As I was being wheeled out of the Cat Scan, I passed Taylor from high school in the hallway and gave him a sort of raised eyebrow “‘sup, bro?” look that I often default to when I panic. Luckily, that was the last I saw of him.
I spent quite a bit of time laying in that ER bed, soaking up saline and Tylenol to bring my fever down, waiting for a diagnosis. I was expecting to be sent home with a warning to remember to drink water and some Gas-X. Or maybe they’d do some sort of forced air-letting procedure that I didn’t know about. Or maybe it’d be like those scenes of mothers-to-be who think they’re in labor, but then they let out a surprise fart that ranks on the Richter scale and they’re all better. I was ready for any of those scenarios. I was not ready for a general surgery team to come stand around my bed with concerned looks on their faces, poke my belly one at a time and tell me I had Acute Diverticulitis that had caused a perforation in my colon and inflamed my appendix while it was at it. And that I would likely need emergency surgery. And that I had better get comfortable because I was staying for at least three days. But they’d have the Colorectal Surgical team come discuss that with me later. When they had a minute to free their forearms from inside someone’s intestines.
While I waited for an actual bed to open up, my sister ran home to get me things I’d need for an extended hospital stay. Like underwear and other pants that didn’t smell like a porta-potty. And I panicked. I had never been admitted to the hospital before. I didn’t even know where my health insurance card was. I had to tell the poor info-gatherer that I knew the name of it, but that was it. Unfortunately, the name of my insurance provider didn’t ring a bell with the person who collects names of insurance providers for a living. That was mildly alarming. She said she’d keep digging, but would put me down as a “self-pay” in the meantime. That sounds like the exact opposite of what you want to happen, but I was full of needles and tubes and foreign liquids and embarrassment so I just said “K” and tried to fall asleep.
As would become a theme, someone came in just as I was drifting into sleep to tell me that they had a room for me and we were going upstairs. They wheeled me on a stretcher, through the halls, into an elevator and into the “Bone Marrow Transplant” wing. Also mildly alarming. I had a moment of fear, thinking they had forgotten to tell me about the part where they’d be swapping the inside of my bones with someone else’s. But it turns out they just didn’t have space anywhere else. And the room was private. So I didn’t mind. And nobody tried to take the liquid from inside my bones. So that was nice. I was told I was not allowed to have any liquid or food until further notice, which was a sonofabitch since I hadn’t eaten anything in three full days already, and because as soon as someone tells me I can’t have something, that thing is all I want. Suddenly my mouth was the driest it had ever been and I felt an emergent need to guzzle a gallon of water. But alas, I could not. So instead I welcomed some intravenous Dilaudid and floated into a numb sleep for the hour it took to wear off.
I mentioned in the previous installment (and every day of my life) that I don’t particularly like being touched by strangers. As it turns out, when you are hospitalized, there is literally always somebody touching you. I had nurses come in to check my skin for bed sores, even though I had only been there for 6 hours. I had nurses checking to make sure I could push on their hands with my feet (gross) and I had someone taking my vitals every twenty minutes. It was probably every few hours, but it felt constant. I was rated as “independent” as far as mobility, which meant I was able to get up and use the bathroom by myself. Something to be said about small luxuries. What was a little less luxurious, however, was the fact that they wanted to measure my bodily output, so I had to pee (and poo) in little trays that were installed under the toilet seat. And the nurses always forgot to empty them because they didn’t necessarily know when I was using the bathroom. So I spent a lot of time thinking about my bodily waste just hanging out a few feet from the end of my bed. I didn’t have a lot else going on in between visitors. Of which there were many. Yes, I’m very popular when my colon has a hole in it. And there’s no situation that wants to see friends and loved ones more than when you’re at your worst, health and beauty-wise.
