Wednesday, December 7, 2011
A weekend in the E.R.......
“Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever know…..Here I go again” in my current situation, this song rocks a great background track for my hospital video. It’s just not finished yet…..so I’m writing…..(wha wha) So here we go….long story really, really short….but still kinda long….
Wednesday was a busy morning: rehearsal for a symphony concert, a client at mid city, my own training day…….intestinal obstruction? (Keep reading). Apparently 15 minutes after an amazing lunch, I would soon be feeling like someone placed a screw driver into my upper abdomen and twisted it….driving a steel rod into the back plate of my shoulder. Instantly I could not stand, I could not walk upright and I was shallow breathing. Scared as I was at this moment, I stumbled my way home on the A train and crawled into bed. Buckled over in pain I waited and waited for this scenario to cease and the tension to ease. It did not. The tension was never eased. Sadly.
In the morning I knew the E.R. was a strong possibility, and with the help of my roommate Katrina, I was dropped off there and walked quite well at the time right in the front doors. Triage took me to the inner-workings of the hospital to find no rooms available…just a bed in a hallway. Three hours later, I saw a doctor. Clutching my stomach I assured him what was wrong: “I had a Reto-Paritenial Lymph Node Dissection to treat advanced testicular cancer 5 years ago. I know my intestine has scar tissue, it’s twisted …..I need an I.V. to re-hydrate and I will be fine. This HAS happened before. In 8 hours….and you can send me home.” Well, I was half right. The doctor agreed with my diagnosis and I was plugged with an I.V. containing saline drip, given some Zofran for nausea and Toradol for pain. I started to feel better instantly……I was walking, calling friends, I told a joke, I flirted with a cute E.R nurse…. I was on the road to recovery! I even had some great friends visit…Leo Ash Evens and Leah Landow. Both saints, they agreed to see me through till I got a room. (This is where it got hairy…..I mean Italian uncle wolfman back hair hairy!)
Once I was done with my I.V. fluids I began to get sick….Really sick. I started vomiting. The vomiting turned to shaking convulsions and cold sweats where I could not even stand. I could not lie down. It was like being caught in a mouse trap, with the clamp fixed tight on my belly. There was no place I could find comfort or relief from this pain. I felt retarded in front of both my friends as I can only imagine what I looked like getting up and down, rocking, puking and moaning…(dramatic?) The doctors ordered an NG tube down my nose into my stomach which would drain excess bile and stomach fluid to stop the upset stomach. This process included having a half inch tube snaked down my throat (while I am already violently sick) through a hand full of lidocaine jelly pre-inserted into my nasal cavity. (So basically pure Disney fun.) IV pushes of Morphine, Toradol, zofran….nothing could keep up with the pain.
In the morning, after no real sleep, I awoke to at least a bearable sense of calm functionality. A team of doctors came in for their morning rounds…..they looked at me…I felt ok……they believed that additional fluids and a few days may do the trick and I would get better. They and I were wrong. Within ten minutes of everyone walking out of the room I was sidelined again with an even higher level extreme pain. This time I decided it was appropriate to scream and snort. That’s all I could do to remain sane. My friend Leah and roommate Kat arrived to find me in a much deteriorated state and tried to do what they could….held my hand, placed damp washcloths over my face, foot rubs (yes, they are that cool)…yet nothing was helping. I waited for what seemed like an eternity for stronger medicine. Finally a nurse came in with one shot of Dilaudid ( a powerful opiate drug), then two, then three….. at it’s best…… only calming me for 15 minutes.
As I waited for my body to simply right itself, a surgeon walked into my room. His words: “Frederick, you should not be in this much pain for a simple twist of the intestine, we are taking you to the O.R. we are going to open you up and do an exploratory surgery so we can find the blockage, take it out and get this pain level down. I also must tell you the risks with this type of surgery; we may take out a little, we may take out A LOT….but we need to do what we have to, to fix this situation. There is a risk of bleeding, infection, and you may wake up with a temporary colostomy bag (great for dance calls)….please sign here.” I waited two beats and signed….scary as it was I was in too much pain to do anything else. I also knew if my intestine ruptured I would be in much bigger trouble than what I was presently faced with.
Summing it all up: The surgery could not have gone better. I had a band of scar tissue from my prior surgery which had cut off all blood flow to the lower intestine. The amazing DR. Simone went in with a camera…saw the problem…reopened an old incision on my stomach and took out a foot of dead intestine…..sewed it back up (well stapled) and placed me on the road to recovery. How did I know she was amazing? On our meeting in pre-op I asked her to rate herself out of 100. She said 120. I was sold.
Fun Facts from the doctor: You never would have had 5 years of good health without the diet and lifestyle you live. This could have been worse and you could have had much more scar tissue developed than you do. J
I had for the second time in my life the amazing support of the theater community and friends. I had true friends waiting for me when I awoke from the O.R. I had both parents drive from their perspective homes to be by my side at the end of my surgery. I had my mom sleeping beside me as my advocate for better care and own personal nurse. I had some of the very best people in the world visit me while I looked like death…way up on 168th street. I had made a majority of these decisions for myself, concerning health care, on my own. And all this, even though dealing with sickness, felt very empowering.
In conclusion: It’s always funny to me how people will write and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry”…or “I wish this hadn’t happened to you.” I view this health issue as any other growing experience and would not trade it for the world. I know this will unfold as nothing less than a gift. This happened “FOR” me not “TO” me. And for anyone to deny me that growth is a disservice. The universe…(lol deep) is unfolding exactly as it should and while I don’t have a why for you at this moment, I know I will in the coming months and years…exactly as I did with my experience with cancer. I learned a great deal about myself. I learned another level of pain I could endure. I learned again the value of good family and friends. And in the coming months I will learn the value of patience and what it means to GO slow.
( Day Two out of the Hospital....17 staples......what i like to call a cat scratch )
To all those who called, facebooked, stopped by, and sent me good vibes and said prayers over the past week. Thank you. I am here for a reason, I think that is clear. Thank you for your love. Life is short. Make a choice and be bold.
Be bold, be bold, and everywhere be bold.