You Can’t Go To the Party Without a Party Hat

Sunday was a typical Sunday. I woke up, had some coffee, made some bacon. I tried to toss out some fantasy football trade ideas, all of which were either rejected or never seen. I watched a little football.

I also kept going on a search for reasonable (“reasonable”) World Series tickets. Hoping for an actual seat, just about every hour I would jot down how many tickets were available on StubHub and what prices Standing Room Only tickets were going for, as well as the lowest-priced seat. I was determined to guess when things would settle into a $300 range.

As it turns out, though, having a seat in the stadium or not was going to become a moot point.

I had spent most of the weekend getting into the Halloween spirit, tracking down scary movies on Netflix, Amazon, and Google Play to rent and watch. “Night of the Living Dead” and “28 Days Later” on Saturday. “The Lego Movie” later that night (to break it up) after those. Some Clone High on Youtube. On Sunday, I also lined up “Last House on the Left” and “Shaun of the Dead” to watch. After watching the brutal and tense and never-gonna-watch-that-again LHotL, I turned on the Walking Dead on my DVR. This was about 8 p.m.

About that time, I got that feeling of being unwell. That flu-like feeling. Just felt off. There wasn’t really nausea, but I felt weakish. Within an hour, my stomach started to hurt. I had the feeling of acid reflux, but also adding a growing pain on my right side that went back towards my kidneys. To combat this, I tried eating some crackers to settle things down. After three, it wasn’t working and the pain became more focused on my right side.

I tried to lie on the floor because the pain was also making my back tense. I thought maybe that would help matters. But nothing was helping. I tried to use the restroom but to no avail.

By now, it was about 10 p.m. and nothing was feeling better. I determined to wait it out and see what happened.

By 11 I was driving myself to the hospital.

I had a pretty good idea what the problem was. Back around the end of February, I recalled a similar feeling – the focused pain on the right side, a tension in the midsection that never let up. At the time, I searched those symptoms but dismissed the internet’s diagnosis of appendicitis and whether it was something with the appendix or not, I also had initiated a pretty awkward and even uncomfortable conversation with a friend, and I thought then (and still do) that I was tense about that and, after finishing the conversation (which turned out to be not as bad as I’d anticipated) I felt better.

This pain, this time, though, was different. More focused and unyielding. So, Emergency Room.

I checked in with a first desk with my name and birthdate (one of about thirty times I’d provide this information) then moved on to the main ER desk where I gave them some more information and had a seat. Law and Order: SVU was on the TV that was mounted on a wall.

I was called back to give some more information to a nurse. The basic description of my malady, the time it started and a bit of medical history. They asked what I’d put my pain at on a scale of 1 to 10. I didn’t really know what to say. I feel like I have a fairly high pain tolerance, or, at least, that I still feel the pain but keep moving along anyway. I said about an 8. They also asked about any dietary restrictions or allergies. I could only respond “no known allergies, and I love gluten”. They then took vitals and let me know that they didn’t have a room ready yet and to head back to the waiting room.

Back out there, I saw a guy who looked lost. He was either drunk, high, or both, and he was asking to see his wife. The guy at the desk informed him that they hadn’t finished treating her to allow visitors yet, but that he’d let him know when that would change. Drunk-high guy didn’t like this. When the desk attendant went back into another room, Drunk-high guy (hereafter “DHG”) muttered “lying motherfucker”. The attendant came back out, DHG asked about his wife again, and was reminded that it wasn’t time yet. DHG asked where the “soda pop” machine was (why do I specifically recall his asking about “soda pop” I don’t know). DHG went around the corner and returned after a moment with soda and chips, wandering in the waiting room, munching and wobbling away. When the attendant got up again, DHG went to the desk and yelled “MOTHER FUCKING BULLSHIT” and kicked it.

An EMT was near and came by, pointing out a sign that detailed the hospital’s policy against verbal and physical abuse, and that he needed to be mindful of it. DHG looked blankly and said something about not seeing anything. He couldn’t see the red sign. After a silent standoff, he turned back and sat right next to me. Then he asked if he could borrow 75 cents for chips. And then took a bite of a chip.

He got up again and started yelling some more, and security came around, so now there was the EMT and a security guard by him, and he kept protesting that they weren’t letting him see his wife. The security guard calmly told him that if he kept being disruptive, he’d have to leave. Then DHG dropped the bombshell.

“I used to be – I am a UFC fighter. I’m a beast.”

A smart thing to say with a man holding a taser. More security guards came by.

