Thursday, February 6, 2014

This is the Year

I realize it's a little late to be making a New Year's resolution, but in all fairness, I started this post a month ago and then left it unfinished for weeks. So I was upholding another New Year's tradition of procrastination and broken resolutions. But now I'm back on the wagon. Or saddle?

My resolution is to write more. More specifically, to finish my novel (I always feel like a pompous phony when I call anything I write a novel) by the end of the year. I'm off to an ok start in respect to last year. I wrote three or four times all year. All time low. So having already written twice in the past few weeks is pretty accurately an ok start.

I was talking to my bestie Katie about this resolution because she was hounding me about writing more (absolutely love her for that) and she had a fantastic suggestion. Over the past 17 years of our friendship, Katie and I have exchanged many many many emails. She mentioned one in her Maid of Honor speech at my wedding reception (it was a little PG-13 R-rated so let's not get into it now). The point is, I really enjoy telling her funny stories about the horrifying, scary, ridiculous things that happen to me. She said she goes back and reads them whenever she needs a good laugh and suggested that I write more stuff like that on my blog. It'll be good writing practice and hopefully get my creativity flowing so I write more on my novel, too.

Screw writing about what I've accomplished. Write about the worst parts of my life and make them funny for everyone.

Well, that was her sentiment. I'm paraphrasing. And I don't intend to screw the posts about my house or what I'm up to, but I like the idea of adding in some more funny stories and posts that require me to write creatively. It's what I'm supposedly best at, after all.

But I'll let you be the judge.


Have you ever been totally healthy one day and a week later found yourself in the hospital with your stomach sticking out so far you look like you're about five months pregnant?

I have.

No, I wasn't living out the scene from Twilight: Breaking Dawn where Kristen Stewart finds out she's pregnant with a super-fast-growing, half-vampire baby.
And thankfully, it wasn't an Alien-esque moment either. Although at the time the insanity of the situation didn't feel too far off the mark. 
It all started with a stomach ache back in February of 2008. Chris was visiting me at University of Michigan and we had driven back to my parent's house to have dinner with them. Afterward, I wasn't feeling great so we headed back to Ann Arbor. A few hours later, the pain that had been localized behind my belly button was now much lower and on the right side. One phone call with Chris's sister-in-law, a nurse, and we were all pretty sure it was my appendix.

It still wasn't too bad. I think I may have thrown up once or twice and we decided to head over to the student health center. As is expected from all student health centers, they first assumed I was pregnant or had an STD. lol Once they ruled those out, they determined that my white blood cell count was through the roof, further backing up our suspicion that my appendix was staging a coup inside my body.

The count was actually so high that they said they couldn't allow me to leave on my own to get to the emergency room. I had to be taken by ambulance. Keep in mind that the U of M student med center and the U of M hospital are a whole 5 minutes apart. Yeah. Pretty lame.

Chris had to follow the ambulance over in my car. When he lowered the driver's side window to get the parking ticket, he quickly realized that the window wouldn't go back up. Totally stuck down with freezing February air blowing in. Definitely a sign that everything from here on out was going to be a cakewalk and just go so smoothly ...

24 hours later, we're still in that damned emergency room, in a tiny little room with a sheet wall for privacy. Not that I wanted to be left alone. I wanted someone to take action and get that damn appendix out of me. This was the point where I was starting to feel a bit like Ripley (see picture #2 above).

The doctors still hadn't done a CT scan on me, which was the one test that would really confirm that the issue was my appendix. They told me they try to do that as a last measure because they don't want to give anyone a dose of radiation unnecessarily. I can appreciate that. I really can. But when all signs point to one really common and likely scenario, why put off the inevitable? Especially when the longer you wait, the higher the risk of my appendix rupturing.

Which it did.

Before they gave me the CT scan.

Apparently it looked pretty horrifying to see the liquid they make you drink before the CT scan spewing out through my appendix and into the surrounding area. They got their shit together within minutes and had the operating room ready to go.

And then they did two really stupid things. First, a young doctor came over to tell me that since the appendix had ruptured, they were going to have to put a drain in my side.

Here's roughly what was going on inside my head after that:
"You want to do what now? Put a drain in my side? It'll go through my skin and let toxic liquid seep out of my body?
I'm sorry, what the hell does that mean? Am I going to be half human, half metal? Are you going to have to remove or stretch out a huge section of my skin?
How will you stop all my blood from coming out too? Am I going to be like those people with stomas? What the hell is going on? Will I ever be normal again?"

So that's what was running through my brain. I immediately burst into tears and the doctor asked Chris what was wrong with me. Nice bedside manner, jerkwad.

