Tales From the 10th Floor

My way to pass the time here in the penthouse.

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The Five Worst Things in the World.

Today marks 5 months spent here. I have made it a point to add in a monthly blog post about who knows what when I hit a new month of penthouse lovin. Today what came to mind was to celebrate 5 months with the top 5 worst things in the world. What are they you ask? Well here they are: 5. When you have to leave a movie theatre to pee during a really good movie. 4. When you order your favorite food to bring home and when you get home you have the wrong order. 3. Red Sox fans. 2. Living in a hospital for 5 months. 1. When you’re all excited your favorite show is on that night and you turn it on to only realize it’s a repeat…a freakin repeat! Now some of you out there might be outraged at what I say are the 5 worst things in the world…yes the whole entire world and to you I say deal with it. Now let’s break this down number by number. Number 5: I remember watching the final Harry Potter flick, a movie that was the culmination of my childhood. I did everything I could to hold in that urine that was trying to escape like Morgan Freeman from the Shawshank Redemption, but like Freeman the urine won and I was forced to exit. During this exit I missed Neville killing Voldemort’s evil snake, Nagini if you will, for all your Potter dorks out there like me. The devastation was unbearable and so this easily made the list. Number 4: Well let’s just go with something that occurred recently. Dad orders me queensland chicken n shrimp from Outback and gets here to present me with a salad…you don’t get Outback for a salad!! So considering this occurred alongside number 2 you can see why this quickly made the list. Number 3: Self-explanatory. Number 2: The reason for this blog post. 5 damn months inside an ICU. So instead of telling you why it is the second worst thing in the world which would take 37 pages I will tell you why it’s not number 1. There are a few things keeping it from that top spot. They are: sleeping till 11:30 every day, now that I no longer eat hospital food I get the best food ever brought to me, going number 2 in my bedroom and that being not only allowed but also expected of me, and the final kicker I now have a pet hawk. If at any point in life you’re doing something, say dying of hunger, but you have a pet hawk it cannot be the worst thing in the world. Think about it, you could be dying of hunger without a pet hawk. And lastly Number 1: Think about your favorite show in the entire world, now think about spending a day where all you looked forward to was seeing that show, and now think about turning on that show and it was an episode you had just seen a couple weeks back. Everything falls apart right then and there. Your whole world comes crumbling down because you were on an ultimate high all day for the sole purpose of that show and it was all taken in an instant. It’s kind of like betting on a horse and that horse is winning the whole race until inches from the finish line it decides to stop, and look right at you and flip you off, however that occurs using a hoof. Now if that doesn’t make you realize that it’s the worst thing in the world I don’t know what will. So there you have it the 5 worst things in the world. If you were having trouble in your life deciding what they were well…you’re welcome!

On another note obviously I am still here, still waiting, still going potty in my bedroom not a bathroom, and still watching my hawk fly outside my window. Soon enough the blog post I really want to write will be coming. Today not only marks 5 months but also my wonderful parent’s wedding anniversary. So Happy Anniversary to them and may they have many, many more!! Love you both, and you can all love them too because their marriage made this blog possible. Also just in case you weren’t aware I really don’t think those things are the worst things in the world, but you must admit they sure are pretty bad. 

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On Mother’s Day I have written a poem for you. In the interest of poetic economy and truth, I have succeeded in concentrating my deepest feelings and beliefs into two perfectly crafted lines: You’re my mother, I would have no other! By: Forest Houtenschil
Happy Mother’s Day to my wonderful mother who has stood by me through the good, the bad, and the crazy. 

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Some of you may remember how in a blog post I mentioned wanting to make the nurses do a music video. Well this patient in Seattle made the masterpiece that I can’t even compete with. Although they are dealing with something completely different from myself, the maker of the video and his fellow patients got the right idea though…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. I applaud all of them for the inspiration they all are in this video and wish them all the best and hope they are receiving the treatment they need while I wait for mine. 

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The Good Luck Chuck of Heart Transplants?

