The Revival Operation

*Note from the author: This story was written in 2014. It was partly inspired by the innumerable hospital stays, operations, procedures, and treatments my son experienced after his brain cancer diagnosis. This story was in no way inspired by or relative to the current COVID pandemic. Any comparability is completely coincidental.


Patient 14527 

My case is the only one – the only one – that’s been successful. There were so many unsuccessful attempts, so many abominable screw-ups. Not that the victims were even aware of their predicament. They didn’t know the experiments to which they were subjected. I do. I didn’t in the beginning. But later.

Weeks, months, and years are erased from my memory. They weren’t erased. That’s incorrect. The memories were never there. They never existed because my brain was not retaining information. It functioned at only the most primal level.

I don’t want to remember those days. The Delphic Days they were called. A title bestowed upon that era by the then living poets before so many perished, or rather became exanimate. Survivors tell me it went on for years, decades even. Still, some remnants linger about-rancid, fetid corpses moving around in their rancid, fetid corpse way. 

I was fresh. Only the freshest were taken into captivity for experimentation. Some claim that experiments were even conducted on humans who were alive and in good health. Those test subjects were supposed to have been converted, on purpose, in desperate endeavors conducted by multiple countries’ government health agencies worldwide.

 It wasn’t any country’s government health agency that discovered a cure. That task was accomplished by a team of medical doctors, epidemiologists, biologists, chemists, and a myriad of other specialists working for a non-profit organization. The Revival Operation, almost solely funded by celebrities and other sorts of rich folks who still had money to spend and who didn’t want to morph into putrefying boogie men.

I’d like to specify that I use the term cure loosely. Sure, I am alive, in that I am not dead. It took years for me to reach any kind of semi-healthy state. Life support machines worked my organs, an external device helped regulate my body temperature. My lungs were replaced with lab grown versions. I have a pacemaker. My trachea was invaded by a tube, as was my stomach-for nutrition supplementation. Much of my colon was removed because of necrosis. I suppose consuming human flesh, some of it rotting, isn’t advisable for human digestive health. I’m just regaining my ability to walk without assistance. I’m subjected to ten hours of therapies each week. I’ve had fourteen brain surgeries. I’m partially blind. 

Speech therapy is my least favorite. I struggle to grasp language again, and the therapist spends hours force feeding me all sorts of healthy fare. I’d never lost my ability to chew or swallow, but I’d lost my taste for typical human cuisine. I don’t favor the flavored sprays, or lollipops, or even popsicles-too cold. Meat, that’s what I crave. Raw. Bloody, so fresh I could smell the copper scented hemoglobin as it squeezes through my teeth.  

They won’t give me any. I noticed the therapists are extra careful near my mouth. I’d only bitten once. It was reflexive, totally. Before our session, the therapist had hamburger for lunch. The primal part of my brain detected the scent. Like a captive reptile that  instinctively bites its handler if it smells the scent of its prey on their hands, I sunk my teeth into her soft, well-moisturized flesh. 

    I don’t remember attacking her. I just remember the euphoric taste of hot blood rushing across my wanting tongue, down my lustful throat. The feel of sinuous tendons and muscle tearing under the pressure of my jaws sent me into a frenzy. She screamed. There was chaos. Large orderlies subdued me while a doctor-or nurse or someone, I don’t remember-injected a needle into my thigh. Serenity followed.

All therapies were suspended for a while after the incident. I was moved out of the commons and into isolation. I understand. Research suggests the likelihood of relapse is ninety percent. 

After some time in isolation, I was cleared to resume therapies. My new therapist wears a chainmail glove, and a protective mask that includes a leather neck covering. Despite these necessary, and understandable, precautions the team’s tenacious in their efforts to make me well again. Everyone still living knows what we ghouls are capable of doing. I wouldn’t have blamed them if they’d decided to put a bullet in my brain after that incident. 

