Sick With Worry

Phil Gulley getting punched by the number 22.
Illustration by Ryan Snook

NOW THAT we’ve safely arrived in 2023, I can say that 2022 was an utter disaster for me, healthwise, due to a gallbladder that went south the first part of April and was eventually removed in August, after a midnight visit to the emergency room where the pain was so intense I jumped out a hospital window to end my life. Unfortunately, I was on the first floor and hit my head on the sidewalk, though not hard enough to die, just to get a headache. My wife leaned out the window, saw me lying in a heap holding my head, then told me to get my butt back in the emergency room if I knew what was good for me, so I did, and a nice doctor gave me Oxycodone and I felt really good really fast, until I got nauseous from the Oxycodone and barfed on the nurse, giving her COVID, which I didn’t know I had, but had apparently picked up in Alaska while visiting our son and his wife.

If that had been the extent of my poor health, I wouldn’t complain, but a month before my first gallbladder attack, I had my annual eye exam and was told I had cataracts, which explains why the world had turned blurry the last few years. The surgery for cataracts involves the patient (me) lying flat on a table while the eye doctor straddles my chest, pinning me down, while scouring the lens of my eyes with a belt sander. As bad as that is, it used to be even worse. When my grandmother had her cataract surgery, she had to lay on a workbench with her head in a vise for three weeks while the eye doctor removed her cataracts with a hammer and chisel.

As painful as cataracts and infected gallbladders are, they’re a walk in the park compared to my other health challenge, type 2 diabetes, which will eventually lead to blindness and the amputation of my legs so I’ll end up a glob of human tissue unable to do anything but nap and eat Ding Dongs, which is how I got type 2 diabetes in the first place. My wife has already told me she’s not going to take care of me if my legs get lopped off, but she’ll change her mind once she sees me dragging myself across the floor to use the bathroom and feels sorry for me.

Weary of the folly that is Western medicine, I’ve since fired all my doctors and am now using an Amish herbalist, who heals people right and left using tonics she concocts in her barn. She believes my bad gallbladder could have been cured by drinking pickle juice, a veritable miracle cure, one glass a day for 30 days, while not using electricity, which she says is the root of all evil. Electricity, she explained, escapes from the wall outlets and wreaks all kinds of mayhem on the human body—cancers, cavities, tumors of various sorts, baldness, and even erectile dysfunction, which she refers to as “wiener wilt” and cures using lanolin from sheep’s wool, applied directly to the affected area. She and her husband had nine children, so I assume it works.

Despite the blows to my health this past year, it wasn’t altogether unpleasant. As a hypochondriac, I made the most of my maladies, describing them to anyone who would listen, including strangers in line at the grocery store. I start by describing my midnight trip to the emergency room, culminating with my gallbladder removal, then catch my breath before lamenting my cataract-clouded vision, caused, no doubt, by rogue electrical currents. If I’m talking with an older man, I’ll ask, with a knowing wink, if he’s had any problems “down there,” and tell him about my Amish herbalist and her theories regarding lanolin. At this point, the store manager is usually summoned, and I’m escorted to the door and warned never to return.

Yes, I’ll admit it’s disappointing that so many people these days seem resistant to scientific research, but it’s not my job to make people accept the truth. That’s up to them. All I can do is warn them about electricity and promote the curative powers of pickle juice and lanolin. I wish I had known about pickle juice when I got COVID in Alaska. Instead, I wasted all my money on bleach, which, in addition to tasting horrible, did nothing to cure my COVID.