Friday, January 12, 2018

Back from the Dead

I have been alerted by a reader, (my sister-n-law Janet) that I should not tease a near death story without delving into the guts and glory of my life's most dramatic moment.  Let me take you back to the last sentence in my first blog post;

So by sheer fear I became exec chef six years ago. Scariest moment in my life, besides dying last year only to be revived....

I apologize for the tantalizing tease and making you wait to my third post to share with you my most somber hours, days and weeks.  We all have those years, the real shite year when a storm cloud gathers around you and incessant hail and rain pounds your living soul to the brink of death.  Well, 2016 was that year for me and my family. Please play your violin or listen to some late 90's grunge music.  It will set the tone for rest the words that follow.

I was born with a baboon heart.  Well, that is what I laughed with my friends about.  It was simpler and funnier than saying I was born with three holes in my heart, a bicuspid mitral valve, and a coarctation of the aorta.  Yeah say that a few times and you will see why I told everybody I had a baboon heart.

I had corrective surgery when I was four in London at Great Ormond Street Hospital.  We had just moved to the States when they found I was seriously ^*&^%ed up!. My first real memories were from there, a lot were traumatic.  There were some horrible memories like being in an oxygen tent, gasping for a breath and at the same time dying from thirst.  I remember begging my mum to let me suck on some ice to moisten my mouth because I couldn't have water.  She got the nurse and she allowed me to suck on it but not to swallow it. I had to spit it out.  Well of course I said screw that and I swallowed the whole bloody cube.  Moments later I regretted the decision, as I choked on it and spit it up.  But it wasn't all horrible, I did have some good memories as well!

Turn the sad song off for a minute and play some good vibe jams.  I got my first buzz while in hospital and I wheel chair raced daily with a young mate from Iceland.  Yes, it is true no lying.  We English do things differently.  Hospitals aren't like prisons here in the States.  Unless you are in intensive care, you could leave for a bit and come back for your meds and checks from the doctors and nurses.  I am talking about going out, getting some fresh air and coming back in and hour or two.  My parents would take me in my wheelchair outside and stroll me along the streets around the hospital and Russell Square.  My mum and dad often stopped at a pub and had a pint or two.  (they needed it, believe me!)  They would also give me a little cup of Guinness so not be be left out of the fun (good for ya you know, iron and vitamins)  I was their little four year old drinking buddy.  As I was nearing the end my rehabilitation and being ready for release from the hospital, I was once again at the familiar pub yards from the entry way of Great Ormond Street Hospital. My surgeon walked suddenly in front of us and stopped.  He peered down at my little cheeky face.  I recall smiling back with a Guinness mustache.  I remember like it was yesterday, Dr. Stark, saying to me and my folks,"He's looking better I see!"

Now imagine that happening here in the States.  CPS would have been called in and I would be living as an orphan! Ok...enough on the past, let's get to the present.

I was a normal kid, well at least that is what I thought of myself as.  The only limitations I had were physical. I could not lift weights, I could not do excessive physical activity, which sucked for me.  I  loved sports and I was a bloody good athlete but I was limited to rec sports and not HS sports because of my baboon heart.  (Still bitter)

Well, I had developed a healthy fear of doctors over the years.  Side note: Forgot to mention, I had a sarcoma in my wrist that I had removed in 2002.  Thought I had carpal tunnel. Uhh no...the big "C" word.  Another scary m'fing event in my life.  But hey, I was lucky! God Be Blessed!

Now 2016.  I started feeling shitty.  Like I couldn't walk up stairs, I couldn't do anything but sleep.  I thought I had everything wrong with me but never did anything about it because I was too bloody scared to find out the truth.  It wasn't til my beloved wife threw down the "I am leaving you if you don't go to the doctor" gauntlet that I was shaken into facing the horrid truth about my health.

I think you might be seeing a theme with me and maybe you can see it in yourself and others.  Fear is the greatest motivator. 

Going to speed up because this post is getting long winded and quite frankly I need the loo.  My mitral valve was looking like a bad spaghetti bolognese.  Well that is how my described it from the pictures the doc took of it.

I had to get it repaired.  After entering surgery, the doc found it was not repairable at all and only a replacement would work.  I awoke 5 days after surgery.  I swear to God this is the truth.  I woke up and I thought I was back in London at the hospital where I had surgery when I was four.  It took me hours to realize where I was.  Surreal as hell.  I was in hospital for 5 weeks. I missed my son's, my dad's and spent my birthday in hospital.  It sucked.  I coded in the hospital in my bed.  It was like someone turned off the light.  There was nothing but nothingness, until I was revived.  I remember seeing what looked like when a person is peeping out of a peep hole, and then suddenly the image grew larger and then I saw my wife giving hell to a doctor who was trying to give me medicine I was allergic too.  I had no idea what had happened.  There were about 15 people in my room.  I didn't know what the fuss was about.  I then began to feel my chest.  It was aching badly.  Whoever gave the heart compression nearly broke my rib cage in half, but I was so glad that they were there for me and my family.  I coded because of a dangerous heart rhythm.  A nerve had been severed during my heart operation that was responsible for my upper and lower parts of my heart from communicating correctly.  I needed a pacemaker. I was going to be dependent on it.

I am not going to lie, going through what I went through sucked some serious arse, but in my case it was a necessary evil. I had to go through the whole ordeal or I would have been six feet under or some dust in the wind.

There were some positives however to be taken from my ordeal.  Firstly, my family rocks. They were there day and night for me. My wife was a super hero.  She kept our catering business going while I was sick and single-handily kept it afloat.  I learned to appreciate life.  I know that is queer and quaint, but believe me, we take it for granted.  And for those wondering what the hell does this post have to do with a food blog, well all I can say is hallucinogenic drugs.  I am quite a bore, besides being a little bit of a lush at times. Never done a drug in my life.  No interest!  I am not sure what the hell they put me on, but I had the most amazing visions of recipes and food. The ideas sweep over me like a tidal wave of psychodelic intoxicant.  It was like a was reciting the spoken word of the food god!  I had been overtaken with the most amazing visions of food. I was eating and nourishing on my hedonistic culinary dreams.

And this is where things get kind of weird.

I started having visions of Irish food. Yes, Irish bloody food, the land of spuds and soda bread.  Bizarre? I know!  Why not food from France.  Wine from Brugundy, Cheese and Butter from Normandy and Herbs from Provence. But no, I lusted for food from the land of leprechauns.  I was overwhelmed, consumed with it.  I have no idea where it came from.  All I could think was that my grandmother was Irish but I had never been.  Her dad had brought her and the family to Liverpool where my mother was born.  My great grandfather one day decided to leave the family and go back to Ireland to a family he had left behind!  (Yeah no one knew he had another whole family and life in Ireland).  We have a dark family past.

But I didn't know where the fascination came from, I was at a loss.  Did God plant it in my head when I was dead?  I don't know.  But it wasn't a flight of fancy, I felt I had a calling,  So bloody hell, without anyone's consent or advise I irrationally booked a spontaneous trip to Ireland this summer to sew my food oats and discover a land that consumed my culinary mind.