    Too much money is involved in my recovery, though. Too much is riding on my being human again. If I could provide proof that a remedy existed . . . it would be an unprecedented success for the Revivalists. And what a goal? To save the species from extinction. The possibility of regaining lost loved ones, giving parents back their children, and giving children their parents back. Spouses could be reunited. Friends, relatives, lovers could all be together again. 

    Our critics say we’re giving people false hope. However, hadn’t my treatment worked? I am irrefutable proof; even with my innumerable medical complexities, I am alive. I am human again. I’m handled with the utmost care because I was the Revivalists’ only surviving specimen. I’m given almost anything to make me happy, almost. They even afford me limited freedom, as far as safety allows. 

Other patients, many battling their own scars-both physical and psychological-caused by my kind are less than amiable. Animosity, name calling. Monster. I can’t argue with them.

*****

    “You belong on a leash,” spits Mrs. Humphrets, a withered, elderly white woman with long white hair and yellowed teeth and skin.  At all times an unlit cigarette rests between her lips. Even with my auditory deficit, I hear the COPD rattling her aged lungs. “Look, this thing is out again.” She points at me with a crooked, pale finger.

    “Put a muzzle on that thing,” says Jeffrey, a middle-aged dark haired man. He still wears his wedding ring even though he’s many years widowed. 

    “You should be euthanized, like a dog.” Mrs. Humphrets again. She’s standing nearer to me. Her lungs rattling in their bony cage with each breath.

    “Please,” I say, demure. “I understand. I do. Please, don’t be afraid of me.” I reach my hand out, but she slaps it away. 

    “Eat it, Bitch!”

    “Don’t tell her that, she just might,” laughs Jeffery. “How’d my wife taste, Mongrel? Was she good?”

    “Jeffrey, I am sorry about your wife. And your family. I had nothing to do with them . . .” 

    “How dare you mention my family,” he sneers, closing in on me. 

    I look around for the orderlies. They aren’t supposed to be far away. They’re supposed to be close by when I’m out. 

    “Why are you here, anyway?” asks another patient. I think his name is Frank or Fred. “You belong in prison for what you’ve done.”

    “I haven’t done anything.” Out of the glass double doors I see the orderlies smoking, far into the parking lot. Too far away from me.

    “Oh, you haven’t?” asks Mrs. Humphrets. “Liar. You’re a murderer!” She reaches out and shoves me with her feeble arms. Had I been my former self, her slight assault wouldn’t have affected me. In my own infirm condition, however, it’s enough to knock me backwards against the wall. 

    Rage churns inside my chest. My extremities become numb as adrenaline fills my veins. “You will not shove me!” I growl and lunge forward. Jeffrey or Frank or Fred takes me about the waist and hoists me into the air, slamming me down hard onto the floor. My head strikes the tile with so much force my nose starts to bleed. I hear shouts, maybe the orderlies. Someone’s hand is in my face, another one around my neck. 

I do the only thing I think to do; I bite. The hand near my face pulls back, blood drips from it. Its flesh is mangled, muscle exposed. Something hits me hard in the head again. I feel a strange deja vu sensation, but I don’t lose consciousness. My eyes fight against my brain’s instinct to shut down. I look at my attackers’ faces.. I look over their shoulders at the staff. A security officer struggles with a man. A nurse screams into a phone. I gnash my teeth again, but this time I don’t make contact. My defensive act is interrupted by a tremendous pain in my back, left side. My shaking hands reach around to feel the wound, warm fluid flows over my fingers. An object is in my body. I pull it out. My brain gives into unconsciousness.

*****

Termination Report: In reference to  Patient 14527 “Jane Doe” compiled by Dr. Theodore Zurich, former Revival Operation Specialist

The efforts of The Revival Operation, although initially successful, proved fruitless. Due to the dangers involved in the research, The Revival Operation was served a cease and desist order signed by the sitting POTUS. The threat of patient relapse is too great. Upon the expiration of the above mentioned patient, she returned to her former feral, cannibalistic state and was terminated via separation of the brainstem and cerebellum from the temporal lobe.

