Thoughts Before the Storm

Dark clouds on the horizon. Written on 12/5/21.

Funny story… Eh, not really. This is not a happy story but I’ll make a joke whenever I can. I just wanted to start on a positive note. This story is a bit depressing so far.  This chapter is going to be a bit raw. I am frustrated and writing helps.

One of my favorite movies is 1992’s Captain Ron with Martin Short and Kurt Russell. It’s a cute story with lots of great one liners. There are some beautiful sailing scenes midway through the movie that I compare to the last 915 days of my life. Beautiful water, beautiful sky, just the wind moving you smoothly through the calm blue seas. Perfect conditions for loving life. I have enjoyed every single day of this part of my voyage. It’s one of my visions of earthly bliss. I am humbled and thankful for the Lord giving me 915 days of unexpected bliss. My return of good heath is a miracle. I’ve used my good days like a thoroughbred in the Kentucky Derby. I’ve ridden hard and fast to explore as much new life territory as possible. I’ve worked myself like a rented mule in a gold rush to accomplish lofty goals. I’ve spent so much time in beautiful clear blue waters and perfect conditions enjoying stops at beautiful islands that I forgot what rough water felt like.  

I’ve recently hit a rough spot, of all days, on my birthday this past Saturday, November 27th. I spent my birthday in the emergency room and the following night in the hospital. It was a rude reminder that storms of life can pop up without warning. This gusty squall of reality shook me out of my blissful state long enough to notice the dark clouds gathering in the distance directly in my path. I’ve enjoyed my blue water days! I certainly hope my good days continue but it is wise to remember good conditions don’t last forever. I know this all too well and have worked hard to forget my past storm of life.  

My experience has shown me those who don’t process their past will likely repeat painful life lessons. I wish to avoid another trip to the dark places I’ve visited before so I process life events by writing about them now. I’ve been working through our painful past recently while working on our book. This event has given me plenty of new material to process and write about.

There’s an event we need to attend as a family in another state in December. We made reservations months ago that can’t be canceled. Two weeks beyond refund deadlines, this state decided to mandate a ‘proof of vaccine’ requirement for all guests attending professionally managed events, even if they are small events held outside. So far, we have spent an enormous amount of money for this family event and we haven’t even arrived at the location yet. There is no scientific evidence to support this kind of requirement. 

I found myself in a difficult moral spot because I object to any from of mandate. I wish to follow the rules but this violates my Liberty. I am being required to inject a foreign agent into my body to legally attend this important life event that we’ve already paid for before any vaccine mandate. I didn’t want to be dishonest by making a fake card, so I did my research. I had an antibody test to confirm I hadn’t had Covid recently. Some people don’t have symptoms. The complication rate is multiple times higher in people with antibodies who get vaccinated. My antibody test was negative. I showed no antibodies, so I discussed my options with several friends in scientific fields that I respect. I decided to spin the Russian roulette revolver of the first Pfizer shot the following week, on November 2, 2021.  Stunningly to me, I ended up with a nasty case of pericarditis three weeks later. I’m the unicorn of a vaccine injury the government claims is so rare. Or is it?

Let me pause here and give the full picture of events recently. I’ve had two trips to the ER and a night in the hospital over the last ten days. Last Sunday, November 21st, I realized I felt like I was vibrating and started watching my heart heart on my smart watch. 125 beats per minute with no physical activity. Looking at the history on the health app, I noticed my heart rate had been bouncing between 105 and 130 bpm all morning. I hadn’t been active. My blood pressure was unusually high, too. Later Sunday evening, my heart was 154 bpm as I was about to get in bed. Chest pains were kicking in. It was the shortness of breath and focused stabbing pain that penetrated all the way through my heart beyond my back that motivated me to walk into the ER that evening. 

That first trip showed no sign of heart attack. It was an entertaining trip. There was a rowdy drunk in the hall screaming at and arguing with people. It was quite the show. My kind of place. The staff were great. I liked my doctor and felt like he cared. My room had a great internet connection so I could stream my happy music without interruption with a poor signal. I was diagnosed with sinus tachycardia, high heart rate. They offered more tests. I was ready to go home. I rate this ER visit four stars out of five purely for entertainment provided that evening. 

