Sunday, October 29, 2023

Embarrassment Redux

I would like to make an amendment to my previous blog post about feeling embarrassed.  At the time, I only had difficulty in expressing my frame of reference for embarrassment.  It wasn’t that I didn’t feel embarrassment, since there were certain acts I was loathe to do in view of full public, but didn’t consider those worthy of being my most embarrassing moments.

Just recently, I experienced an incident that had me re-evaluating my previous description.  I limited embarrassment as being a social construct, the visible type to blush furiously when unfairly placed in social situations, such as being forced in admitting to having a crush in a teasing public.  But there were other manifestations that I hadn’t considered.

On this particular day, I was on my way out after doing some volunteer preparations when I entered the Metro and saw the station terminal was delayed.  Since there was a larger crowd than usual, I decided to check out the bus schedule to the next station.  That involved leaving the terminal and going back upstairs to see the timesheets, which showed that they’d be coming in about 20 minutes or so, and I’d just missed the last one by 2 minutes.

I attempted to go back and see if the Metro was running late, but my card refused to go past the main gate, having already having used it very recently, and not passing the honor system.  I briefly said a few words to the Ticket Counter to try to explain my predicament, outlining the details above.  He said a few words that I didn’t understand.  I stood expressionless, nodded and then turned back towards the bus stop.  Only, I decided not to wait for the bus, but walk to the next station instead.

As I was trekking, I became acutely aware of how heavy my backpack was, having brought some library books that were due.  I was accustomed to carrying heavy loads, since I enjoy the weight while it’s resting on my lap as I sit on the bus, but it makes for unpleasant travel companions during long walking hours.  Which is why I take public transportation in the first place.

I ruminated about my current predicament, going over the previous events in my mind.  Sure, I could’ve made things simpler if I’d just waited, but that would’ve made things uncomfortable waiting in a crowded station with no way of knowing when the next subway would come or if the delay would be longer than expected.  Sure I could’ve waited for the bus, but it didn’t feel right to be standing around doing nothing.  There was also the possibility of catching another bus going my way.  I could’ve simply explained my situation more clearly to the man behind the ticket counter, but that would’ve been too - 


At that moment, I realized that embarrassment wasn’t limited to just being uncomfortable in group conversations.  I didn’t register it as embarrassment because that’s my default state.  When things get too difficult for me to explain, I find it easier to do it on my own.

The ironic part is that this happened right after I’d helped out with my volunteer organization for hard of hearing people to seek out services.  And right next to the library that day, there was a booth for Deaf and Disability Arts Practices.  I had an extraordinary amount of trouble asking the people there if a pamphlet available there was free or not, despite doing my best to gesture emphatically and raising my mask up to be better lipread.  Even though these were people who should’ve been easily able to convey their agenda forward, communicating in a noisy environment was still an unsurmountable obstacle.

If you want to see yourself in a good light, you’ll avoid situations that’ll leave you looking bad.  It’s also why so many elderly people are reluctant to admit their hearing which they’ve grown dependent on is starting to become less reliable than usual.  As a result, there’ll be increased instances of flare-ups due to miscommunications and misunderstandings, keeping your distance from people you were once close to.  Loneliness is one of the easiest causes of dementia, and deafness just enhances it.

There’ve been times when I’ve gotten frustrated over someone’s inability to understand me, despite my thinking that I was speaking clearly enough, a growing annoyance of having to repeat myself, the recipient unwilling to believe my words.

Though I’ve certainly never gone as far as to vehemently deny the existence of certain family members.

Ignoring your relatives so you'll remain on speaking terms.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Obituary: Joe Matt, and Self-Pitying Horny Comic Biographies

Just recently, Joe Matt died of a heart attack, found slumped at his drawing board.  Fittingly, this was something that was penned by Chester Brown of the triumvirate of the Toronto Three, Seth and Chester Brown, two Canadian Cartoonists who were close friends, though you’d never know it from how often they were portrayed complaining about his complaining.

The sad part is that due to Joe Matt's cheapness, he would put off his health, refusing to go to a hospital which would cost him money, which likely heightened his possibilities of dying sooner.

Coincidentally, I was thinking about the caricatured portrayal of comic biographies and how they tended to have a negative outlook.  The general image of a comic autobiography is to have a nebbish protagonist constantly narrate inner insecurities about life all while remaining indecisive about girls, exemplified by Robert Crumb who took his fears and fetishes onto the comic page.  A trait inspired and endlessly plagiarized by countless imitator cartoonists who no doubt greatly identified with this self-loathing portrayal.

I had these thoughts during the comic I was reading, Fun by Paolo Bacilieri, about the history of crosswords started out fairly interesting, then it segued to a cartoonist who exhibited the kind of nerdish fascination and narrative sensibilities, seeking reconciliation from an ex-girlfriend abroad.  Even though there are much better and varied comic biographies out there, that’s the general image that tends to stick in people’s consciousness.  The genre is still tainted by the prospect of Woody Allen-like main characters.

