gut punched, THE END

Are you tired of this story? I’M tired of it. How pissed would you be if I ended it “And then the pain went away and I went home. The end”?

But, that’s kind of what happened.

In my room, finally, so happy just to have a pillow, a nurse quizzed me in the dark as he completed my intake paperwork. I asked for more pain meds and anti-nausea meds. He obliged happily, and then gave me a shot in the stomach.

Say what?

I was so out of it that when he approached with the needle, I assumed it was the morphine. I almost took the needle from his hand. Then he said it was heparin, a blood thinner, used to prevent DVT. Blood clots in my legs, y’all. So I rolled over and showed him my ass, at which point he laughed and said, “Not there!” Now I was out of it AND embarrassed and dammit. I JUST WANT TO SLEEP ON MY LITTLE PILLOW. Fine. Where do I have to get this blasted shot? “In the stomach.” Oh, sure. Of course. Why not just give it to me in my eyeball? And the heparin BURNS. “Don’t rub it!” he tells me as I grip my stomach. Then he tells me I’ll be getting these lovely things every 8 hours. I just laughed. And then he pushed my pain meds and turned off the light and I went to sleep on my little pillow.

A large team of doctors came into my room at 7, and I tried to wake up as quickly as I could because they were all staring at me expectantly. Some looked young, really young. TOO young, frankly. One was THE surgeon and she explained that she was pretty certain I would need to have my gallbladder removed, but as long as I responded well to the antibiotics, the surgery wouldn’t need to happen for 6 or 7 weeks. She outlined the tests that would be done over the course of the day, and I tried to memorize everything she said so I could repeat it back to Fred. She was very nice but I wanted her to leave because I had been sleeping and I’d heard that was hard to do in a hospital and could I just get back to it?

The other bit of news given to me was that I was not to eat or drink anything. At all. Nothing. No water, no ice chips, nothing. My roommate was in for the same issues and she hadn’t eaten for a couple of days. She was not happy. I could see myself reaching that point very soon.

A couple of hours later I was wheeled away for an ultrasound, and when they brought be back to my room, Fred was waiting for me. I explained the morning, and we chatted quietly until a doctor came in to say those magical yet altogether confusing words: “Your ultrasound was clear.”

No stones. No inflammation. The dilated liver duct? No longer dilated. Everything looked perfect. As for my blood work, the numbers had come down significantly from the day before. Diagnosis? Murder. Wait, no. There was no diagnosis. But they let me order some chicken broth and it was the best thing ever. Then they let me order DINNER. And that made my stomach very unhappy, so they made me stay in the hospital one more night. Stupid stomach.

On Sunday morning, they drew more blood (the tech actually gasped when she saw my arm; I, uh, bruise very easily). Fred showed up and we waited for the doc, who eventually came in and said, “Your blood work looks spectacular. You can go home.” Yay! But wait! What happened? To that, a shrug. “Maybe a stomach bug gone haywire?” Mmm, comforting. No matter. I WAS FREE.

And then we waited three hours for them to submit the paperwork. The end.


I saw my doctor a few days later, and he looked over my chart and listened to me explain the whole thing. His diagnosis? Murder. Crap.

No, a gall stone (or small cluster of stones) that had been ejected from the gallbladder and had gotten wedged in a duct, causing the liver to go “MAKE MORE BILE!!” and the gallbladder to go “SEND MORE BILE!!” and my body to go “NO MORE BILE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!!” and then the gall stone(s) most likely became unwedged and plopped into my stomach and everything went back to normal. Sort of. It took about two weeks to recover, which my doc told me was standard. Apparently, the liver does a lot of jobs, and when it gets dinged from something like a gall stone, it takes its sweet-ass time to heal. As do I, my friends. As do I.

not really meet cute anymore

So many of you clamoring for part two! Far be it from me to make you wait any longer.

From October 10, 2006

…somewhere close to the beginning but kind of in the middle…

This is where part two of the story of how Fred and I began should go. And so far, I’ve started and scrapped four versions of it.

The first part was funny. Strange. Fated lovers passing on a street corner. This next part? It’s pretty much by the book. That’s not to say it’s not the best story I know. I’m just not sure it’s the story you want to read. I struggle with how much to tell you. The details are important to me. They’re probably boring to you. I also don’t want it to read like this:

We emailed. We laughed. We went for dinner, but it was not a date. We talked a lot. We emailed some more. We went on a date. The end. 

But that’s how it went.

Oh, sure. I was beyond high-maintenance, and probably drove the guy nuts. That first night, that wasn’t a date? I can’t count how many times I changed the restaurant. On our first real date? I made him drive around for 45 minutes so I could figure out where I wanted to eat. And then there was the ex-boyfriend issue, who arrived in town the night of my first date with Fred. Ha.

There was also a play I was in, which required me to rehearse pretty much every night of the week in October. And that kid who thought he would make it his job to pursue me with all of his twenty-year-old wiles the night the show closed. Sweet kid. No chance, but sweet.

