Friday, February 29, 2008

The Misadventure of Bob’s Appendix

Part One: A Violation of My Innard Sanctum
November 13, 2007

Wow! What a week. I had a stomach ache on Thursday. On Friday, it finally got so bad that I had to call 911 and go to the hospital. I left the house by noon, and by 7:00, I was rolling into surgery to have my appendix taken out. I’m home now but I’m still on pain pills.

I know I have already spoken to some of you and related the news, but, due to the pain pills, I’m having trouble remembering who I spoke to. The pain medicine, Hydrocodone, is pretty cool, by the way. I’d recommend bringing it to any music concert or potluck.

I probably won’t be on the phone much because I sleep a lot and it hurts to get up and down, but I’ll try to check e-mail as often as possible. If you want to try to call, you can give it a shot after 9:00. No point in paying for a call I’m not going to remember, anyway.

* * * * * *

Do you miss your appendix yet?

Do I miss my appendix yet? It’s gone, but I’ll always have it with me in my heart. That sounds gross!

Hydrocodone is my FAVORITE! Enjoy, and if there are ANY leftovers,
promise you’ll let me have them. …

I have the feeling that this is the kind of drug that isn’t going to have any leftovers. Sorry.

This is clearly a serious surgery that would knock over the best of us —

and you seem to be taking it in stride.

Yeah, I’m on the upswing. I’m feeling better every day. I’ve still got those pesky marks from the tape that held the IV in, but a little Bestine will take that off.

Ouch. Hope you feel better. That looks nasty.

I wanted to save the appendix and make a finger puppet out of it.

I hope you feel better soon. Everyone always does once they have their purple parts taken out.

I’m doing a fair bit of lying around. The animals still want to be all over me and lie on my stomach. I just can’t have that. There are about five really sensitive spots on my tummy. You would think they had little cat-sized Arthur Murray footprints on them, because the cats hit them every time, without fail.

The pain pills are a hoot! I took one the other day, then tried to read a book. I read it for a while, then it read me for a while. It went back and forth, then we hit an impasse and just started telling each other off-color jokes.

Back on the prayer list you go …

No need for the prayer list. The doctors already fixed it.

Is appendix-less life all it was cracked up to be??

I’m feeling O.K. now. But I don’t have the guts to do it again.

* * * * * *

November 17, 2007

It’s been over a week now that I’ve thought of nothing other than my abdomen. It all seems to be getting better. About the only pain left is just from being spindled and mutilated.

I always told my nieces that I was going to get my bellybutton pierced. Then I’d add, “... but not that sissy way. I’m going to have mine done the man’s way: back to front.”

Well, danged if I didn’t do it. With that laparoscopic procedure, they dragged the appendix out the bellybutton and then sewed it nearly shut. As soon as the stitches are gone, I’ll have to start poking my finger in my navel until it’s back to the proper shape. Like re-blocking a hat.

Part Two: Abscess Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
February 9, 2008

When telling the tale of my recent appendectomy, one obliging reader responded, “Back on the prayer list you go …” to which I replied, “No need for the prayer list. The doctors already fixed it.” Well, I was a little premature, and God must be laughing!

It seems a little infection was left behind after my whirlwind surgery. All was well for a while as my incisions healed, but this devious little infection was growing, growing inside me.

I was wholly unaware of this hidden danger. I went about my business as if nothing were amiss. Tra-la-la! All was well with the world.

Well, it turns out that when some crafty little infection is growing, growing inside you, it can result in excruciating back pain. And how! A little chiropractic action relieved the pain, but I was left with an absurd limp. This was soon accompanied by a shooting pain in my legs resulting in a peculiar shuffling gait. Oh, what a sight I must have been!

In due course, the pain in my back started to grow again and I took up residence on the living room couch which offered more back support than I had been getting. The back pain and mystifying pain in my legs grew little by little until, one morning, for the life of me, I couldn’t stand up. Walking was out of the question.

I waited for the condition to right itself, but I remained lame.

As I lay on the couch, a useless cripple, the sinister infection continued to grow. On my back and out of my sight, a bulge the size of one of your smaller melons appeared (see photo).

Ah! What exquisite pain! Time to see a doctor.

