Today is Christmas, the one day a year we celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus by buying material things for the people we love and present these material things to them while eating food none of us should be eating. Merry Christmas!
This Christmas is special to me because I don’t remember last Christmas. I was taken to the hospital via ambulance on December 20, 2017, and didn’t go home until December 30. They had me in intensive care until December 29. I had a GI blockage and diabetic ketoacidosis and I almost died.
That first week, I was very much out of it. I experienced vivid hallucinations that even now seem very real. For example, I thought I was taken out of the hospital and forced to be an extra on a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reboot. Oddly enough, it was filming here in Hagerstown. This was before such a reboot was announced in August. I should point out that I’ve never been a fan of Buffy although I’m married to one.
This Buffy hallucination seemed more real to me than the Diet Coke I’m drinking right now while writing this. There were other vivid hallucinations. Perhaps I’ll share those one day too.
I normally hate Christmas
Christmas normally makes me depressed. I decided last fall that instead of allowing Christmas to make me feel depressed, I was going to attack it head-on. I was going to use Christmas’ own momentum against it. In effect, I was going to perform emotional Hapkido on Christmas.
I then got very sick and missed the entire thing.
What I was going to do last Christmas, I’m doing this Christmas. The tree is up and the lights are on the front of the house. I’ve even been listening to Christmas music. Good Christmas music, not the awful kind you often hear played in stores.
I waged war on Christmas and I won
I successfully used Christmas’ own emotional momentum against it. You often hear about the war on Christmas. I’m not referring to the fake kind talked about on Fox News, but a real war on Christmas.
We fought and I won. Christmas put on a top hat and met me on a Battleship this morning to sign its surrender paperwork.
Merry Christmas everyone!
Happy Birthday Baby Jesus! I know you said not to acquire material possessions here on earth, but I have a new shop-vac under the tree.
I’ve been coveting it for some time, so I think that makes it okay. Plus, you said, “cleanliness is next to godliness.” during your sermon on Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s more commonly known as the Sermon on the Mount 2.0.
Nothing says cleanliness quick like a 4.5 peak horsepower shop-vac.
Last Wednesday I went to the University of Maryland Medical Center and had a portion of my large bowel removed. Crohn’s disease damaged it. It made part of my large bowel narrow and difficult for waste to travel from point A to point B. It’s what caused the G.I. blockage that almost killed me the end of last year.
The surgery was scheduled for 10:00 AM, so I was instructed to check in to the hospital at 8:00 AM. Living about 80 miles away, Sheri and I got there early and I checked in at 7:30 AM. We were taken back to the pre-op area and I was told to remove all my clothes and put on a hospital gown and grip socks and to get in bed.
Hurry up and wait
We then waited. And waited. The scheduled start time of 10:00 AM came and went. We were first told Dr. Andrea C Bafford, the surgeon doing the procedure, was running late on her first surgery. Then, later on, we were told she was called away to perform emergency surgery.
With the passing of each hour, I was afraid my surgery was going to be canceled.
Finally, at 4:45 PM, they wheeled me away to surgery. The surgery began at 5:10 PM and it lasted longer than three hours.
The surgery room looked much different than what I’m used to seeing on TV. There were a lot of people there. University of Maryland Medical Center is a teaching hospital so it made sense there was an abundance of people there in learning mode. I remember there was an anesthesiologist, a nurse anesthetist, and a student anesthetist. The anesthetist was a short woman and she was wearing a black Hello Kitty scrub cap. I immediately liked the cut of her jib and I felt like my life was in good hands.
The robots are taking over!
Dr. Bafford was not only doing the surgery endoscopically, but she was using a robot. I saw the robot. It was huge and scary looking. It looked like a multi-armed murderbot sent back in time to exterminate humanity. I don’t trust robots, but I fully trusted Dr. Bafford.
Even though I shaved my skull that morning, I had to wear a hair net during the procedure. The reason? Because it was a regulation. It pained me for the robot to see me like that laying here in such a vulnerable position wearing a big poofy hair net on my shaved head.
After the surgery, Dr. Bafford told Sheri the damaged section in my bowel was much larger than she expected. It was so big, she had to make the incision in my belly larger just to remove it. It wasn’t spongy and it had no elasticity. It was also abscessed and infected. The area could have burst at any moment which I’m guessing would have made me bleed internally and die.
