Up in the March chilled morning and something is just not right. There is this gnawing feeling that seems to float from one part of the body to the next. It is difficult to realize the origin and yet it seems to be overtaking my senses in a ubiquitous fervor. A hot coffee and a handful of aspirin and you are off to start the day. As the morning goes on the coffee and the analgesics start to fade and the gnaw returns. By eleven AM the ‘gnaw’ has turned into a full blown ache in the gut. Gaseous rumbles dance around your insides like a hot summer afternoon rolling of thunder that comes in increasing alarm as you know the storm is on its way. By two in the afternoon you are waiting patiently in the infirmary for someone, anyone to come and tell you what is going on. Then the news you did not want to hear; we are sending you to the hospital as your white cell count is really high and we think you have appendicitis.
At the fortress of greater understanding where those who have spent their life trying to heal and allow wellness await in anticipation of what their next case is going to like. A really cool patient who tries their best effort at diagnosis or just a whiner that would be better if they were sent somewhere else in the ‘whinbulance’ awaits their years of training. “What was the ride over here like? Were there any bumps in the road,” the surgeon, with years of experience, asks. The gnaw chews at your insides as you wonder what kind of question is that for a medical professional to ask. There was too much pain to consider whether there were any bumps or not. This guy must be an idiot, but he has a beautiful assistant with dark lovely hair and you know there has to be something going on. The assistant returns after a few minutes and says we think you just have the flu and we are going to send you home. If the pain gets worse then you should come back to see us. There were no bumps in the road so you must not have appendicitis. Of course not having medical insurance even in 1971 and the need to keep dark lovely hair in beautiful fashion may have had something to do with not wanting to keep me around.
Racked with the constant numb of gnaw slows the entire world down to where everything is happening as if the movie speed has been turned down to extreme slow motion. Even the sound of a fly is amplified to a fleet of B-52 bombers going overhead. Was this what the surgeon was talking about? What bumps in the road? But that damn fly needs a good dose of antiaircraft fire. The experience of pain is different for everyone and ranges through the full spectrum of bright red to the invisible ultra violet.
Decision was made that I was not going back to see the man with the lovely-dark-haired assistant. A phone call to my parents at four in the morning less than eighteen hours from the start of anxiety was made hastily before I begin the long drive home of about an hour and half. Dad said he would meet me at the emergency room of the hospital closest to my entrance into the city and find a surgeon. About two thirds of the way to comfort, a stop was necessary to throw up an ugly yellow substance that was later described as bile. The appendix had ruptured and waves of pain followed and preceded tsunamis’ of anxiety. The new surgeon, Dr. Marks, said he thought I had appendicitis but did not think it had ruptured. Besides, he had a busy schedule already planned for the day and he could not have a nineteen year old college student interrupt. A shot of Demerol and two o’clock in the afternoon and the surgery finally began – ten hours after the rupture. Two days later the scrub nurse comes into the room to inquire if I was still alive. She was amazed as she said she had spent more than an hour mopping up the toxins in my chest cavity with Betadine. I most likely would have died from the infection if not for her efforts.
A shot of antibiotic every hour for three days and the infection was prevented. Nine days later I was to be discharged and a new surgeon shows up. He is amazed that my cavity drain tubes have not been removed. He said that the tubes were to be removed a few inches at a time over several days. But if I didn’t mind he would like to just pull them out now and release me. I was amazed as he removed the three tubes with the longest at eighteen inches. No offer of pain meds until he saw me go whiter than the freshly starched sheet on the bed. Five days later I was back at college playing tennis. Ah, the resilience of youth.
Could this episode of “pain on steroids” have been averted with an adequate level of vitamin D? I suspect so. This is just one of many illnesses that have occurred in the spring when my level was the lowest. It gives me shivers even now as I think this was just a four on my pain scale of zero to ten. If I can overcome the fear, I may someday describe the pain episode that is a ten. – Pandemic Survivor