Thursday, October 27, 2011

One Heck of a Bad Month

Okay, this post has nothing to do with comic books, writing, or the creation of art to any degree, so totally feel free to skip it as I detail all of my not-that-entertaining health problems...okay, maybe a little entertaining for you sickos out there.  This is mostly something I wanted to write about so that I remember what happened, how scary everything was and maybe there are some answers for those going through similar situations.  I will say that I now have plenty of material for future writing projects of the horror and possibly sci-fi genres, but that is not what I'm going to talk about right now.

Basically, in addition to the shoddy eyes that I inherited from my father's side of the family (I'm also blind in one eye), and the messed up jaw I inherited from my mother's side of the family, I also inherited weak intestinal lining fortitude from my mother's side.  Sigh.  What this means is that I developed an inguinal hernia.

For those who don't know, there are many types of hernias, but my particular problem stemmed from a tear in the intestinal lining that caused my guts to start to poke through.  Hernias do not heal on their own and require surgery to correct and are something best fixed right away as some gruesome and terrible complications can arise if you do not have the problem corrected.  From what I was told, hernia's are common and (don't quote me on this as I might be wrong) occur at some point in 25% of men, but can happen in women as well.  Regardless, if you suspect you have a hernia get it checked out and fixed sooner rather than later, and avoid learning first hand what the "more extreme" complications are.

Anyhow, I arrived two hours early for my September 28, 2011 12:30 PM operation for my right side.  Amy, my wife, took me to out patient surgery and I was given a room that I luckily had to myself.  My mom showed up out of the blue, which was actually nice, and the nurse walked me through what was going to happen.  Now, since I was a toddler I have had a fear of needles.  My mom loves to recount the time two-year-old Donist broke free from the doctor and nurse who were attempting to hold the screaming boy down to administer a booster shot, and it was then that I reached back, grabbed the doctors hand--the one with the syringe--and yanked it away, scraping the needle across my lily-white ass.  Yup, true story.  I think they called up Dom Deluis to sit on me after that, so I ended up getting the shot anyways.  Ever since, I have been trying to get past this fear, but needles are just not high on my favorites list and the thought of being fitted for an IV left me reeling.  My hope for this day was that I would walk into the hospital and someone would come up from behind me to chloroform my ass, where I would wake up a few hours later in a bathtub filled with ice, the surgery complete and me asking my wife if she still had my wallet. Not so much how it happened.

My nurse was superstar fantastic and kept me calm while hooking me up with the IV, which was actually pretty easy and not terribly painful.  Soon enough, I said goodbye to Amy and my mom and I was wheeled off down a bunch of corridors that went from bright and pleasant to less inviting, cold and dimly lit.  I would be lying if I said that the video game Silent Hill did not pop into my mind, but all the nurses did indeed have faces and none of them wielded any butcher knives that I could see.  I was then guided into a brightly lit and chilled operating room, where I looked around briefly, was asked a question, looked around again...that was that.

I came to a few hours later in the recovery room with a slightly sore throat from the breathing tube that they gave me and when I was cognizant enough to know what was going on, I was asked to cough--not pleasant after a hernia surgery even when doped up--and noticed that I had four incisions: one just below the bellybutton (for the camera), one an inch and a half below that, another an inch and a half below that (oh please god don't be any more further down!), and one on the right side.  Apparently it was happy hour or two-for-one Wednesdays as I went in for one hernia repair operation and received two; they also fixed the left side.  After that I magically appeared in my original room, where Amy and my mom were waiting, and my IV (and much of the hair on my arm) was removed.  The only thing I remember after that was getting out of a wheelchair and into Amy's car.

From there, we went to the pharmacy, picked up vicodin, stool softener and a gallon of prune juice and it was off to home (word of advice: tell your driver to take all speed bumps and dips in the road with'll be glad you did, unless you are into the whole pain thing).

Okay, brutal honesty time on this one.  Vicodin sucks, but you have to take it.  It will definitely take the edge off of the pain, but it also turns you into a zombie and as a writer this is terrible and accounts for why I only did one blog post during that time.  For those who take Vicodin recreationally, you are complete and utter morons.  Seriously, I am judging you.

Back to the story.  Another downside of Vicodin--thus the prune juice and stool softner--is that it makes going to the bathroom need to expand any further on this.

Later that night as I climbed into bed with slow, deliberate, terrified movements, I was able to get comfortable with no incidents.  I was so out of it that I did not think to set a pillow on top of my abdomen when Tulip jumped into bed.  She walked up to me and thumped her front left paw down onto my left side...right where the work had been done.  My whole life I have been a fan of cartoons and I now understand why stars appeared when Bugs Bunny smacked Elmer Fudd in the head with a hammer.  One tiny thwack from a little 22-pound Boston Terrier and boy did I see stars, and everything went white for a moment.  I spent the next week sleeping with a pillow between my wife, dog and me.

