20 years on
It pleases me greatly to note that I have lived 20 years longer than they thought I would.
Many of you aren't familiar with what I'm talking about, so here's a brief explanation.
On July 10, 1988, I entered a manure pit on our dairy farm to clear a plugged manure pump. Down in the depths of the pit, a deadly gas called hydrogen sulfide gas was laying in wait for me.
Hydrogen sulfide is known chemically as H2S. When it encounters the oxygen-rich lining of the lungs, H2S can become H2S04, or sulfuric acid. This corrosive compound quickly strips away the lining of the lungs; the victims of hydrogen sulfide gas thus drown in their own bodily fluids.
My last clear memory of that day was feeling really woozy and thinking that I had best get out of that pit NOW! I had nearly reached the top -- I could see the sapphire July sky and could hear the trusty 4020 idling patiently -- when the entire world suddenly faded to black.
My parents found me floating in the manure, after which a crew of local First Responders pulled me from the pit. I was taken to a local hospital where my family was told I had no hope of survival. I was then helicoptered to a larger hospital where my odds were pegged at 50-50 -- but only if I first made it through the next seven days.
The following three weeks are a blur of fever- and drug-induced delirium. When my morphine dosage was reduced to the point where clear thought could return, my wife related to me everything that had happened. I at first didn't believe her.
But the evidence was hard to dismiss. A respirator was pumping air into my lungs through a pipe in my neck. I was catheterized, and an alarming array of tubes snaked from a forest of IV bags into a port that had been installed in my subclavian vein. Stitches on my rib cage marked the spots where chest tubes had been used to inflate a collapsed lung.
My recovery was a slow uphill slog marked by milestones that were tiny but nonetheless memorable for me.
For instance, it was a big event the first time I was hoisted out of my hospital bed and placed in a chair. Spending most of a month in a bed makes sitting in a chair seem like a visit to a strange and exotic country.
My first meal was a sip of Ensure. Ensure was wonderful at the start, but I soon wearied of its lackluster flavor. My nurses, angels all, began to blend my Ensure with strawberries or a banana. This helped some but I continued to crave victuals that had real flavor and substance.
After nearly a month in Intensive Care, I was wheeled up to a regular room. My nurses cried as I left; none had expected that I would leave the ICU in an upright position.
Once upstairs, I continued to complain about my drab diet. Could I have pizza instead? I was told I could but that pizza wasn't on the hospital's menu.
My wife, the dear thing, called a local pizza joint and had a large super-deluxe pie delivered to my room. Lord, was that pizza ever delicious! Sadly, I could only manage one slice; fasting for a month tends to shrink one's stomach. The rest of the pizza was sent down to my erstwhile caretakers in ICU as a tiny token of our great appreciation.