mad The Raccoon.
Hmmm, that’s not really working. Maybe I’ll just tell the story. Strap in, this is going to take awhile. It’s a little tale I’m calling…
Those of you who frequent this site will be aware that I slowly vanished from my own site, beginning probably in the middle of July. On most sites, the founder not being around is pretty much the norm, but I’ve always prided myself on being an active part of the community. I didn’t announce the circumstances that led to my absence, because I don’t like to broadcast bad news in my personal life. Feels a lot like attention whoring. Plus I figure this is mostly my fault. I’ve been a smoker since I was 12 and I toured as a musician for many years in my youth, doing things that probably were no good for my heart in the long run. And yes, I hate myself more than you can possibly imagine for not being able to quit smoking. I try about every two weeks or so, but have been mostly unsuccessful in quitting. So I just figured I’d deal with it silently.
Some of you are aware that I have a condition called coprocardia. Okay, not really. That’s actually Latin for “shitty heart”, which I think is a pretty accurate name.
To be even more accurate, besides plain old ordinary Coronary Heart Disease, I have a condition known as sinus bradycardia, or brachycardia. I prefer brachycardia, although it’s the “older” term for my condition. The reason for that is that I was a dinosaur nerd when I was a child. I knew all their names and what they meant, including the brachiosaurus, or “slow lizard”. So brachycardia I recognized immediately when he said it as “slow heart”. My heart beats around 45-50 beats per minute. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, many athletes have slow heartbeats too… it’s when it’s combined with a weak heart that you get problems.
Let me back up to the beginning of these problems. On February 14, 2010, I suffered a massive coronary. Yes, Valentine’s Day. A HEART attack on VALENTINE’S DAY. So, evidently, God has a pretty warped sense of humor. My darling wife, who you folks know as TheReason, rushed me to the hospital. They worked on me, losing me on the table at one point. I remember hearing the flatline noise and thinking “Hmmm, that doesn’t sound good…”, but I was so doped up that I also remember not being overly bothered by it. I remember things fading to black. I also remember when they hit me with the atropine.
Those of you who’ve seen Pulp Fiction know what atropine is. It’s sort of a synthetic adrenaline, and, yes, it works just like it did in the movies. They shot me with that and I damn near stood up on the table singing “Hello, my baby, hello, my honey, hello, my ragtime gal…”
They unclogged my arteries and put a stent (metal tube) in my heart. Went home, feeling relatively good. I felt healthy, and had marginally decent insurance through the job I’d held for over a decade.
Well, a year and change later, in August 2011, I needed it done again. At least I didn’t die that time. Not really a big deal. Except….
Let me tell you about the company I’d been working for. I don’t want to name them in this article, my wife continues to work there. So for our purposes, we’ll just refer to them as Asshole Photo.
They’re a small-to-medium photo lab specializing in school and school sports photos… trading cards, mag covers, posters, that sort of thing. As I said, I had worked there more than a decade. I ran their art department, designing new products, setting up templates and writing my own programs to automate the process so that even non-artists could make my products by clicking a few buttons. As a matter of fact, until the last two years, I pretty much did everything having to do with art & design, plus most of the coding, all by myself. That led to the following exchange at a conference I attended with people from other photo labs who had my job:
Yen Lui Art Guy: Well, all the guys in my art department think that (blah blah blah)
Pacific Color Art Guy: Really? Well, all the guys in my art department believe that (blah blah blah)
The Raccoon: Really? Well, all the guys in my art department… are banging my wife.
For 12 years, I designed and automated EVERYTHING. They sold $4 million worth of product per year, about half of which was of my artwork, the rest being just standard portrait pictures. Yes, many people were involved in the production, shipping, etc., I certainly didn’t do it alone… but the fact remains that they sold $2 million worth of things that originated in my head every year (and actually, they continue to do so).
December of 2011, they put me on layoff. Nothing new, they gave me December off nearly every year as a cost-cutting measure. Only this time, the second day of my layoff, I received a notice that they had canceled my insurance. They never called me back to work. I was simply too big a drain on their insurance plan after the second angiogram. Thank, Asshole Photo.
With no job, no insurance, and a huge pre-existing condition, I went to the cardiologists only when absolutely necessary. Because of the way health care is set up in this country, if I’m no longer making some corporate dickhead money, I obviously don’t deserve to be healthy. That was all fine up until the middle of July.
At that time, my condition started deteriorating. I went from some pain to a lot of pain to “Jesus, I can’t even get off the couch!” in a matter of maybe 6 weeks. Time to give up and go run up an exorbitant bill with my cardiologist. I would also like to name my cardiologist in this article, but I’m not going to. My wife protested when I told her this (“Why, it’s all true!”). Yes, yes it is… but he’s a wealthy cardiologist and I’m a Photoshopping website owner. He has lawyers, I can’t afford them. So for the purpose of this story, let’s just refer to him as “Doctor Dickwad”.
Doctor Dickwad sends me to the next little podunk town over, of about 10,000 people, for two days of testing. Evidently I no longer deserve big-city care any more. They do a stress test, echocardiograms, blood tests and a lightning round for bonus cash (I may be lying about that last one). At any rate, when he gets the results back, he calls me to his office. There, he informs me that the tests confirm that there’s a new area in the back of my heart that is not getting enough blood, and it’s slowly dying. He wants to schedule another angiogram, and also mentions that they may have to do open heart surgery on me this time. I gotta tell ya, I have a reputation for being kind of a tough guy, but the idea of them splitting me open and bringing my insides to the outside? That about had me screaming like an untalented actress in a slasher film, or a Teabagger looking at the current Electoral map. Great thing to whip on someone who has a bad heart.
