I was on my knees, practically in tears, begging my novia to get the turkey baster. I was constipated. In fact it was beyond that. I was monsterpated. It was bad and the devil was responsible. No, not the guy with the horns, and the pitchfork, with the condo by the lake of sulfur. I mean Diablo, the pretentious taco fabricator on Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles. We’d eaten there only a couple nights prior. My novia had ordered the vegan burrito. I ordered the same but added carne asada and now it was stuck somewhere in the pipeline.
“Do you want me to get the turkey baster?” My novia asked. “Cause I’m down. I’ll do this right now.” We had reached a whole new level of real. A friend of mine whose wife is a midwife had once told me if you’re ever constipated for more than two days you should give yourself an enema using a turkey baster. After that I never looked at a turkey baster the same.
“But how would we even do it?” I asked, wiping the sweat off my brow. I was seriously considering this as an option and was wondering how this feat could be accomplished. Do I get on my hands and knees like a dog, and stick my arse in the air, or lie on my back and pull my feet over my head? Do I pose like I’m about to use the Thigh Master? Are we going to need Vaseline or Crisco, or a funnel, or a bull horn to get this done or what? Judge me if you will but let me tell you desperate times lead to desperate thoughts.
My novia was on her phone, trying to diagnos me. I was convinced it was food poisoning. She thought otherwise because usually with food poisoning you turn into a double sided fire hydrant.
“I know what you have,” she said.
“What?” I asked.
She showed me her phone. I squinted to see what it said. “I think you’re menstruating.”
I mustered a laugh. Her second diagnosis was that I might be pregnant. I certainly was, with Rosemary’s baby burrito.
“Do you want to go to Urgent Care?” she asked. It seemed like a good idea. I had already had two bags of laxative tea, with no results. The cramps were getting so bad I was walking around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
At Urgent Care the receptionist told us the wait time was an hour and a half. There was no sympathy in his voice. He barely even looked up at my Bela Lugosi face. My eyes took a lap around the waiting room. Nobody looked in dire need of urgent care. If I had a crisp Benjamin on me at that moment I would have stuffed into his shirt and asked him to tell me what the wait time was again.
I couldn’t figure out what to do. Do we go to another Urgent Care? Or the ER? I clutched my stomach and leaned against the wall. All of the wait times were just as abominable. Some guy, slightly off his rocker, strapped to a gurney, was babbling about big block engines. His nonsensical babbling was only adding to my misery. I had to get away. The most accessible place was the restroom. The cramps came. Each one took my breath away and made my eyes water. Meanwhile the song “Take My Breath Away” from Top Gun was stuck in my head. I was praying like a saint and cursing like a sailor. My stomach was churning like a cement machine.
“Can we go back?” I asked my novia. “We need to go back. Something’s about to happen.” And I didn’t want to be in the hospital when it did. Not too soon after we got back to her apartment I gave birth but it did not bring relief. Shortly thereafter I was racked with fever, aches, and chills. I was bed ridden for two days. I could barely eat or drink or walk to the bathroom. A few days later I went to see my PCP.
“Well, do you feel like you’re getting better?”
“I can walk now,” I said. “Seems to be improving.”
“If you don’t feel like you’re improving in a couple days come back.”
That was Wednesday. The following Monday I called him again. The receptionist informed me no one was available for at least a couple weeks.
“I can’t wait that long,” I said. I was lying on my desk at work.
“Ok, let me see what I can do.” Their awful hold music kept me company. It’s not that it’s awful. The piano is calming. What happens is at about halfway through the loop the volume suddenly spikes and there’s this screaming distortion which sounds like the piano just been bashed by a sledgehammer.
Suddenly “Can you come in at 2pm?”
“Yes,” I said.
My doctor’s resident was the only one available. He was excellent. He had the most amazing bed side manner I have ever experienced. His voice was soothing and calm, and when he touched my shoulder I felt like he touched my inner child…not inappropriately or anything. He told a nurse to call around to see who could administer an immediate CT scan.
It was sunny and 70. I sat inside my car outside the CT Imaging facility. My car felt like an oven. It felt good. I was fighting a fever. I was wearing my jacket, and groaning like a caveman, saying “Mmmm, heat. Good.” Ten minutes earlier I had slammed 2 pints of orange dye fruit punch. Now I was waiting for it to illuminate my insides.
After a little of the ole in-and-out with the CT Scan machine I returned to the waiting room.