Hospitals are where sleep goes to die, and I guess where some people go to die, too. But I was mostly concerned with the sleep, since nobody had told me to prepare for the end of days or ask if I had an end of life plan or anything. My sister stayed with me the first night, and my bestie drove in from Detroit for the second night. After that, I was on my own. Except for the endless parade of nurses, assistants and restockers who seem to only need to do things to my body and my room in the middle of the night. They came to take my blood every single morning between 3am and 5am, for some reason. And it was a different person or team of people every time. And apparently I don’t have veins. At all. Well, I guess I had two, but they were already occupied by two separate IV lines that were installed by Taylor from high school. What happens when someone needs your blood but you don’t have veins, you might be asking yourself. As it turns out, they’ll stab the tip of your finger and literally milk it for enough blood to fill their vial. Twice. Picture an udder being worked real good. Now replace that with my middle finger and tell me it’s not oddly sexual. Exactly. I had that thought as it happened, and said it out loud to the tiny woman who was giving my finger a hand job. She did not think it was funny. She did turn red and leave immediately. Oops.
Between all the excitement of the constant poking, prodding and squeezing the life out of my arm to gauge my blood pressure, I was treated to a revolving door of surgeons and doctors, none of which seemed to have spoken to the others about my condition, and all who barely had time to look at my face before poking my belly, giving me information that conflicted with the doctor before him and high-tailing it out of there. One very small, old, angry man stood at the foot of my bed and told me I’d be unable to consume anything but clear liquids for several weeks, and then warned me that I’d have to eat fiber for the rest of my life as if he was telling me I’d have to eat literal grass. He did take the time to condescendingly mention that they make fiber cookies, so I might find it in my fat, fat heart to shove one in my face every once in a while. I filled in that last part for him, but if you were there, you’d have gotten the same vibe. I eat vegetables. I promise. I even like them. Dick.
I never did have surgery, but I did spend a lot of time crying and getting positive attention when I pooped or showered. It was like a vacation into early childhood that I never asked for. It was really strange. By day 5, I was finally allowed to eat soft foods, but they had stopped giving me pain medication, so it seemed like a wash. Day 5 was also the day that they had to change out my IVs. But if you remember, I have absolutely zero veins, so this was problematic. Several nurses came in to tie off my arms so tightly that now I’ll for sure never do heroin. They also slapped my arms, warmed them with heating pads, flicked them, rubbed lightly for some reason, and complained a lot about how I didn’t have veins. I was actually starting to feel guilty, like I had hidden them as a fun joke. “Haha, gotcha! I buried my veins and now you have to jack off my finger for blood!” Even the nurse who had a reputation for being able to stab veins and stab them good couldn’t find one. So they had to call in the big guns. The best in the biz. The “Hospital Supervisor”. He waltzed into my room with an assistant sometime after 8pm. I warned him that many had tried and failed before him, but he brushed it off and got down to business tying off my left arm and tapping it, brow furrowed. He was very attractive. That’s not important, but I feel like I need to give him hottie credit where credit is due. While he distracted me with conversation, he deftly penetrated the crook of my arm and inserted the IV tube (sick) without me even noticing. He was that good. One try. Mic drop. Done. As he got up to leave, I asked him if he’d like me to play some sort of theme music for him to strut down the hallway to. He said no. He didn’t need it. He was the hospital supervisor.
Even though I was told by different surgeons at different times that I would have to have surgery, that I’d be in the hospital for several more days, that I could only have clear liquids and fiber cookies for the rest of my life, etc, I was released into the wild the next morning with little to no fanfare. I still didn’t know what I was supposed to eat, having only been told “anything someone without teeth could eat”. But since I have teeth, it’s all suppositions. My discharge paperwork listed me as a smoker, even though I answered that question with a “no” each of the 47 times it was asked. They shoved two prescriptions into my hands, one for a huge antibiotic and one for a stool softener, that I am to take twice daily until they’re gone. I was told that I still had an infection, but they were hoping the oral antibiotics would kick it. And then they said to come in for another CT “around the 5th of December” to make sure. It was all very clear and helpful. But at least now I get to talk about my colon a lot. You’re welcome for that.
It’s been a week since I’ve been out, and I’m still not eating normally because I’m still not digesting and evicting normally. But at least I’m dropping some poundage. Some might say that losing 17 pounds in two weeks is unhealthy. Those people should see my new waistline. And then shut up.
If only Taylor from high school could see me now. Curvy and not leaking gel-like excrement.