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Inspirational Reads

The Ordeal, Part I

October 24, 2006

This is a tale so grand that it needs to be told in four parts. Mostly because it was four days long, and each day requires its own story. And if you don't like it, eff off.

Where I have been for the past week and a half, or so.

It all started two Sundays ago, very early in the morning. I woke up with that familiar pain in the gut around 2:30 in the morning. Great, I thought, here we go again. But, it passed in a couple of hours and I then thought, Whew. Done! However, five hours later, it hit again. And then again. And again. And again. And then my wife came home. And I went out to tutor. And it hit again. And then later that night during the bliss that was the final Venture Brothers of the season, it hit again. But, each of these were small and, while they hurt, they were gone in about an hour to an hour and a half.

Then 2:30 in the morning rolled around again. And it hit again. And this one didn't go away. I went downstairs to my typical ride-this-gall-stone-pain-out port (aka my easy chair) to watch the repeats of Adult Swim. God, the Venture Brothers kick ass. "Dude, the guy from Labyrinth just turned into a bird and flew away!" Trust me. Go watch it.

Anyway, I drifted in and out of sleep for a while until, and I'm not sure I didn't hear a heart-wrenching Ka-Thunk, the stone stopped moving. Oh, the pain. Oh, the nausea. It was bad enough, it brought tears to my eye.

There. I admit it. I cried. But they were involuntary reactions. I would have done it in my garage with my table saw spinning if I had either a garage or a table saw.

I should have seen it coming, too. Eric Gordon said he was going to sign with IU. Indiana beat Iowa. I found out Final Fantasy XII is coming to PS2 and not just PS3, like I assumed. And, the best part of all, I took my kids out for breakfast on Saturday and then we went to the museum in Raleigh and had a good time. A great time. So, I should have seen this shit coming. But, I didn't. And, I paid for my good time out with my little family in little, calcareous form.

After four hours of gut-wrenching pain, I finally had had enough. I staggered up the stairs like a hero who had just taken a shot in the gut and was clinging to the place where the bullet entered, streaming blood behind him. I collapsed onto my side of the bed and my wife said, "Oh God, we need to go, don't we?" I think I offered a throaty, raspy affirmative. Moments later, calls had been made, bags had been packed, and we were sailing down Duke Street toward the hospital and the warm glow of the ER where I held Madeleine's hand as I staggered toward the entrance like some brain-gorged zombie moving toward my destiny. I made it to be checked in, and immediately got sent toward a bed. My nurse, a lovely young woman whose name I no longer remember, had had her gall bladder removed, and on the way back, she was telling me how wonderful her life was after having it taken out. Though she couldn't offer me strong pain medication, she was very nice in telling me that soon my issues would be over. I, of course, wanted to ask her about the after effects of the surgery. However, for some reason, on about an hour's worth of sleep, I couldn't ask this pretty young nurse about horrible diarrhea 30 minutes after she ate. So, I left it alone.

God bless the fine ladies in the ER, too, for not stabbing me with needles seven or eight times just to get an IV line in. The last time I went, the poor guy had to stab me three times until finally he struck Texas tea. Fortunately, Christa (or Christina) found it on my right arm with one shot, Jed Clampett style. I got a shot of a mild pain-killer (torrinol, I think?) and then I was off to imaging for my liver and gall system.

This was where the fun began. Again, I don't remember the doctor's name, but she looked like my friend Roy's ex-wife Yvette. For a second, in my hour's worth of sleep state of mind as well as the pain and mild painkillers pumping through me, I thought it was Yvette, and then she wouldn't treat me because, you know, I was his friend and all. But, it wasn't. Her assistant's name was Auburn, which I thought was kind of cool. Except she had pale blonde hair. However, I did vow to steal her name for a character in a book. However, they were fun. Mostly, because they didn't know I'm Mr. Chemistry Useless Facts.

So, the main doctor starts to tell me that they're going to inject me with a radioactive slurry that will pretty much immediately go to my liver and they can take an image of my liver and see if anything is moving or whatnot, since if my bile ducts are unblocked, my liver should make bile and spit it into my gall bladder and my bile ducts. If they're blocked, there shouldn't be too much going on. This, of course, excites me. Delirious with pain and giddy with gamma-ray emitting medical testing, I start asking questions.

"What isotope are we working with here?"

