Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Down with the Sickness: Part 1

"Get up, come on get down with the sickness
You mother get up
Come on get down with the sickness
You fucker get up
Come on get down with the sickness"

"Lost in a Roman wilderness of pain
And all the children are insane"

It's been an interesting ride lately, kids and I can't say it's been at all pleasant. Our topic for this post is a telling of recent events, that is, events of the hospital kind. Normally people's retelling of their illnesses is as interesting as a C-Span marathon, but I think you may agree that this old boy has been through it. So, read on if you want to hear the ridiculous details of my recent "visits" to CAMC.

[Be warned: some things are graphic.]

Le Prelude

The prelude to all this includes more medical misery. In September, I weathered a sinus infection and bronchitis, not once but twice. It was your basic lung hack-a-thon misery. Fine. That which doesn't kill us, makes us stronger.

Late October, I notice that my right ankle feels particularly tender after the afternoon shift. I discount it, thinking maybe I just had it at at bad angle. No such luck, dudes.

Gout had returned and knocked out the next two days. If you've never had gout, then feel lucky because it's a continuous painful guest that brings mobility to a standstill. The mere flow of blood to the site is painful.

Get Thee to an ER

November comes and it begins with a pleasant surprise. On the 2nd, I had a nice takeout meal from Soho's (tremendously overpriced and pretentious). My meal was a healthy section of fish with vegetables. Soon after supper, I felt like I eaten too much and my abdomen was too full.

As the evening progressed, a sharp and unrelenting pain appeared in what I thought was my stomach. The swollen feeling continued as well. Bedtime brought no relief, falling asleep for a few hours, I would get out of bed to see if the old trusty bowels were just in need of some relief. Again, brief sleep only to be awoken by the continuous stomach pain. A wretched night.

Finally, it dawns on me that I cannot handle this with with any homemade remedy nor will it leave me alone. It's around 7am and I get dressed and tell my wife that I am going to the ER. We live within walking distance, so getting there is a matter of minutes.

On the walk there, I get a wave of nausea. I fight it, hoping the cold winter air takes it away like it has a thousand times before. Approaching the ER doors, the nausea overtakes me. I instantly realize that I am dressed in such common street clothes, including a hoodie, that I must resemble a homeless man getting sick outside the ER.

This is not going well.

The ER is surprisingly empty and check-in is pretty fast. I'm in a gown and got a bed (Number 13-a number which has followed me for a long time.) in record time. Fine, but the pain is not subsiding.

Doc#1 comes in and I describe all my symptoms: intense stomach pain, swollen feeling in abdomen and a slight pain near my groin. He runs some tests, and in his blessed mercy, he gives me a shot of morphine.

Pain is gone. The room is spinning slightly and I'm making sense in my mind, but not to others. Funny how that works.

More tests, but he says he might release me, but I complain more about the pain near my groin. Like a play or a comedy (Miss Morphine is dancing in my head, of course.), another doctor comes in and introduces himself and I have to start my story all over again. He wants to do a lower abdomen scan.

There goes my chance of going home.

SIDEBAR: In the ER, across the room, is a man who keeps making sounds of pain. "Oohh....oohhhh." This goes on like his mantra. He has some visitors with him. I hear him explain to his family that the cause of his pain in his stomach "musta been them two burgers I ate. Oooohh....Ohhhhh." This guy is in deep shit or drug seeking. A doctor asks him, "Do you drink?"
"Four quarts."
"Four quarts?"
"Two on Friday and two on Saturday."
If this is his sense of humor, then he has chosen the wrong audience because I do not hear the doctor laughing. More on this mystery man later. Seriously.

There is a long-ass delay in the getting the results because of a computer malfunction in radiology, but no one in that department could pick up a phone and tell anyone this. Hours later, Doc #2 has an announcement: "You are having an appendicitis. Looks like we'll have to do surgery tonight." My appendix is enlarged, but mercifully it has not ruptured. To think Doc#1 was going to let me go home.

Surgery? Well, I'll be picking my jaw up off the floor any second now. Up to this point, I have only had minor surgery once in high school for impacted wisdom teeth. Scared? You bethcha, but the morphine, lack of sleep combined with the pain and the reality of my situation all point to the knife. What can I do? Nothing. I must accept this.

Doctor P comes in and tells me he's going to be my surgeon. I like him instantly. He exudes a calm confidence without a trace of arrogance. Now, we wait. Then again, what fucking choice do I have?

