Tuesday, May 18, 2021

bad and good news

I was told I had an eye appointment at 3 p.m. Around 2:30, a nurse rushed in to give me eye drops to dilate my pupils. Around 3, I was wheeled to the first-floor office where I was given an eye exam. The exam itself wasn't so different from the eye exam you get in the States when you're getting new glasses or contacts. There was the puff-of-air test and the stare-at-the-landscape-until-it-comes-into-focus test. There was the stare-straight-ahead-while-I-shine-a-light-into-your-eye test. I was told my eyes are fine, which doubtless disappoints some of the docs working on me. 

I then had to go to another office to have my retinas photographed. This involved staring at a symbol that turned green and became a glaring light that, I presume, shined all the way to the back of my eye. Look straight ahead, look up, look down, look left, look right. By the time I was done and back at my berth on the 15th floor, it was 4:30 p.m. I had spent most of my time just waiting; the tests themselves didn't take that long.

So the good news is my eyes are fine, unaffected by diabetes or high blood pressure. The bad news came with a doctor who came to see me twice, once before my eye exam and once after. She talked about the results of my ultrasound, and according to her, I have a very weak heart. She was very friendly, but she basically gave me the "you could die if you leave our care" spiel, and I decided right then to refuse treatment. In case you think I'm out of my mind, let me explain. 

I asked the doc whether this condition had come upon me suddenly. As I knew she would respond, she said no. So I told her that, despite having that condition, I had already walked across Korea three times. So to my mind, I can live with a weak heart as long as it can take me across Korea every now and then. I also asked whether I had the right to refuse treatment, and she said of course. So I refused treatment. I plan to leave here on Friday. I'm not staying longer. They're already asking me to take a whole suite of pills for blood pressure and blood sugar, along with anti-stroke medication, and I have to change my diet radically as well. I think that's enough. And hey: if my weak heart kills me, then so be it. (The doc actually tried to threaten me with death or return trips to the hospital. She even asked, "Are you okay with dying?" at one point. That's not how you persuade someone, especially someone who's not afraid of death.)

There were two other doctor visits today. An older female doc did little more than be loudly preachy about the causes of stroke, my relative youth, and the need to change my ways. By this point, I'd heard variations on this theme hundreds of times, and the preachy tone didn't help. The other doc came to talk about what I can and can't eat, but I think I blogged about her already. 

I believe another doc is coming by this evening to try to talk me into further treatment, but I told the other doc (Miss "Are you okay with dying?") that he needn't come if he's going to give me the same damn spiel. 

As I see it, if I take my pills, follow the right diet, and exercise plenty, I'll lose weight and remove almost all the issues plaguing me. I do plan to include one or two cheat days every month, but otherwise, I'll behave from now on. I've learned my lesson. I just emailed my French buddy Dominique, and we compared hospital notes. He was in for appendicitis not too long ago, and he had to stay longer because of various infections. He said the experience made him philosophical about life; I get where he's coming from. 

Anyway, that's the update for now. Like Dominique, I'm taking stock of life and thinking of how to re-prioritize things. More on that when I'm back home. 

UPDATE, 10:30 p.m.: the other doctor never came by. Maybe he got the message. I realize this invalidates all the work done with ultrasound, but frankly, I don't care. But who knows? Maybe the doc will come by tomorrow or sometime before Friday. 


Daniel said...

Good call on refusing additional treatment, me thinks. On a practical level, the longer you stay, the longer you remain largely immobile, disconnected from the world at large and exposed to any number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that plague modern hospital wards (not to be alarmist, but Google "MRSA infection" for more). On a deeper level, (hypothetically, of course) I'd ask the doctors which 'heart' they were trying to save. The risk in accepting repeated or long-term hospitalization and weekly outpatient doctors' visits is that in trying to save the weakened physical heart, the medical establishment ultimately ends up destroying the other, more important heart. The one that underpins the poetic genius evident in the writing on this blog and the one that has carried you across this country we call home several times (and perchance, what dreams may come, perhaps at least once more?). Yes, there may be some degree of physical scarring somewhere in your brain, but, fingers crossed, such scars can never break your spirit. Perhaps Virginia Woolf got it right when she asked at the end of Mrs. Dalloway, "What does the brain matter, compared with the heart?"

John Mac said...

I would rather have a weak heart than be blind, that's for sure. I'm not clear on what treatment they had in mind for your heart--surgery?

Anyway, several years ago I got a similar speech (without the treatment pressure)--I was headed for a heart attack unless I made some lifestyle changes, namely, diet and exercise. That's your plan already. I was told my damage couldn't be reversed, all I could do was keep it from becoming worse. So far, so good.

Maybe in a perverse way, the stroke served a purpose by motivating you to do the things you need to do for your heart. Welcome to the first day of the rest of your life!