Monday, June 2, 2014

When the Moment of Truth Arrives

 If I am going to delve into issues surrounding my current spiritual, mental, and emotional status, I have to begin at the beginning of my current troubles.  There was much baggage on my back already before what i am about to describe, but you do not need to be3 familiar with it in order to know what is going on.  Latecomers will get the gist.  But come on, I worked hard writing all those background posts in May.  you ought not skip them, if you ask me.

I suffered a burst diverticula on October 26, 2012. A diverticula is a finger-like part of the colon that pushes food and waste along the digestive system. Mine are particularly sensitive because my colon is infected with a highly aggressive form of diverticulitis aggravated by inadvertent steroid use ten years ago after an eye surgery, of all things. No one knows why the diverticula burst. It could have something I ate. It could have been my  then frequent bowel obstruction issues. I could have bumped my belly on the corner of the kitchen counter that morning. Who knows? What I do know is a  burst diverticula is extremely painful and the toxins released into the digestive system cause violent vomiting. I could not stand up strait or control my barfing. An ambulance took me to the hospital. My five year old nephew thought being hauled through the house on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance was the neatest thing ever. The lengths I had to go to in
order to be the cool uncle.

This was no laughing matter, however. I was experiencing the symptoms of a colon rupture. I have lived/till live under the threat of another rupture for a decade now. The worst case scenarios are my colon is so ravaged by diverticulitis there is no healthy tissue to create a new colostomy or a peritonitis infecrion sets in and I die within hours. The former is a slow death in which the colon is removed entirely, the small intestine connected to the stomach, and the patient wastes away on a clear liquid diet within  weeks assuming infection or other complications do not set in. The latter is a fairly quick, no real fuss poisoning. These are not pleasant thoughts  for an ambulance ride or emergency room wait.  I entertained them regardless.

Events move quickly under the circumstances of a probable. The on call surgeon was by my bedside shortly after the inconclusive, but nasty looking CT scan. He and his practice partners have been treating my various colon relate ailments since the rupture. I have a good relationship with all three of them, and they are more forthcoming about the reality of things with me because of it. He essentially laid out the previous paragraph with the addition of a possible perforated stomach instead. The bottom line was there were no good scenarios, and the worst were fatal.

I could not help but think this was the end. Visions of how it would play out have gnawed at me from the beginning of this mess in 2004 . I have woken up in a cold sweat from too many nightmare scenarios that seemed all too real, and here was finally happening in reality.  by this point in time, I had foregone my earlier, longtime notions of suicide in favor of letting nature take its course.  There was no reason to belierve a rupture could  happen any day.  now it seemed to be here.  I was peaceful about everything but the pain until the scenario of having my colon removed came up.  Did my death really have to be such a slow one.?  I was visibly shaken by that one.

I will never forget Denise's response.  "Well, you knew this was going to happen eventually."

There were three other people in the room: the surgeon, a nurse, and me.  We all looked at her briefly.  Did she just tell me to suck it up and die without a fuss?  I guess she got the hint whatever she meant came across too callously, because she added, "People can live without their colons."

"For three or four months, tops.  wasting away on a liquid diet,"  I replied. Denise did not say anything else. 

The surgeon left to scrub up.  Denise left the room, too.  I waited for the anesthesiologist.  When she arrived, I asked for a moment to pray beore she started administering the  medication. I expected her to give me some privacy, but she stood there and watched. I prayed to myself, “Lord, if you are going to take me, please do it quickly.” When I opened my eyes after a silent amen, the anesthesiologist sweetly asked me if I was okay. It is one of the last things I remember before waking up in the ICU that night.

The amount of anesthetic induced amnesia after surgery can be a blessing.  Sometimes, you are wide awake in the recovery room where the medical personnel who operated on you can answer whatever questions your groggy mind can muster. The downside here is that you are fully awake for that awful moment when four nurses grab a corner of the sheet you are layin on, lift you up by it, drop you unceremoniously on your new bed, an then forcibly roll you from side to side in odrer to get the sheet out from under you. This has never not been an excruciating experience, especially when there is one or two pipsqueak nurses who cannot manage a lift and I wind up half raged into bed. It is not the way to handle a belly full of staples. Sometimes, you wake up already in your room blissfully oblivious to all that. The downside is no one knows anything, so you have to slowly piece things together.

Such was the case when I awoke. I took that first apprehensive assessment. Was I alive? This place sucked  too much to be heaven. It was too cold to be hell. Yeah, I must be  alive. Was my colon still there? I did not know, but since I was in the ICU  instead of the post-operation floor, something ws up. New colostomy? I could not tell that, either. Fortunately, there is a camera in each ICU  room, so my nurse came in the minute she saw me stir. She was not forthcoming with answers. She only told me too e still. Once she flipped on the light, I saw why. I had an NV tube. Drat.

If you have not ha the pleasure, an NV tube runs up your nose, down the  back of your throat, and into your stomach. I pumps out the digestive acids from your empty stomach. The tube carrying the slues to a filter at the head of the bed is always in line of sight, so there is a pleasant,  weeklong view. I laid flat on tat be for six freaking days staring at that
tube before they finally pulled it out, which was not a fun experience, either. At least I was asleep when they put it in.

There was one other unpleasant thing that I did not find out until later when some attitudes towards me changed after I regained my bearings.  At some point during my anesthetic haze, I expressed disappointment to still be alive.  I do not remember saying.  That I said something along those lines was dismissed early on as morphine induced babbling.  at least it was until an extremely depressed personality emerged a few days later.  But that is another post altogether.

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