Were I having a heart attack, many of these symptoms would likely have occurred in a brief amount of time—fifteen to thirty minutes—rather than over the course of days, but that didn’t make them any less concerning. The doctor and the nurses—none of whom appeared to be playing cards—asked questions, poked me with needles, ran tests, and ultimately ruled out a heart attack. Having undergone quadruple bypass surgery in 2008, this was good news.
The prognosis: Chest wall inflammation or costochondritus. The doctor recommended over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and rest.
I returned home in the wee hours of Friday morning having learned that, except for the registration process, a stay in the emergency room is much like a stay at Motel 6: The bed is uncomfortable, there’s no room service, and the people in the next room make lots of noise.
For several days, full use of my left hand—regardless of whatever level of pain I felt—was curtailed. I could not, for example, carry a full dinner plate to the table with that hand, and when I attempted to type, those fingers never seemed to strike the keys at which I aimed them.
As a writer, this was, perhaps, what most concerned me about my situation. If the words in my brain never get transferred to a page, am I really a writer?
I attempted to dictate, but this proved as futile now as it did in 2008 when, following bypass surgery, I purchased my first dictation software. The amount of time I spend cleaning up gibberish and reformatting to something resembling proper format makes the process cumbersome and counter-productive, and requires nearly as much use of both hands as straight-forward typing.
Using my right-hand only, I handwrote a fair amount on a notepad. Unfortunately, this requires me to eventually type everything, which is akin to doubling my workload and postponing but not diminishing the use of my left hand.
Thumb typing on my iPhone proved perhaps the best of several bad choices, and I wrote much of the opening scene of a new story this way. Though the file required formatting when copied into a Word document, there was far less gibberish to clean up than when I dictated.
Note of these solutions proved ideal, in part because I tried to force the process to fit my method of writing rather than adapting my method of writing to fit the process.
As I write this, about two weeks after my emergency room visit, the pain—except for occasional twinges—has diminished to barely noticeable, and my grip strength has mostly returned, though a bit weaker at the end of the day than the beginning. Unfortunately, the fingers of my left hand continue to vex me.
All of this suggests that I am not prepared for aging. I have not planned for infirmities, lapses in mental prowess, and the like. Despite toying with dictation software and thumb typing, I have no clear plan for how to continue writing when I lose control of my body. And will I someday be tended to by medical personnel who think I’m hallucinating when all I’m trying to do is tell them the cool story I thought up while idling away my time in some home for the aged?
I don’t have answers, and I don’t have solutions, so I suspect these thoughts will occupy a fair amount of my time going forward. I only hope that I’ll not let concerns about the future interfere with today’s production.
Amazon. Covering City Hall during an election year was all the excitement reporter Dan Fox needed—until he discovered Alderman Bill Franklin’s bullet-ridden body. While Fox digs for the story, long-hidden secrets rise to the surface—secrets that threaten the political fabric of the city—and Fox soon discovers he’s caught in the middle of a Deadly Campaign.
Between writing the above and the date this gets posted, I attended Malice Domestic and returned home as co-editor of Black Cat Mystery Magazine. A few months ago, Carla Coupe announced that she was stepping away from Wildside Press and, following wonderful discussions with both Carla and publisher John Betancourt, I’ve become her replacement.
Wildside Press has published several of my books and I’ve had a story in every issue of BCMM, so I have a long and positive relationship with John and Wildside, and I’m looking forward to what the future holds. The next few issues will contain stories Carla and John have already selected, so my initial impact may be minimal. Carla and John will be guiding me through the transition, and I’ll share important information when I have it.