Saturday, September 20, 2008

So, this needs a little explanation: On February 17th, 2008, I fell off my porch and nearly died.

More specifically, I leaned on my side porch’s rotten railing to dump some woodstove ashes in my garden, blissfully oblivious to the fact that the few remaining strands of wood fiber still connecting the railing to my house simply would not hold my weight. The fibers snapped, and down I went. Head first. Ten feet. And yes, it’s true: your life does flash before your eyes. Kind of. It’s more like a thousand thoughts scream out all at once in a giant Dagwood Thought Sandwich—And they cover the spectrum from “what have I done with my pitiful life” to “I need to shovel the walk” to “wow, this is a long way to fall, it’s really going to hurt when I…ow.”

I landed on my face and my sternum, I think, and at the time thought I had merely split my lip and broken a few ribs, possibly my nose. Bleeding, blinded, and making unearthly animal noises, I crawled back into the house to make sure the baby was OK (of all things). The mind does stupid things when it doesn’t want to face the truth. Not wanting to bother 911, I first called some friends down the road for help. After dialing my old number from college a few times, I started to think something might be really wrong and reassessed my desire to leave 911 in peace.

What I did was simple, really: I tore my liver in half, smashed my right kidney beyond recognition, and ripped a large hole in my hepatic duct. Normally, to achieve such high caliber injuries, one needs to crash a very fast car into a very hard building. What can I say? After fifteen years of underachieving, I finally started living up to my potential. Good timing, eh?

After spending three weeks in the ICU, undergoing six surgeries, drifting in and out of all flavors of hallucinations, apparently ripping out my respirator twice (once with my hands, once with my tongue), being quarantined, and missing both my son’s first birthday and first steps, I emerged from the hospital with a hefty case of morphine withdrawal, a heretofore unfelt appreciation for life and freedom, and a drain coming out of my belly. Affectionately known as the Pus Bomb, it was a squishy plastic grenade attached to a long plastic tube that ran all the way up under my diaphragm, but exited my body through a ¼ inch hole next to my belly button. Its purpose—to wick away all excess fluid, blood, pus, flotsam, jetsam, and various pieces of whatnot that may otherwise want to linger around my injuries and wreak havoc. Essentially, it was a one-way umbilical cord.

And here comes my point.
In no way to I believe that my survival was predestined, or that it just wasn’t my time, or that I was spared because I have yet to fulfill my destiny, or blah and blah and blah. I do however believe that I’ve been given a second chance. Prior to the accident, I wasn’t living my life very well. I was raging with inertia and self-pity, burning bridges, losing friends and family, and generally behaving like a jackass. One of the many my falling thoughts was, “I deserve this. Ow.” And I kind of did. So, I intend to take my survival seriously, give it the respect it deserves, and live well. Be grateful. Be, well, better, because I don’t want my next Dagwood sandwich thought to be, “I suck.”

Unfortunately, I sometimes slip back into my old habits and moods and need a little reminder. My Pus Bomb scar--aka Second Belly Button— fits the bill nicely, as it tends to ache and itch for no apparent reason. It’s my own personal scar tissue talisman. And it really helps me. So. For anybody who has ever wanted a metaphysical mulligan, but would rather not fall off a porch to get one, I have created a portable, removable Second Belly Button. It doesn’t ache or itch, but it is, mounted on a slice of the porch railing that both nearly took and saved my life.

All proceeds go to home repair.

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