Japandroids, Near to the Wild Heart of Life.
They’re telling me I’m getting out of here tomorrow. I want to roll the windows down and play this song at maximum volume on the way home.
Sneezing hurts. Like a motherfucker.
It’s Sunday the 29th. I’ve been in a hospital for 18 days. On Thursday of last week I was in surgery to remove the obstruction, which involved opening up about 60% of the incision from my cancer surgery and digging around in my abdomen. They eventually took out between 3″ and 4″ of my colon and sewed things back up, so I’m nursing a new(old) scar on my stomach.
As of today I’m on unrestricted clear liquids, which means exciting things like Jell-o, broth, and italian ice. My bowels have been voiding themselves with precision timing every two hours. Have I mentioned I’m still hooked up to two IVs? One is saline, the other is TPN going in through my port, which is supposed to be a full suite of nutrition but which makes my ass burn every time I use the bathroom. Eating this food isn’t a problem, but I am having random stabbing pain in my gut that doesn’t seem to be connected to anything. I’m hooked up to an on-demand IV drip of hydromorphone but I haven’t used it since yesterday.
Hospital life is the most boring hell I think I could imagine. I’ve got about 50 channels of DirectTV, maybe 5 of which are actually worth watching. I’ve got my laptop but I’m bored with the internet. I’m tired of streaming movies or watching crap TV shows. I can’t walk around much because the ward here is small, and I’m cold most of the time. So I sit in bed and stare listlessly at the TV or my phone or the laptop and hope there’s something interesting happening outside.
They say I’ll go to full liquids tomorrow, which include stuff like cream of tomato and cream of potato soup (the stuff that made me cry with happiness back in December) and pudding and coffee with cream and other good shit like that. So there’s that to look forward to. One of the docs said they might cut me loose on Tuesday if things keep progressing. At this point I’d be happy to get all of the IVs pulled as soon as possible so I can sleep better.
I’m laying in a bed at Johns Hopkins with a tube down my nose and two IVs in my arm and port. I just had a hit of Toradol, which cuts the pain and swelling from the nasal tube in half and makes life somewhat livable for about an hour. Then I have to wait another five hours for the next shot. I’ve had an NG tube in my nose for 9 of the past 11 days so my sinuses are in full-on revolt: my left eyeball (on the tube side) feels like it wants to pop out of my skull and my head pounds with pressure. They can give me Tylenol to cut down on the headache but they will only give it to me as a suppository. At this point I’m ready to jam a woolly mammoth up my ass if that would provide any relief.
We were in the middle of our vacation week in Delaware, and I went to sleep on Monday evening after a lovely day on the beach and tasty dinner. I took a leak at around midnight and laid back down with some stomach pain, thinking I’d waited too long to pee. The next morning the pain hadn’t gone away so I drove myself to the urgent care in Lewes, who then referred me to the ER. So by the time I was seen by a professional it was around 4 or 5 in the afternoon. They shot a MRI and made me wait around until evening before sending me on my way, saying I just had some abdominal pain and that it would work itself out.
Wednesday morning was better, and during the day wasn’t too bad. I was able to get out on the beach with everybody. But after dinner, the pain came back and by midnight I had to wake Jen to drive me back to the ER. They looked me over again and immediately stuck an NG tube down my throat, which began suctioning sickly green fluid out of my stomach and providing immediate relief: I had a bowel obstruction.
Thus began a long cycle of laying and waiting and getting up and walking and peeing and praying for pooping. I shared a room the first night with a quiet guy who played FOX News all day and all night on his TV. He cleared out after the second day and was replaced with a giant kid in his mid-20’s who was admitted with severe pancreatitis, and who played Law and Order all day while he detoxed.
Jen stuck with me every day into every night, making sure I had everything I needed, making me walk the ward, holding my hand, and giving me the support I needed. She got the vacation house packed, arranged for Finn to stay at her sister’s house, rented a creepy AirBnB close to the hospital, completed a bunch of freelance work, and kept the family running while my gut slowly unkinked itself.
By the weekend I was beginning to see some movement in my bowels, and by Monday or Tuesday I started pooping: some of the stuff was working its way out but the MRIs and X-rays all showed it still was partially blocked. This was progress! I was proud of those poops! I took pictures of them on my phone to prove they had happened. BEHOLD, MY PROGENY. I have to remember to erase all of them now because nobody wanted to see them.
The doctors pulled my NG tube on Wednesday, clearly impressed with my pooping, and moved me up to clear liquids for food.
On Thursday they moved me up to “soft solid foods” and handed me a plate with four thick slices of turkey, beans, mashed potatoes and gravy for lunch. Having been withheld real food for over a week, I destroyed the turkey and potatoes. About two hours later my stomach was in full revolt. I finally got up to walk around, that jumpstarted my nausea, and I wound up throwing up half the meal into a pink bin. Later in the day the other half made its way out. I had to ask them to put the NG tube back in, which is equivalent to me asking for someone to chop my leg off.
Behind the scenes, Jen was in contact with my abdominal surgeon at Hopkins, and they started the wheels turning to get me moved to Baltimore. From what we were told I was going to have to wait a few days before a bed opened up but on Friday morning they told us I was leaving that evening. A crew of three EMTs showed up, strapped me to an uncomfortably narrow stretcher, and drove me via Dover back to Baltimore.
So where did this bowel obstruction come from? They tell me it’s a result of the surgery I had in December. Because they were in my abdomen and digging around during the surgery, and because they used radiation on all of the nearby tissue, there were scars and adhesions left on my intestines. This could have happened at any time but the doc we spoke to in Lewes told us this is exactly the time it would show up after the cancer surgery and treatment.
Things I have learned:
- NG tubes are an invention of Satan.
- I have a horse’s tolerance for morphine. They hit me with 4mg every four hours in Lewes and I swear it lasted about 1/2 hour. Toradol too–and Hopkins is chintzier with it: every six hours.
- The antibiotics I’ve been on make me weep like a baby. I couldn’t make it all the way through The Force Awakens last night: Great gasping sobs. A dish soap commercial about washing crude oil off ducklings: BAWLING.
- I have watched all of the episodes of NCIS I care to watch, ever.
- Nurses are amazing people and I have the utmost respect for them and their jobs. (I knew this already but it bears repeating).
- Modern television is 1 half programming, one quarter commercials, and one quarter restaurant commercials designed specifically to torture me. I don’t know what Nacho Fries are but I WILL HAVE THEM.
These shots are from Wednesday. I’ve been in the hospital since then with what the doctors tell me is a bowel obstruction; most likely a shitty side-effect of having major surgery on my abdomen. The kids have been having a great time and the weather has been great all week, so I’m glad everyone is able to get outside even if I’m stranded with an IV in my arm and a GI tube down my throat.
So, with major travel and vacation in the rear-view mirror, the next things on the to-do list are:
- Insure Peer Pressure through Hagerty for a fixed replacement price. This has been long overdue.
- Fix the driver’s side manifold-to-exhaust leak. I need to source two copper bolts like I did for the passenger’s side, and find some patience when I try to pull the old ones off.
- New road-going tires. This has been something long-delayed but when I get the first couple of teaching paychecks in hand, I’m going to spend it on five new tires and sell the four that are on the truck now.
- Sandblast one of the spare windshields to get it ready for welding repairs, primer, and paint. I’d like to get one of them prepped and have new glass installed so that I can pull the one on the truck off and put a clean one in its place.
If this is the hardest decision I have to make tomorrow, I’m doing something right on our vacation.
What else can I say.