For those who have not seen Good Luck Chuck the movie goes a little bit like this: Boy is hexed at a young age because he refuses to kiss some young goth girl. Boy then becomes man and performs coitus with many, many women. None of these women want him because once they meet him they fall in love and marry the next fella that comes along. Man finally meets girl of his dreams at the end in the form of Jessica Alba. So how can one be the good luck chuck of heart transplants? It is simple. Everyone that meets or speaks to me gets a heart relatively soon after, especially if were speaking in terms of transplant waiting time. Frank and Jack had waited quite a long time and then I moved in. We got close and then both of them bounced. Jose moved in after me and what do you know he gets the call too. Mr. Gentleman in bed 1 did not seem interested in meeting me as he obviously had other concerns. Well lucky for him I went and would say hello every morning and as fate would have it he gets his heart right before he was due to try other options. Then there was Linda. She waits forever on the NY list while living at home. Moves into the penthouse, meets me, and would ya believe it all of a sudden NY has a heart for her. Then there is my Boston friend Samantha. She waits for well over a hundred days, before I decide to reach out and form a friendship with her over our common experience. A couple weeks into the friendship and then poof her heart appears as well. And then finally Paul. Paul up and left this morning after receiving his new blood pumper. After his recent close call it was obvious the good luck chuck phenomenon was soon to deliver a heart to him as well. So yesterday I said just call me Brett Favre. Maybe we should insert a middle name. Chuck sounds like a perfect fit right about now. Naturally all I can think now is where is my cardiac version of Jessica Alba? Also what comes to mind is where is the damn goth girl that I snubbed on our make out session when we were youngins? If you are out there please feel free to overturn this hex at any point. A new gentleman has moved in which I may have mentioned briefly. His name is John and is a very nice man with a very nice family. Lucky him he got to meet me; because a heart will now surely be in his near future. So now I will continue to wait for my cardiac Jessica Alba and can only hope it will be better at its job than she is at hers. And let’s be honest Dane Cook had a much better scenario while he waited for his hex to break than I do. The closest I get to coitus is hearing Sheldon talk about coitus on The Big Bang Theory. I think I just like saying coitus. So again I say until next time with hopes that next time will involve me writing about some goth girl finally lifting my hex. 

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Just call me Brett Favre.

Brett Favre you ask? Well yes, because as soon as Brett Favre would announce his retirement he would be back playing in the NFL. I am pulling my own Brett Favre because as soon as I said I was stepping away for a bit the national news drew me right back in. As many of you probably know Facebook announced that they have implemented a nice new feature allowing users to post that they have become organ donors. Obviously I was excited about such a feature and I doubt I need to explain why. I have worked diligently trying to spread the word on the importance of organ donation as you have seen in this blog; but of course Mr. Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg had to step in and steal all my thunder. It was thunder that I was gladly willing to give away though. I was informed of this news via the NY Times article on their website. After reading the article I read a few of the comments and instantly was disgusted by some of them. I tried to bite my tongue but the ignorant comments about letting organ donors die, and organ donation is only to get rich people organs was too much for me to not put in my two cents. I first responded by calling them idiots and morons which the NY Times decided not to post. Well this is my blog so I can call them idiots and morons. What the NY Times did allow to be published though was this: “I am 24 and am in need of a heart transplant. Those that speak badly of the system are only those that know nothing of it. The organ donation system is just, and comments on here about doctors taking organs from the poor or circling like vultures before you are dead are disturbing. Being that I am also soon to be in medical school and a former EMT and now in need of my own heart transplant I am quite aware of what the system does and how it works. Doctors work as hard as possible to save everyone and anyone regardless of whether they want your organs. Not to mention you need to have viable organs so they need to keep your heart pumping; it is only when you’re brain dead that your organs can be used. The idea of putting it on Facebook only further allows this important topic to become more visible and bring more attention to the need for donors. If you were dying and would receive a lifesaving organ transplant like I am waiting for you also need to be willing to give. Which is why I am also a donor and if I am one day brain dead I say take everything, and save as many as you can.” This comment the Times did allow and actually was given the mark of the Times as a top comment. Ya I was pretty proud. Later I was filmed for FOX news which aired tonight where I reiterated the importance of this. Like I told them if I hear of anything in the news about organ donation I tune in. Well nothing has ever been on this scale and it was a total pick me up to those going through this process. It was like that blog post I wrote about Dick Cheney needing to use his position to make this national news was instead answered by a much more liked fella, Mr. Zuckerberg. I know there will still be many haters of Facebook’s implementing of this feature and to them I say “come hang with me for a couple days and if you still feel the same way, well I know a great neurologist I can introduce you to.” So I pulled my Brett Favre, I came back and will probably be in and out on a completely irregular basis continuing to be more and more like Brett was at the end of his career so stay tuned to see.

P.S. If you would like to announce your becoming an organ donor for all to see on FB go to my Have a Heart for Colby link on this page and there you will find the step by step process. So again I say until next time –Colby  

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A hiatus MAY be needed.