The Revival Operation has been disbanded, and all future experimentation will be conducted by the U.S. Government Sector Z, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba as per H.R. Bill Z 001 passed by the 116th Congress of the United States of America.

Limited Freedom

Robot Boy & The Intrusive Interloper

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RB had a fever yesterday and we had to return to the ER at CHNOLA. Everything seems fine, but he’s being treated with antibiotics for safety reasons since some bacteria came back in his tracheostomy. It’s a bacteria he’s been colonized with and will always be there. His oncology team advised us that next time he has a fever, we won’t have to come to the ER. He can be treated for an illness by his regular pediatrician as he is no longer a cancer patient. After his next scan (which is this month) they are going to schedule a surgery to remove his port. All of his counts are normal and he is completely recovered from the chemo and radiation.

Although he has a lot of physical disabilities still (many of which he is overcoming slowly, and with therapy;some from which he will never recover). Things are by no…

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Shaving & Sharing

I wanted to make my first ever vlog, however, I couldn’t get my video to upload to YouTube or Dropbox-or anyplace! Soooo…. I went with Plan B, take still shots of the video and create a photo blog!

Last week, I was contacted by an acquaintance who was interested in shaving his head for September to raise awareness for Pediatric Cancer, and he wanted RB and me to be involved. We decided I’d do his shave (I’m not shaving my own head again until the next St. Baldrick’s Event, so I’m letting my hair grow back right now), and he chose Sunday September 1st, since it was the first day of Childhood Cancer Awareness month.

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The back window of Travis’s pickup.

Our friend, Travis, was the shavee. Travis is a firefighter who decided to help raise awareness for childhood cancer. He’s also a graduate student at Nicholl’s State University studying marine and environmental biology. All of his research is in microbiology, and he hopes to get onto a pediatric oncology research team after graduation.

Pre-shave photo with me, RB, and Travis. RB isn't very pleased with his new glasses. But I think they're cute as can be!
Pre-shave photo with me, RB, and Travis.

On Sunday, Travis came to our home so that I could video the shave so that we could share it. Unfortunately, like I’ve already written, the tech gods were not smiling down on me. Instead of being able to share the video, I can still share still shots of the video, though!

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I’m an expert shaver, by the way. I’ve been shaving Robot Dad’s head for about 13 years now. And I shaved my own a few times after I initially shaved it last March, too.

Travis decided to go all the way, with a razor.
Travis decided to go all the way, with a razor.

Post shave photo with RB
Post shave photo with RB

Not only did Travis decide to shave his head for Childhood Cancer Awareness, he also spent Sunday chalking the back windshields of cars with messages to help spread the word about pediatric cancer.

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He even did Robot Boy’s van before he left so that we can spread the message whenever we’re on the road, too.

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In my video, I thanked Travis and everyone who goes out of their way to spread awareness for pediatric cancer. Those of us in the pediatric cancer community try to make childhood cancer known to more people throughout the year, but especially during September because it is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. We are thankful to everyone who shares the message, as well.

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September is Gold

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September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and the color is gold. Pediatric cancer is not a popular subject. It isn’t something we like to discuss or think about. What parents want to imagine their child with cancer? We didn’t want to. Unfortunately, avoiding the thought of it didn’t prevent Robot Boy from developing brain cancer. A PNET-primitive neuroectodermal tumor-to be exact. It’s a long word, but it’s one this mother won’t forget. A PNET is a rare type of brain tumor that carries with it a survival rate of approximately fifty-three percent. My son, RB, was given a forty percent chance of survival.

Brain cancers aren’t the only types of cancer that afflict our youth. According to the National Cancer Institute: “Among the 12 major types of childhood cancers, leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of the new cases.” (http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Sites-Types/childhood) Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for those under the age of nineteen. Even though, pediatric cancer is the least funded and least acknowledged of all cancers. Maybe this is because we don’t want to talk about it. But we aren’t doing the children any favors by avoiding the issue.

