Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve read my own words on this website. Seems like yesterday I was in Roanoke, shuffling up for an Extended qualifier at Star City. Most would find that a bad memory, but not I. Have you ever heard the phrase,”You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?” Well, I learned the hard way that those words are very true.
Many of you may not know me, may not remember me, or may not care. In a way I can understand that. If you’re moving your mouse cursor for the back button right now, then I urge you to stop. If anything, you’ll walk away from this piece with a higher respect for the things in life you do have.
This past May on the 31st, I was scheduled to have an operation called gastric-bypass surgery. Anyone who has ever seen me in person knows I am quite a large fellow. I’m every bit of 6’8″ and big as a house. The surgery requires you to be at least one-hundred pounds over your normal weight – which I met the eligibility for quite easily. I’ve always struggled with my weight from my early childhood and with the assistance of my loving fiancÃ© Apryl, I spent a year studying the procedure. Now I won’t go into the details of this surgery, but let’s just say it’s risky but effective. That’s what I needed – something effective. I had tried diets and everything else, and in the end I usually would just succumb to depression and resort to my old eating habits.
So anyway, I wake up at five in the morning on May 31st, and head to Bristol Regional Medical Center in Bristol, Virginia. To be honest I didn’t sleep much at all the night before, because I literally was scared to death. I thought I would die during this whole procedure, and with a twelve percent chance of death I was made aware of this fact prior to my surgery. They make you sign papers stating you know the risks and dangers involved with the surgery you’re about to undertake. After waiting well over a year just to have the procedure, I was more than ready to go under the knife. It’s not like I wanted or expected to die, but the percentage loomed in the back of my mind over and over. In fact, I went as far as to make out a will and write my own farewell speech. I saved it on my computer and let my fiancÃ© know where it was, but told her not to read it unless things didn’t go well with me.
It seems like every small memory of the ride to the hospital that morning sticks in my head. It’s like a nightmare I live over and over again each day. I listened to Duran Duran’s”Ordinary World” on the way, and stared out at the dark sky. When we pulled up outside of the surgery area, I started to get this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I quickly knew stemmed from fear and nervousness. Probably a potent mixture of both, I would say. I walked in and had a seat at this lady’s desk as she asked me many questions, while taking many photocopies of many cards I handed her. I noticed my hands trembling and my palms starting to sweat. I tried to calm myself as best I could, because I didn’t want to worry my mother and Apryl, but my efforts were futile.
Once they finished registering me for surgery, they took me to a hospital bed and gave me a gown to put on. I put the gown on and then I soon realized that my ass was hanging out the back, so I asked if I could have another gown and the nurse said”sure,” albeit rather reluctantly. Stingy nurse, hmph! After I got the gowns on (one on backwards to cover my posterior) my mom and Apryl came in and sat down in the chairs next to me. I don’t remember what I said or what we talked about then, but I remember being very scared. I know I’ve said that a lot, but this was really the scariest point in my life thus far.
After a few moments, a male nurse came to wheel me from the prep area and take me back into the pre-surgery area. I waved goodbye and hugged my mother and Apryl. Soon, after going through many doors and hallways, I found myself in a room of others who looked like me. All lying in bed with gowns on and looking nervous. I was handed a blue cap to cover my hair, and I recall at this point realizing that I was really going to do this after all.
I know I started shaking, and I know that they wheeled people out from behind this one set of doors and they looked unconscious. It was about this time I started shaking heavily and a male nurse walked by and offered a word of prayer with me that I gladly accepted. I prayed harder than I’ve ever prayed in my life, and ended the prayer session with pursed lips and wet eyes. The nurses gave me two injections of something into my IV they inserted, and I started to mellow out.
I was rolled back into the surgery area after an incredible amount of time spent shaking in the other room. I recall some nurses coming over to wish me the best, because all of them had the surgery last year and were doing quite well. This made me feel a little better, and I waved goodbye as I went down the halls. Once in the surgery room, the fear factor went super high. There were many machines and devices all about, a tray with chrome looking instruments one would use to mutilate flesh. Huge lights overhead blinded me as I looked upwards, and the smell of sterility and hospital filled the air. All of these people with blue masks and head coverings said hello and welcomed me like I was a guest to a party, when I felt more like a helpless man at heaven’s gate. My surgeon was there, and I asked him if he was going to do the job right. He laughed and said,”what other way would there be?” Needless to say I got a cold shiver.
After somehow managing to get myself placed on the surgical table, a nurse walks over with a huge syringe filled with some white liquid and pops it into my IV while smiling at me. I clearly ask what”that” was and she looked at me as though she couldn’t hear me and said,”what?” I asked again and this time I made it about a quarter of the way through the sentence when I blacked out.
