Aaaaand We’re Back!

Man, I gotta tell ya, of all the ways I figured I could ring in my 31st year on earth, I had never expected the absolute shit show that has encased the entirety of my September.

So, the last month got particularly ugly. (If my admittedly bitchy last entry is any indication.) On top of the loss of my father at the beginning of September and all of the inherent stress that came from that just got compounded by the sickness that hit me harder than a drunk driver in a Buick. As resistant as I am to going to a doctor after seven years lacking insurance, after about four days of spinning and being unable to leave home, I finally gave in and went to one of the walk-in clinics at Walgreens. After that, I came home with a couple hundred bucks lighter with a gaggle of pills. Took those for a couple days to no real effect and broke down and made an appointment to an ENT doctor. After getting my hearing tested and being told what I already knew (I’m dizzy and pretty deaf) they prescribed me with some steroids to go on top of the rest of the pills I had. I started taking those for a couple more days, still no effect, so I went for a follow up with the ENT, who told me that they didn’t know what was wrong with me, but they had three options left for what to do to me.

1) An fMRI to check and see if I might have a brain tumor. (Which they admitted wasn’t very likely and would have cost me at least a grand without insurance)

2) They could inject steroids directly into my ear drum, which only had a 1/3rd chance of doing anything productive with my hearing loss or the vertigo.

3) Go with my original plan to stay home and wait it out like I had already planned before I dropped a thousand dollars on tests and meds that did sweet fuck all to help the problem.

My lividness with the situation aside, I stopped the medications all together, almost as an act of defiance and, under the advice of a friend, went out and got my “New Age” on, getting my first experience with acupuncture. The way I figured it, it’s a new experience, it might help my ear, and really, what’s another $80 on top of the pile of cash I already flushed down the crapper, anyway? So, I made an appointment and got my prick on. The whole experience was interesting, getting needles stuck in different areas in my back, arms, legs, hands, feet, and some centralized attention around my dead ear. I walked out of their office feeling no better from the vertigo, but my mood was amazing. All the tensions that had built up in me just went away for no discernible reason other than the fact that the turning my body into a pin cushion had unlocked something really pleasant within my mind and body. I walked around that day, still dizzy and a quarter deaf, but walking on air for several hours.

This feeling went on until a couple of hours after I got home, when I found myself thrown into the most disgusting, ugly, bile and excrement filled rage I’d felt in the last two years… And I couldn’t tell you why or what was making me feel this way to save my life. I went from the soundtrack to Singin’ In The Rain to Black Flag’s Damaged like a snap of your fingers. I paced around the apartment wanting to put my fist through the wall for ABSOLUTELY NO FUCKING REASON! It was bizarre and the fact that I couldn’t figure out why I was so pissed off just served to make me angrier. I went and jumped in the shower and started doing some deep breathing, racing through my own head, trying to figure out if I was going crazy or if maybe, just maybe I did have some kind of brain tumor pressing down somewhere on my brain’s limbic system. The hypocondria began to spiral out of control when the answer finally hit me out of nowhere.

In my trademarked bullheadedness, I decided to go cold turkey off the Prednazone prescription (of which I’d been taking six pills a day of for a solid week) and it dawned on me exactly what was going on in my frezied brain.

I was having ‘roid rage!

‘Roid rage is a real fucking thing and I was experiencing it.

I’d been on steroids before as a kid when I was recovering from my second surgery. I don’t recall the dosage, and I don’t recall any incidents of irrational anger for no reason, but then, I was 7 years old and on a myriad of drugs. There’s not much from that time period that I remember. The only reason I had no desire to use them now was because they caused the small, but still massively annoying gynecomastia (AKA: “man boobs”) that I’ve had ever since and won’t go away, no matter how many push-ups or butterfly curls I do. So it was with great hesitation that I went downstairs and took a smaller dosage of the pills. I managed to ween myself off of them within the span of another four days.