As such, Joe Matt’s comics about his issues tend to be rather repetitive, constantly complaining about being alone, seeking impossible feminine ideals that Seth described as ‘being caught on a treadmill’.

The thing was, as much as these comics might have had a certain appeal towards a certain segment of the comics market, I never really had these moments of introspection in narrative detail, being more concerned with getting through the day.  My thoughts would likely only come into being after I put some thought to it.

As casually interesting as these comics were, I never really identified with them, since they indulged in extraneous inner turmoil in excessive verbiage and constant pining for unrequited lusts, something I had no real desire for, since it would mean having to open myself up, an ordeal further exacerbated by my social anxiety in talking to complete strangers who I’d have to inform that I was deaf, needed them to face me, emphasize key words, and making sure they understood English; a process that would have to be repeated ad nauseam with every new person.  Not to mention that I was more comfortable being alone anyways.

For a time, I had a brief online relationship with a female German comic blogger, correcting her translation of a comic, and the two of us enjoyed a rapport.  Eventually, it led to video conversations, with the helpful option of writing notes by the side, clarifying details that I would’ve missed.

She helped me with doing the basic translations for the first 2 volumes of Red Ketchup, and I did the rewriting and scanlation edits myself.  We continued our relationship past simple translations by sharing books, something I was reluctant to do, but she shipped her English versions of Walter Moers’ titles, The 13½ Lives of Captain Bluebear, Rumo and The City of Dreaming Books over with no hesitation.  In return, I recommended the comic series, Finder by Carla Speed McNeil.  It might’ve been a little too ambitious for her taste, since she said she wasn’t too crazy about it.  I wasn’t that crazy about Bluebear, so it was fair.  (She enjoyed my recommendation of the early writings of Gordon Kormon though)

Then one day, she said that she would be moving to my country, just one province over in Kitchener, and offered the option to come over to my house.  I was enthusiastic for the possibility of having a physical friend over, someone I had several things in common.  I even pointed out the possibility that she might’ve had Autism, since she certainly matched some of the symptoms exactly.  She had Prosopagnosia (facial blindness), and mentioned having a kind of synesthesia where she ‘heard’ voices in colour, and she said mine was orange, her favorite colour.

I took her sightseeing, showing her my favorite places to find comics and second-hand books, but then I fell sick, and had to lie low for a day while my Mother took her to an Oral training seminar teaching deaf students on how to lipread.  Before she left, I handed over some Neal Shusterman books (the Dark Fusion trilogy of Fairy Tale retellings, Duckling Ugly being the best among them)

The last time I heard from her, she said she was getting married to someone living in Toronto.  I didn’t fall into a screaming fit of outrage.  I just simply accepted this news the same way one would getting an evening weather report.

Upon reflection, I realized that other than giving advice on grammar and toning up her vocabulary to sound more natural, I basically had nothing to offer her.  I had no basic survival skills, couldn’t manage a full-time job, didn’t even have the courage to travel across province to where she lived.  It's also possible that our tastes weren't compatible.

I was always worried about the possibility that I would be alone.  But ever since I self-diagnosed myself as being Asexual, I now KNOW that I’ll be alone, and am fine with it.  I don’t have to share my bed with somebody and worry about my personal space being invaded.

What really hurt was that after she got married, we were no longer in communication with each other.  I still would’ve liked to remain friends after all we’d done together.  She still has my Neal Shusterman books.

Friday, March 31, 2023

A Medical Season of 24

It seems like every time my parents go away on vacation during winter, something unfortunate happens.  In 2018, I suffered from a bout with gout.  The year after that, there were worries when I suffered from chest pains after shoveling their driveway, (turned out to be a pulled muscle) and that same year, my sibling came out as trans.  The years 2020-2022, nothing serious happened to me, but they didn’t go vacationing because of a widespread contagious disease.  You may have heard about it.

So since no drama took place, and they’d received numerous immunizations, they went vacationing for the first time in years.  Everybody laughed when I expressed worries about being afflicted, since the last time I contracted Gout was during Spring Break on Super Bowl Sunday, an awful time to get medical attention when everybody’s attention was directed elsewhere.  It was a reoccurring pattern, but everybody was convinced I was just being superstitious.  And wouldn’t you know it?  Something happened.  Not on Super Bowl Sunday, but the week after that, I contracted shingles.