I felt fine the first three days of the week. Then I had another cardiac event the evening before Thanksgiving in the middle of the night. I woke up around 1am to my chest vibrating with a heart rate of 145 beats per minute and a very high blood pressure. Similar symptoms had driven me to the ER the previous Sunday night. They had already ruled out heart attack. It took almost six hours for my heart rate and blood pressure to return to a safe level where they felt comfortable releasing me from that visit.  

While I enjoyed that first visit to the ER, the $575 out of pocket cost was kind of steep for the level of entertainment offered that evening. I’m happy to pay the price for piece of mind when necessary. I didn’t want to go back to sit and watch my monitor for six hours the morning of Thanksgiving. 

Our large family planned to get together for Thanksgiving in Bristol on Friday instead of Thursday to make it more convenient for several family members. For the first time, in as long as I can remember, we had no obligations on Thanksgiving Day. We had several kids and spouses in town. I love spending time with family. We watched the Macy’s day parade and the national dog show. With a wide open afternoon, my wife, two of my children and a son-in-law assembled at a local park to walk our four dogs. Two are ours. About half though our walk I started getting dizzy. I looked to see that my heart rate had shot to 180 bpm. Time to cut the walk short. Bummer. I like walking with family. I got several great pictures with our dogs walking in unison. I rested the remaining Thanksgiving afternoon to be prepared for our Friday Thanksgiving event in Bristol. It was great! I felt fine and only had a few episodes of dizziness that passed quickly. 

Saturday was my 53rd birthday. My day did not go as originally planned. I was tired from the long trip the day before. I don’t remember what I did Saturday morning. Around noon, I took a 90 minute nap to rest before spending time with family and a birthday dinner out. One of our daughters and husband were visiting from out of town and waiting for me to come downstairs. I woke from a 90 minute nap to dizziness, a blood pressure of 156/90 and a heart rate of 66 bpm. That’s weird! My heart rate and blood pressure had been steadily increasing over the past week. The high blood pressure with a normal heart was new. I hadn’t experienced this conundrum before. 

As I got ready to go out with family, my heart rate and blood pressure continued to climb. I was dizzy with a bit of fuzziness in my right vision when I checked my BP before we left to go eat, around 4pm. It was 161/100. Dr. Google said that bottom number was approaching cardiac crisis. We decided the best place to be in case of a cardiac “crisis” was the emergency room. 

I spent my birthday receiving lots of tests! I got a wonderful EKG to check for heart attack, an unexpected full exploration of my brain via both nostrils for my COVID test. The nurse asked if I had a deviated septum on one side as she pushed through nasal tissue that did not want to move. I think she hit my mental reset button through one nostril. I was gifted a lovely IV that took a few digs to get properly placed. That really hurt! They must have been concerned about my condition. They put me in the room directly in front of the nurses station. There were lots of blood tests, too. 

After ruling out heart attack and COVID, the ER doctor felt my symptoms could be a reaction to the first Pfizer shot. I had received the first shot a few weeks earlier on November 2nd. The timing of my symptoms fit the timeline of others experiencing similar negative reactions. We discussed the research. He was initially concerned with blood clots in my lungs because of my shortness of breath. It was a quick trip for the CT scan of my lungs. The people were kind and considerate. Things moved quickly after that. The CT of my lungs showed they normal, no sign of blood clots. That was great news! The blurry vision in my right eye warranted a CT scan of my brain. It is actually nice to know I don’t have any brain tumors! One worries about such things when you have already recovered from a diagnose that was supposed to be permanent and non recoverable. 

Before I was transferred to the internists upstairs for my nightly stay, my ER doc mentioned pericarditis. The diagnosis fit my symptoms perfectly and is a known reaction to mRNA vaccines. Unfortunately, it is difficult to diagnosis with a test. They called it a “diagnosis of elimination.” They test for every testable issue to rule them out. If all are normal, my issue is likely pericarditis as a reaction to the first Pfizer shot. 

After the CT of my lungs to rule out blood clots and quick return visit to scan my brain for tumors, I was rewarded with a terrible sandwich. It is an insult to the term sandwich to call this meager double spongy wafer wrapping meat with a consistency of rubber, a sandwich. It consisted of two pieces of stale bread and two pieces of turkey, sliced hilariously thin. They claim this product is actually served in their cafeteria. I don’t believe it. I don’t believe anyone would purchase such a fraud of a sandwich. It looked like something my mother would have produced to keep my busy mouth shut when I was a child. That was a smart move on my Mother’s part because I liked the simple snacks as a child. This sandwich felt dismissive of someone who was spending their majority of their 53rd birthday in an emergency room and being scheduled for a stress test at 7am the next morning. This was the last time I could eat tonight because – no food after midnight.  