Wheelchair bound, my concern was with my legs and why they wouldn’t walk for me. The doctors were more captivated by the protuberance on my back. It turns out the two were interrelated. A CT scan revealed that the enormous bulge was an abscess pressing on something vital to walking and would I mind checking into the hospital to have it drained.

Off I went to have the abscess drained. I’m told that about a cup of pus came out of that thing on my back. Why the surgeon felt the need to express the volume of discharge in terms of dishware, I don’t know, but it was a little unsettling.

Well, they stuck me with three bags to catch the remaining goo that was still draining out of the site and admitted me to the hospital for a week of IVs, needles and hospital food.

Amazingly, once I was pumped out, I could walk again, after a fashion. I’m using a walker, though, until my legs resume their old familiar frailty.

Finally, after the nurses had inflicted all pain necessary and unnecessary, and punctured every vein in both of my arms, they sent me home with two drainage bags still sucking infection from me like a pair of unquenchable parasites.

I now await a doctor’s appointment during which these greedy little bags might at last be removed and this whole episode — which began some three months ago — might come to a long overdue conclusion.

NOTE: All procedures, real or imagined, mentioned above resulted in acute and absolute pain.

* * * * * *

All pain inflicted in the hospital is at once real and imaginary. Some
is actually being inflicted, but you imagine it must be worse than it is and
hurt accordingly.

No. No, this pain was real. And, true to form, as they were preparing to send me home, one of the nurses devised a devilish dénouement to my hospital stay: instead of gently sliding the IV out of my weary vein, she callously ripped off the tape — catheter and all! Oi! The IV came out sideways leaving a ribbon of torn flesh in its wake. Left a mark, that did.

Your tales are disturbingly entertaining ... and I can’t imagine how much
fear and anxiety you’re channeling through the humor …

I didn’t really have much anxiety in the hospital. More like a grim resolve. I knew that every time the door opened, something was else was going to hurt me. Que sera sera.

I still can’t wait till you graduate to a cane so you can be like House …

I’ve been walking with a cane for some time now. I’d make a very, very, very fine House. Or to put a Biblical spin on it, I’ve got a cane and now I’m able.

I hope you are on the road to recovery and that you regain normal frailty in your legs soon.

In the mornings I look like a foal rising feebly for the first time on its fragile little legs. I shamble to the restroom with unsure steps hoping in vain to regain my accustomed sure-footedness. That frail enough for you?

You’ll be tap dancing in no time!

I tried it once. Now I’m all tapped out. I’d be good at it, though. I already have the cane.

Prayers are in for a speedy recovery from the recovery.

You said you were going to pray for a speedy recovery nearly four months ago. Evidently it didn’t take.

* * * * * *

February 15, 2008

Since I wrote that e-mail, I discarded the walker and moved to a cane to help me walk. A few nights ago, I stopped using the cane and am walking on my own. I get some killer edema in my feet while I sleep, and in the morning I’m a little wobbly until everything sorts itself out.

They took one drain out before I left the hospital and sent me home with two still attached. I drain them nightly and chart the amount of discharge. Last Tuesday, the doctor removed one more of the bags. He will remove the last one when the amount of ooze gets down to 5 to 10 milliliters a day.

* * * * * *

February 21, 2008

I’ve been walking without aid for over a week. Went to the doctor today. Had the last drain removed. I have a slight bulge developing near my bellybutton. The doctor says it looks like a hernia from blowing a stitch after surgery. Says he’ll fix it if it bothers me. Sounds expensive. CT scan next week to make sure all the little pus guys are gone. I hope so. Don’t want to have to drain them again. No drain, no pain.

Speaking of expensive, the bills from this medical misadventure are still coming in. As it stands now, assuming my appendix was responsible for all my recent misfortune and assuming it was about three inches long, that little bugger cost about $14,000 an inch.

My appendix: An expensive cut of meat.

* * * * * *

February 24, 2008

Yep, seems like I’m getting a little better every day. And, after 22 days, I’ve exchanged that last drainage tube for a simple Band-Aid. I’m still a little sore in that spot, but I guess that’s to be expected.

