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Unnecessary Organs

It is 8:37 PM and normally on a Friday we’d probably just be returning from the gym to shower and make our way out for a dinner in neighborhood. Instead, I’m sitting up in bed, starting out across the west village and down at the new yorkers just starting to make their way out for a long evening of eating and drinking. Awake on the 12th floor of St. Vincent’s Hospital with a name bracelet on one wrist and an IV plug needled into the other I’m down to the last 13 hours of 33 hour stay, fighting sleep.

It has been a busy week with many co-workers in town and the accompanying meetings and even a one hundred person ‘who’s who of digital media’ event dinner thrown by my employer followed by drinks at one of New York’s hottest club, The Chelsea Marquee (more on that later). So when Thursday lunch rolled around, I was happy to find a cool little Belgium Bistro just a couple blocks from the office where I could watch some soccer while I downed a delicious meal of salad, fries and a Croque Madame while chatting with a house music producer who happened to be sitting next to me.

Lunch was very good and I debated long and hard on whether or not to accompany it with a draft Belgium beer but decided with my better judgment that it wasn’t the day for that. I didn’t finish my entire plate, but few scraps remained of the fries and egg covered sandwich. I was very happy to have found such a great place in midtown that I didn’t notice at first how full I felt.

As the day wore on, I noticed how heavy and bloated my belly felt. Thinking I had overdone my portion sizes and was having a little indigestion, I grabbed a double espresso on the way to culinary class. Temporarily I felt better, but as class began, my stomach pain grew.

I added a liter of fizzy water upon my teacher’s advice to help “burp it out” and after finishing all of our duck dishes for the evening, including a damn tasty Duck a la Orange, I left class early and burped my way home.

For the next 20 minutes I felt pretty good, but it wasn’t to last. The pains returned. I added a Rolaid and then some Pepto and everything just started spiraling faster downhill. I’ve gotten these pains before and these medications have never helped but the pain had also never been so bad. Concerned, I called my brother-in-law, Doc Kevin and told him my symptoms and background. He didn’t think it was gas. Thought it might be Gall Bladder disease. Great. If it came on harder than before, I should go to the ER.

And 20 minutes later, Kelly and I were cabbing it to St. Vincent’s hospital, the only hospital I knew of in the city on account of a class student going there two days before after slicing a chunk of his pinky off in class. There weree only two people in the lobby when we arrived. I was shocked. I was expecting dozens and hours of wait. I treid to sit but the pain seemed slightly mitigated if I walked around. I paced for 20 minutes and then was called in. I should have known that the ER wasn’t really that empty. Behind the closed doors, there appeared to be a dozen or so drunks and bums filling the small plot of stretchers.

It was an interesting mix of un-updated 70s interior lined with brand new LCD monitors. People were throwing up and moaning as they laid in the beds, but most of the patients were asleep on their beds, what seemed a warm place to escape the cold of the streets. The nurses were all very nice and cordial…to us at least. The doctors, like I would imagine most ER docs, seemed not as interested in the goings-on. After laying out what brought us there we got put in line for an x-ray.

I hadn’t been to an ER in several years and I figure there was a 50/50 chance that I had a gall bladder problem versus just a gas problem. I sort of assumed they would give me some hard medicine and tell me to follow-up with a specialist later. It wasn’t until the doctor noticed that the lower right section of my abdomen was tender that I realized there was a very good chance I had appendicitis.

Over the next 45 minutes, I got a few x-rays taken that verified that there were no stones in my gall bladder and drank a liter of contrasting fluid to help the cat scan see all my organs. After drinking the fluid, you have to wait for 1.5 hours. It was weird being carted around the hospital at such an hour. All the hallways were empty and dark and old. I learned that the plan was to tear this massive hospital down and build another. That other hospitals in the area had closed down recently.It was 4 am when I got the scan. The machine looked a little beat up, but much better than the circa 1983 x-ray machine used. If somebody would have told me this was the original prototype for an x-ray machine, i would have believed them (though the tech told me all the x-ray processing equipment was all new and digital – only the body was old). The cat scan only took a couple minutes. More time was spent telling me about the process, about how I would feel as they pumped heated contrasting dye into my body as the machine sucked me through it’s donut hole.

Half an hour later, the results confirmed the problematic appendix and a young surgical resident was telling me that we had caught it early, but we still needed to remove it this morning. A few quick calls to my bro-in-law and my parents, combined with some detailed questions and explanations and waiting took place over the next hour while we were scheduled for the O.R. We learned that it was a training hospital and that there would be many residents in the surgery, helped by the attendee.

We waited more, was informed by the 4-person anesthesia team of the process of general anesthesia and finally made it into the the OR at about 6:30 am. I wasn’t very worried about what would be a simple procedure save for the fact that everyone was so young, except the antendees. The OR room was newer than the rest of the hospital. I laid down, got a mask and took several heavy hits of oxygen before the sedative came and I lost consiousness.

The incisions they made were really small. Three of them: one on the belly button, one two inches to the right and down slightly and one a couple inches under my belly button. None more than 1.5 cm long – at least that’s what they tell me. The whole procedure is done with a camera and some long tools they use to get the appendix out. they don’t cut any muscle and incisions aren’t even directly above the appendix. It is wiggled out of its place and through the small holes they made in my skin. They must’ve done a good job because I’ve yet to feel hardly any pain (though yes i am on some good drugs). I asked them to take a few pounds of fat out while they were there, but apparently they didn’t do that 😦

The next thing I remember is talking to Kelly in the recovery room and trying to make jokes. They were all bad, apparently. Visitors aren’t really allowed in this room so Kelly left to get some stuff from home and get a few hours of work in. I went in and out of consciousness. I never felt any pain. I spoke to the nurses when awake and even met a couple of visiting nurses from Guangzhou China who were learning a bit about American medicine. The hours went by pretty quickly and 12 noon rolled around. Kelly came back with our stuff and we finally got placed into a private room at around 1pm.

The room is nice, with a tv and even a view and better yet: some natural light. I’m there now. Kelly and I spent the afternoon and evening watching shows, sleeping, and even a little eating. I haven’t really been hungry all day, but I maned to drink some gatorade, most of a large milkshake, some rice and veges that came with dinner and even a single bite of Kelly’ pizza. I was surprised that I was allowed to eat normal food within 12 hours of surgery.

Assuming nothing goes wrong tonight, I check out at 9am to spend the next couple days at home not doing much. I don’t have a problem walking around but I can’t do any hard physical activity, though there’s a good chance that complete recovery is just a few days away.

Thanks for all the kind notes I got today. My Q was the only tool i had to keep myself busy for several hours.

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One Response

  1. Wishing you a speedy recovery!!!!

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