I don’t sleep well and employee a number of natural sleep aids – melatonin, valerian root, CBD. On really difficult nights I utilize a pharmaceutical. It is a betrayal of my natural instincts now, but sometimes I have to sleep and I am happy to have the prescription tools available. The nurse prepping me to go to a room asked for a list of my nightly meds. I listed them and mentioned that I forgot to bring my own. They assured me I could get the melatonin and my prescription sleeping medicine. 

I didn’t end up getting anything I normally take to help me sleep. Asked for my sleep medicine when I got to my room just before midnight. I gave up asking at 2:30am. I called the nurse station and said never mind. I was about to collapse from exhaustion anyway. A wonderful internist must have foreseen the approach of the stressful night I would encounter upstairs. I was thankful for the single Xanax I was offered that evening at 8pm when he reviewed my situation and scheduled the stress test for the next morning. He had a delightful attitude and conveyed a sense of ease. I appreciated his happy outlook. He offered the stress relief of the Xanax after I mentioned that my greatest fear was spending time in a medical facility. Here I was, on my birthday, living my greatest fear – having to rely on the medical system that failed me for two decades. Fun stuff.

I almost forgot the required wash down I experienced before I could go to bed when I arrived in my room with a terrible courtyard view. Apparently everyone coming up from the ER has cooties under their clothes. Seems like clothing  would protect me from nasty ER cooties, but somehow ER cooties penetrate clothing. Whatever, I have no choice but to play along. I had let my body air dry after my body wash. I don’t like being cold. At least the patient assistant was kind. 

As I mentioned, the only way to diagnose pericarditis is by ruling out everything else. The “diagnosis of elimination.” My last test was my stress test at 7am. This test included a scan with contrast where they inject you with a radioactive material to cause your heart to glow. They stick you into a machine and scan your glowing heart to get a baseline reading. Then you go get hooked up to lots of cords and they put you on a treadmill. 

I liked the cardiologist who was making notes on the printout as my stress level increased. He would be a great coach. “Can you go three more minutes? I think we can get some great results.” I was sweating profusely and my heart rate was at 180. I was also getting dizzy. I said “Heck yeah, coach! Stress me out! Let’s figure this thing out!” My huffing and puffing turned into gasps for breath. He started confirming my desire to continue every 30 seconds over the last two minutes and counted down the final ten seconds. I felt like I was going to float off the treadmill. It must have looked like I was going to fall off. He said we got great results. They scanned my glowing heart again. I was dizzy. The stress test cardiologist was dictating his report as I was rolled out at 7:45am. 

It only took six more hours for his report to make it to the appropriate people and filter down to me just before 2pm. It took two more hours to finally be released. We finally got home shortly after 4pm Sunday afternoon. This birthday weekend will go down in family history as memorable event. We don’t know the final resolution of this event yet. I hope it has a good ending! 

Thank God for my wonderful wife! She kept me well fed the evening of my birthday, bringing what I consider my last request-style food. I am surprised the staff didn’t evict me for self inflicted cardiac problems by consuming large quantities of delicious Burger King bacon double cheeseburgers around 8pm for dinner. I didn’t have to eat the terrible turkey sandwich but I ate it anyway. What the hell, I mashed up the pack of saltless potato “chips” and sprinkled the contents to make a crunchy topping for the mini turkey sandwich. It was the last meal of my birthday, spent alone, in an emergency room department. My personal nightmare realized. 

My wife is exhausted with the stress of this health scare. I hate to put her though this again. I have, unfortunately, put her through many health scares over the last two decades. I know the look of terror in her eyes. What if this is it, the event that returns us to miseryville? If you have ever been there, you know the fear. We do not wish to return to the path of suffering. She knows the drill when the waves of grief and despair roll in and wash over us. We just hold onto each other and tread water together. We will process the event later. 

