It wasn’t fun. It wasn’t even okay. It WAS very painful. But they did have some GREAT drugs. You recall the old Jimmy Buffet tune, “Where are the Flashbacks They all Warned Us About?” It came out back in the Sixties. Then again, if you actually were a passionate young hippie during the Sixties, you may well NOT remember it. Whatever. I dId, however, find one of those fabled flashbacks. But I digress.
Anyways, I was rushed by my lovely personal nurse, Suzy, to Marion General Hospital in the wee smalls of Wednesday morning, October 3rd, because,…what’s that you asked? Oh. HOW wee? I’m sorry. I thought you were inquiring about Howie Mandel; as in roughly 2:45 a.m., as I was suffering from what I’d taken to be a severe case of acid reflux. Nexium failed to knock it back and neither did the pain meds I had left over from the incident earlier this Spring when my dog nearly took off the end of my finger. The burn got stubbornly got worse…and worse…and worse. Suzy, being a retired and very good R.N., therefore issued a medical instruction.
“Gitcher dammed butt up and get dressed. We’re going to the hospital.”
Now, seeing as how I dearly love this woman, I instantly did as she asked. Trust me. If you’d seen the look on Suzy’s face, you’d have jumped up like a Jack-in-the Box just as fast as I did. Besides, I was scared spitless because of what had happened to an old college pal a few years ago. He’d started having what he first took to be severe indigestion, and then, reflux. When the meds he was taking stopping doing any good, he went to the doctor, and that’s when he discovered that what he actually had was pancreatic cancer. Five months later, he was dead. So, when Suzy said we were going to the hospital, I hesitated, briefly, thinking of the possible expense. Then I thought of my pal. And off we went to Marion General’s Emergency Room, with me trying not to think about things too much.
Arrived at the E.R., as stated previously, at about 2:45 Wednesday morning, After being typed, classified, rated, sorted, quantized and labeled, I was led, rolled, actually, through a series of tests. Blood tests, urinalysis, and EKG and all these seemed to confirm that I was suffering the effects of a moderately severe gastric distress. I knew this, already, of course, but these tests DID eliminate some several fears. The EKG was clean. Whew! Even better, this was NOT cancer, the ER doc said. Not pancreatic, not any other kind. Not an ulcer, and so on. But ER doc was suspicious of a problem with my gall bladder. He assured me this would be very repairable. But he wanted another test.
So I quickly took out a clean sheet of paper and numbered it from one to ten. “What was that, Doc? Oh. Not that sort of test?” He wanted a cat scan. I told him, that would be fine, just as long as I didn’t have to try and hold the cat still while it was in the machine. Some of those very nice pain meds had kicked in, you see. Doc looked at me with raised eyebrows and then he looked at Suzy, who simply shrugged. Doc blinked and scribbled down some of those arcane medical terms. Probably something like “Watch this one VERY closely. Keep him AWAY from sharp objects!” So then I got my ride on the cat scan, after which I was admitted to the hospital to await results of these tests and to get some much needed pain relief.
Remember those drugs I mentioned? We started with Morphine and Demerol. Turns out that I could have a dose of either as I thought I needed, I left the choice of which kind of numbsall to the nurses. For the remainder of Wednesday, this worked well. But when the stuff wasn’t hitting hard enough, the doc on rounds upped the dosage. Mellow in a syringe, it was.
And then,…what was that? , Uh, no, this isn’t when I found the flashback. But the docs, who’d consulted amongst themselves and then referred the cat scan images to the radiologists at Forrest General Hospital in Hattiesburg, seemed to agree that I did indeed have a gall bladder problem. Along with a nasty infection of that same organ. So the Columbia docs hung an I.V. on me – saline solution and THREE different antibiotics. They wanted to allow these meds the time to hopefully bring down the infection before beginning surgery, which they’d determined would be necessary.
This led to two and a half days of being constantly fretted over, frequently checked and so on. I was placed on a liquid diet – broth of several flavors, cranberry juice cocktail, tea, coffee and milk, and some several small dishes of mystery jello. It’s label called it “Carnival” Jello. It color was, ah, well, sorta something and it tasted like, um, ahhhhh, well, anyway, it tasted. Not too bad.
Plus I had me a TV, and y’know, watching the First Presidential Debate while on those meds was not a bad experience. Doesn’t matter who says what, you just smile and nod and then you say, “Yeah, Um, Cool, like, farrrrrr out, man. Deep. Um. Yeah.” and then,….ah, nope, that was not the flashback, either.
