Tuesday, September 15, 2009


This is so very cool:


Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Worm Turns, Act III

And this is the part where time begins to blur.
Align Center
* Nurse Bates refuses to bring me pain meds until she gets a new order from the surgeon because the surgical ward does not stock Fentanyl. This makes no sense to me whatsoever. Can't they send someone downstairs to get it? I really regret declining the pain meds earlier.

* Several more tubes of blood are collected, but by now I am so dazed and in so much pain that I don't have the energy to express the panic and fear.

*Every single person I've seen, and I have probably seen 10 or 15 people in the first half hour or so on the ward, has read my bracelet, scanned the bar code on it, and asked me to confirm my name and tell them my date of birth. I am annoyed because I am so tired and in so much pain, but I recognize that this is a very good thing and comply as nicely as I am capable of being at this point. In retrospect, I now think this was really cool and I'm glad the hospital I was in used this technology, because at least to my untrained eye, it seems like it would significantly reduce the chance of a medical error being made.

*Ash attempts to call into work. Several calls to 411 result in a series of transfers to places that have no discernible connection to his workplace. He calls a friend of ours to ask him to Google it for us. Ro answers groggily, and we remember somewhat belatedly that he is on vacation... in a different time zone. Oops. He offers to try and find the number anyway. We feel like idiots.

* Eight o'clock arrives. I was told I'd be on my way to appendix-less by now, and yet here I am, still waiting for my pain meds. I think terrible thoughts about Nurse Bates.

* Ash offers to turn the room TV on several times, but the thought of having the TV running makes me feel inexplicably anxious and panicky. I am torn between my urgent need for something to distract me from my pain and fear, and my overloaded system's utter inability to deal with one more stimulus.

* Ash deems it late enough to call my mother. He gets her voicemail and leaves a message containing no information whatsoever except that she should call him as soon as possible.

* I call into work. My boss does not answer his phone, so I leave a message and consider my duty done. I also text my friends at work because I know that my manager does not bother to listen to voicemail on a regular basis and will probably wander over around 10:30 to ask if anyone knows where I am. The longer I sit in bed, the more people I realize we need to call. I rack my pain-addled brain, trying to remember what I would have had on my schedule at work for the day. Is there anyone who is going to freak out because I don't do something for them today? Was there anything on deadline? I make Ash call my newly-assigned mentor at work to let him know that I won't be showing up for our "stop up once you've had some coffee" meeting. I am preoccupied with concern that he will think I am blowing him off. I do not want to blow this chance to learn from some one on our executive team (and maybe, possibly, earn a promotion). In retrospect, I realize this is one of the more ludicrous thoughts to cross my mind, but at the time, it is absolutely in my Top Ten List of Things I Can't Stop Worrying About.

* The one hard and fast rule of our marriage thus far has been this:


I am forced to break this rule because the pain makes it too difficult to walk without assistance, and my bladder is juuuuuuust about to burst. It is a measure of how very bad things are that I meekly accept the loss of my very valued bathroom privacy without complaint.

* As Ash is helping me take care of business, his cell phone rings. And rings again. Then my cell phone rings. As I finally make it back to the haven of my hospital bed, it rings again, and I answer to find my mother sobbing hysterically. She has made the logical leap from "Hi, it's Ash. Please call me as soon as possible" to "Your daughter is dead and I didn't want to leave it in a voicemail". The fact that I am clearly alive enough to answer a cell phone doesn't seem to get through for a few minutes. When she calms down a little, she keeps asking me in what I perceive to be a vaguely accusatory tone, "How did this happen?" It's a question that will nag at the back of my brain for the next several days, but I will not get an answer until I get home and can look it up online. I finally have to hand the phone over to Ash, because I am in too much pain to try and have a conversation, and my mom clearly needs someone who can give her some information. I feel bad that I've worried her, and I feel angry that she's getting so upset. I know this isn't fair, so I also feel guilty for feeling angry.

* Nurse Bates finally shows up with my pain meds... no, scratch that. She shows up with *a* pain med-- Dilaudid. You know, the one I asked not to be given because of the severe side effects I suffered the last time I was given it. She wants nothing to do with my objections, because apparently it's a major problem for her to have to deal with patients (or at least this is what her demeanor leads me to believe). She grudgingly allows that she could call the doctor and ask him to prescribe something else, but it will take awhile. I've been waiting for pain meds for nearly four hours by now, and the pain has escalated to the point where it feels like a red hot iron spike has been driven straight through my abdomen into the bed. I don't know if I can wait much longer for relief, so I give in and allow her to administer the Dilaudid.

This was a massive mistake.

A strange cold feeling starts to spread across my chest and with it, the feeling that I cannot make the muscles of my chest move, which makes me feel like I am dying. Not suffocating, but literally experiencing my own death. This is a terrible feeling, and just as frightening as it had been the first time I was given Dilaudid (when no one warned me that this might happen). Nurse Bates doesn't stick around to see what happens to me, just leaves the room without a word to me. I hate her so very much.

* Various people come and go in the hallway, but no one comes into my room. The Dilaudid has done nothing to take the edge off the pain. I shift in the bed continuously, trying to find the magic placement of limbs and body to relieve what has now started to feel like a sharp, jagged piece of concrete stuck inside me.

* After an hour goes by, I press the call button and ask for more pain meds. The voice at the other end says the nurse will stop in. We wait. And wait. And wait. I keep checking the clock, hoping to see that the magic time of It's-Time-To-Take-You-To-The-OR o'clock, or at least You-Can-Have-Some-More-Pain-Meds a.m. has been reached. Somehow, no significant time has passed. I feel like I'm stuck inside the Calvin and Hobbes strip where he thinks an hour has gone by, but it's really only been 20 seconds.