Post-op? What’s this post-op you speak of?
I was out of it when I was taken to post-op. In fact, I don’t remember ever going there. Although I’ve been under anesthesia before, it’s never been for that long.
My memories began once I was in my own room late Wednesday night. Even those memories are foggy at best.
Medication? You don’t need any stinking medication
Even though I provided a detailed list of the medications I was already on and I brought all my medications with me, I wasn’t allowed to take them, nor were the nurses allowed to administer them. The reason? I don’t know.
It made for a very frustrating experience. For example, I take blood pressure medication. I’ve been on it for years. With the blood pressure medication, my blood pressure is normal. Without my blood pressure medication? Not so much. Each time they checked my vitals, my blood pressure was higher than it was before. Considering the stress I was under, I’m surprised my blood pressure wasn’t even higher.
Speaking of stress, I also wasn’t allowed to take the medications I take for anxiety. You’re not supposed to just stop taking anxiety meds cold turkey. I was definitely feeling the withdrawal side-effects.
The joy of having weapons-grade diabetes
I wasn’t allowed to take my diabetes or heartburn medication either. For the heartburn, I knew I could just run out the clock. It’s not like I was eating anything. Also, I was only supposed to be there for a few days. I could wait that long before having to worry about acid reflex. The diabetes medication was a whole different story. You’d think that by not consuming carbohydrates, my glucose levels would drop. With me, they don’t. Ever since I had diabetic ketoacidosis, my body produces glucose when I don’t eat. If I don’t eat, I normally have to take more fast-acting insulin through the course of the day then I would take if I were eating.
Since I wasn’t allowed to administer my own insulin, I was totally dependent on the nurses to give me as much of their insulin as they saw fit. I don’t even think it was them, I think the charge nurse was making that decision.
I remember one time my blood sugar was at 300. An hour and a half later, I was given six units of fast-acting insulin. That’s not enough. If I was at home and my blood sugar was reading 300, I would immediately take 25 units of fast-acting insulin. I would then test it again in 45 minutes and administer more fast-acting insulin if needed. It’s hypothetical because I never let my blood sugar get that high.
It was also hard to get my pain medication. I had to ask and then wait for each dose. They treated me like I was Bubbles from The Wire. The whole thing was very annoying. Who was the charge nurse, Tom Cruise?
What I had to do to be discharged
I was told I would remain in the hospital until I could pass gas. Even though my surgery was performed by an expert in colon surgery and she was assisted by a MurderBot from the future, being able to successfully fart was the best way they had to tell if the surgery was a success. It was like someone got 8th-century medicine in the 22nd-century medicine.
You know how to stop someone from farting? Tell them they have to fart. I wasn’t able to pass gas on Thursday. Then on Friday night, a miracle happened: I was able to pass gas.
That part of the quest was complete. To finish the rest of the quest, I had to eat two meals of solid food and not throw up. Going by personal experience, I felt fairly confident I could do that unless those two meals included lots of tequila.
I just didn’t realize how nasty the food was at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
When I was on the liquid diet, I didn’t partake of what they were providing. Every meal was about the same. Beef broth, apple juice, lemon Italian ice, and Jello. Everything other than the broth had lots of sugar in it.
Let the solid foods begin!
Saturday my breakfast was fake scrambled eggs, a sausage patty, fried potatoes, Frosted Flakes, and orange juice. I was able to eat the fake eggs and some of the fried potatoes.
For lunch, they brought me a grilled cheese sandwich and fake mashed potatoes. I could only eat one bite of the sandwich. It was so greasy and disgusting. I tried to get Sheri to eat a couple of bites, but she refused to do it. I’m 1oo percent sure she would take a bullet for me but she would not eat two bites from my nasty grilled cheese sandwich. That says a lot about the food at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
I was worried about the powers that be would say I had not eaten enough of my two meals to successfully complete the quest. Sure enough, one of the nurses saw my tray and said they might not release me since I didn’t really eat enough. She brought me cold applesauce and graham crackers. I hadn’t eaten graham crackers since being diagnosed with diabetes. I ate what she brought me. It was actually good.
They discharged me around 3:00 PM. Leaving the hospital felt so incredible. It felt even better to get home and take a shower.
