Or at least, I did until Monday afternoon, when I had my gall bladder removed.
This’d be a good time to put a TMI warning up.
Last Saturday, driving home from a party in Sonoma, I developed a bad back ache. By the time I got home, it had turned into a piercing stomach ache. With vomitting. First bad shock of the weekend: when I went knees down in front of the toilet, I puked bright red with dark red chunks. Right then, I was pretty sure I was going to die. I had my cell phone in my hand and was about to dial 911 when I remembered that the last thing I’d eaten was a big slice of blackberry pie. That was a load off my mind. And, a few minutes later, another load off my stomach. After a couple of hours of this, I drove myself to the emergency room where I found out I was suffering from pancretitis caused by a dislodged gall stone.
As a side note to anyone working in the nursing profession: if you have an incompetent co-worker, and can’t get your administration to do anything about her, you are certainly entitled to a prolonged bitch session. However, it might not be the best idea to do it within ear shot of every single patient on the ER floor. It doesn’t really inspire a huge amount of confidence in the hospital as an institution.
Anyway, I’m eventually moved up to a regular room, put on an IV, given a shot of morphine, and left to starve for two days. Which is fair: while the stone was blocking my gall bladder, anything I ate would be immediately regurgitated. And since they wanted to operate as soon as possible to get my gall bladder out, even after I’d passed the stone, I still couldn’t eat, because I was going to get general anesthetic for major internal surgery. But Jesus H. Christ, there’s nothing like not eating for three days to make you realize just how much food is advertised on television. Even Taco Bell was looking good to me by the time they rolled me into the ER.
The surgery was done laproscopically, which means they cut four dime-sized incisions in your belly, one right in the navel, and pump in a bunch of air to inflate the abdomen. Then they stick a camera and a bunch of surgical tools in through the various holes, snip out the gall bladder, and then pull it back out through one of the convenient openings. The upshot is that within a day of being partially eviscerated, I was able to walk out of the hospital under my own power. Which was stupid: I should have asked for a wheelchair, but I was desperate to get away from the hell that is daytime cable television, and didn’t want to wait for them to scare up someone to push me out.
Oddly enough, as wierd and uncomfortable as all that sounds, when the doctor described it to me, it didn’t really bother me. What did freak me out was the anesthesiologist describing how they were going to ventillate me. She was particularly pleased by how far back I could tilt my head. I’m not sure why the vent wierded me out so bad. It’s not like it’s the first time someone has wanted to shove something long and tubular down my throat. Although this is, to my knowledge, the first time it’s happened while I’ve been unconscious. Also, no one mentioned the catheter. Which is probably for the best: like the vent, it was put in and taken back out while I was under anesthetic, but unlike the vent, the catheter still fucking hurt when I woke up. Like when you’re taking a monster piss, and you have to pinch it off in midstream. Last thing I remember before the surgery was them taking the oxygen mask off so they could put the gas mask in its place. The next memory I have is waking up on the gurney, surrounded by five or six people talking (some at me, some at each other) with this ferocious pain in my dick. Someone’s trying to tell me how the surgery went, and all I can think is, “Oh my God, I’m about to piss myself in front of all of these people!” That was definitly the scariest part of the whole ordeal. I mean, not just because of that, but because it was so disorientating. I thought it would be like waking up in bed, but it’s more like someone took the film of my memory to the editing table and just sliced out a couple of hours. That really scared the shit out of me until I got my bearings again. After I got over that, I was able to focus on trying to figure out which of these masked people had been pounding on my stomach with a baseball bat while I was under.
For the next two days, I felt like a side of beef from a Rocky training montage, but I think I’ve turned a corner this morning. I’m still pretty tender, and stuck at my parent’s house instead of my apartment, which is only a marginal step up from the hospital. A lot more ammenities, but it’s also filled with bricklayers building my parent’s new patio. At least the hospital was quiet, although enough Vicodem makes it pretty easy to put up with just about anything, so I guess I can’t complain too much.
I wanted to give a shout out to Drs. Banks and Mockus, who did an excellent job on gutting me, and to Nurse Helen, who’s got a great bedside manner, a dab hand at an IV, and doesn’t skimp on the morphine. Kaiser Permanente often gets a bad rap, but the care I got was top rate at every step, and the doctors and nurses were attentive, helpful, and very kind. Anyway, the whole ordeal is pretty much over, now. I’m still sore, but I’m up and moving around, and will probably head back to my own place tonight. It was a scary and painful experience, but I think I learned some valuable lessons from it, and if there’s one thing I took away from it that I’d like to share, I guess it would be this: being on an IV drip for three days sure makes your pee smell funny.