Brain tumors are the most common form of solid tumors in children.
Brain tumors are the most common form of solid tumors in children.

Childhood Cancer Awareness is important because pediatric cancer isn’t as widely publicized as other cancers. For this reason, it isn’t funded as much as other cancers, too. It is rare, compared to other types of cancer, but it is just as important. On Sunday September 1, I’m shaving again for Childhood Cancer Awareness. Not my own head this time, but someone else’s. Someone else who is interested in helping to bring recognition to this deadly disease. He asked specifically that RB and I be involved with his selfless act to help bring attention to pediatric cancer. We are more than happy to oblige.

I went bald by choice. Unfortunately, due to harsh, poisonous medications, children with cancer don't have the choice.
I went bald by choice. Unfortunately, due to harsh, poisonous medications, children with cancer don’t have the choice.

The last time I shaved my head was for a St. Baldrick’s Foundation Event, and though this shave isn’t for any event, you can still visit RB’s St. Baldrick’s Foundation home page (http://stbaldricks.org/teams/robotboy) and make a donation. If you’re wondering why you should donate to St. Baldrick’s Foundation, I’ll let you know that they are the second largest entity that dedicates funds to pediatric cancer research (the U.S. Government is the first). I’ll also explain that they dedicate more funds to research than any other cancer foundation-over eighty percent of each dollar donated. They’re funding research in many areas, including those for cancer treatments that are less harmful than current treatments-those that can leave patients with a variety of disabilities.

Robot Boy before we learned he had cancer, before the surgery and treatments that later disabled him, most likely for life.
Robot Boy before we learned he had cancer, before the surgery and treatments that later disabled him-most likely for life.

According to St. Baldrick’s website, 175,000 kids are diagnosed with cancer each year. A child is diagnosed every three minutes. There isn’t much hope for a cure for some children, but because of improved research and treatments, kids’ overall survival rate has dramatically increased over the last sixty years. (http://www.stbaldricks.org/about-childhood-cancer)

Please share. Please donate if you’re able. Any amount is helpful (and much appreciated!). Childhood Cancer is a vicious, insidious killer. Sadly, it’s one that little is known about.

We’ve Not Reached a Stalemate

“All the world’s a stage, and I’ve been given the part of Job.” – Me to one of my friends yesterday after sharing the results of a recent opthamologist’s appointment.

It all started in September or October 2009, near the end of my pregnancy. I started noticing an odd problem I’d not previously experienced, double vision. Not only was there double vision, my eyes were visibly turning inward, and I had no control over my eyes’ movement.

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1/31/13 at the opthamologist’s office, after my eyes were dilated. I couldn’t see anything I was doing. Surprised I actually got the pic.

I told my OB/GYN, and we hoped it was a temporary problem that would correct itself, like so many other strange conditions that occur during pregnancy. For the rest of my pregnancy, I tolerated the double vision. After RB was born, I experienced severe carpal tunnel syndrome and swelling in my hands and wrists, so severe that I could hardly bend my fingers. I used most of my Rx pain meds for the pain in my hands more than the pain from childbirth. The eye condition continued, and I lived with it, assuming it would go away eventually like the hand swelling and other transient effects of bearing a child.

By summer of 2010, the ailment hadn’t improved. Driving at night was becoming impossible, and I kept one eye closed or covered most of the time. With the urging of many friends and family members, I made an appointment with an opthamologist. I wanted to see the surgeon who’d performed my Lasik surgery in 2005, but he didn’t have any appointments available. I went to one of his associates. She examined my eyes and explained the condition is more commonly a pediatric malady, for which I’d have to see a pediatric opthamologist.

It was my first visit to CHNOLA, long before RB’s intrusive alien interloper took up residence in his brain. The doctor I saw explained my ailment as intermittent esotropia (AAPOS http://www.aapos.org/terms/conditions/48).

