After an evening of sushi and wine, I awoke at 1:38 am with a shooting abdominal pain. My wife was at my side in an instant. “Are you alright? Can I get you up?”
“I’ll be all right in a minute,” I grunted. “I think I have food poisoning.” At daybreak, I still had a mild cramp. The following morning was the same.
“Do you think I should see a doctor? I hate calling if there’s nothing wrong.”
“Yes, it wouldn’t hurt. They probably can’t see you for a few days, anyway.”
My internist’s secretary said, “Yes, we can squeeze you in at about 12:15 pm.”
Well, that was easy. In a few hours, I drove over and sat on an examining table to be poked and prodded.
“Well, sir. I think you may have diverticulitis or possibly appendicitis, but a CT scan is in order. I’ll call St. John’s Providence Hospital and set it up if you can drive there now.”
“Yes, sure.” A half-hour later, I was led into a CT, MRI, X-Ray Scanning department. Could I still finish, miss rush hour, and still have dinner? Exam over, a technician handed me a telephone. It was my doctor.
“The exam shows you have acute appendicitis. We’re taking you to Emergency right now for an appendectomy, probably a laparoscopy.” I looked at my watch with a sinking feeling. So much for dinner. After filling out admission papers, I was in a hospital bed for the night, surgery scheduled for 1:30 pm. the following day. Thursday was already shot to hell, so why not Friday too? With countless injections and an IV bag already dripping stuff inside, I would have preferred a medium-rare filet and a well-made martini. An assistant to an assistant arrived to go over details, then another assistant, followed by the surgeon himself with a coterie of followers, hangers-on, and the mildly curious.
Friday morning arrived as expected, and surgery was pulled ahead to 9:30 AM, These guys were serious about getting the job done quickly. Had it been only yesterday, less than 24 hours before, when I asked whether I should call a doctor? Trundled into an operating room, before my wife arrived, someone asked, “Are you comfortable? Well, then, all we’re going to do is ….. “, and I was awake and it was over. Other than my belly still hurting, I wondered a moment if anything had happened at all.
Moved to a post-op unit, my IV fluid bag needed changing every few hours, so rolling its six-wheeled stand to the toilet while still hooked up was interesting. Things were going great until the following day when my insides decided to go on vacation. Ileitis inflammation of the intestines had set in. Accumulating gas and matter had to be removed before any more hamburgers and beer.
There was vague talk of inserting an NG tube, whatever that was, but what did another tube matter? Then I found out it was to be inserted through a nostril, into the back of my throat, and down into my stomach. Think about sliding an oily asparagus spear up your nose and leaving it there a moment. How about an hour? Yes, that gross. I asked how long the nasal-gastric tube process would take.
“Oh, we thought you knew. It has to remain there until nothing comes out, perhaps tomorrow or the next day.”
I was left to lie in agony for the night without the strength to celebrate it might be for only a day or so. I watched the minute hand on the clock creep past every minute of that long night. Sunday dawned without, obviously, any food. How long is it again that a person can go without? This wasn’t a reality show where I could call a timeout if I really had to have a Wendy’s.
The tube connections kept pulling apart and I would find myself lying in a pool of my internal fluids. What fun! My throat was cut and bleeding, my sinuses clogged, my lips chafing into ribbons from dryness. The asparagus spear up my nose now felt the size of a carrot. That afternoon, someone noticed the NG suction container wasn’t getting any stuff in it, which was good, so I was switched to a gravity bag.
Except nothing was going in the bag. It took a while to think about the implications, wondering why I was still hooked up. By seven that night, I decided I couldn’t take another night like the last. I hit the nurse’s call button. “Nurse, if there’s nothing in the bag or going in, please find someone to explain why I still need this god-awful tube stuck up my nose. We might as well argue it out now and not at 1:00 in the morning.”
The surgeon on call for the night finally arrived. Logic prevailed, but I was admonished, “If the bloating returns, we’ll have to reinsert the tube” as if this were all my fault.
“That’s fine with me, by God. I’ll take that chance. Now, please remove this tube so I can go back to recovering and have a chance to sleep tonight.” Do you have any idea how much better a person can sleep without asparagus or carrots up their nose?
By mid-day Monday, I was passing gas, moving bowels, and lapping up hospital soup like crazy, one happy camper. I was finally cleared to leave and my wife drove me home. I was shocked at how careless people were driving. Doesn’t anyone realize how frail the human body is?
A single accident and each person involved might have an NG tube up their nose. Perhaps it should be a requirement to obtain a driver’s license; an NG tube up the nose for a day to see what it’s like. We would all be driving white-knuckled as though on winter glare ice.