2022: “…like a breath of fresh air!”

As the clock flashes 0230 in the inky blackness of my bedside table I hear a “whooshing” across the room and feel an unfamiliar pressure in my nostril. My thoughts are jumbled but then quickly coalesce into the following thoughts:

  • I’m Commander Kit Draper, deputy commander of Mars Gravity Probe Three.
  • I’ve found coal that I can burn to make oxygen.
  • Batman’s ghost should be showing up any time now.
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Then I roll over at which point I detect a plastic tube of some kind trailing down the back of my neck and over the edge of the bed. My nostrils itch, but as I absentmindedly scratch my nose I find a round plug, which could be the biggest booger ever or –


“Shai Hulud”
the oath explodes as I blink against the persistent darkness  “I’m wearing a Fremen still-suit !” and as I reach for my maula pistol  I instinctively shudder as I recall the memory of the size and voracity of the Arakeen sandworm.

…then I blink yet a third time into full consciousness and ruefully admit that I really do need to make better late night entertainment choices than Robinson Crusoe on Mars or DUNE. At the side of the bed I spot the oxygen therapy set-up my doctor has prescribed for me, the neat little compressor politely chugging out a symphony of what my grandson Jayden describes as “factory noises” as it dutifully works to keep my blood oxygen level at a more therapeutic level.

Like many other medical devices I initially thought of an oxygen tank as a white flag in my battle to beat the reaper. My older sister (and fellow spondylitis inflictee) won’t carry a portable unit as she feels it “shames her”, but to be honest, if I were her I’d feel much worse about how she “sweats out” our nephew Zac into hauling the heavier base unit from place to place in the house for her.

…but in the last two days I’ve made some interesting discoveries.

  1. First off – it’s not an oxygen tank, but rather an oxygen concentrator, so It’s not something I have to worry about running out of – as long as we have power…and given he innate misery of an un-air-conditioned Tennessee summer a reduced oxygen level is the least of my worries if we lose power for an extended period of time.
  • Secondly, I’ve learned first-hand the connection between anoxia and depression, albeit in a backwards sort of way. I’ve been living my life against a backdrop of sadness which I’d assumed was part and parcel of life with chronic pain…but within an hour of the first gulp of additional O2 my wife began eyeing me with suspicion and muttering things like, “Who are you and what have you done with my husband” and “Keep smiling like that and your lips will crack and fall off!”
  • …and thirdly – Mars Gravity Probe ONE was the site of all the phantasmal mischief brought on by COL Dan McReady (as portrayed by Adam West!)

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