Saturday, May 8, 2010

Life's blood

I earmarked last Monday for my latest fasting blood draw, as I have two nine-month post-op appointments coming up. When I'm due for a fasting blood draw, I try to have a snack at late as I'm allowed (usually 10 PM) so I'm not gnawing my arm (or anyone else's) off by the time the blood is taken. I also try to sleep soundly (not that I can dictate that per se, but an Advil PM or Benadryl can add a protective layer to my prescription sleep aids) so that I don't wake up and want food during the night. I managed all of the above and showed up at the lab, but couldn't find the orders from the bariatric surgeon. (I had the orders from my primary care doctor, but she tracks some additional levels above and beyond what the bariatric surgeon tracks.) I begged the tech to take an extra vial or two and told her I would get in touch with the surgeon for the levels they needed. She said she would need actual paper orders from the bariatric surgeon, and I said that was fine, I would go and get them, but it would be nice to be able to eat before I (a) passed out behind the wheel or (b) killed something, because it would take an hour or two to get there and back. She took some extra blood, I went on my merry way, and came back with the necessary paperwork. Of course, one of the vials from the morning draw should have been protected from light and hadn't been, so I had to offer up the other arm for a second draw. The first one hadn't hurt; the second one was painful. A total of eight vials were drawn. I was exhausted, but knew I still had to go to the store.

The last stretch of road to the store is on a two-lane highway. It was almost noon by then, sunny and lovely. I was out of it from blood-giving, drinking a protein drink, trying to stay awake, grumbling internally to myself as I tend to do at such times, when I saw two sets of flashing lights on the shoulder to my right. One set was on an ordinary-looking truck, the other on an average sedan, neither of which I would have ever earmarked as any kind of official vehicle. Two men stood between the vehicles talking above a dead boy on the pavement.

The kid appeared to be in his teens or early 20s. There was no blood or anything--he just looked asleep, but extremely asleep, very still. He was wearing a hoodie, jeans and sneakers, and the men standing beside him weren't making any effort to administer to him at all. I was surprised they hadn't covered at least his face; it seemed obscene somehow that he was just lying there exposed like that. My guess is that they were waiting for paramedics and/or police.

Seeing that jolted me out of myself immediately. I'm not a follower of any particular faith, but I said something like a prayer, hoping someone was listening: that he would get where he was going on his next journey safely. I wondered if he had a family, and I thought about them, about how we all started out with a family, at least in theory--how everyone was once somebody's child. I wondered why it was his time, and not mine.

I've wondered that many times in my life: why was it my mother, my best friend, someone else's treasured parent or child, my child. Why I remain.

Several years ago when I was in the throes of rather severe depression, I witnessed a similar incident while driving--similar in the thoughts it inspired me to think, anyway. I was driving down a highway--another rural highway, though not the same one--and the car immediately parallel to me (or a little ahead of me) in the lane to my right swerved off the road suddenly without slowing down at all. Most of this particular highway was bordered by grassy hillside, but this car managed to run smack into a concrete underpass at what looked like full speed. Pieces of the car flew everywhere; one hit my front bumper and left a mark that remains to this day. I looked in my rear-view mirror, contemplating going back, but people had already pulled over to help. I was late for an appointment, and I just kept going, as if in a daze. (I was in a daze; I was in a daze for three or four years, and this happened during that time.) I read a couple of days later in the paper that the driver had died on impact, and that he was younger than I.

It literally felt like a hand had come out of the sky and plucked that person from the Earth, close enough for me to see it happen. I wondered then, as now, why it was him and not me, and it shook me up, but in a positive way--it made me realize how very much I still want to live, and to be grateful that I still had the chance.

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Seattle, WA, United States
This blog focuses largely on a personal journey to and through weight-loss surgery. It's also about reading, writing, animals, photography, love, humor, music, thinking out loud, and memes. In other
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