Part Three: Suppuration Anxiety
February 29, 2008

(Reader Discretion is Advised)

It has been a month now since my magnum o’ pus was pumped out. I enjoyed what I hope will be my final CT scan this week and got the results back yesterday. According to the scan doctor, the mass of goo has diminished significantly, but “… continues to cause some mild displacement of the right kidney due to its retroperitoneal location. It involves the right paravertebral muscles, psoas, and oblique muscles in the flank and extends into the pararenal fat and fascia with extensive fat stranding and irregularity. …” and “… it does have a large component along the iliacus muscle centrally.” That’s an oblique way of saying, “His back still hurts.” I could have told her that for free.

She continues, “There is one single fairly well-defined pocket of fluid along the iliac crest posteriorly … measuring 2.7 x 1.2 cm.” Now, I don’t want to complain, but I could do without being tapped like a keg again to drain well-defined fluid or any other kind of putrescence. It’s painful and humiliating. And, no sir, I didn’t like it. So, let’s leave it be and maybe it will go away.

Incidentally, the scan also revealed that my prostate is not enlarged. Good to hear. I think it’s worth the time and expense to scan the ol’ prostate from the outside rather than having it checked the traditional way.

My CT scan before drainage and after. I’m no doctor, but I think
in cross section a person should at least be symmetrical.

Yep. You gotta love that CT scan. It is to dye for! You lie alone in a cold, unfeeling machine and it lays you bare before God and all. Fully clothed though you may be, the doctors have a ringside seat to inspect all your organs and viscera. Check your modesty at the door!

And, speaking of organs, on several of the CT scan images you’ll see the ghostly apparition of my pee-pee. It wasn’t really necessary to scan in my case — I think the technician just did it to satisfy his prurient curiosity. It is interesting to examine the whole series, though, as the pictures progress up my groinal area slice by revealing slice. Nothing … nothing … nothing … whoa! What’s that?! The unrelenting machine continues, the images of — you know — diminishing until it finally resembles nothing more than a little circumcised string. Then nothing … nothing … Turns out it’s pretty photogenic. It’s not strictly soft tissue. … It comes and goes.

Now, after emergency appendectomy and subsequent infection, mammoth bulge hanging off my back, a tangle of drainage tubes snaking their way into my insides and a brand new hernia to keep my bellybutton company, you’d think the worst would be over. But, now I notice my hair is falling out.

It was thick and luxuriant as ever last weekend. A day later I was running my fingers through it and scrutinizing my tresses in the mirror, and observed that it has definitely gotten thinner. To top it off, I think I have a genuine bald spot.

And, behold, my armpit hair has disappeared. This is all in the past four or five days! At this rate, I’ll soon be hairless as a Chihuahua. A wretched, trembling Chihuahua. I’m taking vitamins to encourage hair growth, but in my spare time I practice my comb-over and rail at God. Ah, well!

Naturally, now that my body has begun to betray me, dealing blow after agonizing blow, I have become particularly paranoid about my wellbeing. What else has my spiteful carcass got on the docket to sap my vigor and zest for life? What malady lies around the next bend? Ricketts? Ague? Feline leukemia? Bring it on! I’m waiting!


(Or is it?)

* * * * * *

There are worse things than permanently hairless armpits.

Yeah, there are worse things. But I bet I’ve got those, too.

… as a chick, a lack of underarm hair would be a blessing.

The armpit thing isn’t so bad. I can still go out with confidence ... la-la-la-la confidence. Even so, though the look is strong enough for a man, it was made for a woman.

I’m more concerned about the bald spot on my head. The hair grows around it in a silky swirl, and the little bare spot stands out like the angry eye of a category 5 hair-o-cane. I’m just afraid that someday soon it just might make landfall on my forehead.

Could you draw lines to the body parts? I don’t want to miss the “string.”

This ain’t no peep show! But, if you’re interested, I have 8 x 10’s and wallet size prints all available at a reasonable price. For you, I’ll even offer one I autographed with my own John Hancock. But you’d better hurry. I’m selling them hand over fist!

This may be the grossest e-mail in the ... history of e-mail!

Hey, you should hear the details I left out! For example, the dye they inject you with for the CT scan makes your insides feel unnaturally warm. There I was, lying in the machine, my mind a million miles away, when it began assaulting my bloodstream. I felt my entire body rapidly getting warmer and warmer. It even felt hot on my pooper. Ouch! Talk about your Ring of Fire!

Seriously ... you’re a mess.

It’s not as bad as I make it out to be. It’s not really even a real bald spot. With the white streak in front, the tiny bare patch looks more like a bellybutton on a badger.