Lyme disease it turned out to be and I had never really been sick before so I didnt recognize the fact that I was sick. Vertigo that's what I thought it was. A exhausting summer, trying to squirrel away money for grad school. In love with and over my head with a beautiful ballerina who would have to return to Asia after her summer in NYC...
And I collapsed.
Left work early on the G train back to Greenpoint, fading out like a Burrough's junkie seemingly going on the nod for no reason. The whole world going black starting at the edges of my vision and sqeezing in like a camera fading to black. The strangest feeling.
I didn't know my heart was stopping, that spirochetes had caused an infection in my heart and the muscle's electrical activity was interrupted but would kick back in after 20 second or so intervals. Hence the fade outs.
The doctor at the neighborhood clinic looked at the ekg looked at me and said "I could call 911 and they could take you to Brooklyn General, but you probably wouldnt make it." Then he made a call and took me in his car to St Vincent's in the Village.
I was admitted into the emergency room at St Vincent's and in the weird Dante-esque swirl of the place with a raving drunk tied to the bed directly across from me someone gave me forms to sign and informed me that they would have to put me on a pacemaker then and there and they couldnt use any kind of anesthesia because they had no idea of what the problem was.
I got quite scared as I thought they had to open my chest to do such a thing but it turned out they could scope down through my neck and attach the unit externally. It actually didnt hurt but I did feel the scope going down and in and could hear the doctors and nurses talking.
And for the next few weeks the monotony of the hospital bed, massive doses of antibiotics to kill the Lyme critters and then to leave with a hefty bill (thanks to the lousy insurance for grad students at my University).
I guess the lasting impression was of the fact that I didnt really know that I was sick. If my heart had stopped completely I wouldnt have come out of one of those fade outs and I would just cease. Animals sense they will die but I had no such viceral reaction. No light at the end of the tunnel either. I guess like the phrase 'passing away in one's sleep'. I was disapointed and a bit disturbed that I wasnt at all aware that the systems were shutting down.
Neurotic grad student that I was, I had a book with me. Montaigne's Essays. An unfinished paper from the semester before. Still unfinished. I tried reading through the whole ordeal. I was focusing on the esays that had to do with monstrocity and it really had no connection to what I was going through. Even after the doctors told me my heart was stopping and they didnt know why, etc. I didnt stop and pray or prepare a will. I was cross checking allusions and tracing ideas...
The whole experience was about denial.
The coolest part for me was when the doctors pulled out the pacemaker wire. Before they did they started turning down the voltage and at some point I felt my heart kick in again and override the pacemaker. Not to sound New Agey I truly hate that shit but I became aware of the border between my will and the physical reflexes of my body.
I remembered this tonight, it all happened a few years ago. But when I get sad or stressed I feel a physical heaviness in my heart and it is a brief memento homo qui pulvis est.
The Bardo, or Tibetan Book of the Dead talks about the preparation of the soul as it passes on a journey from this reality to another. I realized after how mentally or psychologically ill-equipt I was to deal with this basic process. And still am. I havent really changed. Hopefully when the time comes I will be more ready