First person chronicles, Chapter I: Urban legends.
It isn't like they say it is, you know. Like, this whole urban legend of it being like someone stuffing you into a cannon and exploding you straight out into the sky is actually just that. Legend. I think the folks who never tried it before are the ones that make those kinds of stories up.
Like just yesterday when I was on the MARTA train and heard some older lady talking about how people who smoke rock do it because they're always trying to chase that very first high. "It's like they go crazy, " she told her friend. Then she went on and on with more bullshit that I'm sure she didn't know first hand. And it was sort of pissing me off the way she kept talking with so much authority like she was the damn Surgeon General on street drugs or something. I started to lean over that plastic orange seat and give her an earful. Like a mean, cussing, one. But instead I just stared straight ahead and spoke loud enough for her to hear me.
"That--what you just said--ain't really true."
She swung her head from side to side like it's no way possible I was speaking to her. So I repeated myself. "That's not the truth what you saying. Obviously, you ain't never got high."
And would you believe that old lady was so stunned that she didn't even bother to respond to what I said? I guess she looked at me and made up her mind not to fool with me. Like a person riding in one of those open door buggies in a wild animal park where you ain't s'posed to feed or touch the wild animals. But me? I ain't no wild animal. Regardless of what I look like, I'm not.
I'm really just a regular person. A regular person who got caught up.
You might define regular as going to college and being filled with what everybody thinks is promise. Well. I didn't go to college but I did finish high school. I had me a good job with some benefits, too. That said, I could still be regular without all that. To me, regular mean you got your head screwed on and you have a damn clue. I did have a clue, too. I did. And I still do. It's just that over time, I got caught up. And now I'm like I am now.
I had just got off the MARTA that day when I started to feel I was losing my breath every time I tried to walk. I'd walk for like a few feet then have to stop. Then my chest started tightening up. I knew enough to get back on and ride down to the Georgia State station right by Grady. With what I'd smoked that morning, I wasn't sure what this all meant but I wasn't gonna wait forever to find out.
Most of what they said flew over my head. I guess they think I had a light heart attack and all of it they relate to me smoking. So they talk at me and scold me and all that like that's all it would take. And me, I just sort of tune it all out because it's almost as annoying as that old lady on the MARTA.
There was one person I liked, though. This little medical student who works with my doctors came in my room every day asking me all about my life.. Like, she wanted to know about the first time I ever used crack and like, what all was going on when it happened. She seemed like she for real wanted to know, too. Then she made a reference to that same thing everybody is always saying that ain't true about running behind that first big rush.
"That's not how it is," I told her.
Her eyes got all big like saucers. Then she said, "Tell me, then. What is it like?"
I sat and thought on it for a few seconds then I asked her a question. "You ever had sex with somebody that you know you ain't got not business having sex with?"
Lawd. What did I ask that for? That child turned fifty shades of crimson when I said that. And I swear I wasn't trying to embarrass her. I was just trying to find an analogy that fit and, hell, she looked grown. At least, grown enough to be in medical school which means she already went to college before that.
"Look," I went on without making her answer, "it's kind of like the first few times you have sex with somebody. Especially somebody that you ain't got no business getting with. The first time, it's mostly that you are caught up in the moment or curious. It's not necessarily great but you find yourself thinking about what you did. Next thing you know, you made up your mind to try it again. 'Fore you know it, you can't stop yourself."
"So . . . no crazy fireworks? Or like a really intense first high?"
"Naaaah. That's that bullshit people always feeding the world about crack. It ruins your life slowly. Like somebody ripping pages out of a book or pulling hairs from out of your head. Take you a minute to notice, you know? But once you do? Man."
She got that. It made sense to her and I could see her wheels turning.
That medical student sat and talked to me for two whole hours. She made me feel better than anybody else on that team. Maybe since she was't busy or maybe it was just that she knew how to not seem busy that I liked her.
She came back and told me that I didn't have a full on heart attack. The heart doctors had thought about having me do the test that checks to see if you have blockages in your heart vessels. But then when they heard I was still using crack, they shifted the plan. At least that's what I think.
Now, I get to go home. Which, at the moment, I'm not so sure what that's gonna be. And even that, not knowing where you really live, isn't like what people think. But that's another story for another day.
So anyways. My point in all of this was really just for you to know that the only way to know about the real deal stuff happening with real patients is to just ask them. And if you want to know the real parts of the things that are mostly urban legends, it's best to ask the legends themselves. You find out some cool shit that way.
Honestly? I write this blog to share the human aspects of medicine + teaching + work/life balance with others and myself -- and to honor the public hospital and her patients--but never at the expense of patient privacy or dignity.
Thanks for stopping by! :)
"One writes out of one thing only--one's own experience. Everything depends of how relentlessly one forces from this experience the last drop, sweet or bitter, it can possibly give."
~ James Baldwin (1924 - 1987)
"Do it for the story." ~ Antoinette Nguyen, MD, MPH
Details, names, time frames, etc. are always changed to protect anonymity. This may or may not be an amalgamation of true,quasi-true, or completely fictional events. But the lessons? They are always real and never, ever fictional. Got that?