I awakened to good spirits amidst a beautiful sun on Saturday, April 15. Though not a New York Mets fan, I had two free tickets to their afternoon game against the Milwaukee Brewers. It was early, around 10:30 or so in the morning, as I dressed to get ready for the game. While putting on my black & white addidas shoes, I felt an excrutiatingly familiar pain underneath my right knee. No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to straighten out my leg & feared being immobilized - again.
Five years ago the same injury occurred.
When the doorbell rang, I was too embarrassed to hop to the door in order to open it. I suspected it was Greg, the young man I've been mentoring for four years, because I was taking him to the Mets game & asked him to come by at 11:00 am. Still, I didn't want him to see me in pain. Sometimes my image is more important than my integrity. I don't like being vulnerable.
Damn, I thought, I won't be able to take Greg to the game & he'll be disappointed in me: I'm going to let another person down in my life. I felt guilty. useless. As is the case whenever I'm stressed out, I began to worry. I was worried about my part-time job at BMX-NY, the CLIK Magazine publisher who I have to call & subsequently cancel the lead story (my first such writing opportunity) I was working on, the people I asked to do an H&I presentation with on Monday evening on behalf of Narcotics Anonymous, my NA home group which I chair every Wednesday night, my parents, my friends...all this energy flooded my consciousness before I got to the door. I struggled with the fear of the unknown.
Greg was obviously surprised by the look on my face as I opened the door & asked him to dial 911. He obliged as I struggled back to my living room futon to rest my painful leg. They arrived about 20 minutes later, one Black male, one white male, both willing to help me through this ordeal. Unlike many folks in America, I thank God I have adequate health insurance to cover the cost of my ER visit. I was placed in a wheelchair & taken to St. Luke's Hospital on 113th Street east of Amsterdam Avenue. It was difficult for me to accommodate the X-Ray technician, but I did the best I could.
Fortunately, no broken bones were discovered. Through grace, neither was my spirit. I was encouraged to come back for an MRI, given a prescription for Moltrin, two uncomfortable crutches & an orthopedist appointment. I just wanted to go home & lay down. I dreaded all the responsible phone calls & e-mails I needed to make, yet I've learned, as I've gotten older, the world revolves around the sun, not me. In situations like this, what often helps me is a combination of faith & perspective. I continued to pray for God's will as the day wore on, trusting He would see me through, as always.
I've been wanting to write about this ongoing experience for days, but, among other things, I struggle with moderate depression. As such, my energy level & motivation has shifted. Of course, not getting paid at my job or six weeks doesn't help either, but that's another column. When this occurred five years ago, I lacked medical insurance, primarily because I was unwilling to pay the premiums offered by my, then, employer's carrier; also, as the descendant of enslaved Africans, I want reparations. I have a sense of entitlement & feel Medicaid, which was inactive, should pick up the cost, by any means necessary.
Being homebound is no picnic. Every day seemed to drag into the next. I felt miserable & was ashamed to be honest about it with myself, or the many friends who lovingly offered their care & concern each day. I am irritable when dealing with illness. I become aloof, indifferent & sarcastic. I tend to isolate. I don't want to be bothered at all. by nobody. in fact, the sound of the telephone becomes cathedral-like. I'm reminded of the Sammy Davis, Jr. play, "Stop The World I Want To Get Off." Seems I've never outgrown the self-centerdness of the child...
Last Thursday afternoon I returned to St. Luke's Hospital for an MRI. I could've gotten it done the same day as my Tuesday morning orthopedist appointment, but I had to remove my eyebar, which I didn't want to do, because I'm rebellious. What? That's my story & I'm sticking to it, ok? Okay. I tried to take it off with my fingers which didn't work. I tried to cut it off with a pair of scissors which hurt me even more. I was prepared to hop to the tattoo joint on 125th Street near the Apollo Theater, instead, I called my hip lesbian friend Gloria - who has more piercings than Dennis Rodman - asking for the help I knew she could give me. She suggested putting on some rubber gloves to twist the cap off, which worked for me right away. Why didn't I think of that? Whatever.
