If you ever have to look down to remind yourself that you haven't been stabbed in the stomach, your day is off to a bad start.
This was the situation I found myself in the other day. I even left work early so I could be miserable in only one way at a time.
I took a shower, hot water normally eases whatever pain I'm feeling, but this time it just made it a wetter kind of pain.
I considered putting clothes on for a minute, but the thought of bending down to pick them up from their place on the floor made my stomach cry out in anguish.
And so I laid there, bare-bum naked, waiting for the alien larvae to burst from my stomach and end my pain forever.
It really sucks, when all you want in the world is just to curl up into the fetal position and cry, but said curling really really hurts.
Finally I decided that that searing pain in my stomach might be something I should talk to a medical professional about.
I'd been manly for almost 9 hours. I'd filled my quota.
My lovely wife drove me to the nearest insta-care facility where I was over whelmed by how misinforming that name was. There was nothing insta about the care I received.
What they should call it is an insta-pay or an insta-wait or an insta-fill out these forms, because those are the only things I did within the first 20 minutes.
Not that I mind. There were plenty of other people there in need of care at any speed. Some of whom were in more pain than I, and other who were just better at selling it.
As I sat there I tried to distract myself by reading a Newsweek the humor columnist in me is required to say was from the Regan era but was really from March.
I had to distract myself because now the pain was so pain that I wanted to puke. It was like someone had put a donkey in my stomach and it was trying to kick its way out.
As a former janitor, I've found that I have secret agent-like awareness in potentially dangerous situations. Only instead of always knowing how to escape and constantly figuring out how to disable any one in the room who may be a threat, whenever I feel sick I'm constantly scanning the room for the best way to blow chunks so that no one has to clean it up.
Ok, it's 4 and one half steps to the garbage can in the corner, but if that kid playing with the blocks stands up, I won't be able to hurdle him, so I'll go left instead, where it just five and one third steps to the large, potted plant.
It's not as cool I know, but I would argue that it's just as heroic.
Finally I got to see the doctor. By which I of course mean a nurse.
She was very nice though, and did a good job taking my vitals and gathering some basic information. Then she took me to an small room, gave me a paper dress, told me to strip to the waist and that the doctor would be with me shortly.
When I got to see a doctor. He listened to my stomach with a stethoscope – which really makes me think they just really like to use those things for everything they can – and poked my belly like I was a beloved mascot for a bake goods corporation.
I don't know how effective the listening was, unless he actually heard something burst, but the poking was very effective in making it very clear that I was really in pain.
Apparently stethoscopes and fingers were the whole extant of medical equipment this particular insta-care had at their disposal, because that was all they did. The doctor said that he couldn't rule out appendicitis and that I should probably get to emergency room.
I was about to say that wouldn't be necessary but he poked me again in the stomach and I saw the prudence of listening to a medical professionals advice.
So my wife helped me stagger to the car and drove me to the hospital. The insta-care gave us very good directions that helped us find the hospital with no problem. They were not however as clear on how to get to the actual emergency room. We had to drive around the whole building twice, cross a bridge guarded by a troll and speak the elvish word for friend before we were finally allowed to enter.
The emergency room was another place that didn't meet the expectations I had from it's name. I don't know it it was because people had planned their emergencies better than I had or if it was always this way but it didn't look to me any busier or more stressed than a normal doctors office.
There were even toys for kids to play with. In my mind the only thing kids had to play with and the emergency room were severed fingers they found on the floor.
So I calmly wrote my name on a sheet of paper and sat down to patiently wait for the receptionist or God to call my name. Whoever spoke up first.
The first medical professional that I dealt with was a male nurse. He really struck me as more of an gatherer of information than a healer of wounds. He asked me a lot of questions about my past medical history, any similar trips to the hospital, how I had paid for those and how I was planning on paying for this one.
“What seems to be the problem?” he asked, in a voice that made it pretty clear that whatever my problem was, it had better be pretty good because he had probably seen people die already today.
I tried to come up with the most manly way to explain the situation but all I could up with was, “My tummy hurts.”
He then took my vitals which consisted of taking my blood pressure, checking my temperature and sticking a thing on my figure for some reason. I think I had something to do with oxygen.
This was the first of many vitals takings during my time at the hospital. That seems to be how doctors and nurses greet people. They say their name and the stick their hand out, but when you go to shake it, BOOM, they've slapped that cuff on you and are squeezing for all they're worth.
The next person I saw was an EMT. The EMT's part in this whole process was basically to stick a big, all purpose needle in me that later nurses and doctors could use to put in and take out various fluids.
I wasn't too worried when he explained this. I've given blood plenty of times, but this time it was different. Apparently if you've got a donkey in your stomach, needles just provoke him.
In the EMT's words, I suddenly lost a lot of color. This is a big deal for me because I don't have a lot of color to go around. I can't afford to lose any.
At that exact moment, however, I had bigger concerns than the current state of my complexion. The exact location of my blood, and my sudden need to fall down for example.
The EMT had me lay down and hooked me up to an IV to help me regain some fluids. I instantly fell in love with this new method of taking in fluids. I think the only way it could be more effective would be if they pumped the water directly into my bladder.
In between trips to get rid of some of the IV solution, they gave me a CAT scan. They stuck my lower half into the large machine that reminded me of a really high tech, but really crappy water slide.
After dipping me a couple times, the thing whirred and beeped for a bit and delivered it verdict that I was perfectly fine.
I think it was hoping they would send me home and I would die and then the robot uprising could take place.
