Saturday, November 27, 2004

This one is for John.

I've been corresponding off-and-on with a nursing student in Arizona named John. He's married with kids and works full-time in addition to going to nursing school. That makes my jaw drop: anybody who's done nursing school, especially an accelerated program, knows that it invades your sleep, your dinner table conversation, and your showers. Working while you do it is crazy. Raising a family is nearly impossible.

So I asked him how he's managed it. In return, he sent an explanation that included a mention of his recent surgery.

John weighed 500 pounds last year. He had gastric bypass surgery three months ago, in an effort to live long enough to see his kids grow up.

People, 500 pounds is no laughing matter. At that size, as John points out, breathing is hard work. You can be smothered, literally, by your own weight as you sleep--for that reason, many really obese folks have little machines that push air into their lungs as they snooze. Walking is difficult. Your knees, hips, and back start to give out. You live with chronic pain and skin infections, as the skin folds you've got trap bacteria and fungi. Going out to a movie is out of the question, as is sitting comfortably--or at all--on the average toilet seat. Furniture breaks, beds sag, cars need struts far more often than those driven by those of us who are a measly 30 pounds overweight.

Imagine for a moment being so large that you can't have laparascopic surgery--the instruments aren't long enough. Imagine being told that for the rest of your life, a half-cup of food at a time will be a lot. Imagine having to pay more attention to food--now an unattainable addiction--than you've ever had to before in your life...and not being able to eat until you're full without vomiting immediately.

Now put all that in context with working for a living, going to nursing school, raising three kids, and trying to be a decent husband.

John, man, I salute you. You've taken on one of the toughest challenges a person can face: one that'll change your life, hopefully for the better, but that'll take time. It'll necessitate your changing your long-held beliefs and your perspectives, it'll require that you develop emotional reserves you didn't think you could.

And I'm not talking about the surgery. To do what you've done is brave and impressive and I'm sitting here, admiring the hell out of you for it.

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