At first, I thought it was just a pulled muscle, since my back slightly hurt and I’d just taken out a bunch of books out of the library.  Didn’t think much of it until the tingling got worse.  Like last time when I had a sudden body shutdown, I had to get outside intervention, and was able to get help via a sweet old lady from my volunteer group.  Through her, she was able to get me a recommended prescription through the pharmacy, and verification from the clinic the next day.  I attempted to go to the clinic myself, but was held back by an online website with no available openings and an archaic system that could only be accessed via phone.  An impossibility to navigate for a deaf person.

When I received the medication through the pharmacy, I accepted the pills, but was unsure of the validity of the other supplement, since it didn’t seem right that arthritis cream normally applied to hands would be effective in handling my shingles.  But it turns out applying the balm helped numb the pain.  The next three weeks were spent recuperating, just in time for me to do some volunteering for my volunteer bi-annual mailing.  An arduous task with numerous repetitive minor details that I was an expert at doing assembly line work on.

Only, on the day I was supposed to start my volunteer work, just after the symptoms of my shingles on my right side was starting to go away, I suffered a massive stabbing pain in my left side.  I sent a quick email notification to my volunteer group that I wouldn’t be able to make it since it hurt so much.  After resting long enough to miss the last train, the pain went down to a more manageable level, and I put it down to stress.  The next few days, my pain level was at a 1, compared to the 7 I’d just had before, so I didn’t think too much of it.  But then, the night before I was supposed to get ready for my week-long volunteering, the pain started coming back.

I tried to go to bed early, but having spent so long from getting back to a regular work routine, I was worried I might not wake up in time.  Add to the fact that this was a new alarm clock, a completely different model than what I was used to, and I was still unsure of turning the alarm off properly.  I knew I’d programmed it, and that the vibration worked, but it’d been a while since I’d last had to depend on an alarm system since I had a tendency to wake up prematurely before the alarm did.

I was reminded of how my mother would complain about having gas pains and would relieve herself by having her sensitive side massaged, forming little bubbles that’d make her burp, and thought this was similar to what I was experiencing.  I tried to cope with the incoming pain by pressing my body against a thick book.  This tactic helped me in the past when I was suffering from stressful situations, but it didn’t seem to be working this time.  It didn’t help that I hadn’t acclimated myself to forcing myself to go to bed earlier and not stay up all night like I’d been doing.

Officially, the crisis didn’t start at exactly 12:00, being more around 11:00, but if we were following the template of the popular show 24, also known as the Jack Baur Power Hour, it would be an appropriate place to start.  One thing the 1st season did that everybody seemed to have forgotten (apart from the 270 degree camera rotations) was that the anti-terrorist staff were just coming off a 24-hour working shift, which meant that they were more than doubly tired than they otherwise would’ve been.

So, for anyone watching me, the first three hours would be encased in complete darkness while I was lying with my eyes closed, but not sleeping, only surrounded by my own thoughts.  Hardly thrilling stuff for anybody looking in, and nothing terribly exciting, until I got up and moved around, trying my best to make myself comfortable.  It would only be around 4:00 that I started to feel sleepy, even as I worried about not getting up on time.

Roughly 3 hours later, I woke up before the alarm did, but stayed in bed in fearful anxiety in waiting for the alarm to go off, just to make sure I’d be able to turn it off properly.  I could’ve simply tested it myself, but the time setting was notoriously finicky, and would require resetting the whole alarm clock 24 hours ahead, which would be a massive headache in itself.  Not to mention the LED lights were notoriously bright, and I compensated every night by flipping the clock face down, which meant I wouldn’t know what time it was until I flipped it back up.  Once the alarm finally went off, I went for the unorthodox switching off method, which involved sliding an un-intuitive slot to the side instead of pressing a large button on top.  (I’d have to reset the switch to set it again tomorrow)  The deed done, I was certain that once I’d experienced the dreaded waking procedure, I would be able to pass the rest of the day with minimal pain.  Wishful thinking.

My side still hurt, but as before, I put that down to stress.  I ate what little I could, packing only a single oatmeal cookie for later before leaving.  I dutifully walked towards the train station, being lucky enough to catch an early bus that’d get me to my destination faster, so there would be no excuse for my absence.  On the train, I was so tired and hurt that instead of standing near the exit platform, I sat in one of the upper seats, something I loathed doing under favorable conditions.  And these were far from favorable conditions.

I could’ve simply stayed and rested at home, but felt that I’d already wasted enough time and wanted to be helpful.  Not to mention there were some old electronic devices and a handbag I’d been meaning to return that’d been cluttering up my bench as a reminder for months, and their presence was annoying me.  I wanted to get those properties of the volunteer organization out of the way.

One of my chief concerns was that my shingles left me feeling so sensitive I could hardly bear to wear a shirt, and had gone mostly unclothed for the past three weeks.  I thought that if worst came to worse, I would have to take my shirt off while working.  There was another reason for my high rise in stress.  Earlier, my volunteer organization had moved their office supplies to another space in the building across from us, a much brighter place than what I was used to.  Light bothers me, and I take pains in avoiding in strenuously.  The previous place had plenty of working rooms without windows, and I was freaking out about having to help out in a new environment I was unaccustomed to.