"Technetium."

Oh, Doctor. You had me right there.

"Technetium!" I respond, with the wide-eyed giddiness of a child who has just made the first discovery that, yes, indeed, Santa Claus had been there the night before.

"Yes...uh...is there a problem?"

"Oh no. Technetium. Element 43. The first man-made element! Of course, it's found naturally in uranium ores, but still, the very first synthetic element!"

At this point, the two doctors exchange a look. I wink at Auburn.

"I have a master's degree in chemistry." At that point, we all shared a laugh.

"What's the half life?"

"About six hours," the doctor responded.

"Oh, so I'll be a gamma-emitter for 36 hours!"

I'm quite certain they haven't had anyone like me in there before.

(Incidentally, I went and looked up which isotope I had in me, and it was 99mTc, the m being a metastable isotope that's fairly common for this kind of test. Still, being the chem dork that I am, it still thrilled me to be "working with" technetium, and I am SO checking it off my list of elements now).

The doctor then went on and described the remainder of the test and what it would entail. I listened and nodded, pretty much figuring it out on my own, but after I had just started singing the praises of technetium to her and Auburn, I figured it was time for some normalcy. Then they prepared the syringe, which was encased in a big-ass steel/lead jacket. Oh, it was cool. When they shot it into my IV, I felt a little tingle and some cold, but nothing much else. No super powers came over me (damn) and no Hulkian rage (or no moreso than normal) and no X-ray vision (again, damn). However, I got that wide-eyed giddy look again.

"So...now I'm hot, huh?" Both of them laughed at this one and said, "Yes." This made me happy, both from an eg0-stroking as well as a chemistry joking sort of way.

I was then pushed under this big detector thing and I waited while the test ran its course. I dozed some. I recited the periodic table in my head. I thought about what type of character my Auburn would be. And then I thought about Auburn, Indiana and hot Sarah DePew, who was from Auburn (insert drooling Homer picture here), and then I thought about what a whiney bitch Tommy Tuberville is. And then the test was done. And, basically, my liver said, "Uh-uh...I'm not moving anything else down the line. It hurts us, with its nasty bright eyes and its rope from the Elves." Yes, my liver is Gollum.

So, the bad news. I was stuck for a while, mostly because I had a stone stuck in my common bile duct. Apparenly, it was pushing on my pancreas, which is why I felt like vomiting constantly. Who knew that my sweetbread was that sensitive to a stone the size of a cobble pressing on it from the inside? Not me. However...the more you know...

The good news, though, was that I could now get REAL pain medicine. Oh yeah. I was riding the morphine train. I got on that alkaloid chugga chugga choo-choo before leaving the ER. Unfortunately...I was also a training monkey in the ER. AND, they wanted more blood samples from me (apparently my first offering was too hemolytic...bah!). So, I had to endure two more pokes...which...compared with later in the week, was nothing. So, I got to teach the students all sorts of good things about gall bladder pain and issues as well as get them all some good practice on how to draw out blood from someone with deeply buried veins. Damn my genetics.

But, it didn't matter. I was riding high on morphine. I climbed into my wheel chair and they pushed me up to my room and I climbed into my bed and then I got that nice warm feeling in the middle of my thighs. Oh, glorious sleep, you could not be far off. And you weren't. Narcotics get their names for a reason. It was the first time in about eleven hours that my midsection didn't feel as if it was on fire; however, a new wave of nausea rolled over me. Fortunately, they had drugs to combat that.

Fortunately, my mother-in-law was in Atlanta and she came to the rescue. While I sometimes complain, I really appreciated her dropping everything and delaying her return to Indiana so that I could get my treatments. It was sometime around now that my mother-in-law came in and took care of my kids. Madeleine was very sweet and Thomas was just glad to go somewhere. My wife stuck around for a while, but I was committed to catching up on sleep and morphine, so she left later in the afternoon for some dinner. And I didn't care, because nurse Jennifer kept coming back every four hours to hit me with some more morphine. I liked seeing her smiling face, because it meant that the pain was going to go away for a while and that some really fucked-up dreams were on their way.

Unfortunately, I don't remember any of my dreams from the hospital. However, I do remember them being fantastical in every aspect of the term. So, I guess I'll have to leave you wanting to more. As it is, this concludes the first day of my time in the hospital as well as the first leg of the Ordeal.

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