Sometimes you just come to a sudden stop because the universe puts a wall—or a floor or a ceiling—in your way and you bang into it.  I am for the foreseeable future in recovery mode.

Let me explain.

Last Wednesday, August 8th, I finished up for the evening and started getting ready for bed.  I confess to preening.  I’ve been hitting the gym pretty hard and pretty regularly and things were beginning to show for all the effort, so I was checking out my torso in the mirror, noting a small bit of belly definition I have never had much of but is—was—beginning to show.

As I twisted around, something kind of “moved” inside.  An almost-cramp.  Ripples chased around my abdomen.  I stretched, didn’t think more about it, and went to bed.  But I got up twice during the night for unexpected visits to the toilet and the funny clenching was still there.  By morning I thought I might be getting stomach flu.  Great, I’d intended another morning workout and then a few hours downtown working for Left Bank Books.  Instead, I was moping around the house feeling thoroughly blah.

But no fever.  No diarrhea.  Just this generalized muscle cramp.  By Thursday afternoon, my hindbrain finally told me something was wrong.  I called my doctor, who was gone for the day, and the nurse practitioner was vague and unhelpful, but suggested I go to the emergency room.  That was three o’clock.  Donna would be home by 5:30, I could go then.

But it got markedly worse, so I called her to come and get me.

We staggered into Barnes ER around five and I was having a full-blown attack of appendicitis.  Despite the fact that it seemed to take forever, they got me in and on pain killers pretty quickly.

Cut to the chase, they removed my perforated appendix early Friday morning.  Had I gone in a few hours earlier, they likely would have been able to remove it laproscopically, which is out-patient surgery and rather neat.  Instead, I now have the classic three-inch appendectomy wound.

But…three hours or so later, I might not be writing this.  Or anything.

I have to say right here that if you’re going to get sick and need ER service in St. Louis, go to Barnes.  I was treated by a string of the most professional, pleasant people I have ever encountered in a group, especially considering what they have to deal with daily.  I felt very cared for.

I also have to say that irony seeps through this.  We’d been discussing terminating my health insurance.  Bottomline, money.  We’re at that point where it’s becoming untenable for me to carry it, even though in a couple of years I’ll have to.  But we didn’t and now intend hanging onto it at least for a while.  Because although this is fairly standard surgery and the costs are well-defined, there is no way we could have afforded this out of pocket.

What I’m dealing with now is recovery.  It’s going to be a while before I can do any meaningful exercise and this is the first writing of any length I’ve been able to do since coming home, mainly because of related intestinal issues making it impossible to sit in front of the keyboard more than a couple minutes at a time.  Issues I’m still dealing with.

A note on medication.  They put me on percocet for the pain.  Marvelous drug, that.  Shuts the pain down magnificently. Shuts several other things down, too.  But also opened a door in my brain for a series of the most razorsharp, crystalline-clear, hallucinogenic nightmares I have ever had.  I was reluctant to close my eyes after a couple of days.  Unbelievable.  I have stopped taking it.  I can put up with physical pain, but not that.

I thought I’d post something to let you all know where I’ve been and how I’m doing.  Needless to say I won’t be preening anytime soon.  All that wonderful definition is gone, replaced by a flaccid, doughy puffiness that annoys me.  All that work.  But that just means I get to climb back up out of the gravity well—once they let me lift more than ten pounds.  Fortunately, right now the only thing I feel like lifting is an idea and a coffee cup.

Take care.

Published by Mark Tiedemann

5 comments on “Gravity”

  1. Hi, Mark–first, deep sympathy and warmest wishes for a quicker recovery–including a prompt return to your workout schedule. Otherwise, you have learned a lesson similar to mine just about exactly one year earlier–last August 7 was the day I was feeling odd chest pains that I figured would go away if I just found the right position in bed (still stuck there because of my legs); instead, the pains increased in intensity until, at about 3 a.m. Aug 8, I could not breathe and the pain was unbearable–ambulance, emergency room, pulmonary embolism–5 days in the hospital, and so on. My tendency to assume that pains are temporary and will “go away” if I am patient very nearly killed me that time. I still think that way–force of habit–but I bet I will disconnect habit more quickly when that happens again. Thank goodness (and the good people at Barnes) that we can still hope for more Tiedemann books on our shelves. All best, Tom

  2. Mark,
    Glad to hear you’re on the mend. You’ve reminded me that we tend to take good health for granted, and don’t much notice it until something like you describe happens. Hope you get a quick and smooth recovery.

  3. Ohmigod Mark, what a story. Do take care of yourself. Don’t worry about those ripped abs, you can get ’em back. And count your blessings this did not happen the week after you let the health insurance lapse. It is a national scandal that a problem like this could have made you homeless and bankrupt but for that stroke of luck.
    By the way, I had the same experience with Percocet, only in my case the hallucinations were wondrous–my entire bedroom was full of intricate structures like a 3D Persian rug, and I just lay there on my bed marveling at them, feeling surrounded by beauty.

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