In related news, YES I'M STILL ALIVE!
And now I'll tell you the story of how I got here. What feels like a few weeks ago but what has just occurred to me is actually almost a month and good god almighty where did the past month go?!, I came down with a little stomach ache. Which turned into a big stomach ache. Which has happened to me before, of which I've always chalked up to a certain lack of internal lining that doctors took out when I had surgery 20 years ago to remove a 12 pound tumor from my 60 pound body. It has landed me in the emergency room before, and each time I've been given an IV of fluids and a happy enough dosage of morphine and sent on my merry way. But this time that big stomach ache was suddenly accompanied by some rather violent vomiting. And ew. After three days of ... that, I finally went to the ER, fully expecting another IV of fluid and hopefully some more morphine so I could sleep the rest of it off.
A few hours later I was being wheeled into emergency surgery. Good thing they had already started pumping the morphine because I'm fairly certain if they had told me they were wheeling me into an invasive new experimental procedure involving circus clowns, razor blades, and slugs, I would have just smiled and waved as I pushed that little button for more drugs.
Turns out this was related to that surgery 20 years ago, but not in the way I had expected. Scar tissue that had been floating around inside of me for 20 years had wrapped itself around my small intestines like a snake, choking it to the point of total shut down. Hence the vomit! Because if it can't go down, it's gonna come up! Science! And magic! But mostly science!
At this point, my intestines had been sufficiently choked for so long (three days), they were ready to burst like a water balloon. Only instead of releasing water into my body. It would be a whole mess of shit. In addition to all that other shit that was backing up on the stomach side of things. Speaking of which did you know your stomach produces more than two liters of bile each day? Ever wonder where that goes? Out your mouth, if your intestines aren't working, that's where! LOOOOLLZ.
Luckily, this could all be fixed by a quick lathroscopic surgery. Which is great, because then I'd be out of the hospital and on my way back to my old self in a few days. So then imagine my surprise when I woke up in a recovery ward with staples and one hell of a scar from my belly button to my bikini line. Turns out that scar tissue had done some serious damage. Not only did they take out the scar tissue, but they had to remove about a foot of my small intestine as well. Thank goodness for staples, am I right? Just snip out some tube and staple those two ends together good as new. Yeah, we'll get back to that part later.
A few days of typical post-op events happened. I had a catheter, that got removed. I had a tube down my throat, that got removed. But then things started to go a little awry. After one of my daily walks around the nursing station accompanied by my doting husband and fretting mother, pulling my IV stand along behind us, I noticed that there was some nasty ass shit oozing out of the staples that were holding my wound together. Let me tell you something: If you ever have nasty ass shit oozing out of your staples, it is a sign of nasty ass shit to come.
Each night I would run a fever, wake up some time around midnight, and vomit approximately two liters of bile. You know how everyone who's been in the hospital has a story about a horrible roommate experience who kept them up all night? I was that horrible roommate. I'm sorry I vomited you awake every night, Gloria!
This fever-wake-vomit routine I had going on was actually due to two separate complications. Because one is just never enough. The fever was in addition to that nasty ass shit. My wound was infected. So after a few nights of this, the doctor rushed in, pulled out half of my staples before I even had time to say what the hell are you doing with those pliers? and had stuffed me full of gauze and saline. Literally. He shoved it on in the gaping hole that was now in the middle of my stomach. Right on up in there. Nice and good. And boy was I thankful for that lovely little button they gave me that I could push and it would give me a swift little kick of Dilaudid each time I asked for it. Naturally, since Dilaudid is just about the heaviest narcotic painkiller you can get in the hospital, my IV machine had been programmed to only let me give myself a boost of it every five minutes. But if you think I ever missed a push, you be trippin' more than I was each time I took a push.
So there was that. But then what of the vomiting? Oh right, that was because my bowels had completely stopped working. As it was explained to me by my team of surgeon residents, when you have any type of surgery, it's very likely that the intestines will freeze up in some sort of self-preservation response. Finicky little pipes, they are. Since mine had basically been attacked, cut apart and sewn back together during my surgery, it just might take a little bit longer for them to "wake up." And until they did, I needed that tube back down my throat to suck up all the stomach bile I was creating. So basically, I would start the morning with a flat stomach and by evening I would have a distended belly like those little African babies with flies on their faces you see in all the commercials. Or a pregnant woman or something. Whatever offends you less. Aaaand then I'd just puke it all up.
Now, I can say with just about utmost authority that in my opinion, there is nothing more physically unpleasant than having a tube -- which, mind you, feels more like a garden hose -- shoved down your nose, down your throat, and into your stomach while you are awake, alert, and have vomit running down your chest because you have just vomited all over yourself for the third night in a row.
You know that thing in the back of your throat that sets off your gag reflex? Totally gross, right? Imagine having a tube -- nay, a fucking garden hose -- resting on top of that for four days. Every time I swallowed my own spit I would gag. HOLD THE BLOW JOB JOKES PAH-LEASE. The poor nurses tried everything to ease the discomfort. Four times a day I was gargling with Magic Mouthwash, some sort of medical mixture of Lidocain and anesthetics typically used for chemotherapy patients. Nothing could stop that gag reflex. Except, as I reminded them every day, taking out the tube.