Sometime Thursday night, I off-handledly mentioned to one of R.N.’s that I appeared to have lost the ability to pee. I was told later that this was known to happen when men are dosed with morphine. Wonderful. Marvelous. She continued to tap on her computer and said, “We can fix that.” Ten minutes later, in came a male nurse, equipped with a scary-looking device he said was a catheter attached to a tube. What he did next.,…well, let’s just say that I decided not to watch. Ever had to use a catheter? Trust me. Make certain that it’s REAL necessary before you do. I wouldn’t recommend putting a catheter on your bucket list….
It was VERY uncomfortable, but at least I could empty my straining bladder. And the call button for the pain meds was right there. Got through Thursday night fairly well. So Friday morning, these nice radiologists come in and they shoot a few sets of X-Ray plates. They had to roll me over several times to position the plates. This was…very…painful. At one point, I suggested that were anyone to do that again, they’d discover where I could put that catheter’s drainage tube. They settled on two sets of plates.
About noonish, the Columbia doc issued us a multi-page set of documents, said the surgeon in Hattiesburg already had them and that he was waiting for us, because he wanted to perform the surgery quickly. As in, “How long will it take y’all to get there?” He allowed as to how he thought a auto trip would be better for me, as opposed to an ambulance, as I was still in a deal of pain. A wheelchair arrived in a short while and I was quickly trundled out and loaded into Suzy’s Nissan. Do you know that down here in South Mississippi that “Nissan” is pronounced “Nice’un?”
The trip was not too bad, except for the catheter bag sitting on the floor by my feet and the drain tube in, well, in where it was, O.K.? Ever hit a bump on the street while you are wearing a catheter,….well, again. just DON’T. It isn’t nice for a man to have to scream in public. But I wasn’t at all shy or self-conscious about it.
But Suzy got us there, very safely and fairly quickly. We rolled into the Forrest General ER admissions bay about two-thirty. In very short order, a nice orderly showed up with a nice wheelchair. He was a good driver, missing nearly all the bumps in the floor except for the expansion joints in the hospital halls, which made for a solid jolt when the wheelchair hit them. Coupla those, and I quietly gave him the memo about the drainage tube. He slowed down. I mean, I had been wearing that damned catheter for almost 24 hours and all wanted was for them to take it OUT. If I had known about what happened later, I might not have been so anxious, but we’ll get back to that.
I was trundled into what Forrest General calls a TAD Bay. This is where they make sure you really are hurting and decide on where and to who they are to send you. They got us from the admissions desk to the TAD bay in less than an hour. This impressed me. It also scared the crap out of me, as it made me wonder just why they were in such a hurry. But fortunately, my magic papers had beaten me there and they glanced at the set in my hands, and then things began to happen. Fast.
In minutes, they’d drawn blood and they’d borrowed a sample from my catheter bag. That was indeed interesting. I was about to ask about maybe getting some pain meds when a nurse pointed at an orderly and said “Radiology. STAT.” STAT is a medical term that means “Right Damned Now.” Again, that both impressed and frightened me. In less than a half-hour, they had a set of plates of my chest and abdomen, one front and one back. The radiologist unloaded the plates from her machine and RAN them into the photo lab. I noticed this. I also noticed that the orderly got me back to the radiology waiting room as if her arse was on fire. NASCAR would been proud. We picked up Suzy and they rushed us back to the TAD bay. There, they stripped me nekkid, fixed me up with one of those nice gowns with no back and put me and by catheter bag back on the gurney, and then the surgeon came in.
He smiled a lot. He looked calm and confident as he explained that he was going to remove my gall bladder. He would do this, he said, with a laparoscope. This is an octopus-like device which has several arms equipped with lights and cameras, suction devices, grabbers, cutters and so on. They make five small incisions and through these, they insert the laparoscope’s tools. This is said to be a considerably less traumatic type of surgery, as compared to being cut open like a watermelon. Couldn’t say why, but I trusted the surgeon immediately. It might have been that I was good and damned ready to get shed of the pain in my side, not to mention the damned catheter, and this was just the guy to get that done.
Anyways, I did casually mention that the pain was worsening, so the nurse injected me with a fair-sized syringe of something. She said it was Dilaudid. At once, things got all warm and fuzzy. I was…..placid. REAL mellowwwwwwwww. The nurse was transcribing some information into her computer, asking questions as she wrote. Suzy was handling most of this. She kept answering the nurse’s questions in hospital-speak, which puzzled the nurse, until I explained that Suzy had just tired after 28 years in E.R.’s and Intensive Care Units. Then the nurse got sorta concerned, as she then realized that Suzy would know instantly if she screwed up.