* I am plagued by thoughts of the scene in The Stand where Mark dies of appendicitis while Stu tries to perform an appendectomy. Unable to divert my own attention, I decide to share this appealing thought with Ash, who laughs and tells me that he's been thinking about the same thing. I am really glad that, if I HAD to get appendicitis, it wasn't in a post-Captain Trips world.

* Ash is probably getting sick of my thrashing around in bed and incessant repetition of variations on "I hurt and I'm scared". But he is far more patient than I could ever have expected him to be, especially since he's still trying to read some cases for work and hasn't slept. I am ashamed to admit that I probably could not have been so patient in the same circumstances. Lack of sleep makes me cranky.

* Speaking of cranky, lack of food also makes me cranky. The anti-nausea medication has done its job, and the food cart is sitting outside my room. Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. All signs point to tears over my lack of breakfast. Yet I don't even think about it until much later. I am, however, very thirsty, and there is no water for a woman waiting to be taken to surgery. "Luckily", the pain has continued to progress. I actually start to be afraid to move, not sure if my fear that I'll cause my own appendix to burst by shifting my weight is irrational.

* Finally, a whole group of people turn up to take me to the OR. Two of them take hold of the sheets and hoist me onto a gurney using the sheets like a sling. I am simultaneously impressed with their strength and relieved that I don't have to try and roll or otherwise move my body under my own steam, because I am almost positive that I could not do so for any reason. Ash is permitted to follow along for the first part of the journey. The orderly who is pushing the gurney apologizes every time we hit a bump, and I concentrate hard on not screaming when we go over the uneven entrance to the elevator lobby. The OR is a very long trip from the surgical unit. This seems very strange to me, but I have no frame of reference in these matters.

* At the doors to the Pre-op Unit, Ash is gently told that he can't go any further. My heart starts to pound and the tears finally start to roll because I am so terrified that something will go wrong and I will never see him again. The thought of leaving him behind just breaks my heart. He is a rock. Nothing in his voice or demeanor gives away the fact that he is also freaking out. He just repeats the mantra of the morning: it's routine, this will be fine, no problem, don't worry, everything will be fine, there's nothing to this. Flat on my back, I can't even catch a last glimpse as the doors swing shut behind me.

* The pre-op room reminds me of a Fisher Price parking garage for some insane reason. People are laying on gurneys at stations around the perimeter of the room while nurses and doctors pass to and fro, asking questions and doing various pre-op things. I can tell by the conversations going on at nearby stations that some people waiting for surgery are awake and alert and not in pain. This seems unbelieveably unfair to me, since I still have not had a new dose of pain meds. I wonder if this is like a doctor's office, where you wait until your name is called and the doctor is ready to see you. I also wish that I could sit up and watch what is going on around me, because I bet it's fascinating. This is really a futile wish, because even if they would let me sit up to watch, I absolultely could not do it. Not for love or money.

* A blonde nurse with a plump, kind face comes over to fill out a chart with some questions on it. It is starting to get hard to talk now because I am in so much pain. I can't remember anything about our conversation except that she brushes my hair from my forehead and smiles at me while she fills out her paperwork.

* A very tall redhaired man comes up right after the blonde nurse walks away. He introduces himself, asks two or three questions, and bustles off. He isn't gone two minutes before I've forgotten who he is and what he does.

* Another very tall man comes up and introduces himself as the somethingsomething, and he guestures at the young blonde woman behind him, introducing her as his assistant. I feel that he should really pull a rabbit out of a top hat at this point, and am struck by the insane urge to ask him if he plans to saw me in half.

* I lay on the gurney alone for a little while, listening to the conversations around me. Listening to the medical jabber, I wonder if they're talking about me. I wonder what's going to happen next. I wonder how long my surgery will take. I wonder if Ash is scared. I wonder if I will go home the next day, or if they'll make me leave earlier. I wonder who I should ask for answers, but I am in no shape to listen to any answers anyway, so I just listen and wait. I feel like a car waiting for an oil change.

* A large man with white hair pops up next to me, seemingly out of nowhere and it's the surgeon and he's got a really thick accent and charming manner that immediately makes me want to smile. He pokes and asks questions that take me a moment to process because I am so busy trying to place his accent. Definitely not German or French or Italian or Spanish, I don't think it's Russian, but I can't think of what it is. His last name is not something I can identify the origin of, though in a strange coincidence, it is the same as one of my father's childhood buddies. I wonder if they are related, but I doubt it. Still, stranger things have happened, and... oops, I should probably be paying attention here. He pokes my chicken pox scar, the one right above my belly button and asks if it's "maybe from a lap-a-ra-scope-y? maybe from a long time earlier"? I whisper, "No, it's from the chicken pox", and he lets out a loud belly laugh. I am irrationally pleased that I have made this charming old man laugh. The surgeon gives some instructions to kindfaced blonde nurse and leaves the room.

* I am wheeled across the room, though a short hallway filled with scrub sinks (just like on Scrubs!), and into what is clearly the OR. It is much smaller than I imagined. I am still fully clothed and wonder if they are going to shave any part of me right now. Once again, I am manhandled onto what I think is the table by means of the sheet, except I quickly discover that in fact, it is just a hard board, because approximately eight hands take hold of me and slide me over onto a very cold table with one quick movement. Even more people are filing into the room through another door, and my gurney is wheeled away to make room for them. I wonder what they are all there for. No one has said a single word to me or made eye contact since the funny surgeon left. I am torn between fear of the unknown and an ever-growing need to make the pain stop by any means necessary.

* The blonde assistant reappears at my head. She holds a clear plastic mask in her hand and says "This is oxygen to help you breath. Just breathe normally." She places it over my nose and mouth and it is rigid and I can't breathe and I start to tell her and she LIED about what was in that mask because with that, I am utterly unconscious.