The knife-edge: Personal note


To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: “Why not?”
— Christopher Hitchens, “Mortality”


Thus, convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human, a blind man eager to see who knows that the night has no end, he is still on the go. The rock is still rolling.

I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. — Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus”


I don’t write about myself very much on here, and indeed, since beginning of this site in 2008 — covering nearly 1,500 posts — I can probably count on one hand the number of times I have written about my personal life, much less about my own health.

That said, I may now be coming to a crossroads in life, whereby I have to make a decision that could impact my future, for better or worse — I won’t know which until the die has been cast — and affect my ability to continue writing, newspapering and reading, etc., and most important of all, being here for my family.

Long story short, I am in need of a lung transplant stemming from complications related to a lengthy hospital stay as a baby. The disease could have formed by aspirating mineral oil into my lungs, from several bouts of severe childhood pneumonia or some combination of both. But the cause matters little at this point, and reality is all that’s left. The reality is that four years ago when I moved to my current home in Tennessee and began seeing a lung doctor here for the first time, the pulmonologist said I needed a lung transplant “yesterday” after looking at my breathing and heart exams, and after another round of tests just in June of 2015, one surgeon said I was living on a “knife-edge” (Thanks, Doc) given the critical nature of my condition. The good news is that I have been stable at 15 percent lung capacity for four years or longer; the bad news, of course, is that I am at 15 percent lung capacity. I could get into what the means for me on a daily basis, but it’s equal parts boring and dreary, so I’ll spare you and me.

I was officially diagnosed with COPD as a teenager but have lived with it since I was a child. I am now 38. I may take more time later to explore the philosophical implications of all of this and attempt to outline how I have dealt with this reality emotionally and mentally over the years, particularly since throwing off the last vestiges of religion in 2008-09, but for now, I wanted to let folks who may not follow me on Facebook know what’s going on and how you can help if you are so inclined.

Briefly, here is where I am at in the process of trying to get the transplant. Within the last couple months, I received approval from the insurance company to get a medical evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and will be heading to Pennsylvania next week for a series of tests and consultations. Because of other health issues, I was previously turned down for a transplant at both Vanderbilt and Duke.

The hospital in Pittsburgh looks promising because they have experience treating people with my particular set of complications. If accepted, I will most likely have to leave work for awhile, move to Pittsburgh and live there for several weeks or months before the surgery and then hang around for 3-6 more months after the procedure in recovery.

Needless to say, between relocating, the surgery, medicine, post-op care, etc., this is an expensive proposition. A good friend of mine took it upon himself to set up a GoFundMe account on me and my family’s behalf to help shoulder the burden of these costs in anticipation that at some point down the road I would be able to get on “the list.”

Hopefully that time is approaching, but regardless, I appreciate the support many have already given, and if nothing else, I am at least looking forward to the extra reading time several (more) stultifying days shuffling from clinic to clinic might afford. I will provide more information as it is forthcoming.

Here is the link to the GoFundMe page for those who are interested in contributing. The page also contains more background on my medical history. Thanks for taking the time to read this.


[Cover photo credit: chevyhax @ DeviantArt]

About the Author

Jeremy Styron
Jeremy Styron
I am a newspaper editor, op-ed columnist and reporter working in the greater Knoxville area. This is a personal blog. Views expressed here are mine and mine alone.

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