It’s been about a month since labrynthitis has knocked me flat on my ass and pretty much made me useless for a couple of weeks. Luckily, the extreme dizziness and puking into a bowl until I had nothing left in my body to throw up ended within the first 12 or so hours of it happening. The unfortunate part is, the vertigo has persisted for the entirety of the last four weeks and still hasn’t completely cleared up. Worst yet, the loss of half the hearing in my left ear still hasn’t improved and it’s pretty likely that the loss will be permanent. The thing that gets my hopes up about the possibility of regaining most if not all of my hearing is the faint, tinnitus-like bit of high-pitched white noise that I hear in the ear whenever I’m sitting somewhere quiet. It’s pretty much exactly like that running gag from Archer.

Fortunately, I’m not completely deaf in that ear, I’d say I’m at about 30 to 40% of what I’m used to on my left and I’m trying to strengthen the possibility of the hearing coming back by listening to music and especially lots of audiobooks with only the left headphone going. Then there’s the unintended plus sides of the hearing loss, like having an easier time ignoring bad music blaring out of some asshole’s car when I ride around with the windows open. Also, I can (and have) used it at times as a more reasonable excuse to ignore people or requests for things I’m in no hurry to do. Furthermore, now that I’m off the drugs and not sleeping away 80% of my days, my brain is firing back up and I’m back to writing. Wrapping up production on The Zipper Club in the next couple weeks after all these setbacks, writing more entries for The Long Odds here, and preparing an outline for my first year of participating in NaNoWriMo. I’ll be writing a little more about that in the next week or so and give everyone the all the information they’ll need to follow my progress across the month of November.

Every cloud has a silver lining!

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From The Top

It was early morning, well before the sun was supposed to rise when my grandmother, Norma Foster, awoke to the sound of the ringing phone and the panicky voice of her youngest daughter, my mother, Betsy on the other end.  Betsy was 9 months pregnant and due very soon and was having a little bit of a crisis. Having your first kid, you’re told a lot of things about what the experience will be like (i.e. PAINFUL!) When she had begun having contractions, she wasn’t sure if it was serious, because it wasn’t hurting. The thing about labor pains that no one had gotten around to telling her was that they don’t typically start until the water breaks. Mom wasn’t sure she was if she was in labor or not, so she called her Norma, the mother of five, who managed to provide her with the insight to get moving to the hospital pronto. They arrived at Colosseum Hospital in Macon Georgia and were admitted by 7 AM.

She had wanted to have a natural child birth, but Mom chickened out at the last minute and got an epidural. She describes the rest of her labor as “uneventful”, aside from squeezing my dad’s arm and yelling at him when he made mention of wanting to go out and take a smoke break in the middle. Other than that, no big problems, complications, or traumas, and I was born at 1:15 PM on September 5th, 1982, measuring in at 21.25 inches long and weighing 8.6 pounds. My parents had chosen to name me Samuel Allen Ward III after my father and his father before him.

My mother, Betsy Foster, and father, Allen Ward, had been happily married for about 3 years before I came along. Allen, named in long form after his own father, Samuel Allen Ward Sr., won the naming rights on their first born and decided to stick with tradition, thus naming me Samuel Allen Ward III. Once that was settled upon, they needed to figure out something to call me,  being that Sam and Allen had both been claimed by Samuel Allen Ward Sr. and Jr. respectively. Fortunately, my mom had the bright idea of simply splitting the “Allen” in half, where they got “Len”, the name I’ve gone by in one form or another across the span of my entire life, as opposed to making me go by something like “Lil’ Sam” or “Lil’ Allen” for the rest of my life.

By all accounts, I was born a pretty healthy looking kid, the biggest one in the nursery at the time, with wide brown eyes and an exceptionally long neck that jokingly earned me the nickname of “E.T.”. The problems didn’t start until the next day when nurses informed my parents that they had placed me into an incubator because they couldn’t regulate my temperature and had no idea what was going on. These kinds of things were common in many newborns at times and easily fixable. My parents initially thought nothing of it and just assumed to wait it out while I “cooked”.

