Happy holidays, my intestine ruptured
Three days before Christmas I doubled over from pain in my guts. I had a fever, chills, my equilibrium was off. By midnight I was trying to think of what I would say to Jesus.
Two days before Christmas I was diagnosed with a possible ruptured appendix and admitted to Harrison County Hospital.
The surgeon, Dr. Bodney, who impressed me throughout, came in and explained the possibilities: what could be wrong and what could go wrong. It was a technicality, really. If I didn’t submit to anesthesia, and allow for mysterious medical practices to be performed on my unconscious person, I would likely die. He didn’t say so. He didn’t need to.
Looking across the room from my bed, I could see the card explaining the pain scale. The written description for pain scoring a five of 10 didn’t seem to go along with the cartoon. The cartoon face wasn’t too much distressed, but it sounded as though he should be. I passed five hours ago.
My bed was taken down the hall and down an elevator. A tall guy wearing a lab coat and confident expression said to the surgeon something like ‘Save a life. That’s what you do, you know.’ He sounded as though it was all very routine and enjoyable and always worked out for the best.
Truly, none of this was scary. I wanted to go into surgery. Pain eventually makes all alternatives look promising. I wanted to sleep, and I wanted the offending matter to be cut out of me. It was simple.
The only moment I was briefly afraid was when I saw the Operating Room. The instruments, the colors, it somehow looked old, and this frightened me. It wasn’t what I had imagined. Nothing was left to the imagination anymore, but the time I had to think on it was mercifully short.
I remember very distinctly. First I breathed out of a mask containing just plain air. Then I was to take three breaths out of a mask containing anesthetic.
Even when asleep it usually seems as though there is some awareness that time has passed, but I had none. I opened my eyes and the surgeon was explaining what he found, and what he had done. It seemed like a lot of important information to tell someone just waking up.
It wasn’t my appendix after all, but the concept is similar. A pouch in my large intestine had become infected and ruptured. It is a condition called diverticulitis that is not uncommon in people 20 years older than myself. It leads to peritonitis, an infection of the membrane covering the organs in the abdominal cavity, a decidedly inconvenient situation.
Twenty years older than myself?
And there was the unnerving thing. It’s not possible really to say what I did wrong or what I could’ve done differently. It just happened. One week I was lifting weights at the Y. The next week it took the help of two nurses for me to get out of bed.
During a visit, Ed Runden was thinking what I was thinking, sort of. ‘Why you? Why not you?’ he said.
I started feeling well enough to read and picked up a copy of ‘Slaughterhouse Five’ I had been given for Christmas. On page 72, the main character, Billy Pilgrim, was thinking what I was thinking, and he got a similar response.
‘Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything?’ was the reply.
Oh, shut up, I thought.
Sergeant Charles Floyd was the only man to die during the Lewis and Clark expedition. He died Aug. 20, 1804, of a ruptured appendix, which means he probably developed peritonitis and died an extremely uncomfortable death.
I bet he wondered why him.
Had it not been for modern medicine, I expect that I would not have lived to see the age of 31 or even 2006. I would’ve been like Sergeant Floyd, except the government would not have given any of my surviving relatives a land grant. However, I should be as good as new in a few weeks or months.
I had a lot to think about while laying in my hospital bed during Christmas and then laying in my own bed during New Year’s Eve. For instance, my liver looks good and tests well, so I’ve apparently not drank too much yet. On the other hand, I need to eat more fiber and drink more water.
Given what I’ve been through, and I didn’t even touch on the micro-collapse of my right lung, there should be some sort of revelation.
People do things to avoid losing their health and even live in fear of illness, but I’m not sure they do enough to celebrate being healthy.
Much is beyond our control, but if you have your health, you should appreciate it, protect it, and, above all else, enjoy it and what it makes possible, which is just about everything.