I had the foresight to ask one of my sponsees to accompany me to the hospital. James was amicable the whole time. I appreciated his willingess to "be there for me." We waited around 30 minutes or so. I was impatient & tense. You hear so many different stories about what does or does not happen. When they called my name, I said the serenity prayer. As I entered the MRI room, heard the various noises & looked at the ominous machine, I began to feel like a visitor to Lost In Space: "danger Will Robinson, danger Will Robinson." Yeah, I watch too much damn tv. been damaged. programmed. traumatized.
I was greeted by a friendly, handsome Latino brotha who smiled brightly at me & assured me everything was going to be alright. Of course, I thought he wanted me, but I think every man does. I got issues, ok? Okay. Anyway, I noticed this thin, rather slinky-looking conveyor belt. I was expected to climb aboard & strap in like a mummy. Oh, hell no! Shaneequa was ready to come out & go ghetto. for real though. But I'm much too spiritual for that these days, so I laid on my back - a familiar position - closed my eyes & prayed to God for His guidance & direction.
The machine moved slower than the local 1 train. I was too afraid to open my eyes, yet being the curious Leo I am, I did & observed most of my body inside the machine & my head outside. I felt trapped, not like R. Kelly, but more like an MTV reality show contestant, if you know what I mean. You don't? Too bad, ok? Okay. A couple of folks, as well as the annoying Black female receptionist (she was popping that gum like it was an instrument) told me the procedure would take 30 minutes or so. Undaunted, I asked papi who said, "no more than 20 minutes, maybe 15, if all goes well."
What did he mean if all goes well?
Anyway, the whole thing took about ten minutes. I was uncomfortable, yet felt eerily safe. Prayer does that for you; well, for me it does. This afternoon I went back for the results & was told I have a miniscus tear, as the orthopedist suggested. I was encouraged to get arthroscopic surgery, which I'm open to. The doctor told me the procedure is painless & takes less than 45 minutes to complete. He said I'd be in & out of the hospital the same day, but I need medical clearance from my primary care physician first. Perhaps all that time spent watching endless episodes of ER will serve me?
What a relief to know what really is happening to me! I'm addicted to certainty. The feeling of uncertainty is not pleasant. To my surprise & delight, I'm not afraid. I've never been hospitalized, or operated on - a source of pride - in my almost 46 years of existence on the planet. My faith in God is stronger than ever before. I have friends who care for me. Though its difficult for me to get around, I'm making swift & steady progress. I'm unable to run for a bus or from my emotions. Instead, I'm going to dance with a surgeon & its all good. You see, the ancestors have taught me well: I will heal, prosper & survive. Ache.
- mark j. tuggle
- harlem, usa
- same-gender-loving contemporary descendant of enslaved africans. community activist, feminist, health educator, independent filmmaker, mentor, playwright, poet & spiritual being. featured at, in & on africana.com, afrikan poetry theatre, angel herald, bejata dot com, bet tonight with tavis smiley, blacklight online, black noir, brooklyn moon cafe, gmhc's barbershop, klmo-fm, lgbt community services center, longmoor productions, nuyorican poets cafe, our corner, poz, pulse, rolling out new york, rush arts gallery, saint veronica's church, schomburg center for research in black culture, sexplorations, the citizen, the new york times, the soundz bar, the trenton times, the village voice, upn news, uzuri, venus, vibe, wbai-fm, wnyc-fm & wqht-fm. volunteered with adodi, bailey house, inc., black men's xchange-new york, colorofchange.org, drug policy alliance, east harlem tutorial program, imagenation film & music festival, presente.org, save darfur coalition, the enough project, the osborne association, the sledge group & your black world. worked on films with maurice jamal & heather murphy. writing student of phil bertelsen & ed bullins. firstname.lastname@example.org.