Upon seeing my working environment, I was dismayed to see that none of the labels that were supposed to have been done in my absence had been done.  In addition, the lighting of the room was still too bright for me despite it being cloudy out.  I tried my best to control the lighting by closing the blinds and putting various objects against the underside of the shade to reduce the glare.  If I didn’t help out here under favorable weather conditions, I might never be able to help out again.

Not to mention I was operating at only half efficiency due to the pain in my left side, which still hadn’t gone away.  The height of the table was too high to press against my sore spot, which would’ve mitigated the pain.

The way I labeled envelopes was slightly different from how other people normally do it.  I would turn the envelopes and labels upside-down, and apply the labels thusly, which saved the time and energy of reaching all the way across the vast empty space.  Even so, I was working at less than half my usual capacity, which let me working much slower than usual.  I normally would have half the envelope labels done before lunchtime, and was struggling just to get even that much done.  Observing the competition, I saw that my co-worker put labels on the other envelopes which pleased me, since she showed initiative.

There was a bathroom right next door in case I needed to go in an emergency, which I felt would happen any time now.  I was asked when was the last time I peed or pooed.  I had to admit I couldn’t remember.  It wasn’t like I took meticulous notes on every time I had an executive function.  I had the distinct recollection that I HAD gone to the bathroom.  I just couldn’t remember for WHAT.

Was there anything I’d eaten over the past few days that was unusual?  Not really, the only thing I could think of was a week-old egg salad sandwich I’d wrapped up in crab meat.  For some reason, I was completely ignorant that these these things were only supposed to be good for three days, even though food poisoning didn’t seem to explain my symptoms.  (I wasn’t puking for starters)

My boss kept urging me to eat, even though I didn’t feel hungry.  “What did you have to eat?”  All I’d had that morning was 2 raspberries to swallow my pills, a banana, and a clementine that I forgot to mention.  All I could drink was water that was thankfully cooled down with ice cubes from the freezer.  The pleasure receptors in my brain that let me keep eating even when I wasn’t hungry had just suddenly been cut off.

I explained my symptoms to my volunteer higher-ups, and they were sympathetic, even as I was only operating at half efficiency.  The Pharmacy Lady who helped me get treatment for my shingles volunteered to go out for medical supplies to help cope with my current condition.  When she left without me, I was surprised because I thought I would be going with her, since I didn’t feel in good enough condition to continue working, and would be going home after.  Still, I continued doing the labels as best as I could.

So, that would’ve taken place between the hours of 9:00 and 13:00, where I continued to work right through my lunch break, only taking breathers to go to the bathroom at random intervals when I felt like it, which was often.  These breaks wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d produced some results, but I kept coming up empty.

When the Pharmacy Lady returned at 1:00, she had Pepto Bismol, and I drank some Milk of Magnesia, which seemed to help alleviate the pain some.  She also bought a bran muffin, and I was told to eat all of it.  I told my boss I wasn’t feeling very hungry.  “You’ve got 15 minutes.”  Total deadline pressure bearing down upon me, I dutifully took my first bite.  It took an ungodly long amount of time for me to even swallow it, mushing it up in my mouth into a mushy paste before swallowing the contents.  It was much denser bran muffin than what I was used to.  I tried to soak the remainder in water, but even doing that didn’t soften it up any.


Taking breaks was always an arduous task for me, because I felt that any time not spent working was time that could’ve been put to better use.  But I was taking more bathroom breaks than usual with nothing to show for it.  I kept going everytime I felt sick to my stomach, which was often, and only having air come up.

The remainder of the labels on the envelope continued as best as I could manage.  I kept swallowing portions of the bran muffin even as it made me feel like throwing up.  Fortunately, the boss hadn’t followed up on her 15 minute deadline threat, which would’ve doomed me if she’d been paying attention.  I’d read that one of the aftereffects of recovering from shingles was a weakened immune system, and I wondered if I’d contracted something because of that.  Just as I was finally finishing up the last of the leftover bran muffin, the moment I’d been dreading finally came.  I felt sick and made a mad dash to the bathroom where I puked up ALL the bran muffin I’d been forcing myself to eat.  At that point, it was decided that I should be driven to the hospital after work.

Of course, since it was only 4:00, there was still time to kill until everybody could leave, and there was still stuff to be done.  The last manageable task I could do was organize the addresses on the envelopes in order.  The way I did this was different from how others do it.  Normally, they might organize them alphabetically by name, but I always found this process very confusing, since sometimes there were 2 surnames instead of 1, making it easy to get first and last names mixed up, and sometimes you would have two envelopes for two people with different last names living in the same place, creating unnecessary doubles.