She brought Starbucks coffee with an assortment of breakfast sandwiches after my early morning stress test. Staff were envious. I also ate the tasteless scrambled eggs and French toast with sugar free syrup. It was not delightful. No salt! They said, “you’re on a cardiac diet.” They brought it before my wife arrived and I was starving after my nine minutes of torture on the treadmill of misery.  Oh yeah, remember those cords? They attach to patches on my body that ultimately got removed. This resulted in the painful loss of body hair. I don’t see the appeal of hair removal by any means of yanking hair out via patches. It’s funny to see the hairless areas on my chest in the mirror. Don’t worry, I won’t post pictures.

This event has been a delightful reminder that life can turn in a moment. I went from feeling great to getting tired walking to the next room and feeling terrible within 10 days. This event makes me appreciate my bonus days even more. How weird is that? Gratitude and humor go a long way with maintaining a positive attitude in an unpleasant situation. What I initially thought was my nightmare turned into an opportunity to encourage numerous stressed staff. I enjoyed making the staff laugh with my dark, mildly inappropriate humor. 

I’ve been told I have sense of humor with a dark edge. I make jokes about suffering that can make people uncomfortable. I am honest about what I’ve experienced. I deal with suffering with dark humor. My dark edge was forged in the valley of suffering I traveled through. I don’t think I will be apologizing for my style of humor. I earned it.

My third daughter and her husband were visiting for my birthday when we decided I should make a return trip to the ER. They live in Nashville. She later told me later that her husband couldn’t tell if I was worried or not about my seemingly life threatening symptoms because I laughed and joked so easily while discussing them. You can do that if you have traveled the path of pain before. You know what to expect. I told her I was terrified but dark humor was my method of dealing with stressful events that I couldn’t immediately resolve or process. 

How can you not joke when a nurse is pulling your pants down so the zipper isn’t in the way while you’re already placed in the CT machine for a lung scan. Did I mention that incident? Yeah. I’ll take humor over the indignity of the situation and feeling of hopelessness. Gratitude is a choice. I thanked the nurse for her assistance and apologized for the inappropriate joke. She knew I was nervous and we laughed about. I confessed my inappropriate joke to my wife as the same nurse returned me to my ER bay. My wife laughed out loud and said “We might as well make jokes and take laughs where we can!” She’s right. I love my wife. She is a foundation of support for me in times of trouble. She’s a rock of stability that I would be lost without. 

We can laugh so easily now because we’ve been in this situation before. The front end of the storm is always the easiest part of the storm. A storm pursues us all. We all ignore the signs when we’re ahead of the storm. I don’t look back either. At least I try not to!  

Gratitude is a choice, too. I was thankful I was with family when we made the decision. They prayed over me before my wife and I left for the ER. Prayer provides a peace that is difficult to describe. I was calm when I walked into the ER. That emergency room was my lion’s den. I was thankful for my peace of mind allowing me to control my simmering fear. I believe prayer saved me from my fear tuning into a boiling caldron of anxiety. I can control fear. I can’t control anxiety!

We survived impossible odds once. We don’t want to experience that terror again.  Potential cardiac problems terrify me. I was hesitant to get the shot because I wasn’t sure I could mentally handle the thought that I had made a decision that injured myself and brought new suffering upon myself. 

It appears that’s exactly what I’ve done. My tentative diagnosis is pericarditis as a reaction to the first Pfizer shot. This was, indeed, a diagnosis of elimination. Once all other potential issues are ruled out, it is likely pericarditis. I am one of the 1 in 6,000 that gets this side effect. Yay me. Maybe I’ll play the lottery. This visit will cost me thousands of dollars to find out every health issue it wasn’t. Piece of mind is nice, but dang! This is going to be a very expensive birthday for all the wrong reasons. 

I wondered how I would respond to such a situation, of self inflicted suffering. Turns out I welcome suffering back like an old friend now. It is not necessarily a happy friendship, but it is a relationship of mutual respect. This was an unpleasant relationship for me at first, but I appreciate suffering’s role now. There is no greater teacher of life lessons. Unfortunately, I learn more from suffering than any other state. 

I was surprised when I didn’t turn away or flinch by the arrival of my old suffering friend this week. I held onto my family and my faith and braced for impact, just like I did in the past. Comfort and ease makes me lazy. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE comfort and ease. I love lazy days! But “lazy” teaches nothing on its own but entitlement and arrogance. Don’t let your refuge become a resort that you never leave. I say “Welcome, Suffering, what are you going to teach me while you’re visiting this time? I hate wasting time. Let’s begin.”