Okay, here's another brutal honesty point that does not apply to woman, only men after an inguinal surgery can probably guess the region this is headed towards, so skip this paragraph if you would rather not know.  Damn.  Remembering this still makes me want to goes.  When I first consulted the doctor about the surgery, she warned me to not be surprised when a few days later I noticed that my "balls would be black and blue and swollen."  Two days later I determined that she had lied to me--there were also some lovely rich purples mixed with the black and blue.  "HOLY CRAP, I'M DISFIGURED!" was my reaction, and as for swelling of the area, all I could think of was a medium-sized grapefruit.  I tried to get my wife to have a look at the carnage--that's what wives are for, right?--but she refused and I honestly can't blame her.  This is why the moment you wake up from surgery, they have you slide into a cheap, attractively-named scrotal support (jock strap thing) which you need.  The scrotal support will be your buddy, your wingman, your closest friend, because without it...I really don't want to think about what life would have been like without its desperately needed protection and fastidious grip on my nu-nus.

Sorry about the preceding paragraph, but that is what happened and that is what you need to be prepared to see if you have a inguinal hernia surgery.  Alright.  All of this said, each day was a slight improvement on the last--not counting the brain fog from the vicodin.  I could be a little less cautious with movements, I was relying on ice packs less and less, and I was getting my appetite back.  During this time I also--so I thought--severely pulled a muscle in my left leg; more on this later.

A little over a week passed, I stopped the vicodin and was thrilled at the notion of having my mind back and being able to read complex books, or to write, or to not be confused by episodes of Dancing With the Stars--actually, I'm still confused by that one.  But this is when I began to get cold.  Freezing cold.  I had to change to warmer socks, and pajamas, and I was wearing a Snuggie as well, but I could not get warm.  I was back to being unable to concentrate.  I assumed that I was going through withdrawls from the vicodin, but by Saturday afternoon, when Amy found me bundled in bed, shivering and not making sense, she also found that I had a temperature of 102.9.  It was off to the emergency room.

I checked in at 3:00 PM, and was immediately given my own curtained-off space in the hall, next to a surly old-as-hell man, who I never saw, but my wife commented that he seemed like a frequent flier of the place and was probably lonely, which was disheartening.  I was then given some Tylenol to start to combat the fever and the most glorious cup of ice water I had ever sipped.  A little later, I was fitted with an IV on my left arm (joy), had two big vials of blood drawn, then had someone else come in and take another two vials of blood from my other arm, and I was then hooked up to some antibiotics and a saline drip as I was massively dehydrated.  I cooled down immediately and clarity crept back into my mind and it was off to have a CT scan.  Later I was told that I had a kidney infection, a urinary tract infection and bacteria in my blood.  No one knew how I got the infections, only that I had them and they needed to be treated.  I also need to point out that I mentioned to them the muscle that I pulled in my left leg after the surgery and that it was very painful to walk.  They brushed this off.

Time for some words of advice.  If you ever need to go to the emergency room on a weekend, try to do it well before 5:00 PM.  Apparently, that is the magical time that the drunks, college student douchebags and other psychos decide to start pouring in with their self inflicted traumas.  Here is what I heard: 1) A plastered drunk couple who were to be married that day (ten minutes from the time they were admitted) where the woman, wearing a blood-drenched wedding gown, had "fallen" and hit her head.  The man was periodically saying in loud drunken, slurred speech, "How is my baby, girl.  Is my wife-to-be doing okay?  I can't believe she know how it is."  2) a douchy college student who spoke with such a loud, booming voice that I assumed he was partially deaf.  He had some sort of bleeding sore in his mouth and would yell anytime anyone got near it.  The doctor repeatedly asked if he had been fighting, but the guy loudly proclaimed that he had not and he also could not find any sort of documentation showing that he was actually enrolled at UCSB for their medical coverage.  I did catch a glimpse of this guy and was surprised that he looked just like Bam Bam Bigelow from the old WWF days.  3) A French woman who discussed loudly with a police officer that she not only refused to take a breathalizer test, but that she also refused to take a blood test.  They went round and round about driving under the influence and I honestly have no idea how their deal ended, but I was aghast to hear Bam Bam Bigelow next door loudly tell a lab technician, "Yeah, you hear that drunk French chick out there?  What a dumb bitch!"  I was thrilled to leave when we did, before the place turned into even more of a zoo.

