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1.25.2012

Notes from hospital bed

It had been a very long time since I spent so much time in a hospital. Within a 10 day span I was an embed for 6 nights on 2 occasions (Hmmmmm... maybe it was 5 - I was pretty groggy the whole time). Still, it was more than anyone wants. I prefer my 5 star hotels a bit less, um, invasive.

Just getting there was agony. By the time I decided the death rattling pain I was in was not indigestion, it was 2 in the morning. Tish fired up the Jeep, the ER knew we were coming, and off we rolled. Now, my wife is not the fastest driver in the world. In fact, the word cautious might sometimes be considered an understatement. She's the car at the front of a mile long line of irritated drivers trying to get home after work only to find that 30 is the new 50 for a speed limit that day. But that night she was settting new records. There was a bit of drizzle coming down and the roads might have been slippery so she decided it best to exercise caution and slow her usual reckless abandon of shredding the speed limits into fractions and travel at, as comedian Ron White so aptly put it, "half the speed of smell".
'We drive a Jeep Wrangler, facrissake,' I was thinking. 'You got it in 4 wheel drive and the snow tires are brand-goddam-new. This beast is built to drive anywhere in any conditions. There is hardly a car on the road and my guts are spilling out all over the floor. Can we possibly kick it up a notch.' I tried groaning and smacking my head against the window to transfer the pain and hint subtlely that I was really looking forward to a double morphine and orange juice when we got there. But, I swear, she actually slowed down to oncoming cars and pulled over to let other cars pass us from behind. I should have splurged and ordered the ambulance. By the time we got half way there I was ready to get out and push.

Fortunately, the hospital staff was more swift. They walked my straight down to an exam room where I promptly tossed up everything I'd eaten in this and any past lives. I swear an egg salad sandwich I had back in 1985 was somewhere in the mix.

"Are you in pain?" the nurse asked as calmly as he could while trying to dig my fingernails out of his arm. They stuck in the IV and gave me a dose of something. I slapped the bar and said 'hit me again' or words to that effect until they hauled out the major medication and I went on a field trip to Disneyland. I knew this was the good stuff because I heard them tell Tish to keep an eye open in case I forget to breathe.

We were in that tiny room for almost 12 hours with a brief trip to the catscan machine. I don't remember much of it except for 2 things. First, Tish never left my side the whole time. At one point I notice her sleeping in the chair beside me, one hand on my chest diligently making sure I was breathing, and her face pressed into the side rail of the hospital bed like it was a pillow. I imagine the adrenalin drip she was giving herself was bigger than the sack of fluid they were draining into me.

The second thing was the stomach pump. I wouldn't wish that on - well, maybe I would. Still, the medics stuffed a hose up my nose and fed it down my throat while telling me to 'swallow and swallow and keep swallowing and you're doing fine'. Doing fine? All I could think while this is going on was that the folks at Disney were on the wrong track if they thought this ride would attract the kids. This was the nastiest trick I'd had pulled on me since a throat surgeon stuck a needle in my uvula for a full minute without anesthesia 5 years ago. I'd agreed to let her do it but it was the most painful thing I'd ever experienced my whole life. (When she was finished and tears of pain were rolling down my cheeks, I said "Usually when a woman hurts me that bad, she buys me dinner first.")

So now I have a vacuum cleaner down my throat making sucking noises like the icy remains you try to slurp up at the bottom of a sodapop, a liquid lunch stuck up my arm, I'm wearing a washcloth that is laughingly referred to as a hospital gown (it even had the audacity to have 'property of...' stenciled on it like anyone would want to take that home as a fashion statement), and a stressed out wife with a sack of coffee grounds under each bleary eye.

The anesthesiologist popped her head in to guess my weight, she must have been good because I didn't win a prize, and then three masked strangers wheeled my bed out of the room and through every hall in the place like some kind of parade until we hit the O.R.

Humility, thy name is surgery.