So I’ll just tell you how nervous I was when Fred and I first went to dinner on our non-date. I was incredibly nervous. And how wonderful and relaxed he was, and how much he made me laugh. And how I made him a map of Brooklyn with sugar packets and he told me about growing up on Podunk Road. And how neither of us wanted the night to end, and would have talked all night if we could have. But instead, slowly walked to our cars in the parking lot, promising to spend another night hanging out.

And how I think I fell in love with him a teeny, tiny bit that night.

It was the best date we didn’t have.

my version of meet cute

Taking a break from the medical updates for a minute. Last night, Sarah asked how Fred and I met, and I gave her the short version. But it occurred to me that I have a lot of new readers now, so I’ll share the full version here.

I originally wrote this on my old blog, and it’s not done. Maybe one day I’ll finish it.

From October 3, 2006

in the beginning…

Last night I was sitting across the kitchen table from Fred while we drank our beers (him: Sam Adams Cream Stout; me: Dogfish Head Punkin Ale) and waiting for our pizza to cook. Monday nights in our house (between the months of September and January) mean pizza and beer and MNF. It’s a tradition Fred’s had for I don’t know how long, and when we started living together, I gladly took part.

As he talked, I watched his face, and thought back to a night five years ago when we sat across from each other. And last night, his mannerisms, his facial expressions, the sound of his voice, they were all the same. He caught me staring, and stopped mid-sentence, a smile turning up one side of his mouth. “What?” he asked. And I told him, “You haven’t changed a bit.”

The night that I was remembering was the beginning of the oddest, and quickest, courtships I’ve ever had. 

Fred and I have known each other, or at least, known of each other, since 1998, when he arrived in Arizona, a newly minted Cornell grad eager to start a Ph.D. program. I was starting my senior year, and was working in the office of the director in the same department as Fred’s grad program. I felt awkward around the grad students, mainly because I was so close in age to them but couldn’t seem to connect. They were friendly, I was friendly. But it mostly my contact with them was a passing “hello” in the halls.

In the spring of 2000, Fred was helping to organize a grad student conference. By this point, I had graduated and been promoted to assistant to the director, and was helping organize catering and such. Because of this conference, Fred was in my office quite a bit, and we got to chatting. I was getting ready to leave for New York in the summer, but there was a chance I would end up in Boston instead. He lobbied for Boston, I cited the Beastie Boys as a reason for Brooklyn. And I could never shake the tiny tremor my stomach would give when I saw him.

As I’ve mentioned before [Ed. note: have I?], I moved back to Arizona from New York in the summer of 2001, and in early September started a new job. A week after I started was September 11.

I couldn’t predict on that Tuesday the upheaval in my personal life that would come from those events. My ex reconnected with me, and repeated his desire to reconcile and start a long distance thing. I did my best to ignore his requests, but continued to communicate with him. Against my better judgment.

Just shy of two weeks after Sept. 11, I was walking back to my office from campus where I’d had lunch with my mom, and saw a group of people I recognized from my old department. And a little tickle in my stomach accompanied the recognition of Fred among the group. I laughed to myself when I saw him, because just the Friday before, a friend of mine (who at the time was engaged to a fellow grad student with Fred) called me at work and asked if I remembered Fred. To which I replied, yes, but would not go out with him. I was shallow and had stupid rules. I turned down her suggestion of a double date. “But he thinks you’re cute,” she insisted. “And he looks like Keanu Reeves. Don’t you think?” I was firm, and she reluctantly gave up. Apparently, fate decided to intervene.

Back on the street, I called his name and waved.

He looked in my direction, shielding his eyes from the sun, and lifted his hand half-heartedly. We continued on our way.

Returning to my office, I hastily typed and sent a note to the friend that had called me, saying if there was any chance before of my going on a date with Fred, he had just killed it. “He didn’t even know who I was!” 

Satisfied, I sat back and started some work. Within minutes, a new message arrived in my inbox from my friend. It was a forward. Seconds after receiving my message, she received another one. From Fred. Wondering if she knew if I was back in town because he thought he may have seen me. And she had forwarded my message to him.

There I sat, cheeks flaming, and the little butterflies tumbling around inside me.

To be continued…

gut punched, part 2

Part 1

Have you ever spent an extended period of time in an emergency room, specifically in an emergency room in a city hospital? I wouldn’t recommend it. In fact, I’d go so far as to say you should do your best to avoid it at all costs, especially if you’re going to be there around midnight on a Friday.

After the surgeon came in and poked and prodded me some more, he explained that I had a textbook case of cholecystitis — one inflamed and irritated and most likely infected gallbladder. My CT scan had shown the inflammation, and my labs showed markedly high liver enzymes and white blood cells. I would be immediately (remember that word) admitted to the hospital, started on a strong course of antibiotics to “cool off” my gallbladder, and I should plan on spending at least the weekend, if not longer. Wheeee! Surgery to remove the little bastard could happen as early as Monday.

