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Inspirational Reads

The Ordeal, Part III

November 11, 2006

It's a beautiful thing, waking up and finding two attractive ladies at your beck and call. Well, three if you count my wife. Except she's less at my beck and call, even in my semi-delirious state. In fact, I'd have to be fully delirious to try that beck and call horseshit with her.

But, I digress. Two women, huddled around the entrance to my cubby hole, were waiting to take me down to the ambulance and return me to my temporary prison at the hospital. Very gently (though there was NO pain at all at this point in time) they loaded me onto a fresh gurney and then took me downstairs to the ambulance. My memories of this transfer are sketchy, at best, since I was still coming out of the anaesthesia I had endured while they moved the stone out of my bile duct. I don't remember getting into the ambulance, I was just suddenly there, cozy, with a blanket tucked around my precious little body to protect it from the cold and the rain. I do remember feeling great, that the procedure had been done and my guts were no long afire with agony. I also remember getting down from my bed and hopping up onto the gurney, all spry and such. It impressed the ladies who were operating the ambulance. Again, I don't remember their names, but I do remember they both had dark hair and both were very, very nice. The lady in the back tried to chat me up, but I am pretty certain that my normal witty banter was more along the lines of Mushmouth's from Fat Albert. My wife hopped in shotgun and chatted up the driver, and God bless the driver, she took the quickest, most non-bumpy route back to the hospital. And the gurney didn't collapse. Bless you both, ladies. I also remember the lady in the back being concerned about me falling asleep and trying to keep the others quiet a bit, and me trying to tell her that it was alright, I was awake.

This was a very interesting feeling. It was like when you're wearing a swimming mask, and you're underwater on your back and staring up through the surface of the water in the pool. You get a very, very clear image of the world outside the pool, but the image is moving back and forth as the light is bent by the water as the surface waves move back and forth. Outside of the image directly in front of you, everything just sort of trails off into a blue-gray haze of confusing movement and indecipherable shadows. And then imagine a face appears above you, and you want to talk to them, but you speak and the words come out of your mouth but are swallowed by the water surrounding your body and carried off somewhere else, never to be heard again. That's kind of what it is like waking up from whatever glorious drugs they had sent through my body. That's what the ride back from Duke was like.

We arrived at the hospital relatively quickly, and they ladies took me upstairs to my chamber...er...room. On the way, we passed my nurse, Lowell, a very pleasant fellow whom I liked very much. He was friendly and nice, as is to be expected in the nursing profession, but he was also (mostly) attentive. I said hello to Lowell, excitedly, apparently, which took him aback, apparently. And then we got in the elevators.

This is where the wheels came off.

Remember, I hadn't had anything to eat since Sunday around 8:00 pm. This was Tuesday, around 4:30 or 5:00. Do the math (it's about 45 hours without food, for your arithmetic-challenged folk), and you can see that it's been a while since real sustenance has passed my lips. Top this with having just been put under anaesthesia and pain medicine, and having something shoved down my throat to retrieve a stone which was pressing on my pancreas. I think you can see where this is going. The icing on this nausea cake, evidently, was the motion of the elevator whooshing me up to the fourth floor. Like all good icing, my face lost its color and turned a very, very pale white. Whiter than normal for me. I don't even think lily white could describe it. It was probably more like Oh-my-God-I'm-going-to-bring-it-up-NOW! white.

The two ladies brought me to my room and helped me into my bed. I'm fairly certain it's not in their job description, but they helped cover me up, gave me pillows, propped me up, all that good stuff. And then the one who had been in the back with me asked if I needed anything.

"Trashcan," I responded, diving for the can at my side. She also reached for it, trying to help me as best she could.

Now, knowing that most people can't really take the sight of someone else puking, I buried my face and head as deeply into the trashcan as I could to try and save any others close by from enduring the gut-wrenching process that is involved when I vomit. I don't just vomit, usually. I projectile vomit, Mr. Creosote-style. I also have such violent stomach contractions that it's like I'm disgorging my entire soul, not just the remains of my Italian sandwich, which arrived at the table twenty minutes after everyone else's food.