But unfortunately, until the bowels worked -- in other words, until I could fart and poop on my own -- the tube had to stay in! How glad are you that you are reading this right now?! Did you truly not think that a hospital stay involving my intestines would somehow not morph into another farting and pooping post?! Oh children, everything morphs into a farting pooping post. For the past month, my entire life has revolved around farting and pooping! And, currently, the mailman's schedule, my Netflix queue, my visiting nurse's daily arrival, and a good book. I AM 27 GOING ON 92. THIS IS MY LIFE.
Anyways, until then, I just had to get used to life on the fourth floor of South Shore hospital because I wasn't goin' anywhere. Thankfully, after a week I got my own room (L-I-V-I-N'). And thankfully, I had a pretty kick ass nurse who would take me on walks and wash my hair in the sink and tell me funny stories about her kids and life on the fourth floor of the hospital. And thankfully, I had lots of flowers and care packages from friends and family. And THANKFULLY, I had a husband who spent every night by my side and a mom who drove all the way up here to spend weeks caring for me even though it was the busiest time of the year for her at work. And most thankfully of all, the hospital had cable.
And let me tell you, life on the fourth floor of South Shore hospital, while exhaustingly predictable (vitals checked every other hour, 24 hours a day; pain killers at 6 a.m., 12 p.m. and 6 p.m., residents check-up between 6 and 7 a.m.; central line nutrients bag at 6 p.m., blood sugar measured at 12 p.m. and 6 p.m.; gaping stomach hole packed with gauze twice a day) and relatively boring (what can you expect when you are the youngest patient on the floor by, all guesses, 60 years?), there are some things about this hospital stay that I certainly won't forget.
Like Poor Richard. Poor Richard was staying two doors down from me during my second week. Poor Richard had Alzheimer's. And while Richard was perfectly agreeable and a rather pleasant old man who looked so strikingly similar to the old man in "Up", during the day, Richard transformed into Poor Richard at night. At least, that's what B and I called him. Because, as I learned during my stay on the fourth floor, there is a thing in Alzheimer's patients known as the "sundown effect." Patients who are perfectly well behaved during the day go fucking ape shit once the sun goes down. And every night Poor Richard went ape shit. He would strip down completely naked and try to escape. He would demand to be taken to the police. He would threaten to have Bobby come beat the shit out of everyone. He would scream and scream and scream until someone did something to calm him down. Poor Richard made B and I incredibly depressed. One, because Poor Richard was so damn cute during the day. He never said much, but he was old and frail and who's heart doesn't bleed a little bit for the old and frail? And two, because we got a front row ticket to how terrifying Alzheimer's Disease can be for the patients and how frustrating it must be for their caretakers.
But in the book of my life, Poor Richard is now a character. A memorable one at that because his unlucky time and unlucky place happened to overlap with my unlucky time, and that is a memorable time. And also because who knew how loud that man could yell. But in the book of my life I now like to paint him in a shade slightly less sad. Because if you take out the saddest part, the disease eating away at his memories, he was a little old (and most importantly) naked man screaming at the entire staff of night nurses who had surrounded him, trying to corral him back to his room the way a group of women might try to herd chickens or feral cats -- arms wide, feet firmly planted hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, ready for action. And Poor Richard put up one hell of a fight.
And Poor Richard wasn't the only screamer. But, of course, there were good things too. Like B and my mom's constant presence. And the day the tube came out. And my first strawberry milkshake. And the first time I pooped! And the second time I pooped! And every time I farted! And the third time I pooped! And after that -- after two weeks when the tube came out and I had my first taste of solid food in about three weeks and my bowels actually started working like every other normal human again -- I was finally sent home.
So THAT was THAT. I've still got about at least another six weeks until I feel fully like myself again. Mostly because I still have that gaping hole in my stomach. Because it was infected, I had to keep it open. Which means that I have to let a surgery wound heal itself from the inside out. Each day for my first week home a visiting nurse would come and pack it and now I do it on my own (because after two weeks in the hospital I might as well have just started working there). And yeah, it is disgusting.
I can't run for about two months (HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIT HOLY SHIIIIIIIIIIT) and I'm not allowed to drive until March. And although I'm not even allowed to work yet, I have to admit, I've got a stack of great books, a pile of unread magazines, a streaming Netflix account, a new addiction to Downton Abbey, and doctor's orders to just skip February. It ain't too shabby. February sucks anyway. Every year I wish I could push a button and skip it. And now I actually am! I'm doing it! I'm skipping February! This is awesome! Jealous? Minus the whole crippling pain, emergency surgery, gaping wound, oozing puss, frozen bowels, vomiting bile, tube down throat, two week hospital stay thing? Yeaaaah, I thought so.Tweet