Twenty Something Days Later…
Yeah, twenty something days later I wake up. Well, I woke up a few days before the twentieth one, but I wasn’t at all conscious. In fact, I was quite medicated.
I remember a few things from this period. I remember coming to for just a second, and seeing my grandmother and a doctor standing by me. I remember lying there unable to move, open my eyes, talk, or barely hear. I could think for the most part, but when a thought entered my head, it quickly flitted away just as it arrived. I remember feeling something thumping me in the back and feeling my chest puff out and then deflate some. I could barely hear a”poosh” and”tisss” sound in succession near me. It kept going that way for a long time. I think it was around this time people around me made noises because I could make out some mumbling and sounds. Then it sounded like someone counted downward from three.
I didn’t hear the”poosh” and”tisss” sounds.
I didn’t hear mumbling.
Nothing thumping me in the back and no chest rising feeling.
I wondered if I was still in surgery, or if this was after or if I had died. I wondered several things at this point, but before I could really dwell on any of them, the thought left my mind. Soon my chest began to hurt. It was at this time I realized I wasn’t breathing. My body kept trying to tell me to go to sleep, but I ignored it for some reason. In fact, I believe that God had some kind of effect on me at this point, because I really wanted to listen to my body and just go to sleep. Oh well, I ignored my bodily urges and for some reason took a huge gigantic breath. Later on this would come to be known as the breath of life.
So I said there were a few things I remembered while I was slightly unconscious, right? Well, I remember at one point a bunch of nurses forcing a long clear plastic tube up my nose and me screaming in pain fighting them off with blind swings of my arms. Then I remember the nurses telling me to swallow, and that would make the searing pain go away from my nose. I listened to them and swallowed away and when I slowly looked down I saw a tube in my nose and I ripped it out from my nostril, splashing a lot of blood on the nurses.
It was also at this time another nurse added something to my IV and I soon drifted away on a puffy cloud of cotton. Drugs are powerful.
I bet by now most of you are wondering,”what in the hell is this guy ranting about?”
I know it’s confusing, but trust me it will all come together here in a moment. Just give me a chance.
See, what happened is, when I went in for surgery, the doctors had a very hard time getting a breathing tube down my throat. I had recently gotten over a pretty sever sinus infection and so the back of my throat was still kind of swollen and puffy. I later found out that it took them nearly an hour to situate my head in just the right way for them to get the breathing tube down my throat. Once that was done, the doctor split me open and did his normal check on the gall bladder and liver.
Doc immediately noticed my liver wasn’t up to par and took a biopsy to be sent to the lab while he examined my gall bladder. The gall bladder had to be removed, because it was in very bad shape and looked to be prone to forming gall stones real soon. When Doc gets my liver biopsy back, he finds out that I have fatty liver cirrhosis. This is a condition that can’t be cured, and ultimately requires a liver transplant or you die. This finding also means that Doc can’t perform the surgery, because the liver creates an enzyme that your body uses to seal cuts and clot the blood. The specific surgery I was having, required a lot of cutting and intestinal manipulation, so Doc had to staple me up.
You would think that having my gall bladder removed and finding out I have cirrhosis would be bad enough, wouldn’t you? Well, such is not the fortune of Richie Proffitt. Remember the breathing tube they struggled so hard with to get down my throat? Well, turns out that when they attempted to remove the tube, I quit breathing. They quickly did a tracheotomy and put me on a respirator. I was no longer breathing on my own. I was soon admitted to ICU, where my lungs collapsed and I caught a severe case of pneumonia. They re-inflated my lungs and had me back on the respirator. This entire time I’m unconscious, and I proceed to stay that way for over two weeks. Me being on the respirator is where the whole memory of the”poosh” and”tisss” sounds come from. Luckily, I did indeed decide to breathe on my own again.
So what about now? How am I doing now? Well, as much as I would like to say much better I can’t, because I’m really only doing a little bit better. That’s still good enough for me, and I’m very thankful for it. During my stay at the hospital, while I was unconscious at some point and being moved around, I had my c6 nerve on my spine damaged. This caused some paralysis of my left arm and huge waves of numbness. I went through physical therapy for over a month, but unfortunately my insurance doesn’t cover any more than that. I also get these very annoying jolts of pain down my arm to my fingertips. This occurs quite randomly, and my neurologist says it’s normal for damaged nerves to cause that kind of sensation. I’m hoping over time I’ll regain full use of my arm, but until then I’m quite thankful I have the right one.