I had become mildly curious as to what time it was, so I glanced at a large black rectangular digital clock on the wall in front of me. It seemed to pulsate, And then it seemed to slide….down…. the wall. I casually remarked that someone ought grab the clock before it fell off the wall. Suzy started to giggle and the young nurse, well, she just stared at me, her eyes large and her eyebrows raised, her mouth open. Then I noticed that the top of the door frame over which the clock was hung was also sliding down. That was when I realized that perhaps I’d found one of those fabled flashbacks. I started to hear Jimmy Buffet music in my mind. Suzy continued to giggle and the nurse concentrated on biting her tongue to keep from laughing out loud and I continued to marvel at the incredible sliding clock. At least, I wasn’t hurting anymore.
A short time later – I THINK it was short. As I say, my perception was all twisted – they rolled me out of the TAD bay, down the hall and into a small examination room that served as a pre-surgery holding area. Suzy was allowed to come along. I hadn’t been there very long at all, or so it seemed at the moment, when a gent clad in surgical scrubs came in. Said he was to be my anesthetist. He wanted to brief me on what was to happen to me. Said he had a couple things in his pocket that would make me “not care any more.” That intrigued me. He continued his briefing in a very calm manner, describing the steps they’d take to be certain I was in that dark and pleasant land of nothingness wherein those who are being cut upon must reside.
Just as he finished this, a nurse came in. She, too, was clad head-to-toe in scrubs. She was to trundle my gurney into the O.R. I was trying to be sure she knew where my catheter’s catch bag was, so it wouldn’t get snagged on anything as we moved. While this conversation proceeded, the anesthetist stepped around behind the head of my gurney, where I couldn’t see him. There, a bag of saline solution hanging from an aluminum pole was attached to my I.V. line. There was a valve there, a little port through which injections could be administered. He quietly injected those “don’t care no more” things he had into the line, one right after the other. And he was absolutely correct. I very soon did NOT care anymore. In fact, I was out like a light. Quickly. The nurse started to push my gurney and she got, oh, two or three feet before I was very nicely under.
Darkness. Quiet. Calm. Silence. Absolute nothingness. Indeterminate passage of time.
And then. “WHERE AM I???? I came up in a large room which appeared to be divided into several bays, each of which was equipped with all sorts of monitors, beeping things, things with lights and read-outs, and so on. Some were empty and there were people in gurneys in others, with people fussing over them. I sensed that someone had put a mask of some sort on my face and I yanked it off. Didn’t want anything to do with it. Wanted to know where, who and why, not necessarily in that order. A slender and very patient nurse was fighting off my struggles and not having much luck calming me down. I kept asking for Suzy. After a minute or so of rassling me, the nurse picked up a phone and called the waiting area and got Suzy on the phone. Asked Suzy to PLEASE calm my ass down. She put the phone up to my ear, and then I heard Suzy’s sweet voice telling me to calm down and do what the nice nurse wanted for me to do. So I did.
Some time passed. Don’t know how much time, really. The anesthetist was there, sorta hovering, watching me very closely. Seems they were concerned about my breathing. Then the surgeon came in. He said hello to me, added that the surgery had gone well. He looked at my monitors and read-outs and then he gave the nurse some instructions which consisted of a lot of those seventy-five cent doctor words. I could only make out one of them – “bolus”. I asked the nurse about it and she said it meant they’d give me a lot of fluid very fast. Some problem with my blood pressure, apparently. So they filled me up with saline solution, and the anesthetist finally decided my breathing was all right and then they started to unhook me from all that beeping and booping equipment.
A fellow whose face I never saw began to push me out of recovery. I recall fleeting, disjointed images. Not long after we started, I saw the holding bay where I’d been started on my deep slumber passing by on my left. Doors, big, double doors, opening, closing. Hallways. Overhead fluorescent light fixtures. An elevator, into which I was backed, my feet facing out. Several “dings” as the elevator moved up several floors. The door opening, the gurney moving again. Went around a corner and there I saw familiar faces. Suzy. Her youngest son, his wife and their grandson. Was nice to see them there. I have been concerned as to how accepting Suzy’s family would be of me. Turns out to be VERY accepting. That one moment made the whole experience worth it.