What I learned from my stay in the hospital
Looking back at my stay at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the next time I go to the hospital, I will do things differently. This includes:
I will shave my arms before I get there. Both my arms had IVs. Removing the tape holding the IVs in place felt like torture.
I will bring plastic Ziploc bags. Instead of leaving the food I could not eat on the serving tray for the whole world to see, I’ll put the leftovers in plastic bags and put them in my book bag. I’ll then throw everything away when I get home.
I will secretly take my own medication. I’ll never allow anyone else to control my medication. Next time, I’ll test my own blood and give myself the insulin I need.
I will leave the books and video games at home. The pain was far too extreme for me to play my Nintendo 3DS XL or read my Kindle. I didn’t even watch TV until the last day.
I’m a very lucky man
I can’t even imagine going through what I went through if I didn’t have Sheri at my side. She was truly a life saver. There’s a reason I have Is She With You from the Superman v Batman: Dawn of Justice soundtrack as a ringtone when Sheri calls me. It’s the electric cello music that plays when Wonder Woman shows up. My wife is my best friend and she’s my hero.
This post is going to be very self-indulgent as it pertains to my health. If you have no interest in reading this, please accept my apologies. Then again, this is my personal blog. Remember those? I should be entitled to write about myself here without apologies.
Also, I have a few family members back in California I don’t have relationships with, but I know for a fact they creep around here like the little stalkers they are to see what I’ve been up to so they can trash talk me.
Anyway, I almost began the new year by taking up permanent residence in a budget urn. I almost died. They believe a G.I. blockage resulted in a very serious infection which caused my diabetes to go all out of whack. For some reason when the human body is hit with a heavy infection, it begins to make sugar. Lots and lots of sugar. After that, I went into Diabetic Ketoacidosis.
Sheri took me to the doctor this morning for my checkup. Things are going well.
The depression I’m feeling is completely normal. I’m on a heavy dose of steroids and that, as well as going through what I went through can ramp up the depression. That makes me feel better. Not only am I dealing with depression, the slightest little thing can send me off into an emotional crying fit. Seriously. Things make me cry.
The level of fatigue I’m feeling is also completely normal. My doctor told me that it will take two to three months to get back to feeling like a normal human being.
My doctor told me this morning that when he first came by to see me in the ICU, he didn’t think I was going to make it. This was news to me. I know in retrospect that what I had was serious and potentially life-ending. Hearing my doctor tell me that he thought I was going to die is somehow different. It helps put things into perspective. It makes me feel better about the depression and fatigue. My doctor thought I was going to die. Cut me some slack bitch (I’m speaking to myself. I call myself bitch all the time, especially when watching the evening news makes me cry).
Finally, my doctor thinks that when I’m well enough for a colonoscopy, it will show I have Crohn’s disease. I don’t know what that is. I need to look it up on the Internet, but I find reading about diseases on the Internet to be scarier than those Japanese horror movies where the girl doesn’t have a face. I might wait to read up on Crohn’s disease.
So that’s about it. My blood sugar is still running a little high, but that’s to be expected because of the steroids. When in doubt, blame everything on steroids.
As bad as steroids are, I don’t know how Cal Ripken Jr. used them for so long. Respect.
And for the record, Dr. Tu Bui is the greatest doctor of all time and Meritus Health is the best hospital in the world.
When I got to the hospital, I was very dehydrated. While in the hospital, I was on an intravenous drip of saline and other substances the whole time. My arms, feet, legs, and hands are puffy and feel like overinflated balloons. I weighed myself this morning and I have an extra 16 pounds in water weight. I’m still on steroids, so that might be part of the issue too.
If you look at the photo, the large rubber hose in my nose is what was draining the toxins from my body.
Oh, and when the good people at the hospital offer to install a catheter, take them up on it. It makes it easier for the people caring for you and it makes it easier for you.
Pride is something best left in the parking lot at the hospital.
It’s so good to be home. Most of my time in the hospital was a blur. It involved a lot of hallucinations and not the good kind. I missed Christmas and Sheri is telling me it’s already 2018. I would be lost if it wasn’t for Sheri. She was there the whole time for me and remains so now.
I’ve discovered the nicest thing I can ever tell anyone is that I hope they have someone like Sheri in their life. The greatest curse I could lay upon someone’s feet? That they will never have someone like Sheri in their life. She’s wonderful, my best friend and I love her so much.