Shifting perspective

It feels quite surreal to look back. It's been only a few months but with everything happening since, feels like a year. The world changed dramatically since.

It started with me thinking that I have a flu. Fever, shivers. No big deal. Over the course of two weeks, things didn't improve and I started to feel weak and dizzy. I couldn't think straight really, otherwise I would have noticed that something is very wrong. I remember walking down to the basement twice to get my laundry done and being completely out of breath when returning to my flat. That certainly wasn't supposed to happen. But well, I just spent a whole week in bed with a slight fever, my blood pressure was probably low and it would certainly return to normal.

It took my flatmate's remark about me having a yellowish skin tone to get me actually worried. So I tried to get an appointment at a local doctor which turned out to be quite difficult. See, in Switzerland you're supposed to have a family doctor for most levels of insurance. But after calling about 5 local doctor's offices and being told by each one to look further as they don't take any more patients, I went to the equivalent doctor at the local hospital. I got an appointment there exactly two weeks after I started having a slight fever.

I took a bus to the hospital, with every step feeling like I was about to die. It was a windy day and sometimes, it felt like I'm about to be blown away. That's how weak I felt at this point. I've never felt similar in my entire life. I should have been worried at this point but in a way, I was just chilling along. Maybe this was due to the low oxygen levels. I don't know.

The doctor took a blood sample and I was told to lie down in a hospital bed to receive an IV, since they first thought I was dehydrated. After about an hour (things became blurry at this point), the current doctor in charge informed me that my red blood cell count is at 25% of what it should be and that I will be transferred to the emergency station to receive a blood transfusion.

They started running a ton of different tests. Hepatitis A/B/C/D etc, HIV, blood cancer, and so on. The list they presented me of possible causes made me think about triggering the "plan B" button - getting my things in order, figuring out what happens if I die and what steps I need to take in regards to my company. For the first couple of days, it was only about tests and more tests. With each day, the doctors were able to confirm negative tests for the heavy stuff, making me feel a bit less anxious.

The two weeks were defined by having a blood test three times a day, receiving many blood transfusions and 200mg of steroids daily. Being torn out of my daily routine and forced to follow a completely different order of business. Talking to people that received their terminal cancer diagnose the day before. Seeing health workers struggle with senile patients. And so on. The complete hospital experience. I couldn't sleep because the other patients in my room either snored, moaned or otherwise caused a ruckus. Being on the maximum steroid dose made me feel like being on a permanent speed trip. I'd have probably lost it, if I wouldn't have accidentally bought new noise cancelling headphones a month before. It was, quite frankly, the worst two weeks of my life.

Until then, I never had the misfortune of having to stay in a hospital for more than 2 days. But being on the oncology floor did change my perspective quite a bit. At least that's what I felt at the time.

They were never able to figure out what actually caused my immune system to destroy my own body. And I'm still on steroids / cortisone, which is tampered off right now and will probably take another few months for a full recovery. The side effects of the medication is a completely different story to rant about. It's not pretty.

I guess I was lucky. Will this change the way I lived? Probably not. They couldn't find anything wrong with me. All things tested are completely fine. I've no nutritional deficits. No other illnesses, completely fine blood pressure.

Probably the most pronounced effect for me is realising that life really isn't something we should take for granted. You can drop dead tomorrow and nobody will ever figure out why. And we're very quickly to assume that we're indestructible and live forever. We don't. And there's absolutely fucking nothing you can do about that, other than developing a decent stoic outlook on death. A lot of issues seem a lot smaller to me now. And I frankly don't care about a lot of things anymore that railed me up in the past.

I still feel slightly detached from reality. With the whole Covid story happening about 1 week after I got back home, things became even more surreal. Suddenly I became part of a risk group in a global pandemic. Since then, I got used to that thought. And to be honest, I'm tired of feeling afraid or at risk. But that's a different story.

The world sure feels different today than it was 2 months ago. For many reasons.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Published: 05/06/2020

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