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Photo c/o The Eye Specialists Center (http://eyespecialistscenter.com/detection-treatments/strabismus-amblyopia/esotropia.html)

What the diagnosis basically means is that my eyes turn inward because of a weakness in the muscles that control my eyes. For good measure, a CT scan was conducted and showed only a small polyp in my sinus cavity. Hoping treating the polyp would help resolve the esotropia, the sinus problem was treated. And, in a week or so, the esotropia disappeared. Yay! Thank goodness that was all over. . .

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Marty Feldman, Igor, in Mel Brooks’s classic Young Frankenstein. I’ve been likened to Igor, lovingly, over the past few years.

 Unfortunately, it wasn’t all over. Only a day after my follow-up appointment with the opthamologist at CHNOLA, the esotropia returned. Well, it isn’t that bad, I thought. I can live with it. I have more important things to worry about. Besides, there were two solutions to the esotropia problem: 1) Prism glasses which cost $500+ and are not covered by my insurance or 2) Surgery.

I ignored the problem. I drove with one eye closed. I watched TV with one eye closed. I did just about everything with one eye closed. I stopped making eye contact with people. But to me, my daily routine wasn’t effected that much.

Fastforward to late 2011, RB starts getting sick all the time. Here’s a brief rundown for those of you who are just joining us. (You can read more about Robot Boy  here.)We’re at his pediatrician’s office once a week. He’s admitted for pneumonia in December. By January 2012, he stops walking and starts suffering dizzy spells that cause him to fall down. We’re still at the pediatrician weekly. March 3 2012, he isn’t breathing. We come to the ER at CHNOLA.

Esotropia becomes a non-issue. We embark on an epic journey that if written could only have been penned by Homer, or perhaps more appropriately, Dante. We spend nearly a year in-patient through RB’s treatments, tests, scans, infections, and changes in feeding, fluids, and medications. (We’re still in-patient, by the way, but we do have a pending date of discharge.)

November 29 2012, I finally take the advice my aunt gave me two years prior and visit a rheumatologist. Since childhood, I’ve experienced odd symptoms and been diagnosed with everything from IBS to juvenile arthritis to osteoporosis. My body is hurting. I can barely function, and I know the time is drawing near that I will be home with my disabled son. I know I will have to be at my best to be the best caretaker for him. I make a list of diagnoses, tests and their results, and my symptoms. The doctor goes over my papers and says, “Fibromyalgia.”

I’d suspected the diagnosis, as I’m familiar with the symptoms, and I fit every damn last one. He prescribes me meds, gives me encouraging words about RB, and sends me on my way. I take the initiative to be serious about my health. I start eating better and exercising again. I start doing yoga again, every day. I take my meds, and I give up caffeine and alcohol. (Update: I had a follow up appointment with the rheumatologist last week, and he is very pleased with my progress. I feel great, and I’ve lost over 10 lbs since my first appointment with him. You can read more about my first visit here.)

By now, my esotropia is becoming a royal pain in the ass. I take to wearing a patch.

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This cool rockstar/pirate look is going to be difficult to give up.

I finally decide to make an appointment with the opthamologist, something I should have done months ago since he works here at CHNOLA, where I’ve been living for nearly a year. The diagnosis is the same, and I’m again given the options of the prism glasses or surgery. I opt for surgery. First of all, my insurance will pay for surgery but not the glasses. Secondly, I need a permanent solution that won’t put me back in glasses after I’ve already had surgery to be free of them.

I’m currently waiting for a call to schedule the procedure. It’s outpatient, but moderately invasive. I will be under general anaesthesia, and the doctor advised it will be a few days before I feel fully recovered from the anaesthesia. The pain is supposedly  minimal. Two months from the surgery date, I will have a follow-up to find out just how well my esotropia has improved, or -more hopefully – has diminished entirely.

So raise a glass for me, Old Job, as I’m sure ‘Ol Mephisto is moving his bishop. We’ve not reached a stalemate, yet, and we’re not intending on it.