Saturday, January 19, 2008

Welcome to the House of Pain

After my brush with death due to a burst appendix. My Maori-style message of defiance to the Grim Reaper who tried to get me before my time !

I’ve been offline for a while. Did a few kids camps here and there since at the end of 07. The center-based ones (as opposed to expeditions where you walk or paddle each day) aren’t very exiting but they do get money in the bank. I am realising however, that I need a rather more intense lifestyle to be satisfied. I’m working on ways of achieving this. More on this throughout this year.

Volunteering for the Aus. Army in Irak or Afghanistan is out, as I don’t have the experience. Sigh. Shoulda joined the oz army years ago. It’s good and worthy to kill people who terrorise the locals, setup terrorist training camps, take hostages or attack food/medicament convoys. Kudos to the Americans who have stuck it out there and are starting to win. While, as usual (yawn), the Euro chattering-classes gloated at each new bomb attack in crowded marketplaces and each American setback. Youda thought the Euros would have some gratitude for the liberation of Europe only 50 years ago by, mainly US forces, but no… nothing’s changed and the Euros are still as mired in low self-esteem, fuzzy thinking, suicidal pacifism, and compulsive anti-Americanism as they were in 1930.

Appendix burst:

At the beginning of December, I discovered via a sonar –scan that I had a ruptured appendix - after a week of thinking it was gastro and gradually worsening symptoms of lack of appetite, temperature and small jabs of pain. And visiting three General Practitioners – the first two misdiagnosed it as a virus whereas they should have done a scan to check the appendix. Don’t put all your trust in doctors ! If I had looked up a book I have here about medecine, I would have matched the symptoms up myself.

It took the 3rd switched-on GP to get me scanned and then sent of to hospital ASAP.

Gory Hospital details:

I was admitted to Emergencies on a Thursday afternoon, early December 07. They took my temp. and found it to be about 40 degrees c (! ). Doctor said it looked like appendicitis, and they would operate the same day, or the next. Was put on a drip, then doctors disappeared as there was a traffic accident with casualties. Spent night in ward, slept. Initially some typical unpleasant hospital moans and groans from other patients – the kind that make you realise how fortunate we all are not to be in pain, or dying slowly, in hospital.

It’s not so much pain that is the problem, it’s the feeling that the ordeal of weakness, dependency and pain will never end , And that one will die alone and without human warmth – I pity those alienated from their families, those in overseas clinics, or the down and out. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross wrote a book called “on death and dying”, and pioneered the “accompanying of the dying”, rather than the inhuman and cowardly practice of letting them die alone in a ward.

Doctors keep away from dying patients – as they feel they have failed them, or cannot help them. Kubler-Ross said that often, it was the cleaning staff who relayed to her important details from the patient – as they were the ones who took the time to listen. As with many other aspects of modern life, we are too certain that technology and money can solve everything.

During my hospital stay, I got into conversation with a Hispanic cleaner, using my broken Spanish. You spend long hours alone in hospital, regardless of how many friends and relatives you have. So it was good to talk to a human being. Doctors/Nurses Occasionally gave me a knee squeeze, which means more than a lot of words. I’ve reassured scared partners when mountaineering with a shoulder squeeze – it’s amazing what physical contact can do.

People in pain:

  • There was a Fat guy on oxygen, coughing horribly. A Real deep chest cough – possibly cancer. He could hardly talk.
  • Then later on, I hear an older man with weak voice – too weak for the pain he is going thru.

Owww OWWWW !
Oh God, GOD, Help me !

Nurses talk to him, try to identify source of pain.

His Pain comes in surges, I get the feeling it’s near his groin.
I feel so sorry for him. I can feel what he’s going thru, and can tell he’s too weak, too weak for this shit.
I Want to get on my knees and pray.
I can’t with my drip, so I pray in bed for him.

Welcome to the house of pain!

The next day, After a CAT scan, the doctors decided the pus that had leaked out of the appendix needed to be drained. They gave me a local anaesthetic (just above the groin !), then they marked an area with textpen using the CAT scan in real time, then I had a tube inserted half way between belly button and groin. Started ok, then pain got worse as they wriggle it in. But I was stoic, as I knew the pus had to come out. Pain got to 8/10 – my hands were trembling and I was gritting my teeth. I told them, and they gave me Morphine – hot flush, then easing of pain.

In the next day and a half. I went from a 39-40 degree temperature to a normal temperature. Some pain after the initial Morphine wore off.

Then they kept me in for another 5 days or so –very boring and tedious. On an intravenous Antibiotic treatment – from bags hanging up, with a largish break in the middle of the day. I watched Cable TV, walked around the Hospital, slept. Got very hungry first few days, as they made me fast. Finally gave me simp,e foods – jelly. Then augmented doses. The first real meal with meatballs was soooo good !

The antibiotics gave me unpleasant side effects – muscle spasms, inability to sleep (I read this on the side effects list later on), even occasionally vision processing delay – like being attached to a video camera, but with a time lag of 1 or 2 seconds between, say picking up a mug and seeing it occur !! quite unpleasant. Nurses and doctors being quite busy , no changes were made. I was pretty desperate to get out towards the end.

Finally, they took the tube out, and let me go home. With oral antibiotics for a few weeks. To come back in 6 weeks, for a keyhole operation, in order to remove what is left of the appendix. I was told by the doctors that I was lucky - had I been less fit, the pus could have killed me.

I’m changed – more focused, more determined, wasting less time, doing more sport. A brush with death and the agonizing in hospital makes you more aware of life as a temporary gift, to be used to the full. It's easy to forget this and go back to thinking one is immortal and invulnerable, but hopefully I won't.

1 comment:

Cecilia said...

Eeek! Jules, well-written; I could feel your pain and despondency! What a ghastly ordeal. Thank goodness for your fitness, and for the techniques of modern medicine. Our grandfather was hospitalised for appendicitis, according to his letters. He could well have been around your age at the time.