What I did to counter this was to organize the addresses not by name, but by number.  This was a great time-saver, since every time I tried to figure out someone’s name, I’d have to go through the whole alphabet just to figure out whether Hart came before Harris or Hartnell.  Not to mention how easier it was going through 10 digits compared to 26 letters.

A typical pile would be as follows:

  • 1020
  • 11256
  • 1564
  • 1999
  • 20
  • 210000
  • 324
  • 4442
  • 4443
  • 5555
  • 6

You get the idea.  Anyways, I was only able to complete one pile before it was time to leave, but that finished example would come in handy for my coworker to learn from later.

If we were still paying adherence to the 24 formula, this would be the halfway point where the plot would focus on the secondary backup plan.  But since I was still reeling from the effects from last night, this wouldn’t be much of a change, only in a new location.  So, more of a scene change than a threatening change.

Of course, my boss could drop me off at the hospital, but couldn’t take the time to register me, since she had more pressing concerns elsewhere.  Along the way, the ride was bumpy and I apologized prematurely in case I threw up.  She said that would be unacceptable, and had her passenger in the back seat look for a bag for me to use.  It was a plastic bag more suitable for reusable grocery use, but fortunately, all I experienced was gradual burping motions.  Upon arriving at my destination at 5:00, I was nervous since I’d never gone to a hospital by myself before.  I’d always had someone accompany me to go through the registration process for me.

Going through the main entrance, I didn’t see a registration window.  There were many seats of patients sitting down at various locations in multiple hallways, chairs at sporadic locations and a waiting room of afflicted, all waiting for their turn.  Not knowing what else to do, I opted to wait.

After waiting for 20 minutes, unsuccessfully leaning against the plastic covering being notoriously fragile to my finicky expectations, I couldn’t rest for very long without having something solid to press against myself to mitigate the pain.  I was fortunate to be able to find a seat close to the wall, even if it meant frightening a small child staring at me.

I’d wanted to avoid going to the hospital at all costs, since I was worried about being unable to talk to the staff with everybody wearing a mask.  Fortunately, it seemed that regulations had relaxed enough for the staff to go around without a mask, so I didn’t have to constantly request the pull their masks down so I could see their mouths.  While looking around, I took the opportunity to sign a petition to keep the ER from closing.

After more waiting, I was worried about my brother coming and finding me in the waiting room having failed to get myself noticed and having wasted time doing nothing that I inspected my surroundings again.  There was an empty Emergency hallway sloping downwards with nobody there, no observable windows for registering, and several chairs that had the notice of 

Wait for emergency diagnosis/triage

I hadn’t sat in these, since I didn’t think of myself worthy of being considered an emergency.

But a mother with her baby was in one of these chairs, and I decided to ask her if she knew where the registration window was.  She admitted she didn’t know.  But then it looked like she was admitted for being there.  After seeing that, I decided to wait in these Emergency chairs as well.

I must have made the right choice since shortly after a few more patients, an examiner called for me.  I explained my symptoms as best as I could, taking time to say that I was deaf, and needed to rely on careful communication via my Live Transcribe.  Upon hearing me, the examiner took me and my Medicare card and went down the sloping Emergency corridor that I’d seen was empty.  Further down and around the corner in a completely blind spot was the elusive registration window.  There were no arrow signs, no people waiting in line, no visual cues that could’ve possibly clued me in to this location.  Somehow, I was supposed to know about this beforehand.  Could you blame me?  I barely had enough energy to go exploring off on my own, let alone in an unspecificied place without a known destination.

That problem settled with, I was then led to an examination room where my blood was taken.  Not a good sign when they lead with that.  I’d had blood drawn before, and wasn’t surprised when an attachment was placed on the back of my palm for repeat usage.  Unfortunately, the nurse didn’t do a good job in locating the vein, and touching it caused pain, not the first unpleasant sensation I would have all day.

That taken care of, I had a heart test by having multiple sticky electrodes attached to my chest and then wires attached to the metal parts.  Then after that, I was given a medical package and told what to do with it, which my Live Transcribe failed to convey accurately.  I was struggling to understand the instructions the nurse was giving me when my brother showed up.  I simultaneously have both the best and worst timing in the world.  On the very day my integration officer went on vacation, I contracted shingles when he would’ve been helpful to have around.  And now my brother just returned from a vacation of his own, showing up to help.  It was a good thing he came when he did, since he was better able to explain just what I was supposed to do with the supplies I was given.

  1. Take the packaged sanitary napkin and wash my penis with it.
  2. Pee out half of my urine out and capture the remaining half in the container.
  3. Put the urine container back in the plastic bag.

Apart from a surprise visit from an unsuspecting nurse who opened the bathroom door not expecting anyone using the faculties to lock beforehand, the procedure went surprisingly well, considering I hardly had anything to eat or drink all day.

