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.
An unpretentious community fixture where bowlers of all ages came to play a traditional Baltimore game, Patterson Bowling Center opened in 1927.
“I loved what it stood for and I love what it brought to that neighborhood,” Drayton said. “It stood for everything Baltimore.”
Duckpin bowling began around the start of the 20th century, but its geographic origins are muddy. Popular legend in Baltimore says that 1890s Orioles John McGraw and Wilbert Robinson invented duckpin at their alley The Diamond.
There’s a chance it may stay open, in a diminished size, but that’s currently up in the air.
On or about Jen’s birthday we had a big storm blow through Maryland, and as it left, it took the scorching heat with it. Since Thursday it’s been averaging a beautiful 80˚, with sunshine and a light breeze pretty much all day. Poor Jen has been cranking on work for the last two weeks so we didn’t really get to do much on the day; I did get the family some delicious Indian food from Ananda and a slice of Smith Island Cake from the market down the street, which we enjoyed by candlelight at the table.
On Saturday we had a fun activity planned: Karean and Zachary drove over from Easton and we went to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone live. They project the movie on a huge screen over the stage, minus the music track, and the symphony plays along in time. The effect is stunning. So much fun! And the audience is into it. We had a blast seeing it again—so much so that I want to read the books again.
Sunday we packed up the CR-V (I got the A/C fixed just in time for the heat to break, but that’s timing for you) and headed to Bob’s house to visit and make some more repairs; I got the front hedges trimmed and swapped in a new sink faucet in the powder room. The hot water shutoff is leaking, so I had to crawl under the house to the main water shutoff (I’d like to punch whoever designed that house right in the dick) and then try to unscrew the valve from the pipe, but a combination of the angle, size of the cabinet, the wrong tools, and lack of patience got the better of me. I hung up my monkey wrench and made a note of what I’ll need for the next attempt.
Jen and I boxed up three cabinets’ worth of glasses in the kitchen so that I can pull them off the wall. Two of them have separated at the back, so they’re hanging precariously over the counter. My plan is to get them down onto the floor, rebuild the boxes, and make them sturdier than before. Then we can rehang them and make them useful again (it’s much cheaper than all-new cabinets).
I also tried to get the Chrysler started again, but for some reason that was being balky too. Spraying half a can of starter fluid into the carb got it close but not running, but I don’t know exactly why. I tested it for spark again, and that was fine, but it won’t catch. I think I’ve got to pull the carb off again and see if anything is wrong inside.
Hmmm. A scan of my Google News feed picked this up today: Café Hon in Hampden is closing this evening. The space has been bought by the Foreman/Wolf group, who run some of our favorite restaurants in the city. The last time we ate there was probably before Finn was born, and we were not impressed; the owner trademarked the word “Hon” and got a lot of bad local press for enforcing it. They were featured later on “Kitchen Nightmares” and nobody came out looking well. Hopefully the new venue will be worth visiting.