Thursday, April 2, 2009

30 Days of Write, 2 April

2005. Worst. Year. Ever.

As I grow a little more comfortable in these writing exercises, perhaps I'll offer up a few bits of fictional prose for your collective amusement. For now, please be satisfied with this horrendous true tale of agony and keep in mind my year got much worse just two short months later. That misery may find its way into a future blog depending on the topics offered. Without further ado...

I awoke early one morning in July of 2005 in pain. This was not your roll off the bed drunk kind of pain, but a penetrating, stabbing ache in my abdomen which can only be described as a manic carpenter gleefuly driving nine inch nails into my body over and over again. My girlfriend at the time wrote off my inarticulate groans as mere histrionics. "A stomach ache," she said, watching me roll around on the bed clutching my side, "would you like some Pepto?"

The carpenter set aside his hammer after about five minutes of making my life a living hell. I went back to sleep because I had to work the next day. Who wants to be the guy mistaking painful gas for a heart attack in the emergency room, you know? I dismissed the attack as mere cramps, due perhaps in part to my recent reacquiantance with a semi-carnivorous diet after many years of strict vegetarianism.

Twelve hours later at 4 in the afternoon, the carpenter resumed work on my body. I quickly accelerated to a definite 7 on the pain scale which a stint at a research clinic for experimental analgesics imparted to me. When the stabbing cramps not only failed to relent after 10 minutes, we (meaning the rational loved ones surrounding me) decided that I needed to see a doctor.

Waiting at the after hours clinic was torture, plain and simple. At least when waterboarded one has that sensation of drowning which brings on a small measure of comfort in recognizing it will all end soon. No such comfort was afforded to me in my misery.

I must say, my girlfriend did not appreciate the speed with which I removed my pants when requested by the female Indian doctor. But modesty has no role on stage when torment's grip has seized you for hours. The doctor perfunctorily examined me and then said nothing could be done for me here; I needed to visit the emergency room.

She left to phone ahead and craft a brief missive explaining my state. I naturally gravitated from the examination table to the floor, where I curled up into a ball and flopped around, miserable. Only at this time, when struck dumb, vocalizing only in whimpers and cries, do I think my girlfriend finally realized the full extent of my descent into helplessness in the face of my body's revolt. She took complete control, forcefully insisting the doctor inject a powerful pain killer into my buttocks before she chauffeured me 15 minutes away to the nearest emergency room.

The nurses there on duty, however, were much less sympathetic to my plight. They received my doctor's note without interest and handed me a clipboard. I could barely walk at this moment, the proffered pain killer having no effect at all. Between gasps and grunts, and relying on some intimate knowledge already exchanged, my girlfriend managed to collect and transcribe all the requisite details for admission.

And then we sat. And we sat. And we sat.

We sat for about an hour before an attendant called me back to collect my vitals. God truly shined on me this day when I discovered the hospital chose it to begin electronic medical records. And whereby only a miracle could I have found myself the subject of preliminary examination by someone who had no training whatsoever on the tablet. They struggled gloriously to measure my blood pressure, temperature, etc. and input these biometrics into the new system. Simultaneously, a much more experienced attendant nearby zipped through the entry process for a woman who elected to visit the emergency room for mildly plainful shin splints she had been enduring for over 8 hours after relocating her refrigerator.

I squirmed violently in my seat, biting my tongue, trying not to announce to the high heavens my infinite curse on God and all his angels. For fuck's sakes, I'm barely maintaining my grasp on sanity over here and they take that bitch who has sore legs right back to see the doctor? And I kid you not when I say they asked me step back into the waiting room before a doctor could see me.

I mumbled something. Or at least I tried. Having recently discovered the hard 11 on the 10-point pain scale, I gibbered my response. Thankfully, my girlfriend understood idiot babble.

"He can't walk," she explained curtly, thoroughly pleased with the Mengeleian quality with which these graduates of Auschwitz medical acadmey regarded my condition. "We need a wheelchair."

They wheeled me back into the waiting room where we waited. And waited. And waited. With my dead sister's soul as my witness, we waited there for more than an hour. My sporadic, inhuman cries of paroxsym eventually embarassed the nursing staff enough to attempt to find me a room out of sight of the other patients. After all, triage addresses the dying and then the severest pains first. If one such as me were left on monstrous display, what confidence did they inspire in those who partook of the spectacle. The periodic, venomous exchanges between my girlfriend and the nurses also helped nudge my disappearence along.

They finally wheeled me back into the medical theater and into a closet. Yes, I said a closet. No, not a room the size of a closet. They put me in a fucking closet. They literally had to drag boxes of medical supplies out before they put me in. But there was a sink in the closet, and I guess that's something.

And I waited. And waited. And waited.

Whenever the clop clop of ugly podiatry shoes approached, my girlfriend poked her head out and screamed at the unlucky souls who crossed her path. Where was the doctor? How did my hellish nightmare not add up to an emergency?

A room was vacated after an hour or so but just as quickly seized by an ambulance delivering a heart attack. Dying then severest pains, I said. My be-scrubbed driver left me stranded amidst the frantic shuffle of doctors, nurses, and interns scrambling to tackle this newest medical priority. And I sat there in my wheelchair suffering.

Eventually one of the nurses observed that I shouldn't be left there in the middle of the hallway in the ER. Afterwards, she located my girlfriend to relay my sad, sad story. I think the nurse who discovered me abandoned finally got the ball rolling on treatment. Maybe she realized grounds were already firmly laid for a medical negligence lawsuit? Regardless of case, I returned to the closet with an IV drip, a swollen jellyfish dangling from a coat rack, quick on my heels.

But nay, my good readers, my story takes not a happy turn yet. For when the nurse jabbed the needle into my arm, blood spurted violently out upon two walls and the tiled floor of the closet. 'Twas not a dribble but a gushing fountain I can only liken to the ultra violence of the most gruesome of horror flicks. I shamefully admit I am afraid of needles and like not the sight of blood. If unbearable pain borne now for many, many hours had not so thoroughly dulled my sensitivities, I undoubtedly would have passed out. My girlfriend, trooper that she was, almost did faint.

And then, only then, did sweet relief arrive. My extremities went numb first: fingers and toes, calves and arms . A cold numbness creeping closer and closer to my heart and then a series of jarring frames collapsing around my senses. Everything around me wound tighter and tighter around the singularity in my chest. When the darkness reached that tiny point, I knew I would die. My systems were shutting down one by one. The pain killer had been euthanasia in disguise.

Unmoving as a statue, I looked upon the face of the one who had fought so bitterly on my behalf for these long, stressful hours. My heart ached to reach out to touch her hand gratefully but my muscles had already surrendered to death, my will sapped to near nothingness. I whispered "I love you" and meant those words more than any of my 25 years of life.

And then blackness, utterly and completely.


  1. omg, what a sad story. i feel fortunate to be able to read your tale of woe.

    btw, if you don't like needles- my tale of pain may not be the one for you to read- not that it's graphic but i talk a lot about needles.

    i like how you refer to the IV as a "swollen jellyfish dangling from a coat rack"... that's a great phrase you must patent.

  2. btw, i look forward to reading more of your writing.

  3. Sounds like wonderful cause for a malpractice suit. Glad to see you're still alive and blogging.

  4. Thanks for the positive comments. I'm surprised no one asked about the etiology of my extreme discomfort. In a intentional convergence, I had a kidney stone, a pain I've had women tell me is comparable to childbirth. I don't know if men or women have a higher threshold of pain, but I've definitely been carried across it a couple of times.

  5. Auschwitz school of medicine. I like you.