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Skip Tucker: Purple Haze

By SKIP TUCKER, Alabama Daily News Featured Columnist

Well, I dang near died.

I’ve thought about it, and I’ve determined that one sure way to prepare for departure is to start choosing your funeral music. Which I did. Hearing your Last Rites administered is a hint, too.

Word that I did die went round to some. Obviously, happily, it was an exaggeration. But it was a near thing. All-in-all, it was quite the adventure. I don’t recommend it.

It started innocently. Two weeks ago, I went for routine outpatient removal of a kidney stone of size. My doc lasterblasted it and removed it piecemeal. All good.

Things happened.

Later, he said, “I don’t what was in that thing, but when I blasted it, it opened Pandora’s Box.”  Nobody knows what happened, or at least not yet. My body’s systemic reaction was so rare that one of the docs is writing a medical paper about it because what happened next is without precedent.

Within 30 minutes of the procedure, I developed deep body chills and proceeded directly to septic shock. I was hustled to ICU. Within a short time my blood pressure dropped waaayy low.

My hands and forearms, offended by such shenanigans, turned deep vibrant Smurf purple. Likewise aghast at such behavior, my nose, in a fit of solidarity, turned purple, too.

I looked like a cross between a rodeo clown and a wildly drunk masker at Mardi gras. In fact, I could’ve attended Mardi gras and needed no costume.

I was conscious throughout, mostly. No fever, small discomfort. But small blood pressure. Smaller and smaller.

I heard the attending doc say he thought it might be DIC, which meant nothing to me, but now I know it means Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. It is a death sentence.

Grim visages showed above surgical masks. With little to do except fight, I became the most interested observer by far more than just somewhat. I noted the consternation. Everyone grew quiet at the DIC declaration, of course. Except of course Your Humble Narrator.

I looked up at him and said, “Do you mean I might die?”  

He said, “I’m not ready to go there yet.”

I said, “Think how I feel.”

DIC is a condition in which the body has lost its mind and is allowing blood to clot throughout, blocking blood flow to things that sort of depend on it.

At that point, my blood pressure was 80/40 and my chances were about those of Elizabeth Warren being elected Queen of the World. I was not heartened. Mostly, I was bewildered. I thought, “What the heck is going on?” Humanity’s cry.

Family was called in. Some flew and some drove all night. A priest came in and administered Last Rites, which is a rather solemn thing to watch, even moreso when they are being administered to one’s own self. It was clear to me that it was time to hunker down. I hunkered with all the hunker I could summon. It appeared it mightn’t be enough.

My Bride never left my side and our two sons were right there for me, constantly. Through them, strength was lent me. Great strength. I started to snap out of it.

Well, hardly snap, but somebody somewhere somehow did something that nudged up my blood pressure. Spirits throughout the room rose with it. Happily, my spirit remained safely inside my body where it belongs until a propitious time comes along.

The haematologist started coming in with good news. He’d say, “I don’t know what it is, but I know what it isn’t.” And he’d dismiss a deadly thing. Slowly, my blood pressure began to rise. A day later I was relocated from ICU to a room a little less crowded with doctors (bless them all). Improvement was achieved, rapidly.

My 14-year-old said later, “Dad, you never want to be your doctor’s most interesting patient.” That is good advice.

I was a guest in South’s ICU for 11 days and now I’m writing this from home. All four doctors, tops in their respective fields, assure me of complete recovery with no residual damage, I’m healing quickly and well. I am not purple. I don’t even have the blues.

That kind of walk through The Lonesome Valley can but change a man. For a few days following, I would weep over the smallest things. Laugh, too. Both, joyfully. I am filled with joy. I wish to remain so.

A couple of things stick within my mind. So many people reached out to me with affection that it made almost dying almost worthwhile (note the almosts). Among them were those I never knew would give me a second thought.

Some people I believed would crawl through cacti for me, as I would for them, barely gave me a nod. These are people I’ve known since high school. I wish them well.  

I made some deathbed promises I will keep. At least two people have told me since they sense I am a kinder man, and I hope so. Every day is gravy, though I am forbidden gravy for a while. All good.

I even told my nearest and dearest that I feel so much joy inside that I’m not sure I can write pithy (mean) things about people anymore.

I’ll try, though.

Skip Tucker was editor of the Daily Mountain Eagle in Jasper, then communications secretary for gubernatorial folks like George McMillan, Charlie Graddick and Jim Folsom. He ran Alabama Voters Against Lawsuit Abuse for in Montgomery for 15 years. He has published one novel, Pale Blue Light, a spy thriller set in The Civil War. He’s now a regular contributor for the Alabama Daily News at Email Skip HERE


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