Life As A Gamer: Part 3

By Guest Writer Zach Miller

The games, on both the NES and Game Boy fronts, began steadily flowing. I remember buying Battletoads based mainly on the argument that “all the other kids have it.” That argument has never worked since, nor would I even let myself use it today. The Rare game turned out to be one of my favorites on the NES though, even if I was only able to beat it by using the Game Genie to get past the frustrating “orb race” level. I also collected all the TMNT games released on the NES, my favorite being The Manhattan Project. I also got the NES version of Tournament Fighters (one of the great underrated 2D fighters) and whenever my little brother picked the same turtle as me, we’d pretend that his turtle was Slash, one of the characters who originated in the cartoon and later the Archie Adventure series. I got Kirby’s Adventure for Christmas one year and it consumed my life for several months. The first NES game I got for a present, actually, was Batman, which again proved too difficult for my ten-year-old reflexes.

I should pause here, because around this time I got my first I.V. I am a cystic fibrosis patient and I undergo routine medical tests, exams, and various procedures. To make a very complicated story short, CF is a genetic disease of (mainly) the respiratory system. My mucus-producing cells pump out unusually thick, viscous mucus that clogs my airways and at times makes breathing difficult. It’s kind of like asthma, but it can be much more serious. CF affects other organs too, but none with the same ferocity as the lungs. I take all sorts of medications daily but occasionally I’m forced to go into the hospital. Over the course of my life, I’ve had to get some I.V.’s to fight off respiratory disease.

Video games helped me get through my first I.V. I was nine, and I was scared. I remember hiding behind the examination table and I told my mom to tell the nurse that I hadn’t come. I had no idea what lay before me, and I didn’t want to find out. I eventually found myself laying on the table while my doctor uncovered an impressive array of surgical equipment. Getting an I.V. nowadays (it’s rare that I get them anymore) really isn’t a huge deal, but my first one was torturous. Basically, my doctor finds a good fat vein, slices it open, thins the blood with some chemical, and threads a tiny tube up the vein and into my arm. The tube terminates around my shoulder, and the “outer end” of the tube is taped to my wrist. Twice a day I’m pumped full of medication and within a span of about two weeks, my infection clears up.

These days when I have to get an I.V., I have a special cream that completely numbs whatever it touches, so getting the I.V. is pretty painless (except the blood-thinning chemical—it burns!). Back then, though, three shots of different numbing agents were needled into my arm, all three of which were scorching. Even after that, I still felt the tube going up the arm—it’s a creepy feeling. I refused to watch the procedure, which was taking place on my right arm. I kept my eyes on my mom, who sat on my left and told me about a movie starring Jeff Daniels called Arachnophobia. I was very into spiders back then. Through clenched teeth and bated breath, I got through the operation no worse for wear. I had to stay in the hospital for observation for a few days, this being my first I.V., until the doctors made sure that the medications weren’t having an adverse affect on me. I got my own room, and I was right across the hall from the game room.

Three other kids and I would spend most of our time there. I was hooked up to a drip tower, and I’d cart the thing into the game room with me. There were very few games. Kid Icarus, some magic castle game, and The Legend of Zelda. All four of us were Zelda fans. None of us really knew what we were supposed to do or where we were supposed to go, but whenever we found a dungeon, it was the coolest thing in the world. That game room and my Game Boy were the biggest factor in getting my mind off my bloody elbow and the strange sensation of medication being pumped directly into my arm.

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