No such luck this day Mr. Roboto. The technician was able to catch on the ruse, run the test again and sure enough, my appendix had taken the commuter rail all the way to inflamedville.
I considered this a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it pretty lucky when you think about it to have the one organ that craps out early be on I totally don't use. On the other hand, I always considered my appendix to be one of my finer features.
The surgeon came a explained what appendicitis was and would happen during the operation. He was very personable and dig a good job explaining things, but really all I heard from him was “You're in a lot a pain right now.”
I do remember that he spent a lot of time going over what would happen in the “worst case scenario.”
“Mr. Shinney, I want you to be fully aware that, 'worse case scenario' you could be full of giant spider eggs. It's not very common. Only one person out of 500 has it. I just think you should know.”
I understand the importance of making sure the patient has all the information, but I think he should also give equal opportunity to the “best case.”
“Mr. Shinney I think you should also be aware that when we open you up, there's a 4 and one half percent chance all this pain was cause by a small golden monkey. If that's the case you'll get to keep the monkey.”
He also gave me a paper to sign saying that he had explained all the options available to me. This was pretty easy for him. Apparently my options were I could let him poke around in my stomach with a camera, a pair of scissors and a stapler, or I could go home and die a slow and painful death.
On the TV in my little room, the Yankees had just beaten the Red Sox, so I figured I had something to live for, so I went with the first one.
We had to wait about an hour for an operating room to be available. It was a quite time of introspection. I looked back on my life, on what I had done and what I still hoped to do. I prayed for comfort and strength. I told my wife I loved her.
I made up my mind who I would haunt if the doctor sneezed.
When they came in to tell me the room was ready for me I was a little bit sad to say goodbye to my little corner of the emergency room. It had a bed, a TV and a bathroom all within 20 feet of each other. It was nicer than many apartments I've lived in.
I was also sad because everyone in the emergency room was really nice to me. I'd like to think that it was because of my charming personality and my up-beat attitude.
It truth I think it was just because I didn't bleed or barf on any of them.
They helped me onto one of those hospital beds on wheels that are officially called gurneys but when you're strapped into one, you just think of it as a “transport to a scary place.” The wheeled me into the operating room where I was introduced to my anesthesiologist and much more importantly, to my anesthesia.
I don't remember any of what happened next. Considering that it involved people cutting, probing and shaving all different parts of my body, I would say this was probably a good thing.
Even with all the kindnesses I was shown during my stay in the hospital, including saving my life, the one I was most grateful for was that they waited until I was completely under to lift my gown and expose my junk to anything medical.
I think this is the way it should always be.
During the next hour or so, my appendix was removed. I don't know what else happened in that time. I'm still hoping they did some sort of experimental treatment that will someday result in my being able to fly, shoot lasers out of my eyes or at least figure out my gas mileage in my head, but so far, no luck.
After I was all sew, taped and stapled back together, I was wheeled into the room in which I was to recover. I'm normally not very interested in interior decorating, but for some reason, I found myself very impressed with the curtains.
I was moved into a less movable – and therefore less scary – bed and hooked up to multitude of machines, none of which were explained to me and told to have a good night. On the way out the nurse said offhandedly “Oh, if you need it, there's a urinal next to your bed.”
This was the meanest thing to happen to me during my stay, and that includes all the poking.
Now I know that the average woman does not spend a lot of time in the men's room. This is kind of the idea behind the whole system. But really women, it is very important that you know what is and what is not a urinal.
Because if you tell a heavily drugged, post-op patient that there is a urinal beside his bed, in his current state of mind he will assume there is a real, porcelain-on-the-wall urinal somewhere to his left. When he wakes up and finds that there's nothing but a pee-bottle, he's gonna be more than a little disappointed.
This pee-in-a-bottle system is so that the nurses can keep track of how much you're producing, and so that the rest of us can be glad we're not nurses.
At first I was glad to have the bottle. I was in no mood to stand up and go anywhere to go. The thought of being able to pee as I was struck me as ultimate luxury.
The problem was that ever since I was four years old, I've been practice NOT peeing while in bed. Over the years, I've gotten really good at it.
This expertise came back to haunt me as I was unable to fill the bottle while lying down and I had to stand up, like a common slob, and do things the old fashioned way.
But as soon as I was able to stand and do my deed, for the first time in my life I experienced peeing after having a catheter recently removed.
I'm not going to bore/disgust you with the details. I'll just say it felt like I had a bad sunburn on the inside and leave it at that.
Bodily functions aside, my first night was a long dark and scary one. I was still in a lot of pain, under the influence of some pretty heavy duty chemicals and one of machines I was plugged into started beeping.
I didn't know what the beeping meant or what caused it, but I did know that whenever you go to a hospital, they hook you up to at least one machine so important that if the plug gets pulled out, you get three warning beeps and then you die.
Fortunately, my beeps were from some other machine.
The rest of my time in the hospital was spend laying in bed, watching TV and drinking juice. If it weren't for the butt-clenching pain and the huge bills, it would have been the best vacation I've had in a long time.
So that's my big medical story. It's not that big of a deal I know. Plenty of people have had worse than me. And yes, I do include all mothers in that group.
I don't know how painful child birth is. All I know is I'm going to wait until I pass a kidney stone while on fire before I try to compare it with anything I've gone through.
I don't want to go back to the hospital.
Steve Shinney is now minus one minor organ. He's recovering well but will probably never be able to help you move in the future. He is sorry for the inconvenience.
Sorry this was so long in coming, expect a return to regular posting.