So, today was/is my birthday. I have never been ashamed of my age. I celebrate each birthday. The main reason is simply because I’ve had far too many episodes in my life where I almost didn’t make it to the next day.
Today, I turned 45.
I also turned 9.
Nine years ago, I was in the hospital fighting this nasty infection called Cellulitis. It’s essentially a Staph infection (there are many types) that comes in through a primary infected wound (in my case, my left ear piercing decided that, after 20 years, it really didn’t like nickel or some other metal) and settles just under the skin. For me, it settled at the base of my neck on my right side
I was sent to the hospital on September 26th with a white blood cell count that was somewhere hovering around the moon. After tests, pre-dawn blood draws, massive doses of the antibiotic Vancomycin, a mild case of pneumonia, and a bunch of things… I was discharged mid-afternoon on October 2nd… my birthday. My 36th birthday to be exact.
So, to grasp how bad shit was, there are three stages of Cellulitis:
- redness and swelling in and around the affected area, pain and stiffness, fever in many cases.
- if there are lymph nodes in the area, they absorb some of the infection and swell up. the fever tends to peak and then break (I hit 103.2 or so, then 24 hours later, no fever). My lymph nodes were the size of ping-pong balls when I walked into the ER on the 26th. They shouldn’t get that big. Really.
- From the lymph nodes, the infection starts to spread, called ‘going septic.’ I could feel it going up my neck to my brain and across to my heart. If it had hit either, I would not be alive today.
I was in 3rd stage.
There. Is. No. Fourth. Stage.
Unless, as I like to joke, you count a body bag as a stage.
So, I almost fucking died. Not an experience I’d like to ever repeat. Until I’m old and grey. I never want Cellulitis again… ever. It is NOT a fun experience.
As I was deemed well enough to leave the hospital on my actual birthday, I celebrate not only the number of years since I showed up on this planet, but the number of years since I had a second chance.
I keep asking for gift certificates to the LEGO store, but no one ever does it… LEGO and IKEA.
But for that one year… I got the gift of a second chance. I’m doing my best to not waste it.
One lesson I learned from that experience is this:
No matter how cliche it seems, you really never know how long you have. You may not wake up tomorrow. So stop hesitating. Go back to school for that degree you’ve always wanted. Save up for that “bucket list” vacation. Make shit happen. Want to learn to paint? DO IT! Volunteer with an animal rescue? Do it. What else? The way I see it is that as long as it isn’t illegal, so way out of the boundaries of morality, or has a surefire risk of death, go for it. Step out of your comfort zone and “learn to fly!” If you’re fortunate to make it to “old age,” the goal is to be able to sit in your rocking chair and look back at your life and have as few regrets as possible. Instead of “I wish I had done ________” you can say, “I did this and it was an incredible experience.”