But, ya know… “Your heart is dying”. Sounded a little bit serious. Plus, I’d been in excruciating pain for well over a month. I didn’t have a choice. The Saturday before they recommended that I come in for surgery, the pain got to the point that it was just crossing my eyes. The only heart attack symptom I was NOT experiencing was shortness of breath. Put that little nugget of information away, we’re going to use it later.
I gave up, and went in to the hospital.
They immediately start pumping me full of morphine. Since it was the first time my pain was manageable in over a month, it felt like God was rubbing my tummy. They strap me into a bed with tubes and wires. I hate that, because I’ve actually been potty-trained, so I have a difficult time peeing lying down in bed. They stick oxygen directly up my nose, but can’t get my oxygen level over 60%. They scheduled me for surgery the next morning. No food, strapped to a bed, can’t pee, morphine fog.
During the angiogram, I suddenly hear Doctor Dickwad use the phrase “false positive”. They wheel me back to my room. I’m not really sure what’s going on, but they’re not working on me. After about an hour, Doctor Dickwad comes in and tells me that what I thought I heard was accurate: My heart is NOT dying. I don’t need open heart surgery. I didn’t even REALLY need the angiogram, although just the act of shoving a camera up my leg and through my heart may have unclogged things just because of the whole Roto-Rooter nature of shoving a camera that far into me.
So, okay. That’s good, right? Well, what about the pain?
As I’ve said, they’re keeping me on morphine throughout this whole ordeal. I really liked that when I first checked in, as I hadn’t had a moment’s peace from the pain in a long time. But it muddies my mind. So that morning when they came around to stick me again, I said “Hey… can you just not? Gimme a Tylenol or whatever.” And slowly the fog started to lift from me. By the time Doctor Dickwad came back in the next day, I was relatively clear-headed, but full of pain.
I ask him, “So, if it’s not my heart….”, diplomatically leaving out the whole “You really suck donkey balls at doing your job, don’t you?”. He says, “Well, due to the shortness of breath you’ve been experiencing, we now think it’s your lungs.”
I said, “I’m not experiencing shortness of breath.”
Dickwad says, “Well, we need to do more tests on your lungs to see.”
I said, “Didn’t you just do an X-ray and a CAT scan on my chest yesterday?”
Dickwad says, “Yes, but they didn’t show anything that would account for your shortness of breath.”
I said, “I’m not experiencing shortness of breath.”
He says, “I’m going to send in a rheumatologist to check you out.”
Okay. Fine. Whatever.
The rheumatologist comes in and says “Hi, I hear you’re experiencing shortness of breath?”
I said, “I’m not experiencing shortness of breath.”
He says, “Well, let me have a listen to you anyway to see.” He listens to my chest and says, “Wow, yeah. Actually you sound amazingly good for someone who’s smoked for 35 years. No rattle, no wheeze, you sound great.” He leaves.
An hour or two later, Doctor Dickwad comes back in. He begins, “So, the rheumatologist thinks your shortness of breath is…”
I SCREAM, “I’M NOT EXPERIENCING SHORTNESS OF BREATH!!!!!!”. At this point, it’s starting to sound like I’m trapped in the “No Fuckin’ Onions” joke.
He leaves, and sends his PA back in…. to schedule more lung tests. Okay, now I FLIP. THE. FUCK. OUT. I tell them to get their shit together, because I’m leaving. If they take too much time, I’m just going to start ripping wires and tubes off me. They begin to comply, but, looking for a medical reason I have to stay, they insist that I not only walk all the way around the floor unassisted, they want me to do it with the oxygen meters hooked to me. Fine.
I walk all the way around the floor, and when we get back to my room, the nurse looks at the PA with a shocked look on their face. She says, “His oxygen level never dropped below 91%!”. Oh really. So sticking someone with a low heartbeat in a bed, unable to move, and pumping him full of morphine is NOT the formula for success? Wow, who knew?
The absolute proof that they’re just guessing at this point is that I always try to leave the hospital before they’d like me to, because I hate it there and I can recover at home without running up my bill, and they ALWAYS make me sign an AMA, acknowledging that I’m leaving “Against Medical Advice”. They DON’T have me sign one this time. So – no medical reason for me to stay. And yet you made me insist?
I go home. I’m in pain again, but FUMING. I am SO tired of people poking me, prodding me, testing me, when it’s obvious that they’re just fucking guessing, and not very well at that. Reminds me of House. So then, I get the bright idea to try something I’ve actually seen on House: Stop everything cold. Quit all treatment. See what breaks. At least then we’ll have a clear idea of what we’re dealing with. So I do, I quit taking all my medication, ALL OF IT.
And… I get better. I mean, REALLY better. Within a couple of days, I’m up walking around again. As of the writing of this article, I still have some residual soreness in my left arm/chest area, but no worse than you would experience with a pulled muscle. I’m feeling better than I have in a year. Almost as if, ya know… Doctor Dickwad has no idea of what he’s doing.
And just to put the cherry on this whole affair… while I was writing this ordeal down, there was a knock at the door. It was the mailman. He brought me a certified letter from Doctor Dickwad. It seems he’s “firing” me as a patient because of my “confrontational attitude” (I guess that’s what they call it when a doctor commits complete malpractice and you have the nerve to call them on it).
Oh no. Not that.
So I’m back. We’re going to ramp the site up again and do things a lot more regularly than we have been. Thank you all for your continued patience.
And fuck Doctor Dickwad.