1/27/10 - 2/6/10
I know this isn't really about being unemployed, let alone double-barrel unemployment, but it's part of the story, so I have to include it. I fully intend to fictionalize it like, a lot, so that you, dear reader or readers, can get through it without succumbing to the overwhelming urge to pop your own eyeballs out with a plastic spork, puncture your eardrums with fondue forks (which you leave in) and use a Cub Scout pocket knife to carve "Ashlee Simpson is the most brilliant musical talent since David Bowie, and her alleged lip-synching incident on SNL was a meticulously-planned sabotage, flawlessly executed by the Duff sisters with the help of a handful of rogue, well-connected Lenny Bruce fans" on your shin - out of sheer boredom.
In brief (or boxers, but NOT boxer-briefs - seriously dudes - make a choice - either one or the other. some things simply can't be combined):
My long-term contractor job at the smallish office of the massive global company was going fine. I was thrilled with how much actual training these guys provided. The only real complaints, if any, centered around my hellish commute, which was certainly not their fault. Okay, there might have also been a hint of impending doom, as the mountain of work that was supposed to be ours was slower in ramping up than had been expected. Otherwise, things were fine. I also still very much assumed that [Maris], now approaching the third month of her layoff, would find a job before her severance and vacation pay ran out.
But [Maris] had gotten sick. Real sick. She's kind of a man when it comes to going to doctors, so when it took no arm-twisting to get her to visit one, I knew it was bad. Remember the H1N1 swine flu? From October 2009, well into 2010, it was like the second coming of the black plague. People were fighting over the vaccine. It was being smuggled in from Canada in boxes of frozen back bacon. You had to be over 100 and have influenza zombie bites to even get on the waiting list for the H1N1 shots around here.
Guess what she had? "Probably the swine flu," said the guy who went to school for 25 years so that he can bill Aetna $400 an hour to make guesses about why his patients are suffering. It's really bad. We know, because the media won't shut up about it. So we wait it out. It gets worse. We call Doctor Swine Flu back. "Yeah, it's rough. Hang in there." I don't know much about fevers, but I'm pretty sure people aren't supposed to bounce from 105 to 94 and back up to 104 within a few hours. I've watched my soul mate, my raison d'être, my partner in snark, my joy, my fellow criticizing-everybody-and-everything muppet in the theater balcony of life, get sicker and sicker and sicker long enough. Off we go at nearly midnight on January 28, to the shiny new emergency room place mercifully-close to our house.
Guess what she didn't have?
Yep. Not only did she not have the swine flu, but she had rather no flu of any kind. She was, however, nearly in something called septic shock. It sounds smelly, but it's not. It's bad, though. I've been in emergency rooms several times throughout my life, and I've always been taken aback at how unlike TV ERs they are. No one is ever running or shouting or doing CPR or cracking anyone's chest open to massage a heart back to life, and I have yet to witness any Young Doctors In Love. This is precisely why I found all the scurrying about, intensely-hushed consultations and phone calls to Other Doctors so alarming. Apparently, we had sat there letting [Maris] get dangerously close to very serious trouble, with a lot more potential for death than I care to think about now. Who knew? The guy said "swine flu!"
They took her from the Upcounty Emergency Center to the hospital ICU (a 12-minute, $1,000 ride) around dawn on Friday the 29th - running red lights and everything! I followed them there, and arrived about 2 1/2 minutes after them, but then things got all Joe-y. I didn't think I should park in the small lot outside the ER, knowing that she would only be passing through there en route to wherever the ICU was. I headed into the first garage I found, which chose to inform me of its hospital-staff-only-ness by way of the little crossing gate thingy that sat there in the cold refusing to move for anyone not in possession of a hospital staff key-card thingy (while actual hospital staff sit angrily behind you, late for their critical life-saving shifts) -- instead of using the antiquated but reliable "Don't go this way" sign method of communication.
Embarrassed and frustrated, I found one lot or garage in which I didn't belong after another, until finally giving up and parking in the main, front, expensive visitor lot near the hotel-like main entrance to the hospital. This was, of course, a mile and a half from the ICU and [Maris]'s room. By the time I found her, she was fully recovered, had a new perm and a kicky new wardrobe and had divorced me in absentia, remarried and given birth to two lovely little girls, Arielle and Alexandra. Arielle was asleep in the guest chair and Alexandra, now almost five, was showing [Maris] the finger paint Golden Lion Tamarin she had made in preschool the day before. When my now-healthy, now-ex-wife saw me, she took an exaggerated look at the room clock and gave me the "it's about time" face.
"Get me out of here before I am forced to break into the third-floor pharmacy and take all the vicodin they have. Sweetie."
I gave her the "what about them?" face nodding at the two minors.
"They'll be fine. There are toys and coloring books out in the Evergreen Lounge. Let's go. There's a blizzard coming, and I think 'Archer' is new, tonight."
"Okay, but we're going to need a new car. We will never, ever find mine."
There. That's the story of [Maris] almost, but not, dying. Neat, huh? Sure, I left out the odd detail here and there - a couple of which are actually kind of exciting and bloody (have you ever seen a doctor try to get a central-line IV into the neck of a patient with invisible veins?) - but you get the idea. She lived! I still had my job at the end of it! The many thousands of dollars it would cost us, after insurance, would be spread out over a long, long time - and would obviously be totally worth it. Life would march on, and we'd be there.
With all the stolen vicodin we could stuff into our coat pockets.