Let the Show Begin

Taken up to the prep room, I meet Dr. S, my anesthesiologist. I sort of recognize him from high school. He's a good egg and even though he gives me the obligatory list of a thousand things that could go wrong, I sense he knows what he's doing.

One thing: more than a few people will ask you the same questions over and over. What's your name? Do you know where you are? Do you know what procedure you're going to have? Etc.
These measures are reassuring. I want to know that everyone is on the same page. Plus, this is so we don't wake up with our left leg amputated and our appendix right where it was.

A little Versed and we are ready to go.

In the OR, under the tutelage of Dr. S is a young trainee who has an enthusiasm that is not quite inviting. Shall I say she was a little bitchy? Yes. Was it nerves on her part? I don't know, but she puts the mask on me so tight that I can't breathe through my nose.

Muffled through mask, "Can you not put that so tight, please?"

No response. Please, lady, you're smothering me. I know I'm supposed to relax, but I gotta breathe.

Finally, I guess I kept insisting on being heard that they take the mask off, hear my request and replace it properly. Then the lights go out.

That's the beauty of surgery, if any beauty can be ascribed to such a barbarous act, is that when you wake up, you know it's all over but the hurting. The scary stuff is over.


When you're under, everybody knows that they catheterize you. Here's what I found online about this delightful procedure: "His anxiety was greatly lessened when the corpsman explained to him that the procedure might look painful but actually was not. In addition, the relief he would feel would worth any discomfort he might feel."
Or this: "Catheterization in males is slightly more difficult and uncomfortable than in females because of the longer urethra."

They forgot these little words: screaming agony like a hot fire poker is going down your most delicate bits. I shall elaborate in a minute, trusted readers.

When I woke up, I was in no pain and I instantly knew where I was. I was higher than the moon, but I've been there before. The nurse got my family and off to my room. It was late and I told my wife and my friend to go home. Nobody likes hospitals, so the hell with them staying bedside. I'm out of danger and going to sleep.

Or so I thought.

Your Roomate is a Freak, Dudes

My roomie was......drumroll.....Mr. Pain from the ER. Yes, for hours this man continued his mantra. Friends, family, nurses, doctors: no one could console him. Eventually, they took him to have bowel surgery to remove an obstruction. That can't be good.

Know this to be true: There is no resting in a hospital. None. Just say, "Fuck it" and accept it right now. Whenever the sweet veil of slumber comes upon you, indubitably a nurse will come in and check your vitals, draw blood, weigh you or any number of interrupting procedures. OR your roomie will be a drug-seeking psycho. Yes, it is difficult at best to judge another's pain and I should have compassion on my fellow traveler, but in this case, methinks the dude was mostly faking it.

Then Mr. Pain came back from surgery and slept for a few hours. Then the mantra began. "Ooooohhhh................ooooohhhhhhhh." Every minute on the hour on the minute to the second. Over and over again.

You think I'm kidding or exaggerating just to try to be funny. I wish I was. God likes me a lot the way I figure, but he also likes to endure things that stretch my patience and humanity to the limit. And this dude stretched it to the limit. He even apologized:

"I'm sorry, buddy."

I lied, but replied kindly, "Don't you worry about it." I actually thought: "Motherfucker, shut the hell up!" He wanted to be in a pain med coma and tried every trick in the book, even faking a heart attack (I'm serious) to get more pain meds. Over and over again, nurses and even doctors refused his suicidal request. "Sir, I've never heard of that and we can't give you any more pain medication as you are now at the legal limit." said one young and exasperated intern.

His wife said that he had been on a Demerol patch because he was in an accident years ago.

"Sir, how long have you been on pain medication?"

"Fifteen years."

"How long ago was your accident?'

"Ten years ago."

Eh? I had to ponder that one and still I had no answer.

"What medication were you on?

"Demerol patch, Oxycontin and Valium."

What's that called? The Walking Dead combo? I mean, I appreciate a good buzz as much as the next person, but isn't there some semblence of reality you want to hold on to?

No Sleep, Fresh From Surgery, Freak Roomie: What's next?

The Joys of Catheterization!


primalscreamx said...

Fun stuff.

The Only Mister Ed said...

Oh, my. Geez, the worst thing I ever had was my tonsils out. Lead on, MacDuff!