More successful than this is what I'm saying.

After that, a wheelchair was presented before me, another foreboding sign.  Sure enough, I was wheeled to a hospital room with various occupied beds where I was the youngest resident there.  I was told to get out of my clothes and into a hospital gown, a routine I was already familiar with.  Various sticky pads were attached to my chest area to monitor my heart rate, a monitor strapped to my finger and an automatic blood pressure device wrapped around my arm that filled up every hour and three minutes.  (I timed it) The first time it activated, I had no idea what was waking me up from my beauty sleep until I figured out the likely cause..

I had this photo taken for posterity.  You can’t tell under my mask, but I’m putting on a brave face of solidarity, trying to look pleasant through all the unpleasantlessness.  It’s a wonder I was still capable of rational thought considering how little I’d slept.

I was drifting in and out of consciousness, having mini-dream states where scenes I was familiar with were playing Mad Libs with their nouns and verbs.  The only one I can recall for sure was from a Richie Rich comic where Cadbury instigated a frightening dictatorship where everybody HAD to be thin, including animals that were naturally obese such as elephants, pigs and whales; “Even their tornados are rainbows!”

Look, any description of a typical Richie Rich plot is going to sound unhinged, no matter what.

The nurse told me to breath in and out, or as the French vermicular put it, inspiration and expiration.  Very innocuous in their home language, but vaguely threatening in my first language.  After all, wasn’t this how Kafka died?  (More from tuberculous, which is treatable now, but still)

Around 19:00, after lying for 2 hours and only having sporadic check-ins by passing nurses, I began to feel that I wouldn’t be able to volunteer tomorrow.  The whole time there, I kept a hardcover book and my cellphone firmly pressed against my left side to reduce the pain in my side.  I mostly spent my time shifting sides, which wasn’t easy with all the wires attached to my body.  I also took my socks off which were starting to feel uncomfortable.  My brother didn't have anyplace to sit down on, since there weren't any visitor chairs in the emergency room, so he opted to sit on the side of my bed instead.

The early diagnosis made was that I was likely suffering from gastronomic infection.  I was certain that my intestine was blocked, which would explain my localized pain and lack of appetite.  (Though it didn’t explain why I could manage to drink but not eat)

While I was resting up, my mother was frantically keeping up to date, looking for someone who could stay with me overnight, but neither my integration officer or any of the volunteer organizations were able to scrounge someone up.  She was willing to pay for someone who could come on short notice.  A Filipina worker was suggested then rejected because of her accent.  The Pharmacy Lady from the volunteer organization could’ve offered to come, but she was still needed to help with the mailing.  There wasn’t a social worker at the hospital, but the staff said they’d do their best to accommodate to my communicative needs.  Anybody who could’ve come would likely only be available tomorrow.

Around 21:00, my brother was going to my place to pick up my meds and any other medication I had lying around in case they needed to ask for my medical history.  But I was worried about being unable to talk to the doctors without assistance, so using a pen and notepad, I wrote the following instructions:

Before talking, let patient wear hearing aids & glasses first (w) Live Transcribe.

It was the best I could do writing in mid-air with a tube in my dominant hand.  My brother did a more legible and concise transcript.  You can compare the two side-by-side.

I was worried about asking for water, since it didn’t feel right paging for a minor issue. Fortunately, I was able to get attention from a passing nurse and made a request.  The water was thankfully cold with a straw, which saved on possible spillage.  I also put my socks back on.

It was around 22:00 when the lights finally went out, which came as a great relief to my senses, and I was able to relax my eyes and get some well-deserved sleep.  My brother also returned with the necessary supplies, including a phone charger, which would come in handy because using my Live Transcribe drained my battery notoriously fast, and was already at half-power.  However, after plugging it on the side socket near the electronics hooked up to me, he wanted to recharge his phone first, since his was nearly dead.

There were worries about my medication, because of the possibility of it being stolen at the hospital, a very real concern.  It was suggested that instead of bringing the whole package, just take the boxes and only bring a few pills at a time.  They couldn’t find the cream for my shingles, and that was because it was in my backpack.

While my brother was looking for my pills, I had another involuntary reaction from my lower end.  Jubilant, I sent a text proudly saying, “Had my 2nd fart!”  This was welcome, since it meant my body was expelling gas, and might not be gastronomic after all.

Around 23:00 when the staff rotation changed, I got a welcome news that there would be another test given that would pump radioactive lighting fluid inside me that would trace my blood flow.  I was aware of what this would entail, and after being wheeled into the scanning room, I was prepared for the stinging sensation in my wrist, but what else was new?  There was a slight hurdle when I had trouble communicating with the radiologists, but the matter was over with relatively quickly, and I was wheeled back, though there was a temporary scare when we were briefly locked outside the emergency room.