With the beginning of a new month I felt a blog post was owed, especially to make up for that piss poor previous post. I knew that seeing the month of May from inside these hospital walls was a possibility but I really never thought it would happen. A lot of people have praised my blog for how honest I am in my writing. I don’t hide the trials and tribulations of this process and keep it as real as possible in these tales. So sticking with that theme I can honestly say seeing the month turn to number 5 in the year, knowing I am closing in on half of my 2012 being spent in a hospital I have hit a point where all I want to write is AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! I started this blog to write for myself and anyone can see the last post I wrote was forced out. I tried to continue on knowing many people now read it. However the blog posts are a struggle and no longer fulfill the same type of outlet they once did. You wanted honesty so I give honesty. So with all that being said I am taking a blogging leave of absence. The writing is no longer what I liked it to be and have no interest to continue on until the day I receive the news I have been waiting for since September 2010. When that news comes I will come back in full force with Tales I have often thought about writing. I doubt this will hurt as much as having to wait for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows did so I am not too worried about the trouble this news will cause. Not to mention any good author knows you gotta build up the suspense. And all you Tales from the 10th floor diehards just do what Harry Potter fans did while they waited…reread the other books. Obviously I am not conceited enough to think my little old blog has that same effect but I do know people do check to see posts. So those that do I assure you the important posts will come eventually but until then the Tales are on a hiatus. Until next time-Colby 

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Just another Tale from the 10th.

Recently I mentioned there were 4 transplant patients waiting here including myself. As of last night there were 5. As I write this now there are only 3. I am still one of them. We have myself, a penthouse newbie, and of course my buddy Paul is still here after his near miss the other day. A gentleman that I did not get to know very well got his gift this morning and then there was the departure of Linda. Linda told me her family had joked when she would make her Tales from the 10th Floor debut. Well this is not the scenario we had envisioned. Linda left the penthouse in the middle of the night via ambulance headed for another hospital. Linda and I grew close fast because we had the same disease and she had contacted me before her big move into the penthouse. Based on what she had brought along with her she was ready to stay here as long as me. She was here for what felt like only a hot minute when she walked into my room last night to tell me a heart became available at the other hospital she was listed at and she was moving on out. This to me is like hitting the organ transplant lottery. She was receiving a heart at the hospital where she was lower status than she was here on the 10th floor. Right when you think you have organ donation figured out there is another unique story that makes your realize you will never really wrap your head around the system. Yesterday the girl I mentioned recently from Boston that I have also grown close to in our sharing of similar stories also received her heart. Since my arrival here I have gotten to know 6 other transplant patients either really well or briefly that have all received hearts. 3 have waited longer than me; 3 have waited less than me. The question I can’t help but ask then is where does that leave me? I guess the answer to that question lies in these words. It has left me still here, still blogging. And because all I do is sit around idle still waiting I guess the blogging must keep going. That being said I must tell you about Gimli then. Gimli is my pet hawk that I mentioned. Yes he is named after the sweet dwarf from Lord of the Rings. Gimli is the fiercest animal in the Hartford animal kingdom. He has been known to eat animals 10x his size due to his overwhelming ferocity. I once saw Gimli try and take down what looked like a super athletic, super healthy, young man. I knew right then Gimli was after my heart. He’s always looking out for me. I watch Gimli soar above the Hartford buildings way more than one man should ever watch a bird, and get way too excited when he comes back to his perch across from my window. I also have binoculars that once were used to try and spot crime. Now they are used to watch my boy Gimli patrol the skies. I once wrote about my self-diagnosis of cabin fever. You see what I mean now? But for now it’s night time so no ability to watch Gimli, but instead time to watch Big Bang Theory. Check ya later! 

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Take a ride on the 10th floor roller coaster.