Another bad thing happened to me while I was in the hospital. I know, it seems like things couldn’t get worse could they?
Warning: What you are about to read is not for the squeamish of heart. Hit your back button now, if you think this might cause you to vomit or if you’re enjoying some meatloaf.
So while I was unconscious, they put these inflatable boots on me. They cover your legs from about the calf to the tip of your toes. The purpose of these boots are to prevent blood clots and provide good circulation. Well I have very big feet. I wear a size fifteen. Now the boots they put on me were a large. When they deflate, they would be tight on my legs. When they would inflate, they would cut the circulation off from my legs and feet. Mostly my feet. My legs were already in enough pain, because I had so much edema and fluid build-up in my legs, that it slowly began to bust out. Yeah, not something that feels too great.
When I had pneumonia and my lungs collapsed, they had me on a bed that was tilted at a forty-five degree angle. This was to assist in making my breathing on the respirator much easier. Unfortunately, the drawback to this was that my feet were pressed against the footboard of my hospital bed the whole time. On top of this, my wonderful nurses elected to never take the inflatable boots off and slowly, but surely the bottom of my feet became gangrenous. So much so, that there were deep, deep pits in the forefoot of each foot. To the point that you could almost see bone. Ouch. I know. I don’t know really how to put into words this kind of pain, but I’ll tell you it’s very unpleasant and hard to deal with. Just recently my feet have began to fully heal up after lots of intensive care and treatment.
But wait, things get better. When I awoke from my unconscious state, I thought I could just get up and walk around. Oh man, was I wrong. Despite my feet feeling like they had been ran through a meat grinder, I also had one of the worst cases of muscle atrophy. I had to go through physical therapy forever to relearn to walk. This combined with sore feet, weak lungs, and a forty-nine staple stomach, made it hard. I remember practicing walking around the nurse’s station in the ICU and leaving trails of blood from my feet. P is for pain. The oxygen helped, but the sore feeling in my chest was exhausting and there were so many times I felt like giving up.
On July 3rd, I was released to go home. I remember being wheeled outside and breathing outside air for the first time. I remember hearing birds and watching the clouds move and looking at the mountains. Little things I took for granted, like being able to sit outside and being semi-mobile, all came in to perspective now. The summer passed with me spending well over ninety-nine percent of my time in my room.
Because I was on medical leave, I could no longer afford my luxury items, like my PC and paying for cable modem access. This made being in my room a boring thing. I think it was this at this time I started watching all of those poker shows on television and reading about Texas Hold ’em. I don’t play yet, but it’s very enjoyable to watch and learn about. I would have rather been playing Magic, but my health did not afford me the luxury of leaving my home for very long. I spent ninety percent of my day on humidified oxygen and anti-depression medications. Tons of fun I tell ya’.
Time has passed and I’m only on humidified oxygen at night. I get to play at my local shop for FNM and Sunday tournaments. I’m looking forward to traveling to High Point soon for my first PTQ. I don’t think I’ll be playing, but I know I’ll be there to root my friends on and enjoy the company of all my friends up in High Point.
For those that e-mailed me when I was in the hospital through this site and Mr. Wayne’s, I greatly appreciate it. There were so many times that I just wanted to give up on things, but the e-mails I read from the community on-line just helped me keep struggling. I remember someone who made me a card that they e-mailed me of an angel. I don’t know who you are, but thanks. I’d also like to thank each every person who called me, e-mailed me, came to visit me, and wrote me. It really made my day, more than you can imagine. Special thanks go to Pete and all of the StarCity crew for putting me on the site, allowing me to write for you guys, and holding some of the best tournaments you could ever attend.
The team PTQ’s are coming up and I’m team hunting (Tim, I got your e-mail today and maybe we can work something up). I’m working on trying to qualify for Worlds on my rating. Yeah I know, lofty goal. I’m looking forward to getting married this summer or fall, too. I’m also in search of a doctor that can perform the same surgery on someone with cirrhosis. I guess that’s about it. I know this may have been a bit lengthy, but Pete said he wanted to know and so I delivered. I hope if anything, this experience I shared with everyone will allow each and every one of you to be a bit more thankful for the things in your life that you have. You never know when enjoying a summer breeze, playing cards, or walking around can be stripped away from you. Life is indeed short.
I’m out for now. I hope to be writing more, since I have lots of spare time. I just don’t know if I’m qualified enough anymore to write. I hope so.
Much Love Everyone,
Oh, before I go, BIG UP to Knoxville and my people there, all my people in High Point, Roanoke, Kingsport, and Nashville. Also, a big hello to my buddy Randy Davis over in Iraq defending us and another BIG UP to Bristol.