After that test, there was talk of how I could possibly get home by myself, since my brother would have to leave soon, and there wasn’t any nearby public transportation.  The possibility was raised of me either being transferred via ambulance or taxi, both of which were ruled out, since I’d need to be accompanied, and I’d never used a taxi before.  It looked like I’d be discharged around midnight, the perfect cap to a season of 24.

Then 00:00 rolled around, and the doctor returned and said that I’d have to be transferred to another hospital for my kidney.  Okay, clearly we’re going into extra innings now.  Apparently, my kidney had suffered something like a heart attack, and half its blood flow had been cut off.  They weren’t able to cure my kidney with the supplies they had, so I had to go elsewhere that would be better suited for my needs.

The hospital I was in was in danger of closing due to the lack of medical staff.  You know what would help support the declining numbers of those in health profession?  Hiring immigrants who weren’t exclusively immersed in French language.  Immigrants who might be reluctant to arrive because of an ineffective racially motivated dress code targeting them.  And letting English students complete their nursing lessons in a province that’s running low on burnt-out nurses to take advantage of.

The doctor who diagnosed me was impressed by my ability to be articulate in explaining my symptoms and admired how I was able to understand him very easily.  I said that was only possible because he was very expressive in his speech even though he had a beard, and I was worried the new doctors I’d be seeing wouldn’t be as understandable.

The ambulance ride that transferred me was nerve-wracking, since there was a loose strap that kept swinging side to side, which in addition to the bumpy driving, didn’t do wonders for my already aggravated stomach.  In addition, I was completely unaware that my stuff was packed underneath the stretcher.  No one bothered to tell me this, and I thought everything was being relocated elsewhere.

This was what I was most scared of.  That I would have to fend for myself in a hospital all by myself with no one to assist me.  My brother wouldn’t be able to come along - he’d already used up his familiar visitation time to see me past normal hours, and had work tomorrow.

Upon arrival at the 2nd hospital at 2:00, it took roughly 20 minutes for the doctor to go over the notes and examine my symptoms.  I looked up the symptoms of kidney failure, and it seemed to match better than the previous hypothesis of gastro.  One of the symptoms was swollen legs, which could explain why my extra-large socks always felt so tight.

Once I was formally admitted, I was moved to an observation room where the heart monitors were attached to my chest once again.  I explained my needs for clear and concise communication to understand what would be done to me, despite my fatigue.  Most worrying was that I didn’t have access to my phone charger, which was under my bed, and there was no nearby outlet to charge my phone.

Further tests were done, repeating the same tests I’d had at the 1st hospital, including a second Covid test, and I was given material for an urine test consisting of a container and a cardboard bedpan when I told them that I always peed sitting down.  Upon hearing that, the doctor went away, leaving me alone to contemplate whether I’d said something funny, bracing myself for potential surgery.

At 3:30, the specialist and urologist said they checked my kidneys, and my blood was running fine.  They didn't see a problem, despite my not having an appetite.  They gave me some unexpected news regarding the cure for my condition.  Upon hearing this, I asked again to make sure.

Aspirin??  That doesn’t sound right.”

“No, it’s what you need to take for the rest of your life.  It’ll help relieve your stress.”

They gave me the option to either stay in the hospital until the morning or take a taxi.  At first, I thought I might as well stay the night, but a few minutes after they left the room, I had a change of heart and opted to take their taxi offer up.

But first, I had to get their attention first.  I was in a dim room that faced a glaringly bright office space of computers with only a single dinky movable screen to block the light, and I was feeling the urge to pee.  I tentatively removed the heart monitor from my finger.  This was a calculated gamble on my part.  If there was something wrong with me, they would come running.  And if there *wasn’t* something wrong with me, they wouldn’t come running.  Seeing no outside reaction, I proceeded to remove the other wires connected to my chest that were keeping me down.  Still no one showed up even as all my monitors were flatlining.  Freed of my restraints, I edged myself over the side of the bed and made my way to the cardboard bedpan and proceeded to relieve myself, only to realize that I didn’t leave enough for an urine sample even though they said I didn’t need to.

I also got the opportunity to get my stuff that was packed underneath my stretcher, and saw that it was slightly squashed when my bed was lowered.  Thankfully, nothing important was badly bent.  Now that I could move freely, I didn’t have to worry about charging my phone.  Upon getting dressed, the doctors saw my efforts to make things more comfortable for myself by moving the screen, and congratulated my ability to figure things out for myself.  None of this had been adequately explained to me at the time.  I knew I should be proud for navigating this independently, but the truth is, I had a lot of help.  I like to think I’m reasonably self-sufficient, but when placed in an actual life & death situation, I’m absolutely hopeless.