The emotional ups and downs that can occur in a day in the penthouse can definitely be extreme. A roller coaster if you will. This morning I planned to blog about my pet hawk that lives outside my window, but today’s events changed that idea. And yes the hawk is my pet; I own all rights to him. A well written tribute to my new found friend may now be coming at a later date. So a typical emotional roller coaster in the penthouse goes a little bit like this. First you get a call around 4:00 pm and it is a gentleman with a New York telephone number. He informs you he works for the Yankees and to be prepared for a call around 5:20. At 4:45 you receive a call from a woman saying pretty much the same thing. Naturally I had to sit and wonder if Derek Jeter would be calling. Derek Jeter calling me would be along the same lines as Justin Beiber calling a 13 year old girl. Well 5:20 came and the phone rang and I answered and put on speaker so Sebby my nurse could listen in and what would you know the New York Yankees Manager Joe Girardi was on the phone to talk to me. This little phone call was set up by Jenna Duff who I love to death and thank beyond measure for this. So Joe starts by telling me I sound a little too happy considering the Yankees were only 6-6. I responded the only way a Yankee fan should “Ya but you’re the Yankees you will be fine.” We went on to talk about my thoughts on how to fix the starting line-up and a little talk about our families. That’s right I was telling the manager of the New York Yankees what I thought he needed to do to fix the starting pitching. During this conversation the best surprise of all came when Joe felt I should travel to the stadium and go on the field during batting practice. Naturally I was smiling from ear to ear. No he wasn’t Derek Jeter but this was my 13 year old girl meeting Justin Beiber moment. The convo ended with me asking Joe for a favor. I asked “Could you please spread the word about the importance of organ donation?” Joe said he could probably manage that and we went our separate ways. Most people don’t get to feel that kind of happiness while living in an ICU and to feel that way I was truly blessed. Oh ya I am at the top of the roller coaster at this point. Within minutes my buddy Steph walks in and slowly starts collecting the HOPE letters. I know what this means immediately. Currently there are 4 of us waiting for heart transplant and I have definitely been here the longest. The taking of the letters meant one thing: someone else was getting a heart and Steph was trying to protect the letters from the bonfire I may have had planned for them. I was informed that it was my buddy Paul receiving the heart. The mixed emotions hit again like they had the previous three times. Happy for paul, but still obviously jealous and angry that it wasn’t me. Regardless it was a total buzz kill to the great news I had just received. So I composed myself and moseyed on down to Pauls room. We shared the sweet but oh so bitter goodbye and I headed back to my room. I had just saved the Joe Girardi phone number in my phone as Yankees. Within minutes my phone lit up saying Yankees were calling. It was the marketing folks from the ball club and they were explaining that I would be receiving the “red carpet treatment” when I come visit and Joe described me as a “true champion”. Oh ya I was back up on the top of that roller coaster. But of course this is the ICU and you can’t stay there long. Steph sadly walks back in to inform me Paul will no longer be getting a heart. This news is way worse than the news of him receiving one. I can only imagine Pauls roller coaster ride and know it is something I never want to try myself. I am just fine only experiencing my Yankee roller coaster. Paul’s scenario shows the awful process of organ donation. Is there a better way? No, but that doesn’t change the types of emotions Paul had to endure. So the penthouse roller coaster is one of many ups and downs and I have been blessed to receive the ups like I did today and have friends like Jenna hook. Me. Up. Others may not be so lucky to receive news like that, that make you forget where you are if even for just those 5 minutes of phone conversation. If it was up to me I would take every heart transplant patient to their favorite place ever and give them the red carpet treatment. If someone is jealous of my great news I would be happy to work out a trade option with them where they can go visit the Yankees but they get to move into the penthouse while I get to bounce out (the kicker being they take on my heart disease as well). So if anyone is interested in a nice emotional roller coaster just come chill with me and paul for a day and we will take you on a ride like no other.

P.S. Yale is trying to break the record for most organ donors signed up in an 8 hour period. If you are in the New Haven area on Monday April 23rd and not yet an organ donor, get your ass in there and sign up. If you would be willing to receive an organ if you were dying you better damn well be ready to give one. Until next time. –Colby

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I got this.

