The night starts with a big, spicy Philly cheese steak. It’s about 6pm. I’ve been wanting to try the cheese steak from this corny, 50’s retro place for a long time. I gobble down the big greasy bowl of meat, hot sauce, and cheese, then head to the coffee shop for my weekly draw group. A little after I get home, about 10pm, a stomach ache comes on. “Damn, guess spicy foods are out.” I’ve been getting stomach aches every time I have spicy Thai or hot wings. I google search about spice pain- possible stomach ulcer? “I guess I have been stressed lately, but no more than usual I don’t think…” File under “Will investigate further later.“ According to the comments on this health website, a glass of milk will help. Gulp one down, go to bed.
Wrestle to sleep for about an hour. Realize the ache is just over the required pain threshold to keep you from sleeping. Do some work on my comic, more tired, but stomach worse. Will play batman until I fall asleep. I feel like I’m just running in circles… How many times have I failed this mission? Batman, batman, stomach now hurts too bad to enjoy an active task like video games. Deliriously tired. Would be great to sleep through the rest of this abdominal temper tantrum. Try the old “hot shower will make you sleep” trick. Take some Pepto-Bismol, and some generic acetaminophen. Out of the shower, hurts to walk around now, and to lie down. Guess I’ll have to wait it out with my eyes open. Call and leave my Doc a message, maybe will get a spot in there tomorrow. Need to get that ulcer discovered… Time to enjoy a passive task like watching TV. Breaking Bad feels like the right mixture of funny and painful, just like me and my burning spice belly. Damn, I can’t even enjoy that part where during Hank’s interrogation of that meth head, Wendy, she accuses Hank of trying to buy sexual services from her on behalf of an underage “football player” (a misunderstanding involving Walter Jr. from a few episodes before). Oh hell. Time to look up what time emergency medical clinics open. Guess I’ll have to pay out of pocket since I can’t wait for my Doc tomorrow. It’s about 4am now. Earliest clinic opens at 8. Now hungry again, but can’t eat what with all the pain. One hour down. Man, this is really starting to hurt. Can I really wait 3 more hours? Sitting is starting to hurt as much as lying and standing. And I’m still not enjoying TV. Okay, I’ve come to a decision….
“Hey, Kayla, my stomach still hurts, I’m thinking about driving to the ER, do you wanna come?” “Oh! Ya, sure. What time is it?” “It’s 5:30”. I call the hospital “Hey, I’ve had a pretty bad stomach ache all night, I’m thinking of coming by.” Operator: *long pause* “Haha, well, okay! We’re open all night, so just come on in.”
Driving with a stomach ache is not so bad, because you’re already hunched over. Wish Kayla could drive, but she doesn’t really know how, probably would have a panic attack and would definitely crash. Interesting that they have ER parking, I wonder how many ER patients drive themselves here… All bodily positions hurt my insides now, signing in to this place sucks. Give Kayla half the paperwork to fill out, glad she’s here, or this would be really boring. Man, they sure take a long time for someone trying to get into an empty emergency room… Signing in with a nurse, she ask me my height and I say “ ‘5’’8”, but I notice she puts down “ ‘5’’7”… They want to look at my pee, they always want to see my pee. I pee, no blood, so whatever that tells them means I’m getting an ultrasound first. Then a young nurse named Ken, a cool Asian dude with screws through both ears, squirts so much morphine into my IV that I lean back and audibly say “oh my god.” I feel it ripple like a shock wave from my arm down to the ends of my body. My belly is feeling alright now.
The ultrasound technician tells me that babies are the least common thing she uses ultrasounds for. My joke has fallen flat. Back in the room, the doctor and his manila folder tell me “Good news! No gallstones, there are kidney stones inside your kidneys, but since they are inside, you shouldn’t be feeling the pain from those.” “Wait, does that mean I have to pee those stones out at some poin–” It is not discussed again. Seeing that neither organ has the appropriate stones, Doc would “rather not expose me to more radiation than necessary” and is working on discharging me. But, “I won’t leave here without a diagnosis.”
In I go to the CT scan tube. That hot squish of contrast dye spreading through my veins. “Okay, we’re moving you into a room upstairs.” Says a hippy technician. Upstairs in my sweet and swanky single with couch, a person I’m pretty sure is just a businessman disguised in medical scrubs types on a computer. He takes down my answers to what seem like pre-surgery questions. “Do you have anybody specific on file in the event you are medically unable to yield consent for yourself?” This, combined fact that they won’t feed me, makes me wonder what it is I’m going into surgery for. I saw this same thing about a year and a half ago with the whole brain debacle, but that’s a story for another time. Several medical people dip in, sprinkle breadcrumbs of information; it’s like a game show challenge that combines a scavenger hunt with a jigsaw puzzle. You have to gather the pieces of information from their hiding places, then assemble them in the correct order to reveal an answer. A tech comes in and spoils the game, “You seem to have a lot of questions, so I just want to make sure, you know you have appendicitis right? We’re about to take it out.” “Thank god,” I think. “It’s not the spicy foods. Spicy foods are still in.” Downstairs, in pre-op, I complain to my plain-clothes surgeon about how analog tests like pressing on my stomach are remarkably inaccurate, since a doctor’s subjective interpretation of my poor description of say, “the pain is slightly higher” can rule out appendicitis, the same appendicitis that a machine might spot an hour later. I tell him that I almost got sent home. My surgeon tells me he’s been doing analogue tests for 30 years, and not to worry about it. I start to tell him how “my deadpan reaction to pain also causes a lot of people to misdiagnose me, that a lot of people laugh when I describe how I’m in pai–”, but he walks away in the middle to get dressed for surgery. The operating room has big TVs and lights, it looks like a set, and I consider the possibility of fake hospitals as the anesthesia takes the wheel.
In the recovery area, the nurse tells me how big, inflamed appendixes can be agitated by spicy foods, foods high in fat, and dense foods like heavy cheese. I see an image of a spotlit cheese steak appear in a black void. Nurse feeds me ice chips and tells me she craves ice chips when she’s dehydrated. I suggest that she only craves ice chips because she works in a hospital, that ice chips are too unsatisfying a thing to crave at random, and that most people would just crave water. She agrees. Back upstairs in my room, it is now 8pm, and it has been 26 hours since I’ve eaten. I’ve been hydrated only through IV’s. The driest mouth and the clearest pee. Because the lingering anesthetic can cause nausea and vomiting, they will only give me jello. I go nuts on the jello. They continue to give me every jello I ask for, one at a time, like a test. Way past where I though the cutoff point would be, the nurse tells me “That’s it! There’s no more jello! You ate all the jello on this floor.” You’re damn right I did, you’re damn right….