“Why are all of you cops so fat?” DHG asked. “I should have gotten you donuts.”

“I would love a donut. I especially like the chocolate ones.”

DHG then proceeded to imply a challenge, noting that “don’t give a fuck if you’re a cop.” Finally, security just told him that if he was there for his wife’s hospital visit, he didn’t need to add an arrest to his problems and told him to leave the property.

Shortly after, I got into my ER room.

They hooked up an IV, took more vitals, and I described my symptoms once again. The nurse I had was pretty cool. A guy named … well I’ve forgotten his name, but he was pretty calm and mentioned that for someone in pain, I was taking it like a champ. By that point, I started to feel silly, as if I’d checked in with some silly indigestion. My pain had changed from sharp and intense to achy and pressured, and really only sharpened if I took a deep breath or yawned (which did happen more frequently, as it was past midnight at this point). At one point around 1 a.m., I almost thought I’d get discharged.

They set me up with a CT scan, which was kind of neat. It’s a huge, impressive piece of machinery, and the part I was lying on was more comfortable than my ER bed. The tech injected something called contrast into the IV and warned me that it would give me a warm feeling as if I was wetting myself. After a moment, I didn’t notice anything and then – oh, there it was. She completed the scans, I went back to my room, and I waited. And waited. I basically waited while the scans and other tests were being reviewed. In the meantime, I watched more Law and Order: SVU.

Finally, about 3:30 a.m., the doctor in the ER stopped by an let me know that my first thought was correct and that I had appendicitis. Part of me thought maybe I’d sneak by with antibiotics and that I could avoid surgery, but no dice. He let me know that the surgeon was in at 6 a.m. and that they’d be shifting me upstairs. The nurse swung by and said “So I guess you’ve heard the news huh?”

“I’ve been meaning to lose weight, but this wasn’t my real plan for it.”

Another nurse – a woman all of five feet tall – came to take me up to my room. She wheeled the bed through hallways, into an elevator, and then into my room. I felt kind of bad because she was breathing heavily (I’m about 6’2″ 225, so not small by any means). She passed me off to a nurse named Katie.

“Hi, I’m Katie, I’ll be your nurse up here.”

“Hi, I’m Mike, I’ll be your patient while I’m here.”

No sense in being grumpy in the situation, right?

She took more information and asked for more details about family history and such, then asked a few things meant for older patients, kind of chuckling at the need to ask them, since I’m not among the elderly. Then she asked if I wanted to talk with the chaplain.

“I don’t think he’ll have much for me, unless he wants to talk baseball.”

She finished up, let me know about what was in the room for me and left the TV remote and the call button with me. I turned on – you guessed it – Law and Order: SVU and she left me to myself.

After Katie had been gone about five minutes, I felt the need to use the restroom. At this point, I was hooked up to some saline solution and an antibiotic, but hadn’t had anything to drink since before heading to the hospital, and hadn’t eaten since 4 p.m. I got out of the bed and tried to maneuver the IV pole so that it would reach from the wall (where it was plugged in) to the restroom, which led to me trying to push the hospital bed back a bit so I could get more slack. So if someone had walked in, there’d be me in my hospital gown, tentatively reaching for the bathroom door with a fully extended power cord from the IV monitor to the wall, and the IV tube fully ex;tended from the pole to my right arm. And I was still about five feet short.

But I’d also just seen Katie leave the room, and I felt self-conscious for the first time in this whole situation. If I paged her right away, it was almost like I was embarrassed about needing to use the restroom, or about needing help to get to the restroom while she was there. But I also needed to go. So I did the logical and sensible thing and sat back down and waited another few minutes, then paged her.

She came in an unplugged the monitor. I thought “well I could have done that.”

Sometime after that, I got about half an hour of sleep and then was woken up by the surgeon checking in. He explained the procedure to me. I was going to get a laproscopic appendectomy, which meant they’d make three small incisions in my lower abdomen, puff up my gut with some gas, then use some controls to take out the offending organ. Through my belly button.

Okay then.

I tried to sleep from then on, but really just dipped in and out of sleep. About 7, I woke up to learn that my surgery, which was going to be in order of appearance. I never learned if that was a good or bad thing for my condition, but either way, I was bumped up. They gave me an hour before they’d move me down and while I had been wearing boxers, they told me to head down “like it was day one”.