I have been here now for 4 months. One-third of a year. Cuatro freakin meses. After this long you start to feel you are never leaving. Just gonna be hanging with my new family till the end of time. I have recently been in contact with a girl from Tufts where I opted out of staying and she has been there for 5 months. Cinco freakin meses if you will. I like to bust out my Spanish sometimes, show how worldly I am. I was told my buddy Frank set the record here with 147 days. I am 24 days away. I love breaking records. I loathe the thought of breaking that one. I mean what is there really to say that I haven’t said already in 4 months any ways. My ass still hurts, the food still sucks, OUR PETS HEADS ARE FALLIN OFF (partly a dumb and dumber quote…if you don’t know it, watch it). I was supposed to start school again this fall. Looks like that’s becoming as likely as my older sister not sucking, and trust me my older sister will never stop sucking (this is a joke for those that don’t know I actually love my sister). I love all my family members very much. But think about your family for a second. Now think about sitting in the same room every time you see them for 4 months with nothing really to do. Try and lie to me and say you wouldn’t want to drop kick them in the face every so often. The Yankees season started at least. Oh wait I can only see the games if they are on ESPN. People like to tell me the weather is getting nice. That’s cool I haven’t felt fresh air in 123 days. Let’s not continue on about the weather please. So again I ask myself what is there really to say. I have such great ideas for future blogs such as laying in my bed at home for the first time, going for a run for the first time in 12 years (maybe 13 years based on how long of a process this is), or maybe the first date with my girlfriend, maybe like a hike, instead of sitting on a hospital bed staring at each other. You should all give it a try…totally romantic; especially for the past 8 times of seeing your significant other. So I sit and I think about what I would like to blog that I haven’t mentioned already. There are always the stories like the other night where I convinced a nurse named jess to eat 6 rotten egg flavored jelly beans just so she could go first when we play Harry Potter Scene It. I guess we will know at a later date if it was worth it. But in reality I can’t help but think how much can you write about the adventures of one man in a single room. I do have some ideas of things to make me happier that I hope to finagle out of my doctors that I learned from my new found friend in Boston. If I can pull those off they may be blog worthy. Reading this back to myself all I can see is bitch, (bitch, bitch), (bitch, bitch); and if you get the same feeling when you’re reading it all I can really say is: You are damn right I am bitching. I must admit it feels good to put it in writing. But most importantly missing in all this is the fact that I GOT THIS. This shit is cake. I could last a hundred freakin meses if need be. You bet your ass I’ll bitch my way through the final 96 if that’s what it takes, but again I GOT THIS. I wouldn’t wish this upon anyone (except maybe my sucky older sister) so I am happy it is me, that I can take on this challenge, because well let me remind you again I GOT THIS. And let’s be real this is totally gonna give me one up on all my fellow doctors one day. So with that I bid you adieu and say bring on the next cuatro meses…. buuuut I’ll take a nice shiny new heart tonight preferably.     

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Dear John Doe

A few months back I was contacted by a woman that had received a transplant. In her attempt to help me through my wait she informed me of something she did to try and get through the process. She explained to me that she had written a letter to the donor and that it had helped her with the process and it was just something I might want to try and keep to myself. Well I have decided to try it, but share it with anyone that cares to read this blog.

Dear John Doe,

The truth is you might actually be Jane Doe but regardless of gender we are going to share a bond unlike anything ever imaginable. I don’t know why but in this cruel world that we live in, it is going to be your passing that allows us to form this bond. We will never meet and I will never form this bond with you on a personal level, but I guess on the more spiritual level. I can only hope that bond allows the more personal bond to be formed with the loved ones you leave behind; if they are willing to try with the person that now carries your heart with him. I do not know what will have led for your heart to become mine, but I know I will be more thankful for that than anything else in my life. Whether you decided to sign up as a donor on your license, or online, or your loved ones make the decision after your passing you are giving me a gift that you, and only you will ever give me (and it will never be matched). I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason, but even I can’t grasp why it is you that must leave this world in order for me to continue on. Whether it is an accident, medical condition or who knows what, a series of events is going to play out to bring about that day. My one wish for you, because whoever you are I will not affect what occurs or when it will occur, I can only hope that when your time comes, it happens pain free and with peace of mind. I really hope you will have the ability to stare down from some sort of heaven and see what good you have done and those you have saved by being an organ donor. So although you will never read this (unless by some crazy coincidence you’re a fan of tales from the 10th floor) I hope somewhere in your subconscious you feel and hear the thanks being sent from me to you. So I have been told without a heart transplant I wouldn’t go on living much longer. Although I don’t feel that way I’ll take my doctors word for it. That being said it means that you are giving me the gift of life. I can only imagine what someone should do with such a gift. I can promise you a few things I will do with my gift though. I will never forget you. I will do my best to leave this world having accomplished things you can be proud of and be happy that your heart was along with me for the journey. And lastly, I will do my best that when I leave this world your loved ones will also be proud to see the things the person who carries your heart has accomplished. I tried to think of a millions ways to close such a letter as this and nothing comes to mind other than: Thank you.



So after debating whether to post this entry I did decide to go through with it as you can see. I did not know if a letter to some mystery person who will pass away in the coming days, weeks, or months was appropriate. I think more important is the look it gives inside the psyche of those involved in organ donation and what a process it is, especially on those who like myself have now had almost 2 years to dwell on such a subject. If medical technology takes off to a point where I would like it to, I will be seeing alternatives to this process in the future as organ donation gets eliminated for new and improved treatments. In my dream world I might help develop them or put them into practice. One can only hope.