I overhead the receptionist tell someone over the phone I tested positive. Like baking soda and vinegar the reaction was instantaneous. My heart began to gallop. My body temperature spiked. Beads of sweat began to prick my forehead. Something began crawling up from my insides. It wasn’t vomit. I knew what this was. It was a panic attack, a perfectly normal, perfectly human reaction. I closed my eyes, told myself:
I imagined I was a pilot; my body was a plane about to go into a tailspin. I was struggling to keep control of it.
Someone once told me you cannot control the world outside yourself, only the one within.
In that moment I felt absolutely alone. I reminded myself it wasn’t true. God was here. I knew that I could not allow myself to stress. It would only harm my body.
“Be calm,” I reminded myself.
The woman at the front desk called my name.
“You’re going to take this report and this disc and go to the Emergency Room at Long Beach Memorial. There you will ask for Dr. Gartsman.”
“Ok,” I said. The CT scan revealed that someone had put a hex on my appendix. It was perforated nearly in half, and chilling inside an abscess. “Do you have the address?” I asked. She did not. Thank God for my iPhone.
“Did you find it?” She asked.
“Yes I did,” I said.
Despite the fact that I was on my way to the ER the drive was pleasant. I calmly drove to the hospital. Calmly took my parking ticket. Calmly parked my car, and gathered my things, and calmly walked into the hospital where I had to speak to several people before I was properly guided to the Emergency Room.
Soon after signing in I was invited to triage. Even sooner after that someone brought my chariot and whisked me away to have my blood drawn, then whisked me to another floor to have my vitals checked, and more blood taken, and hooked up to an IV machine with all sorts of fun bags, and changed into a drafty nightgown.
Some woman across from me lay cursing in her room. “I just want to go home,” she kept shouting. Numerous times she tried to make the great escape, only to be scolded back into her bed, which made her angrier. She was afraid and in pain. I could hear it in her voice. In that moment I decided to be happy, regardless of what I was about to endure.
Later some guy came in to the room next to the angry woman, hissing about all the pain he was in. In my head I thought ‘come on you Barbie, walk it off’. When my curtain was pulled back I caught a glimpse of the Barbie boy. He had recently had his right leg amputated and he had fallen on it. It was purple as a plum. “Wow,” I thought. “I.Am.A.Jerk.”
Intermittently a male nurse would come in and check my vitals, my fun bags, and ask me tell him on a scale of 1-10 how bad my pain was. Random doctors kept coming in and introducing themselves to me. I couldn’t keep track of all their names.
One doctor told me he was going to examine me. He began applying pressure to various parts of my abdomen, asking “Does this hurt? What about here?” When he got to my right side he gave me a quick jab. I cried out in pain. “Ok,” he said. He tried to comfort me by telling me no one else was going to do that to me again. He picked up the disc I had brought. “Is this your CT scan?” He asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“I’m going to take a look at these images. I’ll be right back.”
No sooner had he left when his evil twin came in to give me the same abdomen examination.
“Does this hurt?” he asked. “What about here?” His hands wandered to the lower right side of my abdomen. My body tensed up. I said “yes”, hoping it’d convince him not to do it.
Right jab! Stars in my eyes.
“He said that wasn’t going to happen again,” I whimpered.
“Did you come in with a report?” He looked around, confused.
“The other guy took it,” I gasped. With that he vanished like a ninja. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were going to play Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide who would operate on me.
Hours passed. My surgery had been postponed until the next day: time, undetermined. My doctor was still trying to line up a surgeon. They wheeled me into a semi-private suite, where they took my vitals, more blood, changed my fun bags, and mainlined me with más morphine. I felt the cold liquid go into my arm. In a few seconds it felt like someone had cracked an egg on the top of my head. A strange warmth dripped from the top of my head, to the back of my neck, down into my shoulders, all the way to my toes. My heart was racing like a rabbit. I could taste the morphine in my mouth. I was caught in a euphoric rigor mortis.
“Are you ok?” asked the nurse who noticed my reaction.
“That’s intense,” I said.
“That’s why people pay good money for this stuff on the street,” she said.
My novia stayed a little while before kissing me goodnight. Now she had told me many times before that I was an excellent kisser but apparently with morphine I had the power to melt lips. I grinned, my eyelids heavy. She told me she would be back the next day. Seconds later the lights went out. I was alone in my hospital bed, in the darkness, alone with my thoughts. The commotion outside my room sounded like a distant tide. For a moment I felt something I hadn’t felt since I was a child. Helpless. Dependent. I felt humbled by all the care I had received. In my mind I thanked God for each and every one of those who provided me with care. Moments later I was submerged into a drug laced dreamless state.
To be continued…