A funny thing happened last Tuesday . . .

The vanilla is a lie.

Something odd happened to me last Tuesday, and I’m only now able to sit at a computer long enough to tell you about it. I mentioned a month or so ago that I’d had some health issues earlier this year that held up my plans for a short story collection. Although I hesitate to talk about super personal things here on a public forum, I feel I have to this time around in order to tell the story I have to tell. So . . .

Back in December I began experiencing really uncomfortable pains in my abdomen, right around where my ribs and sternum meet. I figured I’d just slept wrong–after all, that time period is rather stressful for me at the day job, and TLM had just been released as well. In other words, I had a lot on my mind, so it didn’t seem out of the ordinary to be experiencing some weird stress-related effects. The pain went away after a few days, the holidays came and went, and I forgot all about it–until late January, when it happened again while I was sitting at my desk at work. The pain was twice as intense, and after suffering through it for about an hour, I finally gave in and called my doctor.

Skip ahead a month, and I’ve had an ultrasound, two blood panels, and an endoscopy. The verdict is a painful build-up of gas, a herniated stomach (been that way my whole life, apparently), and a damaged esophagus due to constant acid excretion from the hernia. All of these things are now under control with medication. Everything was fine after that.

And then last Tuesday happened. I woke up with the same sort of pain as before–a tight pressure pain in my lower abdomen that hurt to touch. This woke me up in the middle of the night when I rolled onto my side. I got up, thinking it was just gas again, and realized I was also running a fever. I called off work that day, thinking it was just a stomach bug. I proceeded to sleep off and on for most of the day. Any time I woke up, I had a hard time keeping my eyes open. I felt incredibly weak, and that fever kept slowly climbing every couple of hours. Finally Erica told me to call my doctor, and after some bullheaded resistance (“We have enough doctor bills at the moment” and “It’s just the same as before. It will pass.”), I gave in and called. Except my doctor’s office was closed by that point (It was almost 5 PM), so I ended up going to an Urgent Care clinic.

Two hours later, I’m sitting at the hospital, drinking vanilla-flavored barium sulfate in preparation for a CT scan. The doc at Urgent Care said I have all the symptoms of appendicitis, and a CT scan will show if my appendix is inflamed. Great. Drinking that barium crap was relatively easy, but I had to drink two full bottles of the stuff, one hour apart. Waiting for the scan was worse. By this point I was so dehydrated (I’d had no appetite all day–another warning sign) that when the nurse tried to inject me with radioactive dye, every vein collapsed. I have small scabs on both arms from their various attempts. I joked with the nurse that there’s just nothing left after making my car payment for the month. She didn’t laugh.

The CT scan came back positive for appendicitis, and after a quick trip through ER (they couldn’t admit me from radiology), I found myself sitting on a bed, completely naked except for a hospital gown, connected to an IV with morphine, saline, and antibiotics. This was my first time on morphine, and all I can say is that I see now why people become addicted to it. When they first connected the IV and I felt the heated rush wash over my face, I simply looked at the nurse and said, “This is awesome.” It really was.

By this point, the time is around midnight, and Erica and I are exhausted. We’re waiting in pre-OP and are the first in line for an appendectomy, except there’s an emergency heart transplant that must be tended to first. Which was totally fine, because I got to sleep in the interim. Three hours later, they wheeled me into the operating room, and (I’m told) they only needed 16 minutes to cut me open, take out the infected organ, and sew me back up. When I last looked at the clock, the time was around a quarter after three; when I woke up, the time was about twenty after four. My throat was sore and my eyes were gooey from some weird salve they put on them to keep them closed. Oh, and I felt as though I’d been punched in the gut. My appetite was back, too.

I have to tell you something, folks. There’s nothing more humbling than realizing you have to depend on another person to help you sit up and walk to the bathroom. A big shout-out goes to the kind nurses at St. Joseph’s Hospital–and for that matter, the doctors, as well. Everyone was cheery, had an actual personality, and made it seem like the late shift is the shift to work in the ER.

They discharged me early Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve been home recuperating ever since. Tomorrow I return to the day job for the first time in a week. If there’s any point in me telling you about all this, it’s to listen to your body. Had I not, I would’ve been in store for a lot more discomfort and pain. Given enough time, I could’ve died from it. Will there be more medical bills? Yes. Absolutely. But it’s just money. I’ve still got my life.

Like Amelia said on Facebook (and I’m paraphrasing), “Don’t worry, Todd. Remember: it’s a trilogy.”

She’s right. For now, though, I’m going to hobble away from the computer and spent my last day resting.

Talk to you folks soon.

Until then,

TK

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