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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Human Frailty

Once again I am forcibly reminded, I am my body. Crossing Queen St on Wednesday on my way to a meeting at the AIDS Foundation, I felt this sudden Bang! like someone had slammed the back of my left calf with a hammer. I'd pulled a muscle, just by running across the road. Pain! And not the fun kind! I rang my Dr, got an appointment. Rang my boss and told her I wouldn't be back in. Staggered onto the Link and got to the meeting. The Dr couldn't see me till after 2, and they're only 5 mins away from my Dr and home, so I thought, "Just go for an hour" and I managed.

The Dr said "you've pulled your left calf muscle near the top." Gee, really ? A compression bandage (so not sexy) and panadol - not even a decent opiate-based pain-killer. Although a surprising number of friends have them in their medicine cabinets it turned out, offers of all sort of things came in - thanks for that! An awful lot of people have walking sticks lying around too it seems.

But now, 2 days later, and only slightly mobile, it takes me back to those bad old days years ago in the mid 90s when I was based at Herne Bay House and had to learn how to walk again. I had been so sick, had lost so much weight (down to 50 kgs at one point), that even getting from room down the corridor to the dining room there was a major effort, resulting in exhaustion and breathlessness. It was a triumph the day I could walk all around the house. After a while I could even, slowly, walk down to the shops. I bought a pie and doughnut at the bakery. Nothing ever tasted so good.

But being that sick, for that long, made me conscious of just how much we (or is it just me?) take our bodies for granted. Just simple things like being able to walk to the shops, being able to stand up in a shower and wash myself. All of those little things we normally just assume we can do.

And now here I am, stuck pretty much at home until I can move more easily. My life is limited again in a physical sense. And that is one of the things I remember from being so sick: my life being constrained to one room, dependent on nurses, (I love and admire nurses,double their salaries I say: anyone who can wipe your arse and still treat you like a dignified human being 1 minute later is a fantastic human being and valuable professional), waiting for friends or family to visit, measuring the day by when meals arrive, being sick and being so dependent on others - that sense that my body had betrayed me - hideous. And when you're body is crapping out on you it's pretty hard to keep your mind and heart in good shape too.

People talk about keeping a positive attitude, and fuck that used to piss me off when I was that sick. But I did learn the value of it eventually. Life does hand you shit at times, and you have to deal with it. I liken it to having to change a tyre on the motorway in the rain. You can bitch and moan about it as much as you like, but you still have to do it, so why not calm down and just get on with it.

But it was a horrible time in my life, one when I and most around me thought I was dying. Now, a pulled muscle is nothing like coping with PCP and other AIDS related conditions. But it reminds me of those bleak sad days in my past. And of how far I've been lucky enough to come.

And I am lucky: friends have been offering all sorts of support (enough with the jokes about keeping my legs elevated though guys) and I feel cared for and that's a lovely thing to know.

I've had to cancel a few dates, one in particular I'd been looking forward to; I feel like a kid who's been told Xmas is cancelled dammit. I won't be dancing for a while, and that is a bummer. I won't be able to walk to work as I usually do, and I probably won't be propping up the bar for a while. But this will pass, and I will get back to normal, again.

I'm lucky, and it's good to be reminded at times of how lucky I am.

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