It was very strange timing that I happened to be talking to my sister on the phone when I suddenly had a seizure. My sister called my Mom, and my Mom, after coming back to the camper to check on me, called 911. When I woke up, it was in the back of an ambulance, strapped tightly to a board, with a couple of paramedics looking down at me. They told me what had happened and asked if I had any idea why. All I could come up with was that it might’ve had something to do with alcohol.
The whole way to the hospital my mind was piecing together the events of the last six weeks. There was a lot more to the story than just alcohol, but the chain of disasters that had started when COVID had forced me out of Vietnam was difficult to put in order. My memories seemed more like scenes from a horror movie than anything that could ever happen in real life.
When we got to Hoag, they rolled me into the emergency room and placed electrodes all over my body to monitor my vital signs. Outside of extremely high blood pressure, there was nothing critical about my condition. After hearing more of my story, the doctor prescribed medication that would help me calm down and sleep, and then released me, still wearing the little black socks that someone had placed on my feet.
My sister came to get me and we picked up my prescription. Only a few hours after being carried out of the yard on a stretcher, I was back at the table in the camper, humiliated and angry. I was sure if I hadn’t been talking to my sister when I’d had the seizure, I would’ve woken up later, not even knowing it had happened. No one would have been the wiser. And now? How much was that little trip going to the emergency room going to cost me? Why couldn’t I have at least died? I’d wanted that to happen for a long time now, but apparently, I hadn’t suffered enough yet. Some diabolical force seemed to be keeping me alive just to torture me.
Sure enough. In less than a week I began to get bills, bills for the ambulance, bills for the emergency room, bills for the doctor, bills for the anesthesiologist, bills for the little black socks on my feet, bills for everything and everyone involved. That, combined with the plane ticket, rental car, and hotel rooms that I’d put on my credit card since COVID happened, meant that I was suddenly deep in debt, with no means of paying it off. It had been a year and a half since my last job, and I’d been right on the verge of accepting a new one when the pandemic had shut down every school in the world.
Then, when it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, I received a letter from the DMV letting me know that my driver’s license had been suspended because of an episode involving loss of consciousness that the hospital had reported. Little did I know you could lose your license for having a seizure in bed, but that was now the law. The only way to get it back was to request a court hearing.
When I called about the hearing the next day, they said that they were only doing them by phone because of COVID, and the soonest they could schedule me was the middle of August, which was over two months away. What was I supposed to do until then? The person talking to me wasn’t interested in answering that question. All they were doing was scheduling the appointments. The person I needed to talk to was the hearing officer, and I’d have to wait until my hearing to do that. I hung up the phone with no place to put my anger.
Only a few months ago I’d been floating down the Mekong River in Laos, on an innertube, winding through karst mountain peaks, having a boy on the banks toss me a rope and pull me over to his family’s riverside bar. Now I was trapped in my Mom’s backyard with no tropical country to escape to, no job on the horizon, debt that I couldn’t begin to pay off, and to add insult to injury, not even a driver’s license. How can you live without a driver’s license? Overwhelmed by claustrophobia and panic, I rushed over to the liquor store and bought a fifth of spiced rum, even though my drinking had just landed me in the hospital. The only place that it was going to take me was straight down, but I needed to go somewhere and that was the only direction left to go.