The next day I picked up the two-week supply of Cipro (no alcohol or caffeine), and was admittedly feeling better, aside from the leg which was aching pretty bad.  Having been cooped up so long at home, we decided to go to lunch with our friends which was a bad idea.  My leg was very uncomfortable and I was having trouble paying attention.  I started to get cold again and declared, "I think I need to go home."  Turns out I was running a 103 temperature and physically shaking with the chills.  "I...I d-don't w-want to go b-b-back to the ER.  I d-don't w-want to b-b-be poked or p-prodded anymore," I muttered to Amy from the depths of my Snuggie cocoon.  "I c-can't t-take anymore of th-this."  Thankfully, we got the fever down, and feeling semi-competent, I made Amy listen about how to handle various affairs if I were to die.  "You need to contact a lawyer," I told her, "close my bank accounts and move them to a credit union without auto-withdrawl.  I also have life insurance through work which will pay you for two years of my salary and you will need to walk away from our mortgage; those bastards never helped us, don't feel obligated to keep paying them."   Yes, it was all overly dramatic, but I seriously thought I was done for.  Thankfully this was not the case.

On to the third act...

After a few days, I began to feel better, but Cipro also made me loopy and hampered my writing--although not as much as the Vicodin.  However, my leg was bothering me more than ever.  Keep in mind that I was still very much recovering from my double hernia repair surgery during all of this.  Nine days after the ER visit, I decided enough was enough with the aching leg and went to the walk-in clinic, where the doctor immediately sent me downtown to have a ultrasound.  I did as told, relieved that I was not going to be injected or have more blood drawn.

Thy found a blood clot in my leg.

I rushed back to the walk-in clinic where the doctor informed me that the blood clot was potentially life-threatening, I was going to have to be on a regimen of blood thinners for three to six months consisting of a scary drug called Coumadin and that I would need to start taking self-administered injections of Lovinox, twice per day, under the skin of my stomach.  He had a Lovinox shot at the office and guided my shaking hands as I injected myself with the syringe.  Again, not one for needles, this idea was mentally unpleasant, but honestly not that bad to do.  He made an appointment with my primary care physician for early the next morning and I was off to the pharmacy to buy a box of ten Lovinox syringes and a single Coumadin pill.  When I got home, I pet the dog, put everything away and lost it.  A double hernia repair surgery, Vicodin, incision rashes, an ER visit, severe kidney infection, urinary tract infection, bacteria in the blood, two weeks of Cipro, and now a blood clot in my leg that could kill me all happened over the course of two weeks and five days...I just couldn't take anymore.  I was glad that Amy was at work and did not see me in this state, only Tulip was at the house and she just wanted me to play with her, which helped more than her puppy brain could ever imagine.

The next morning, I met my doctor, who set my mind at ease.  He told me that because I had taken two injections of the Lovinox that the life-threatening aspect of the blood clot had dropped to almost 0%, which was a relief to hear.  I was told to continue the injections until I had run out of the box of ten and he explained that for the next three to four months I would be having my blood drawn regularly and receiving a call afterwards with an INR number that measured anticoagulation.  I was less than enthused about the "regular blood draws), but he said that as my results normalized to the desired range, then the blood draw would be less frequent.  He also told me that standing around in line anywhere was very bad for me.  Sitting at a computer desk--kind of like I'm doing now--is not good for me.  Sitting on a couch with my legs on an ottoman was the ticket and I was not to be walking too much.  At the same time, I was not to be sitting around for any stretch of time, but slowly walking about when I could.  "Huh?"  Regardless, removing the words "life threatening" from the equation was the news I wanted to hear.

I was also told that having a beer once off of the Cipro was okay, just not to go crazy.  Beautiful, lovely words.
I finished the Cipro pills on Saturday and on Sunday evening I had my first beer in a long while and actually went to my friends' house for dinner and to watch The Walking Dead.  I of course had my leg elevated the entire time, but that was the most that I had been out of the house in almost a month.  I had been in the house for so long, that I was beginning to feel like a 20-something celebritard on house arrest for shoplifting or repeated DUIs that would send normal folk to jail. 

Thus far, I have had my blood drawn on 10/21, 10/24, 10/26 and 10/28.  Hopefully I get a free sandwich or gift certificate to Hollister Brewing Company after my 10th blood draw, but I doubt that the lab has any kind of punch card policy.  I'm also still doing Lovinox shots, which totally blows, but I am hopeful that today's results are good enough to quit the injections.

Other than these events, my October has absolutely sucked, but I am hopeful that I am finally on the way back to some degree of normalcy.  Better yet, I'm hoping for some sort of cool super-powers out of this health fiasco after the shit I've been through.  A healing factor would be nice, but I would have rather had it kick in a few months ago so I would not have had to go through all of this nonsense.  Or maybe spider powers or invisiblility or something, anything.  I won't hold my breath on the super-powers.

Anyhow, if you read all of this, then you are gruesome and twisted to the maximum, but thanks for checking it out.  If you want to comment and add some of your own nightmarish ordeals, or have questions then please let me know; I would love to hear what you have to say.  Thank you again and I'll be back to the normal "Friday Slice of Heaven, Slice Into the Woods" posts, and updates on projects that I am working on as they happen.  I will say that it is GREAT to be writing again.

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