This visit with suffering is easier to deal with because I know for a fact that I am in perfect health. All the tests and scans proved it. Well, perfect health except for the pericarditis. Symptoms mimic a heart attack. Not fun to experience chest pain and the full heart attach symptom menu of enjoyable signs like shortness of breath and a rapid pounding heart rate. There’s more negative stuff. The shortness of breath seems to be constant for now. It makes me a bit dizzy. The other symptoms come and go throughout my day. This isn’t a fun ride to be on. I don’t know how long it will last.

I happily discuss my bonus days, but I don’t expect perfect days everyday. A bit of rain every now and then is to be expected. Small storms are part of life. Friends, it appears I have entered a storm of substantial size and strength. This storm is coming down hard on me right now. I foresee a squall of depression heading my way. I hope I get through this rough water and move away from that typhoon of terror that I see on the horizon. I wish to avoid that storm. I’m glad it’s still off in the distance for now.  

There’s a David Bowie song featuring Stevie Ray Vaughn called Let’s Dance. The first few lines are “Let’s dance, put on your red shoes and dance the blues, let’s dance…” A diagnosis of pericarditis is a beautiful pair of emotional red shoes that just appeared on my feet. I’ve been to Oz before, just not by sea. I hear the music, I reckon I’m about to dance.

I’ve already filed a report with the CDC VSafe program. I received a call from a CDC representative this afternoon to initiate a VAERS report. We were disconnected after the first question. I am supposed to be able to file this online. I will get my very own VAERS report filed with the CDC about my adverse vaccine reaction! They don’t make it easy. I will see this report gets filed in the VAERS system just so it’s part of the public record! I’m going to ask my ER doctor to provide a comment. It was his final hypothesis that called for the stress test. I got handed off to internal medicine doctors just before I got assigned a room. I want him to know he was correct. He had strong feelings about forcing people to get vaccinated. He thought it was a mistake and I was living proof. I only got the vaccine because it was being forced as a requirement to attend a family event in another state. Not cool.

Prayer’s appreciated. This is not the way I wanted to spend my birthday.  Have I mentioned that it was my birthday enough to illicit sympathy or is it getting on your nerves yet? I hope you are laughing with me. I’ll make jokes when and where I can. Storms come anyway. We might as well laugh in the face of the storm while we can! The storm has no regard for us. We are a speck in the vastness of its turbulent despair. Laugh as long as you can. The storm is going strike us in the face at some point. Get a good laugh in while you can. It might be the last time you get a chance to laugh for a long time after impact.

Captain Ron, portrayed by Kurt Russell, is the carefree guy that things just work out for. He appears to be the the source of frustration for Martin Short’s character, Martin Harvey, by interrupting Marty’s carefully planned trip. Things don’t go as planned. Turns out Captain Ron has experience with suffering that motivates Martin Short’s character to action that ultimately saves the family and opens Marty’s eyes to the importance of making adjustments when life throws unexpected situations at us.  It may be an odd comparison, but suffering can motivate us to make positive life adjustments via personal and spiritual growth.

Ultimately, it was my decision to get the shot. I’ll have to live with that decision. Recovery is NSAIDs and an unknown amount of time. The Lord healed me before, He can heal me again if He chooses. I’ve seen those dark clouds before. I spent most of the past two decades fighting to escape that storm. I just can’t tell how far away that hurricane of hurt is yet. While I wish to avoid it, I will go where I’m called to go. Nothing drops the pit of my stomach like the feeling of despair brought on by the thought of re-entering that storm. I’ve carefully hidden those memories but they are easy to access now. These memories generate deep fear in me. I still can’t believe I survived that last storm! 

People need to know miracles still happen! I know other survivors. Their stories are filled with harrow and miracles, too. We should tell those stories so others have hope when they enter their inevitable storm that comes to us all. There’s nothing like almost losing your life to make you appreciate life.

I asked a question earlier. Is my experience with a vaccine injury really as rare as the government claims? Based on what I’ve leaned during recent conversations with members of the medical community on the front line of this battle, I would have to say no. A number of medical professionals told me they are seeing reactions like mine everyday. Why aren’t we hearing about these negative reactions?

I am finished living by the rules others impose on me without my consent. It is time to push back and fight. 

Everyday is a bonus day!  

Kent Morrell

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