With the doctors present, we went to the effort of removing the taped heart monitor implements that were taped to my chest, including the annoying blood vessel sticking out of the back of my palm.  Removing the electrodes was more painful because of all the hair involved.

A hospital taxi was called for me, and the assistant waited beside me for their arrival.  At first, I thought the first car was mine, but it turned out not to be the case.  It gave me time to inspect my surroundings, making sure that I had everything I needed.  And then I realized, 

HEY!  I never got my prescription!”

This would be a sore point, getting in the taxi and finding out at the last minute I’d forgotten a piece of paper that could help relieve my pain.  The assistant quickly made his way back, leaving me to wait alone once again.  Upon returning, he presented me the valuable piece of paper I desperately needed.

Getting in the taxi was my first time and an expensive fare, but I was beyond caring at that point.  All I wanted was to go home.

When I finally made it to the sanctuary of my place, the first thing I did was fire up my computer to check up the stuff I hadn’t bookmarked on my phone.  I also sent a message to my mother informing her that I was going home.  I got a reply saying I should stay at the hospital, since I wasn’t well.  I apologized, saying I’d already left.  She later got in contact with the 2nd hospital doctors, and got the diagnosis that’d eluded me.  I had to get an official diagnosis through second-hand sources who would then explain it back to me in terms I could understand.  

Apparently, I’d contracted renal artery dissection, a very rare ailment.   My condition was a blocked abnormality on my blood vessel that normally feeds my kidney, killing 30% of my left kidney.  There were very few observable cases of this occurring in the world.  There was no known cure, so there was nothing they could do for me except prescribe some rest.  What I had to do was take a baby aspirin every day to thin my blood and expel the blood clots in my kidney through my pee.  Leave it to me to beat the odds yet again and catch another rare disease.

It seems that my health was making up for lost time in my parent’s absence, giving me a double whammy one after the other.  The ironic part is that when I dared to weigh myself after recovering from my shingles, I was dismayed to see that I’d hardly lost any weight over the course of my treatment.  At the time, I thought if I had a way to turn my appetite off, I could lose weight faster.  All of a sudden, I had no appetite, and was losing weight at an astronomical rate.  Not having an appetite was a freeing yet frightening thing.

The vascular surgeon will follow up with me in about 2 months.  There should be no long-term consequences.  This condition might be associated with high blood pressure.  It shouldn’t affect my kidney function.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Weird Romance: Cathy and Alex’s Wedding

Following up from my previous mega-post on Cathy’s relationship with Alex, which I’d been meaning to do, but never got around to.  Well, no time like the present.  Especially in the month of mid-February.  And it only took 2 years to get to this point.

For those who forgot, or don’t want to go to the trouble of refreshing their memories, Cathy was going out with a gym instructor who was much younger than her.  Despite the age gap, they had a healthier relationship than she’d ever had with Irving.  Even so, she still had misgivings, as they didn’t have much in common.  And it all ended with Alex proposing to her on Valentine’s Day with no set-up or foreshadowing.  Cathy naturally didn’t accept the terms gracefully, and reluctantly bowed out.

Even though she broke the proposal off, she still felt affection for Alex, and there was the occasional reference to the man, she didn’t hear from him until six years later when he became socially relevant again.

Before we get to the main event, I might as well show a few more instances of the ever-elusive Emerson, who I presented in my last post, and found some more comics of the pre-Alex-like boyfriend.

Despite his brief appearance, Emerson was significant enough to make an appearance in an early Cathy book, What's a nice single girl doing with a double bed?! as part of the cast introduction.

As we can see, Emerson was simply too good for Cathy.  Also included is Emerson's only known appearance within a Sunday comic - a rarity within a rarity.

Interestingly enough, during these early strips there was the brief introduction of another Alex, completely different from our Alex.

Then after a long absence filled with more dramatic tensions with Irving, shopping, Woman's Lib, binging and Mommy issues, Emerson showed up again.

After this last hurrah, Emerson never showed up again.  Now that we've gotten through the preliminaries, it's time to move on to the good stuff.

This continues right after where I left off, so in case you haven't clicked the link earlier, here's a reminder.
And that would be Alex's last appearance.  Unlike Emerson who was practically a non-entity and drama-free (as well as humour-free), Alex would be sporadically name-dropped every once in awhile.

All that would change on August 20 2001, when Cathy would be upset over the news of Alex getting married... and not to her.
Around this time, Irving went bald, and since I wasn't keeping up with Cathy, only sporadically catching up on it in other papers, I had no idea what prompted this sudden male pattern baldness.  Turns out it was from as all things Irving, extreme machismo.
And finally, after spending so much time off-panel, we get to see Alex again for the first time in 6 years, and we see he hasn't changed a bit.
After the wedding, we get one last bit of closure ending in the only Cathy way it possibly could - eating a pie with Mom.