Several decades ago, colorblindness tried to kill me…
My fingers were bones. Nothing more. Thin, knobby, reticulated mechanisms that generally moved at my command, but… they didn’t feel at all connected to me. I touched my hands together… and felt no flesh. I looked at them. My fingers looked longer than usual… and more like claws than fingers.
It took some time for me to gain enough lucidity to realize that I was hallucinating. But… why? I was quite certain that I wasn’t under the influence of mind-altering drugs. Okay… one step at a time. I was lying down, in an unfamiliar bed. Covered in blankets, cold and sweating. Focus… yes, I remember… I was at the house of my girlfriend’s sister. We were staying there for some reason. I had come down with a nasty bug. High fever, vomiting, diarrhea. Maybe that’s why we weren’t going home. I wasn’t sure how long I had been there. I was very weak, and needed the bathroom to be very close by, so the idea of going on a drive was quite unappealing. That must be it… why I was there. Uncomfortable, but unable to imagine being anywhere else.
I drifted in and out of consciousness. One time, when I opened my eyes, I saw Renee hovering nearby. I thought she was trying to get my attention. I told her, “My hands are just bones. Isn’t that strange? Look.”… then waved them about. That made her concerned enough to drive me to a nearby emergency department.
I don’t remember the journey to the hospital. I do remember being awoken by a doctor in a waiting area. He was talking to me. No… I just wanted to sleep… didn’t like the hallucinations. He was persistent, and eventually I understood that he was asking me to do something. He was holding this clear plastic container, and telling me to provide a stool sample. The thought of doing so made me uncomfortable… all that was coming out was liquid. I had a very low confidence level in my ability to perform this task without making a mess of things.
He and Renee walked me over to a bathroom. Somehow I managed to hit the target, though struggled to stop the flow when the vial was full. I hobbled out, told a nurse where the specimen jar was, and was guided back to a chair. Ahhh… sleep again…I was out immediately. In what seemed like only a moment later the doctor hurried out and did what I thought to be a rather unusual and embarrassing thing in the busy room… he held the sample up for us to see. He said, “We have to admit you immediately.” He added in a scolding tone to Renee, “Why didn’t you bring him in earlier?”
She cringed, responding, “I didn’t know!” Other than being pure liquid, I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about. It was disgusting, but what was the big deal?
Seeing my perplexed expression, the doctor asked, “You can’t see that… it’s bright red?”
Hmm… a moment of lucidity… now I knew part of the problem. I responded weakly, “No… umm… I’m colorblind.”
I remember a rush to get me a wheelchair before I collapsed. My next memory was awakening in a hospital bed, an IV in my arm. How odd… to feel clearheaded again. When a nurse came in, I asked her how long I had been there. “You’ve been a very sleepy boy. It’s been a full day since you were admitted.”
They never definitively determined what had caused the problem. They guessed that I had developed some kind of bacterial infection, causing severe lower GI bleeding. Not being aware that I was pooping blood, I assumed that I just had a regular, if severe, flu. The combination of blood and fluid loss accelerated my dehydration quickly to the point of life’s edge.
When people ask me if colorblindness has affected me much, I say, “Yes, quite a bit, actually.”