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Friday, February 16, 2007

New Nonfiction!: Never Take Shit For Granted

April 19th, 2006

I've learned a couple things this week. One is it doesn't take a whole lot of effort to get sick. In fact, it took me no effort at all because I did it in my sleep. I'm not sure how many people die each year from spider bites - not many, probably - but because of the near-sadistic treatment I received from the medical staff at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs, if I'd been, say, younger or 100 pounds lighter, I might've died. (Although, because it was Easter, I would've come back to life 3 days later. I think that's the way it works.)

I woke up Sunday morning to a pinching sensation in my abdomen. I thought maybe I'd rolled over onto a thorn or something. After a moment, there was a pain, almost like a metal rod slowly being pushed into my gut, toward my groin. I got up, walked around, checked my email, tried to figure out if this was my imagination or if I was really in pain. My lower back was starting to ache, and my chest was tightening. Breathing was difficult. I assumed it was a black widow, because I've been seeing more and more of them around the house lately, and they've looked hungry.

I've lived in this house on and off for nearly seven years, and yet I had to google the nearest hospital, because I've never been injured badly enough or sick enough to need to go. I don't think I've been to a hospital since I broke my wrist at a track meet my Junior year of high school.

Skipping ahead, I go to the hospital and because I'm unemployed and without health insurance, I'm treated like a junkie looking for a couple pills. The doctor tells me, before even looking at the bite, that he could tell from across the room that I wasn't bit by a black widow. He checks my vital signs, and even though I'm obviously in pain he says I'm fine. I tell him I'm having a hard time breathing. He tells me I'm breathing perfectly. I'm dismissed within two minutes, after waiting in the lobby of the emergency room for over an hour, where the only other injured persons was an 80 year old woman in a wheel chair with her son and a born again Christian who was actively recruiting. The entire time the pain is getting worse.

The doctor (who turned out to be only a physician's assistant, not even a goddamn physician), tells me that I'm probably suffering from anxiety or a panic attack. He tells me if I want, I can go home, or I can wait in the lobby to see if any other symptoms arise. I ask if I can lay down somewhere, and he says I can lay down in the lobby.

Skipping way ahead (I'm saving all the rest of the stuff for the lawyers), I did get a prescription for vicodin and valiume, and I spent the last couple days stashed away in my dirty, congested house, alternatingly sweating and shivering, full-body muscle spasming, with aches and pains in all my muscles and joints, trying to gulp down chicken broth and hold my hand steady enough to sip a glass of water. I slept a lot, but never for more than a couple hours at a time, and I never felt fully rested. The vicodin I was given would knock me out for two or three hours at a time, tops.

The vicodin also made me constipated.

I assume it was the pills, because that's listed as one of the side-effects. No where does WebMD list constipation as a side-effect of a black widow bite. So I stopped taking the pills after the end of the 1st day. I was still in an enormous amout of pain, but it was slowly making it's way towards my extremities, rather than being spread over all of me all at once. My wrist, the bad one that's broken, hurts a lot, but it's secondary to the throbbing in my ankles and feet. I felt like I know what pregnant women go through. But even with the pain, the thought of all this shit gathering inside my gut was enough to lay down the meds. I envisioned Elvis, an artist, a legend, dead on the toilet, 40 pounds of turd in his belly.

I've been drinking lots of water. I didn't have an appetite for the first couple days, but I tried to make myself eat. At the very least, I figured my liquid diet would produce some nasty diarrhea. No such luck. It took me well into Monday afternoon before I let out a single fart, and it was nothing more than expelled air--no discernable smell whatsoever. Normally, this wouldn't be considered a bad thing, but because it's so out of the norm, I thought it might be another side-effect.

Several unsuccessful attempts on the toilet left me shaken--literally and figuratively. I can't sit or stand or lay down in any position for more than a couple minutes before the muscle spasms start up again. And the knowledge that I had to shit but was unable to really was affecting my mental well-being. I was getting depressed.

Also, urinating is very hard when you're body is rockin' like San Fran in 19 aught 6. What is normally a simple thirty-second, second-nature activity would now take two to three minutes of extreme effort and concentration. And then, afterwards, was cleanup. At least Michael J. Fox has assistants.

My brother gave up his bed (which used to be my bed, but he moved back into the house first, so I've got the couch), so I've been off the couch for a couple days. Each day my health is getting a little better. I've got my very own Nurse Cratchet--big shout out to Kathleen--she brought over the chicken broth, even after I told her I wasn't the least bit hungry. Then, after seeing what all this has been doing to my toes (another blog altogether), she demanded we go to the grocery store and get some proper medication.

She made me buy prunes, but they didn't have dried prunes so I had to get jarred, with the pits still in them, and they're absolutely disgusting--they taste fine enough, not as bad as I assumed they'd be, but I absolutely hate gooey and mushy foods, and it was tough to keep them down after I swallowed.

She forced me to eat solid food again, and also brought over a thermometer even though I promised her I was feeling better. She checked my temperature anyhow. It was 101. That was last night, more than two full days since the bite.

So anyway, I'm pleased to announce that gradually there's been more of the normal aroma in my flatulance, and I'm pleased to announce that this morning, more than three whole days after my last bowel movement, I left a little somethin something in the bowl. So it's progress.

Also, I learned that spider bites don't get you super powers.

Today, the hurricane-force winds that have been battering my house for the last couple days were gone, and in their place was a gentle breeze. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. It was sunny and warm. I did laundry and hung it out on the clothesline, and I made myself a tuna fish sandwich and it was delicious. I spent more than 10 minutes on the internet (not necessarily a good thing, but definitely a return to normalcy). When my brother went to school today, I rode into town with him and laid out on campus and got some sun while watching the cute Japanese girls giggling on the front steps of the Student Council building.

And I came home and took a nice, big dump.

Today was a beautiful day.

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