The day I became “o.k.” with dying

Dying

I know it’s morbid…

It’s not the easiest topic to discuss, especially during times like this, but this also relates to how a realization like that can change your relationship with money.  This blog is also meant to be journal for myself that friends and family might look back on years from now. I’ve only gradually become ok with spending what I’ve saved over the years.  People try to do this magic “timing” where they’ll either have money left over when they die or they’ll spend their last dollar on the day they die.

It might not work out that way, so you might want to think about enjoying what you have, every day.

Health Stuff

If you follow my blog, you might know that I had my hip replaced in January 2019, kinda young for a 52 year old guy, but I wrote about how my pain altered my life and my spending.

You might also know or remember that I was a bone marrow donor for my Sister in 2016.  I would need to travel from Brooklyn, to Stanford University for a week to complete the process.  I didn’t really have extended vacation time stored up to take off the time that would be required for the process and my own recovery, so I decided to leave full time employment in January 2016.

What you might not know, (since I’ve never written about this) is that sandwiched in between those 2 events, I had another small problem.  After returning from a business trip in January 2017 with my wife’s new job, I believe something happened from the pressure of that trans-continental flight.  About a week after that trip, I started to have dark black stools.  Like a typical dude, I ignored it as long as possibly could…until I couldn’t.  I went to my PCP for blood work, and they called me back the very next day.
They said my hemoglobin count was low.  Normal is about 14-15 for men and mine was around 11.  When you hit 7 on hemoglobin, they need to give you a transfusion. The Physician assistant said to me in the examining room, you need to go to the ER right now.  You look pale.

I remember shuffling out of that room onto the street and up to the avenue, to grab a cab.   I caught one that was idling outside of convenience store and told the nice middle aged man where I was going.  He asked if everything was ok, and I explained a bit about my situation.  He was an immigrant from a middle east country.  Really nice guy who reassured me that everything would be ok.

At the hospital

When I walked through those doors alone, I checked in with the front desk person who took down my information and told me to have a seat.  I looked at the crowded waiting room in this economically challenged Brooklyn neighborhood and I figured I was in for a long wait.

I was wrong again.  You see, when you have a “bleeding emergency” even if it’s internal bleeding, you go straight to the head of the line.  Within 5 to 10 minutes, the nurse in the glass paneled office immediately in front of me, called me in.

She created several tags of my information and slapped a bright red bracelet on my arm that said something like “Bleeding or Bleeder” or something like that.   I kind of started to get really scared then.

They got me undressed and on a gurney and wheeled me into a VERY crowded ER waiting area.  I shared a curtained room with one other person, just outside the nurses station.  A psycho-frantic person yelling outside the nurses station in a wheelchair didn’t exactly calm me.  The other cases being wheeled by were wide and varied.   When the young ER doc show up she said they needed to do a rectal exam (basically a finger test) that would confirm if I was bleeding there.  I remember thinking something flippant like “geez, buy me dinner first!”, but I didn’t say anything.  She was nice, very young and professional.   At least my wife had arrived by this time.  From there they got me a room.

New Doctors

From that point, my PCP teamed up with 2 new gastro doctors that I had never seen before or met until that day.  They wanted to do an endoscopy (down the throat) and a colonoscopy (in your rectum).  They couldn’t fit me in for both the tests, so I ended up having to stay in the hospital for 3 days, eating a liquid diet with minimal food, and doing the prep treatment, the night before the colonoscopy.   I barely slept during those 3 nights.

That was the time I had the most to really ponder my own death.   I was thinking in terms of “worst case scenario”.   I remember reaching a point of “acceptance” about that as a real possibility.   I gave up all fear about ghosts or pain and even fear itself.  I thought to myself, “It’s ok, I won’t feel pain if I’m gone.”   Even after living through 9/11, I hadn’t really contemplated it this deeply before.   Anyway, after a few days, and having the test in the morning of the 4th day, they fixed me up and I slowly started to recover.  I remember how great the food tasted when I could eat solid food.  I remember tasting every little grain of salt.

Reaching out

A big part of this was that I remember how unconcerned others were about my condition or situation. (that’s largely in my head, but still)  My wife and a friend of hers were the only 2 visitors I had.  I remember texting a family member to please check up on my wife while I was in there. He didn’t.  My niece living about a 45 minute drive away?  No visit.   I remember reaching out to friends I had on my health/fitness platform to share my concerns.  Basically total strangers provided more comfort than most of my closest relatives.   Maybe you’ll have a different experience or you’re probably more “socially connected” than me, but this is what I took away from that dark time in the hospital:

  1. Don’t count on others, the cavalry ain’t coming.
  2. Enjoy your life and your money when you can. (without being reckless)
  3. Take care of your health, so you can care for others.
  4. If you care about someone, let them know.  Don’t wait.

The bottom line is this: Everyone in their own way, will need to deal with this situation at some point.  We all think our time won’t be until we’re in our 80’s, but that’s not necessarily true.  Take some time to think about that during these uncertain times.  Think about what “risk” really means with your investments and your life.  The riskiest thing of all is to not enjoy it.

 

 

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