My friend Kate sent me this video by Christiaan van Vuuren (The Fully Sick Rapper), a friend of hers who, has spent the past 104 days in quarantine. He has Multi-Drug Resistant TB and has to be isolated, and treated with a cocktail of antibiotics. He was an outdoor advertising sales rep and was rushed to hospital on December 9 after continuously coughing up blood during a work meeting.”I thought, I’ve seen this in the movies before and it’s only when someone’s taken a bullet in the stomach or an arrow in the back or something,” he told a journo recently.
After detecting a hole in his right lung the size of a 50-cent piece, doctors identified the disease as tuberculosis, suspecting he contracted it during his travels to South Africa or South America.
He was meant to be out after 7 days. But things went wrong. Now, he doesn’t really know when he’ll finally be released. He spends his time making kooky rap videos.
The idea of being trapped and isolated fascinates me. To be completely clipped of your power and freedom…how’d I cope? Especially when there’s no end date.
I emailed Christiann in hospital and asked him three questions. His answers are long and considered and I really love the way he explains how the experience has been part of a shift he needed to make to the next phase of his life…
1. Do you feel this happened for a reason?
It’s interesting… I wouldn’t exactly say that I feel this has happened for a reason, but I definitely think that a lot of positive things have come from this situation, which I first looked at as being a very negative one. Yeah, I would say that it makes sense to me that this has has happened, and even go as far as to say that perhaps something like this needed to happen to me to help me grow up a bit. That may sound weird, because in all of my videos I carry on like an absolute child, but please allow me to explain…
I had recently been through some life changes, because I felt the need to be “independent” and learn some important lessons in my life on my own, for myself. Nothing huge, but I had been putting a lot more hours into my career, and I had also moved out into a shared flat with some mates, as well as doing a lot of going out and partying… and in hindsight, these things had a lot to do with the ending of a 5 year relationship I had been in at the time. Anyway, I thought that I was in need of learning some secret “man-lessons” that a man has to learn from himself before he is in the right position to be a good dad, husband, partner and all round good guy. I’m not sure of exactly what these things were, but I was sure that they had to be learned on my own…
.. And I suppose we have to be careful what we wish for, because a couple of months after the end of that relationship, I would find myself stuck in isolation in hospital, with as much time as any person could ask for on their own, and a lot of time to spend inside my own head to work myself out. And on top of that, I would have my health, medical tests, disappointing results, many lonely nights, and high dosages of some very strong antibiotics to deal with at the same time.
So in the early stages of my time spent in hospital I was dealing with the fear surrounding my health, the fear of being alone (both socially and romantically) and the fear of what my friends/family would think about what I was going through… and to be honest it all just seemed like too much to sit and think about, so I had to find ways to keep myself busy mentally.
Even excluding all of the Youtube videos and online stuff, putting all of that stuff aside, I have learnt more about myself in this time that I’ve spent in hospital than anything else from my time as a young adult. I feel that I have grown as a man, realised that I have the strength to keep myself positive no matter what I go through, and also realise that what I am going through is miniscule compared to what so many people in the world have to go through each day… Really, how can I possibly feel sorry for myself, when I get TB in this country and get treated through a public health system, that places me under 24 hour care, with access to very expensive medications, and even access entertainment and modern technology, when there are 00’s of 000’s of people who get the same illness as me and they don’t even get the chance to see a doctor!… I will never get the shits in the traffic again, or think that my morning is wrecked because my toast is burnt, put it that way.
I have also become much loser to my brother, and in fact my family all in all I suppose. Particularly my brother. It’s one of those things that you take massively for granted. Your family will always be there.. Yeah, you can rely on them for stuff, and it’s always good to stop in and see your parents for a free feed, but then, when you are stuck in a little hospital room, and you’re on your own shitting yourself about what’s going to happen next, your family are there in a split second if you need them, and even if you don’t, they are there anyway because they want to be. I had one moment that actually meant so much to me, when my mum came in to visit me once quite early in the piece. She came all the way in from Cronulla, made the effort to come and spend time with me, and I was feeling pretty shitty, and I tried talking to her and stuff, but I just couldn’t be bothered because I was just burned out… and she could see I was tired, so Mum said to me “don’t worry about me, I’m fine here, you just have a sleep, I’ll just find something to read”… and so I did… I woke up a couple of hours later and she was s
till sitting there in my room, flicking through a Men’s magazine… It’s just so sweet, that she doesn’t need me to even talk to her or anything, she just wanted to keep me company, even if I wanted to sleep….And friends… I have also realised that I have got the best friends in the world. I would not trade my friends for any other people on the planet, or in the galaxy, and for that matter even the solar system (can’t remember, are they bigger than galaxy’s??). I won’t go into how much they have stood out, but here are some of the things that my friends have done for me while I’ve been in here:
– Hosted a fundraiser night, to help me out with bills that I’ve been stuck with and unable to work (they raised $6000!!!)
– Moved me out of my unit
– Dropped off food on every visit
– Sent me fresh fruit boxes
– Made photo collages for me to put on my wall
– Sent me props for videos
– Brought me musical instruments
– Sent me DVDs, magazines, books, game consoles, activities!!!
I have also been so blessed to now have the appreciation that I have for everything… After all the time I have spent in hospital, I am now able to go outside for a little bit each day under supervision, but there were many weeks when the only reason I could leave the room was to get an xray or have a medical examination. Those weeks on end were pretty tough mentally, and now, when I get to smell the fresh air, or sit on the grass, it is AMAZING! When I am finally out of here, there are some things that are going to feel so good.. Like jumping in the ocean, lying on the sand, breathing in salty air… Kissing a real woman!! Geez, the internet and everything on it is interesting for about a week or two!!
2. Has humanity changed since all this?
In relation to the videos, this has been the best part of what has happened… I have now got an online global support network, of people from every corner of the globe that help me every single day. Like I said, my friends are amazing, and I wouldn’t swap them for anyone in the world, but I have now got people with different medical issues telling me their stories, people who are lonely and in similar situations making contact with me, and people genuinely wishing me well and following my time in hospital online… There are so many awesome people out there, that I have never even met, who genuinely care for my health and wellbeing, and send me support messages regularly… What an amazing thing the internet is!!!
I have really enjoyed this company that the world has offered me while I’ve ben stuck in here, and it has definitely changed my perception of humanity in general. That’s also what made me want to start promoting awareness of TB, and help people understand the potential damage it could do to us in the future as a race, if we don’t put a lid on this Multi-Drug Resistant form of it!
3. have you read the The Diving Bell and the Butterfly? or seen the movie? How does the human mind cope with confinement?
I have not read that… Do you recommend it?
The way that I have coped with confinement has been to stay creative… Just to create in general. Wether that’s writing (music, words, scripts, letters, emails – ANYTHING!) recording, producing, just basically anything to keep my mind busy… You need to have a balanced input and output, and I found that when I first came in, I was just inputting inputting and inputting, and it was making me crazy… So when I started looking at my illness more lightly, and creating the songs and videos areound it, it made me feel way better about the whole situation, and it gave me a way to start outputting!! Now it’s more output than it is input.. But I thin you alwo have to be careful of that, because that’s when you start going a little weird (See the Quarantine Beard Experiment)… You also need to realise that the rest of the world is still turning, and that you are still a part of it, not just some other little planet spinning circles in it’s own little crooked orbit.
ps. I like Christiaan’s facebook updates…