It soon came to be found that the problem wasn’t as minor as they’d thought, thanks to the worries of a keen ears of Dr. Minor C. Vernon, (Awesomest name ever!) who noticed a faint murmur in my heart beat, I was put under another series of tests which confirmed there to be a problem in the plumbing of my heart. Dr. Vernon had been on vacation in the days previous after my birth and came into my mom’s room with a sense of alarm in his tone, telling my mother that they were going to need to take me to Egleston Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. It turned out that there was a sizable hole in between the left and right ventricles of my heart, which caused the muscles in the left ventricular chamber to pump the blood into the rest of my system at a very weak rate. The medical name for the condition is an endocardial cushion defect with a hypoplastic left ventricle, and it’s a condition that in it’s time, was so rare and dangerous that practically every child who’d been diagnosed with it had died, including a young girl named Lindsay, who ended up being my roommate at Egleston and passed away at the age of six due to her heart’s advanced damage and the fact that at the time, the medical procedures to fix the condition hadn’t been invented yet. If that Dr. Vernon hadn’t come back to work that day, if he hadn’t given my heart and my problems a second look, this story would have ended a lot differently. In a rush, I was taken from my parents and fast tracked via ambulance to the children’s hospital as my parents watched the ambulance drive away.

Welcome to The Zipper Club

One project you’ll be hearing no shortage of updates on in the coming months is my upcoming all-ages graphic novella series, The Zipper Club with artist Brenda Liz López. The Zipper Club is half the reason I started The Long Odds blogging project after the success of our Zipper Club IndieGoGo campaign provoked an increased interest in my own, personal story with heart disease.

Not long after Love Buzz‘ debut, I was approached by Andrew Goletz, the founder of Grayhaven Comics, who liked what Michelle, Dave, Tom, and myself did so much that he asked if I had any ideas for the new all-ages anthology series they wanted to put together called The Gathering. After spending several days racking my brain for ideas and coming up with a couple of rather uninspired concepts about imaginary friends and mystical adventures that I wasn’t absolutely in love with, I started getting emails about the upcoming yearly gathering of Camp Bravehearts back in my old Kentucky home. After a little bit of wistful reminiscing, I realized that I had my next great story idea.

The story of The Zipper Club, inspired by my own journey growing up with heart disease, as well as my 12 years of experience as a counselor for a congenital heart defect summer camp called Camp Bravehearts inspired me to write a comic book about the kind of kids I’ve had the great fortune of getting to know in all that time.

At age 8, Cliffy Goldfarb was the recipient of an emergency heart
transplant. At age 9, Cliffy is now struggling to cope with the
limitations his still recovering body is undergoing, and the fact that
because of this, he has trouble relating to his peers. When his mom
suggests spending his summer at Camp Bravehearts, a place for kids
living with heart defects like his own, he has some trepidations about
going this camp for “special” kids, but soon learns his worries were
all over nothing when he meets a young girl named Rosie who introduces
him to a group of new friends who encourage him by showing off their
surgical scars to one another and inducting Cliffy into The Zipper
Club.

Over the next year, Brenda and I produced a series of six separate short stories, following the different themes given to us by each subsequent issue of The Gathering‘s editors (Despair, Heroes, Romance, a two part Ghost story in subsequent horror issues, and Myth) and managed to make each theme hit the right note to tell it’s own story while still building on the continuing saga of our kids and their first summer together at Camp Bravehearts. The goal being that when read all together, the shorts would come together to read as one complete story of five kids forming a unique bond over the course of one week at summer camp. The story within the first Zipper Club book is only the beginning, too. Should it become popular enough, Brenda and I have plans to do 4 more books on a yearly basis, telling the story of the five kids, one year later in their lives and development from the ages of 8 years old to 13 by the time we’re done. Our goal is to make each annual book into something akin to the same experience of coming back to summer camp to see the smiling faces of your old friends again and see how their lives have developed. I’m currently wrist deep in scripting next years annual as Brenda finishes up art on the book for year one.

You can pre-order copies of The Zipper Club in The Long Odds’ store on bigcartel.com for just seven dollars. The book will hold 54 pages of content, including 40 pages of fully colored Zipper Club story, as well as several pages of fun back matter, such as games, puzzles, pin-up art, and so forth, all in a digest sized, prestige format package. I’m also working hard on a way to sell copies in bulk for interested retailers and more importantly, children’s hospitals and pediatric cardiac care clinics all over the nation. If anyone reading this is interested in a bulk buy, please shoot me a line through the Contact page  and we’ll see what can be worked out.

We hope everyone enjoys reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed making it.

PRE-ORDER YOUR COPY OF THE ZIPPER CLUB NOW!

DON’T FORGET TO LIKE THE ZIPPER CLUB ON FACEBOOK, TOO!