Through all of this, I was cut off from anyone else. My phone had died after they had told me I officially had appendicitis, so the only communication I could really get out there was a Facebook message to my family and a snarky Facebook post bidding adieu to the stupid thing. My mom wasn’t too thrilled with that, as she learned secondhand about all of this, but I hadn’t charged my phone anticipating a hospital visit and I didn’t think to grab my charger.

It came time for me to head down to the OR, but before that, I needed to use the restroom and get out whatever I could get out ahead of surgery. Then I had trouble tying the stupid hospital gown. The nurses (and nurse’s aid) who were in my room at the time were probably in their mid-to-upper 20s which made me wonder if I’d ever sent them a greeting on an internet dating site or not, and how weird that might be if they were now tying my gown with my ass hanging out.

An orderly showed up with a wheelchair to take me away. His name was George and along the way, he asked what I do, how long I’ve been in Lawrence. Usual small talk stuff. Then he asked what I do when I’m not having organs cut out of me, which led to a bit of talk about baseball. He asked if I had planned to go to the World Series. Thankfully, I hadn’t pulled the trigger on buying any tickets, because that would have just been a cruel joke.

An older woman came through to take care of me and took more information and let me know what was going to happen. She let me know that as we got closer, she’d give me a sedative to make me not care about what was going on, selling it as being similar to “having a couple of cocktails but without a hangover”. Then she made me wear a hairnet (“You can’t go to the party without wearing a party hat.”) I needed my stomach shaved, so she ran an electric razor over my belly.

It tickled.

So think about that. What’s the body’s reflex to tickling? I’m sitting there trying to keep my stomach from clenching in response to this razor but to no avail. I couldn’t help it. So my gut is convulsing while I already have an inflamed appendix. It was a delight…

Through all of this, I was cracking jokes, staying in good spirits, and basically trying to be a good patient for the people helping me. I’ve known numerous people who have had the same laproscopic procedure and they’d reassured me that it was a routine surgery that they do a few times a day. Still, it’s surgery, and things can happen.

So at about 9 a.m., I had a brief moment of nerves. Just for a moment I didn’t have a joke in mind. I wasn’t just rolling with it. I wanted someone there with me, just to see someone before I went in. Alas, my phone had been dead for hours, and everyone was at work anyway. Those were my thoughts just before the drugs kicked in.

From there, I got wheeled into the operating room and they put a mask on me and just asked me to breathe in the oxygen. I took about three breaths, then thought “hmm this smells a little bit differen—”

Next thing I know, I’m waking up with things up my nose. I feel like I snapped right back into coherence but I bet there was a half hour or so of just nonsensical grogginess. I don’t remember it if so. The breathing tube left a little tickle in my throat, though, so I had a slight cough to go with three small incisions on on my midsection. Fun.

A nurse fetched a charger from the nurse’s station for me and I was able to charge my phone enough to connect to Wifi and send some GChat messages to people to find a ride. Meanwhile, they went over the prescription I was getting for pain, while I also ate some pudding.

And that was it. Hit the ER at 11 p.m. and was being discharged at about noon. A 13 hour turnaround.

From there, it’s been a mess of well wishes and offers for help. My sisters sent me an arrangement of royal and light blue flowers to fit the Royals color scheme. I’ve gotten a card from coworkers. One friend drove me home. One took me to the pharmacy. One came in from Kansas City to take me to lunch. Another came by to watch the Royals with me. My boss brought me lunch today and a National Enquirer (did you know that Michelle Obama is angry at Gwyneth Paltrow? It’s in print so it has to be true). Another friend offered to pick me up and cook me dinner.

I’m terrible at asking for help and stubborn about accepting help from others, but there are things I just can’t do as easily right now. I can’t drive as long as I’m taking the prescription meds so I need people to bring me things or drive me places. It’s really touching to see the responses. I felt a little like George Bailey at the end of It’s a Wonderful Life seeing how many people were piping up to help out. I only hope I can return the favor as capably and quickly someday.

Right now, it’s still tough to get off the couch. I have to use my arms more to limit how much I’m using my abs. Same with getting out of bed. I have to sleep on my back because I’m paranoid about messing up the glue stitches and opening an incision. The pain isn’t as bad, but I haven’t gotten all my strength back, so sitting up makes me sore after an hour or so. I have two basic positions: lying down or standing (when my legs can take a lot of the effort). I feel like I’ve watched a whole season of Breaking Bad, just about finished reading a book, went through a couple of movies, got distracted by the internet countless times. Frankly, I’m bored.

But it beats being septic.


~ by Michael Engel on October 22, 2014.

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