Only problem is, my stomach was empty. 45-hours worth of empty. Fortunately, I was having gall bladder issues, which meant I did have a little something something to bring up: bile. Foul-smelling, lurid green, acrid, been-laying-in-my-gut for two days bile.

As luck would have it, this passed quickly. I do remember a look of pity from the lady who had helped me. Apparently, she was one of those strong-stomach type folks, and she looked terribly empathetic as she asked if there was anything else she could do for me. Having cast out the demons, I felt remarkably better. My wife was quick on the trigger, though, and called for the nurse. However, this was around 5:00, when most decent, non-ERCP-having-people eat, and Lowell was probably grabbing a quick bite before he had to come back and check my IVs and such.

The ambulance ladies, having done all they could, wished me well. My wife stuck around until Lowell finally came in. The pain meds and knock-out juice were taking their toll again on me, and I was in and out of sleep. I urged my wife to go and meet her mom and the kids for dinner, that I would be fine now that I was in Lowell's able care. She left, and I slipped in and out of sleep.

I awoke when a gentleman came in and asked if I was going to eat my dinner. I was stunned to hear these words. I was more surprised to find a tray had been delivered while I dozed. I vaguely remember interacting with someone originally. It might have been that same man. I don't know. I didn't care. There was food before me. I chased him off and sat up, woozily, to find a lovely liquid dinner before me. Chicken broth, which I had allowed to get luke warm, green jello, a melted popsicle, some grape juice and some ice tea. Roast quail basted in blackberry sauce wouldn't have tasted as good. It would have been more filling, but my parched throat and shrunken stomach quickly welcomed everything I could get. The napkin is lucky to have escaped. As soon as I had finished, I wanted more. I even pondered drinking the tea for a moment before deciding that I wasn't quite that desperate. A little while later, the man came back and took my tray. I wanted to ask him for more, but instead I just turned on Dirty Jobs. I had seen it before, but I didn't care. I was awake now, and most of my wits had been found in the bottom of that bowl of broth.

Jamie returned that night. Her soft skin, blonde hair and warm touch while listening to my breathing returned as well. She would come and check on me almost hourly. Every time she would leave, she would ask, "Can I get you anything?"

"Yes, anything. Just come back topless."

Okay, I didn't say this, but I thought it. I had been cooped up too long. Jamie did explain that I had to wait at least 24 hours before I could have the gall bladder surgery. My doctor/intern arrived at some point during the night, most likely in the wee hours of the morning, to tell me that it would not be until Friday before I could get the accursed organ removed. She then said they would try to move me up, if at all possible. I knew the schedule might be tight, but I held out hope. My wife, however, took a slightly more aggresive route as she hoped to have me home by Friday (which was our anniversary, for trivia's sake).

Tuesday night, while seeking to stimulate my mind (not that Mike Rowe and a series of filthy events didn't do the job), I picked up a copy of the Bill Bryson book my wife had bought for me. It was the perfect sort of travel essay, where he drove around the country looking for the perfect small town in America. At first, the story was a little slow and a little dry, but I kept on, and quickly I was consuming whole chapters without knowing any time had passed. He's been reviewed and raved about in countless media outlets. This will not be one of them. Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed his writing. It was engaging and clever and funny all at once, and the pictures he painted with the words gave my imagination much to work with and little to doubt. Katie, in case you ever read this, you're right, I do have a similar writing style. I guess I should be honored to be compared to him. Thank you.

This was how most of Wednesday passed. I woke up, had some more broth and jello and juice, washed up, read Bill Bryson, had some more broth and jello and juice, read more Bill Bryson, had some more broth and jello and juice and read more Bill Bryson. At times, I would set him down, try to watch some televsion, or I would flip through my latest All About Beer magazine, or I would stare blankly out the window. Wednesday wore on, boring, with Lowell showing up every so often to make sure I was alright, or to fight my IV machine, or to bring me more antibiotics.

Finally, Wednesday evening arrived, and with it came Jamie once more. And with Jamie came even greater news: My surgery had been moved up to Thursday. As it stood, it would be late Thursday, but it was Thursday nonetheless. Ka-loo, ka-lay. Now, if only the news had been delivered topless...

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