How to Wake Up a Terminal Amputee with Days to Live

Pain. That was first and only thing I felt as I woke up Sunday morning. It was definitely in my legs, but I couldn’t identify which part. I tried to roll over, nothing happened. Was I paralyzed? No, there wouldn’t be a throbbing-like-I’d-just-been-shot pain if I was paralyzed. Had I been shot?! Who would shoot me while I was sleeping?!  At least wake me up first and deliver an “I’ll be back” or a “next time use your blinker.” I count to three and heave my legs out from under me, triggering a guttural noise reminiscent of a chicken trying to cluck under water. It was only 5 steps to my bedroom door but as I pushed myself upright, the journey appeared to require hiking shoes and a few days’ worth of supplies.

I limp/hop to the recliner in the living room and collapse into its velvety grasp, vowing not to move for the rest of the day. Thankfully, my computer is within arm’s reach when I arrive and I open up a web browser to a medical website my friend recommended. If anyone is going to know why my legs feel like I mistook a pair of pants for a pool of acid, they are.

The home page is chaotic but somehow easy to navigate and I find a button labeled “symptom checker.” Upon clicking it, a new page loads to reveal an animation of the female figure alongside questions regarding my age group, zip code and phone number, the last two of which are optional.

18-24 years old and no, you don’t get to know my zip code.

The woman then spins while the next page loads and then reads “Choose Symptoms” long the top left. I move my cursor over her grey body, watching different areas highlight orange on contact. I click on legs. The window then zooms in, asking me which part of the legs.

(Umm EVERY PART.)

I click thighs, figuring I’ll work my way down.

“Thigh Symptoms” appears in a box to the left of the woman and lists a number possible choices.

Unable to move?  (Barely, but still like totally a check.)

Unable to bear weight?  (Currently regretting anything I’ve ever eaten that may have contributed to anything I have to carry atop these useless limbs, check.)

Pain and Discomfort? (All the checks.)

My three choices move over to another box and calculate my fate. The first option says “muscle strain,” which I scoff at. What, do they think I have a pain tolerance of a wet paper towel?! I scroll down and find something called Dermatomyositis. Yikes, whatever that is, it sounds bad.  15 letters of bad.  I skim through the description: Rare condition. No cure. Life-threatening!

Oh my gosh, I’m terminal. I’m a statistic!

I go back and click on Shin.

Pain or discomfort? (Check once again.)

This time an additional set of questions pop up.

How severe is the pain? (You can’t even begin to imagine how severe.)

Did the pain come on gradually or suddenly? (How about good morning, I hope you have a spare pair of stems?!)

Is it made worse by moving? (Is a rickety building made worse by an earthquake?)

Calculating.

Osteomyelitis. Possible surgery! Infected to my very bones!! IF UNTREATED CAN LEAD TO CHRONIC OSTEOMYELITIS WHICH MAY REQUIRE AMPUTATION!!!

I’m a terminal amputee!

I go back again and click on calves.

Pain and discomfort, unable to bear weight, made worse by moving.

Yes, yes, yes, obviously.

Blood clots in my leg?! Can damage lungs and other organs? CAN LEAD TO DEATH?!

I’m a terminal amputee with rupturing organs and days to live. Oh sweet Carolina what a day.

How am I going to tell my parents? What will the medical books say about me? Who’s going to play me in the biopic?

My stomach growls and I am overcome with a warm, fond feeling, remembering all the mornings I’ve spent watching the Price is Right, eating Honey Nut Cheerios. Such simple, beautiful times. This may be my last bowl; I should really make it count. With slow, determined steps I make my way to the kitchen, kicking something under the table just as I reach the oven. I take hold of the granite countertop and look down to see it’s one of my running shoes. I wonder why that’s….wait. What did I do yesterday? Was yesterday morning boot camp? Yes, now I remember. All those laps and lunges around the asphalt. The need to puke. The attempted thank you smile to the coach that came off as a mini stroke.

Wait a minute.

Maybe…maybe I’m just sore….

(*Note: This is a fictional story about the REAL dangers of WebMD. While useful, the information provided can and will cause you to make ridiculous conclusions about your well being, use wisely my friends.)

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