Monday, September 20, 2010
Today I came across this ad for a non-profit eating disorder awareness organization in Israel, Beitach. Clearly it is saying that anorexia is life-threatening. There has been discussion of how tasteful this ad is (the fact that they only need one pallbearer because the deceased is so light reinforces the idea that only the grossly underweight can suffer from or die from anorexia). But it got me thinking about my near-death experiences.
I have almost died several times-- I have forgotten how many. But the one of the two that really has stuck with me is my experience in March when I was taken to the hospital. I was being transported by ambulance from a psychiatric hospital in one city to an eating disorder unit within a psychiatric hospital in a different city and suddenly I felt nauseous. By the time I arrived at the second hospital I was feeling so lightheaded and weak that I couldn't stand up. During my intake I was shivering and felt so dehydrated that I was begging for water. They wouldn't give me the water I asked for-- they only gave me two 4oz juice cups which I promptly guzzled down, but that didn't satisfy my thirst. It was dinner time and I hadn't eaten all day so they brought my tray into the intake room and asked me to eat it. I got through a few spoonfuls of Jello and immediately vomited. The woman doing my intake gave me a garbage can to vomit into, but didn't take any action to help me. My guess is she thought I had self-induced the vomiting and/or was faking it to get out of eating.
After the intake they wheeled me (I couldn't walk) to the common area where I sat shivering for a while before they took some blood for lab analysis (but this wasn't because I was feeling sick-- they took blood from us every day so it was routine). When the blood tests came back it turns out that I had a phosphorus level of 0.2 mg/dL (the normal range is 2.4-4.1 mg/dL) and they immediately rushed me to the hospital. In the ambulance they discovered that I had a fever of 104 degrees and they hooked me up to an IV. I was taken to the Intensive Care Unit where while I was observed I fell asleep.
When I woke up and was slightly more lucid I realized that if I had been at home alone with extremely low phosphorus levels, dehydration and an extremely high fever I probably would have had a heart attack and died. But the scariest part is that the possibility of death didn't and still doesn't scare me. I'm not afraid of dying. When I see those pallbearers holding the coffin I think to myself "Seems like as good a goal as any."