Okay, I have to admit it.
I’ve used sickle cell as an excuse to get out of doing different things in my life. You have to find some benefit for this illness. “Nick, can you help me move out of my apartment?” No, I’m a little tired. As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, use a built-in excuse.
As a guy with sickle cell, I didn’t know how to deal with the emotional pain associated with the illness. Generally speaking, most men have a difficult time admitting when they’re in pain anyway. We have to hold tight to that façade that we’re tough guys. Well, I stunk at being a tough guy, so I used humor as a defense mechanism.
The unfortunate side effect is that it’s caused me to be emotionally detached from others, but hey, I guess we all have issues.You have to put a funny spin on your situation or you’ll easily fall into a depression. I would say that I’m a mentally strong individual, but having SC will definitely put your mental fortitude to the test. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve had some days where life was no longer fun. But it’s usually a temporary feeling. The only way I know how to handle it is to make a joke about the situation. There are some out there who can write poetry that’s simply beautiful when expressing how they feel, but me? Hell, I had to just look up the spelling for ‘haiku’. Please don’t judge me.
It’s difficult to articulate to someone who doesn’t have sickle cell just how lonely being in a hospital can get. I don’t care if you’re 10 or 52 years old, there’s only so much CSI New York … I mean, Miami … I mean, Special Victim Unit …that one person can watch before you figure out the culprit is the shady guy they talked to 10 minutes into the show.
I also found it difficult to reach out to my friends because most of them were catching criminal charges. I mean, really, how awesome would I look to a friend by saying, “Hey, I know you’re looking at five years of prison time, but can you come by the hospital and see me? I’m kinda lonely”?
The only thing that kept me from going completely batty in the hospital was being silly.
The morphine they give to reduce pain definitely ups the ante. However, the hospital has got to change the method for delivering morphine through the machine. There has to be another way than pushing that little red button. I remember one time I really thought I was Neil Armstrong – I had a countdown going until I could push the button. In T-minus 10 second, Nick will be blasting off.
Minus a few nurses – you know who you are – I’ve had some pretty damn good ones. They put up with a lot of my antics. Most of it was unintentional comedy. I mean, really, after hitting the morphine button several times, can you really blame me for putting my gown on backwards and showcasing the goodies like runway model? Looking back, it was a lot easier to tie the strings in the front. Oops.
But individuals have to find that outlet that makes them feel better.
True story: I was in the hospital for a week and some change. My wife was sleeping like an angel nearby and part of me just wanted to throw a pillow at her. Hey, misery loves company.
Anyway, so I’m watching “The Matrix” and somewhere during that time, I fell asleep. However, my mind thought I was still awake. When I really did wake up, you could not tell me I wasn’t actually in the Matrix, waiting to see Morpheus and everything. And I snatched all the IVs out of my arm because I wanted out of the Matrix. Needless to say, after I figured out that there was no spoon, my wife and nurses weren’t too happy to put the IVs back in my arm at 3 a.m.
I can’t lie – that was a scary moment. But now, I find nothing but humor from the situation. I’m sharing this story to show that at the time, it was no fun. I didn’t have any cool powers like Keanu Reeves, and there was no Jada Pinkett Smith waiting for me. Yeah, what a bummer.
However, it proved that despite all the pain and embarrassment I felt in the moment, it didn’t last forever. There a plethora of ways to cope with SC. Humor gets me through the rough patches; it’s the only way I know how to make myself feel better. I hope I was able to provide a few chuckles, or at the very least, a smile. SC provides lemons – so I say, screw lemonade and get some Kool-Aid.