Half naked and Delirious
I lit a match and pulled a bell, ran the streets I know so well
Possessed by what, I don't quite know...it's just a line to tell and show
To the Wind--
This fall marks 10 years since my PEI indie rock band, Racoon Bandit first hit the stage together. Over that time we've traveled the country, released 4 albums, and collaborated with numerous Canadian artists. I sing lead and play rhythm guitar in the band and wrote the above lyrics as part of my song 'Twist in the Wind' back in 2012. I live on PEI now, am 32-years-old, and work and play in the arts for a living.
On Sickboy this week, Jeremie, Brian, and Taylor were rad enough to play this tune in place of their established intro music and again at episode's end. I came on to talk to the lads about my 15-or-so years dealing with chronic venus insufficiency, and tell some stories, including the backstory to 'Twist in the Wind', which recounts the worst night of my life.
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that occurs when the venous wall or valves in the leg veins do not work effectively, making it difficult for blood to return to the heart from the legs. CVI causes blood to collect in these veins, and this sluggish stasis - or pooling -causes calves and ankles to swell and varicose veins to form. This condition was hereditary - passed down along with many much more lovely traits from my Mum -and has given me hell. Varicose veins can be swollen, throbbing, and painful, and lead to complications such as DVT's (blood clots), chronic edema, and infections (cellulitis, sepsis, etc.)
You can hit the Google for more on these and related conditions, which are most common in seniors and post-partem women. Basically since 2002, I've been told infinite times by medical professionals: "Aren't you young to have these giant swollen feet?" I usually nod or force a plastic smile, all the while thinking "I just want your help...
I chose to have two surgeries, one in 2004 and another in 2011, both which made my condition worse and had serious complications. A 'stripping' surgery (removal of unnecessary peripheral veins) in 2004 didn't help my leg veins, and led to edema, the abnormal accumulation of fluid in certain tissues within the body under the skin. As a result my feet are fucking HUGE. I already wear a size 12 and edema causes my feet to swell up to the size of a slipper sometimes. To deal with this I wear knee-high prescription support stockings ($200 a pair mfka's) that are hot as balls and basically act like a girdle for your legs and ankles, and help keep down the swelling. Other prevention methods include elevation (I sleep with 6" blocks under the bottom of my bed) exercise (hot yoga, swimming, running) and natural diuretics (again, hot yoga sweats, coffee).
The other surgery, in 2011, led to a blood clot, which is a fuck ton of fun. Basically imagine a tiny fist in your leg trying to punch it's way out. Some other fun complications have included occasional ED (bloodflow, baby) and risk of infection in my feet and legs from all this expansion and contraction and cracking skin. Cellulitis has become my most fearsome foe, a nasty nasty infection where bacteria can get into small cuts in your legs and get into your skin and eventual blood stream. Due to my lazy-ass circulation and reduced immune system, these everyday infections (which your body would crush like a housefly) can cause me major hell, presenting as delirium, fever, sweats, chills, throwing up, and a terrifying rash that can turn toxic fast. I've had this condition 8 times and don't wish it on my worst enemy. It's led to missing weeks of work, cancelled Racoon Bandit and other shows, and meant several week-long stays in hospital in Halifax or PEI on antibiotics and saline. I can't imagine the cost to the healthcare system but I am very grateful for our country's system...for the most part.
You'll have to tune into the bahds' Pod to get the rest and hear the story behind the first time I got cellulitis, which is where 'Twist in the Wind' came from. In my fevered delirium I came pretty close to jumping out a third-floor window onto a busy pedestrian street, and ended up stumbling across town for 10km's while this infection raged inside me. Woof.
My greatest learning has been to slow the hell down and take better care of myself, as a band life is wonderful, but super unhealthy at times (boozing and smoking, sitting in cars for hundreds of hours, no rest) and surely hasn't helped all this craziness. In recent years I am trying to get after this condition and keep it in order, something I wish I'd done in my early 20's ("I'll be aight, I'm a young MAN..." ...gad, haha). Although helpful nurses and my family doc treated me extremely compassionately, specialists and vascular surgeons were less helpful and occasionally very negligent, barely communicating risks, side effects, or important steps in the process and acting as cold mechanics. That said, at the end of the day, our own health is on us to master and navigate, so, to my younger self I say pay attention, do your research, and take care of yourself!
This whole experience, talking about my disability/condition/shit with Jeremie and the boys (even writing this) has been really cathartic and positive and helped me channel a lot of built-up angst and confusion into something positive. I thank them and any readers/listeners for this opportunity. Please feel free to email me with your own tales or any questions, as I've encountered literally 0 people in my life with a similar condition. Much thanks.
--and take it back, I sometimes wish
It nags me like an engine's hiss
So take my pulse and tap my veins
We won't twist in the wind again.