Then I was in a nice room. They asked me to slide from my gurney onto a bed. Things were hooked up, including my ever-present I.V. An oxygen thingy was placed on my face and my faithful catheter bag was hung at the foot of the bed. Then they placed these things on my lower legs, legging sorts of things which alternately inflated and then deflated, first one and then the other. I had the sensation that my legs were being milked. It was sort of pleasant. These things apparently greatly reduce the instance of blood clots in the legs. I got some pain pills and a nice young nurse asked if I wanted anything else. I hadn’t eaten since early that morning, so I asked for a soft drink and some ice cream. Got my drink and two small cups of chocolate ice cream in short order. That may well have been the best ice cream I’ve ever had.
While I was dealing with this, Suzy had discovered that a chair sitting next to the bed could be pulled out to make a reasonably comfy single bed. The nurse brought her a blanket and pillow. By the time Suzy had made her nest, I was hurting a dab. I mentioned this and the nurse brought me a syringe. She injected in to my I.V. and things got so…..niceeeeeeeee. Sleep. But at least the clock didn’t start to slide down the wall.
Next morning came without any issues. I got a better breakfast – the liquid diet was done with. There were several rounds of tests and some blood was drawn. I’d been exploring my chest and stomach and had found a small donut shaped bag of some sort attached to a tube, which led into my side. It was draining off excess fluid, they say. Mid-morning, a male nurse came in and said the docs wanted me to walk some. He said that when they do laparoscopic surgery of my sort, they inflate one’s abdomen with carbon dioxide, so there will be plenty of room for the surgeon to work. They wanted me to walk so, well, so I could fart several times, in order to get rid of this gas. I had to roll my monitor and I.V. bag along as we made a couple laps in the halls, and I did turn a few heads with some lovely and loud blasts along the way. I just smiled and said, “Doctor’s orders.”
Later that morning, the surgeon said I was doing remarkably well, and so he would kick me loose that afternoon. This pleased me. Until I started to think about certain things. One of these came to pass not long after, when a male nurse came in. Said he was there to remove my catheter. At the outset, I was pleased. After all, I’d been wanting to get shed of the damned thing since five minutes after they’d put it in. He pushed my gown aside. Said, “Take a deep breath.” I said, “What…..” and then there followed a unique experience. Let’s us say it will go down as one of the more unpleasant things I’ve experienced. I’ll spare the details. Just take my word when I suggest you DON”T want to ever do this….
But after a moment, I was growing increasingly glad to be rid of the damned thing. I’d just begun to appreciate this when two cute girl nurses came in. Said they needed to take out the drain bag and tube, the one nestled in my side. They pulled my gown to one side, being very careful and discrete. Then one of these cuties says, “Take a deep breath.” I said, “Oh, shit!” and there came a sharp pulling sensation. Thankfully, it was over quickly, and with considerably less discomfort than what I went through to get rid of that catheter.
There were some papers to sign and I was presented with a couple prescriptions, one for a very good pain medication and the other for a stout antibiotic. Got my jeans and shirt back on, stuck my Chevy baseball cap on my head and my shoes on my feet and off we went, me being trundled along in a wheelchair, Suzy walking alongside. Me and the wheelchair driver waited at the exit lane of the parking garage until Suzy got there with the car. Soon, we were riding off into the sunset, literally, driving westward toward Foxworth and home.
There followed a week of intermittent soreness and twinges of pain, all these brought to bay by the nice pain pills the surgeon had prescribed. I left the hospital on Saturday. The following Thursday, we returned to the surgeon’s office in Hattiesburg for a follow-up. He said, again, that my recovery was remarkable. Added that I didn’t need to come back.
The nice thing about all this is that I had little or no appetite the week after the surgery and for most of the second week, as well. As a result, I’ve lost 27 pounds. People are commenting about the difference in my appearance. I feel better than I have in years. Turns out that my gall bladder had been going bad for years, perhaps five our six, maybe even seven years, during which time, I had recurring episodes of what I’d taken to be acid reflux but was actually gall bladder flare-ups. But all that’s done with and now I feel great. God carried me through all this, and my personal private R.N., my wonderful Suzy, saw that I was given extremely good care.
Another plus is that all the tests they’ve done revealed no other issues. Although I need to continue to lose weight and I need to work on getting into better general physical shape, I have no hidden gremlins and that is comforting indeed. I do have some nice bills to pay, but the hospitals and doctors are being very patient, and that’s very good indeed. Thanks to all who prayed for me and sent their love. Now then. Suzy and I are resuming our journey through retired life. Praise be.