And then a nurse came over and asked me if I had told my parents what was happening yet. Since I had just learned that I was going to be rushed into emergency surgery about two minutes ago, no, I hadn't found the right moment to call them yet.

She dialed my parent's number on the hospital phone and handed it over. And what a surprise, I started crying and completely scared the shit out of my mother. Did I mention it was the middle of the night at this point?

Way to make a bad situation worse, hospital employees.

In case you're wondering, the drain was not metal. I'll spare you the pictures of it inserted into a human, but basically this is what they were talking about:
It's just a small hole that the tube goes in. The big grenade-like thing hangs outside of you (they pin it to your clothes so there's no tugging) and fills with the bad stuff that was released into my system when my appendix exploded.

That's what I woke up to after the surgery. Not as bad as I was imagining. Although I was pretty pissed at the doctor for not explaining it a little better. Just use the words "soft plastic" at very least. Or just say tube. Not DRAIN.

Anyway, I got released from the hospital in the morning and Chris drove me back to the dorm. Window was still stuck down with snow flying in his face. Poor, poor Chris.

A few hours later, we were back in the hospital. I had tried to eat something and it was an unmitigated disaster. Horrible stomach pain and copious amounts of vomiting.The hospital had made another bad judgment call.

The condition is called "ileus" and it means that my intestines had stopped working. They were no longer pushing food through in a normal, healthy manner. They were basically asleep.

So to recap, one organ exploded inside me and another cluster of organs quit on me.

I was admitted back into the hospital and told we would just have to wait for my intestines to "wake up." Until then, no food or water since my body couldn't do anything with either. It was just me, an IV, and late one night there was a nurse and an enema.

For five days I sat in that bed. Waiting. Not eating. Not doing much of anything. Just sitting there, dreaming of donuts and ice cream and everything I couldn't have. My brother drove up and used a crowbar to pull my window back up so at least no one could easily get into the car. That was better than getting flowers for being in the hospital.

And then Chris had to fly to California. We had scheduled job interviews for that week, but obviously I couldn't make it. We had a nice little trip to San Francisco all planned out, which Chris now got to do all by his lonesome.

The world continued without me, and I felt like I was stuck somewhere between life and death. Like I was in a parallel universe, no longer in sync with the rhythm of humanity.

It was weird to go that long without food or water. The IV kept me going, and I never felt hungry. But the days and nights just sort of blended together without meals to mark the passage of time. Eating is such a basic part of life that when you don't do it, you feel less alive. It was a strange time.

The day Chris left for California, he stopped by to say goodbye. I climbed out of bed and crossed the room to hug him. I was about a foot away and farted loudly. Oddly, we both cheered. It was a sign that my body was starting to wake up.

Once I was able to use the restroom I was given some food to try eating. Then I had to wait for that to pass. Finally, I was released from the hospital, this time for good. I spent a couple days at my parent's house before heading back to Ann Arbor.

Eventually, I went back to the doctor's and the drain came out. That may have been the oddest sensation I've ever experienced. Having something pulled from your body, but without any pain. Just a lot of pressure and ... ick factor. lol

Chris and I didn't end up moving to California, so it didn't really matter that I missed the trip, besides his sad day of sightseeing by himself. The lonely phone call made from and In and Out Burger. But I was alive and he had been there for me for all the scariest parts of my ordeal, so for that I was extremely grateful.

The doctor even was nice enough to cut above my tattoo instead of through it, so now my phoenix has a halo. So that's kind of cool. Now that everything is over with, I'm still a little annoyed at U of M hospital for how they handled things, but at least I got a ridiculous story out of it. And now I know that if things aren't going your way, you should probably yell and demand things until you get your way. haha jk ... sort of.

Next week I have to have another surgery, unrelated to this one. I have a cyst on one of my ovaries, and it's the size of a guinea pig. (I tried to come up with the funniest mental image I could in that size range. Would Nerf football have been funnier?) On Monday I thought I was healthy, and on Tuesday I found out I have a huge thing growing inside of me. It's crazy how you can not know something like that.

Once again, I'm feeling a little empathy for Ripley. What a freaking tough chic. Is it weird that she's an inspiration to me? Hmmm... Is it weird that I also just watched all the Alien movies a couple months ago, one after the other?

The good thing is, I'm not in any pain, which is quite different than the appendix debacle. The surgery should be pretty simple and hopefully this time, no ileus to shut down my intestines. And if the cyst does turn out to be a small alien baby or a half-human vampire, well at least I already have the pictures ready for my next blog post.