This was around 6:30-7 in the evening. I originally got the ER around 12:30.

Shift change happened shortly thereafter, and I didn’t see my new nurse for an hour, when she came in to give me the antibiotics. All pain meds had worn off at this point and I had a really terrible headache. I asked if she knew anything about the availability of a bed, and she said she would check. It was around this point that the really interesting inhabitants of the ER started to show up. In the bed to my left was an elderly woman suffering from dementia. In the bed to my right was a young man with gastrointestinal distress who would swear when the pain got bad. Down the hall one way were two folks who had trouble NOT vomiting loudly every 15 minutes or so. And down the hall the other way was a woman who, as the night progressed, I learned was addicted to Vicodin. She would yell for Jesus, or the nurse or doctor — or all three — to deliver her from the horrible pain that she was experiencing. When she first came in I was sure she was dying. The staff would not give her what she wanted — narcotics — and so she wailed and she moaned and she cried.

Around 10 Fred had to leave since he would be driving his mother and Emma to the airport early the next morning and needed to get some sleep.

Around midnight, the nurse switched out my antibiotic for a stronger one. Still no pain meds. Still no anti-nausea meds. I was feeling worse than I did when I first got to the hospital, twelve hours earlier. I started shaking. Texting Fred. Wanting to go home. Wishing he would come and stay with me. Trying to call my nurse but she’d disappeared. Trying to block out the wailing lady and the puke sounds and the dinging and the beeps and the med students laughing and making inappropriate jokes within earshot.

When the nurse finally returned (holding chips and a lemonade; I hadn’t eaten since some toast at 8 in the morning — I was ravenous) I was able to get her attention, not steal her chips, and ask for pain meds. Which required a doctor’s order. Which took too long to acquire. I longed for the previous nurse, who would say, “Dr. So-and-So, I’m going to give 2 of morphine to 20.” And Dr. So-and-So would say, “Ok, I’m adding it now.” Eventually the pain meds came, but she spilled the anti-nausea meds all over my arm. So another wait for another order. I also learned that the request for a bed had never been put in a computer.

At 3:30 a man with a wheelchair showed up — my ride was here! He helped me into the chair, covered me with blankets, and told me he was taking me to my room. Where there would be a bed. With a pillow.

To be continued.

gut punched, part 1

I was in the middle of writing a looooong post about how we found our new place and the absolute ADVENTURE (she said sarcastically) of buying it when something else way more exciting happened.

The week after we moved, I took vacation time, both to be able to unpack and get us settled, and also because Emma has no place to go until September 10 and I guess it’s kind of frowned upon to leave your six-year-old alone all day. (KIDDING, Mom! We totally don’t leave her alone.) Monday I decided we would get some things we needed, like sheets and milk and decorative throw pillows. I ate a bowl of cereal and the day went downhill from there. I immediately bloated up like a balloon, and I had some difficulty taking a deep breath because of the pressure. Tuesday was the same. Wednesday was worse, and I called my doctor. His nurse called me back and said he wanted me to take some prilosec because it was probably just acid. Ohhhkay. I spent most of Wednesday lying flat on my back because that was the only position that didn’t hurt. Thursday was a little bit better, and Friday was the same as Thursday.

My mother-in-law was in town on Friday, staying briefly before taking Emma back to Massachusetts to spend the week. I thought it would be nice if the three of us walked over to Fred’s office to meet him for lunch. We started out and almost immediately the pain began in my abdomen. It was high, right under my rib cage on the right side, and felt like someone was pushing VERY HARD every time I moved my legs or breathed. So, you know, constantly. 20 minutes later, we arrived at Fred’s office and I was very nearly doubled over. Fred’s building is not far from the hospital, so I just said I was going to walk over the emergency room. Fred said he’d go with me, we acquired lunch for his mother and Emma, and parted ways.

You know, it’s amazing how fast they’ll see you in an ER when you’re a woman complaining of abdominal pain and shortness of breath. I hadn’t even finished the intake process before they hooked me up to an EKG. It helped that they weren’t busy, but still. I was in a bed within 10 minutes.

Lots of different doctors (it’s a teaching hospital) asked lots of different questions and then an IV was inserted along with some pain meds. That coincided with being ultrasounded and three new doctors asking me questions at once. I was given dilaudid, a narcotic. All I could say was that my ears tingled. After the exams were done and everyone left, I looked at Fred and he just laughed. Honestly, I was not enjoying the drugs, and vocally expressed how I couldn’t understand why people actively searched this stuff out. I know. I’m such a square. (Later, they switched my pain meds to morphine, which I tolerated much more easily but gave me a crazy headache. Argh.)

My nurse was great (she said that the anti-nausea meds would work “totes fast”) and all of the doctors never made me feel stupid. Eventually I was taken away for a CT and then waited the requisite million hours for the results. When the doctor finally came in, I was pretty sure he was going to tell me my scan was clear and send me home. Until he introduced himself as a member of the surgery team.

[To be continued, aka Making You Wait Because I’m an Asshole.]