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Worldwide Ace » Thunder Down Under: Part III

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Thunder Down Under: Part III

31 December, 2011 (09:00) | Growing Up

Continued from Thunder Down Under: Part II

WARNING: The following is graphic, at times disturbing, and true with plenty of TMI to go around. Part I doesn’t include anything too disturbing, simply the events leading up. If you’re squeamish, easily disturbed or simply aren’t interested in the details of a serious medical fiasco, I recommend not reading beyond Part I. This entry covers the details of the past several days, starting around 2 PM Monday afternoon when I first experienced an inguinal hernia rupture while working as a ski instructor.

“So he’s sick from the dino nuggets?” Matt’s tone is jovial. As one of the senior ski patrollers, he’s been eating the leftovers from the kids’ center for years.

“That’s his theory.”

“Do you think they’re safe to eat?” He bites into one as he asks the question. Light laughter rolls out of the dispatch room.

For the past ten minutes, nothing’s changed. With each rumble of my stomach, pain courses through my body, small, isolated stinging that spreads viciously outward.

I’ve been lucky in my life so far, the worst pain I’ve felt purposefully inflicted on me in childhood surgeries. The worst ski injury I’ve ever had was a strained ab from sneezing too hard. It hurt for a month to go from a prone position to a standing one, making teaching how to get up difficult. Most of my major injuries have been more cosmetic than painful, cuts and scrapes that tore through skin, leaving bone and muscle alone. The month-long recovery from jaw surgery was unpleasant, but hardly painful. I was so swollen that I couldn’t move enough to exacerbate anything. My separated shoulder from my bike accident made it uncomfortable to sleep on my side, but didn’t even get treatment. The gash in my leg from falling through a roof required three painful stitches, but once it was done, I only had minor soreness while it healed. In all, I’ve been blessed with a relatively pain-free life: no migraines, no broken bones, no major muscle tears.

Each spasm of digestion I feel, however, sends a small shot of pain racking through my body. For all I can remember, it rivals some of the worst pain I’ve ever felt. And yet it’s not unbearable. I guess that’s a testament to my good fortune so far.

I begin to wonder if clearing out my system will make me feel better.

“Is there a bathroom I can use?” I call toward the other room.

“Sure is. Right through here and on your left. Do you need some help?”

“No,” I reply, “I got this.”

It burns as I slowly slide off the cot, a steady stream of pins and needles rolling up my side. My feet touch down and I grimace as I slowly right myself. Each step hurts, each movement another excuse for the rollercoaster of pain to reach a new high. My hands dance along the walls, helping guide me. Deep breaths. Small steps. Walk normally.

My head begins to spin as I turn into the bathroom and flip the lights on. I can hear buzzing in my head and feel sweat start to bead on my body. It’s all the signs of passing out. I quickly close the door and drop my pants, slowly lowering myself to the toilet. From the seated position, the pain is steady and so is my feeling of control. It’s not good, but at least for the moment I’ll be ok.

All I can think about as I sit there is that if I need help, I don’t want to be caught with my pants down. With pain, I pee. The rest of me fights the pain as things adjust internally.

With effort, I stand, gritting my teeth against the pain. I pull my pants up and slip the suspenders around my shoulders. The wall braces me as I pull the door open enough to call out.

“I need some help, here.” My voice seems muffled and weak, the buzzing in my ears rising to cacophonous levels. “I feel like I may pass out.”

“Ok, I’m coming,” I hear one of them call. I close my eyes, waiting for the darkness at the edges to subside. “Sit down and put your head between your knees.”

I sit on the toilet, leaning my elbows on my knees. I can feel the sweat dripping off my forehead and landing with extreme prejudice on my pants and the floor below. My auditory range slowly starts to come back, the pitch of the buzzing rising as if a swarm of locust are flying away from me. The world becomes less tinny. I explain this to the paramedic.

“That’s good,” he says. “We’re getting a wheelchair to get you back to bed.”

I feel like my words are slightly slurred as I tell him how I didn’t want to be caught with my pants down. He laughs. It seems to echo in my head.

A few more deep breaths and I feel ready to move. Jon helps me stand, gripping my arm firmly as I weave out of the bathroom and into the wheelchair poised outside the door. It’s hard to lift my feet off the ground as they move me back to my cot. I push myself upright and slide myself back into position, breathing slowly and carefully as I relax.

“How are you feeling?”

“It’s hurts, but I feel better than a moment ago,” I reply.

“Do you often pass out?”

“Not often. It’s happened a couple times in my life, so I know what to expect, but it’s rare.”

The last time I passed out, I had gone for a long hike with too little water, no breakfast, and only a cliff bar for sustenance. When I got down, I was on my way to have dinner with some friends and my ride decided he needed to take a detour. Apparently, I needed food more than I realized, as not ten minutes into our stop, I started feeling woozy. I sat down, warned our hosts, requested some water, and then passed out before they could get me a glass. After coming to and drinking a little water, I felt much better. It at least sustained me until I ate, though my attitude was far from stellar until the next day.

“We can give you some pain meds,” Jon tells me, “but then you’d need to ride down in an ambulance.” I shake my head no.

I’ve always been stubborn. I can’t afford an ambulance ride anyway. I’m flat broke, in a very real and literal sense, until my paycheck on Wednesday.

“Ok, but let us know if you change your mind.”

“I will,” I tell him.

As Jon recedes back to the entry room, the paramedic who examined Avery comes over. “Mind if I take a listen?”

“Go for it.” We run the same battery of tests as before, with no new results, just the symptom of  increased pain.

“And the pain, where is it?” I wave my hand over my lower right abdomen. “It’s localized there?” I nod. He considers this for a second. “You had your appendix out?” he asks.

“No. I had my adenoids removed, but that’s a completely different part of my body.”

He smiles and nods. “Sure is. Given that the pain is localized, there’s a chance your appendix is inflamed. If that’s the case, you’ll definitely want to go down in an ambulance. If you get a friend to drive you down, the bumps could cause it to burst.”

It’s not the most uplifting thought in the world, but at least if it’s my appendix, it’s a real issue and I’m not experiencing random pain. I pull out my cell phone and immediately call my parents. If I have to ride, if I have to go to the emergency room, then I’ll need to find a way to pay. Since I don’t have health insurance, that means asking for help.

No matter how bad the physical torment might be, there always seems to be something superseding it. At first, it was my class, then Avery’s injury, then paperwork, and now finances. Until these things are dealt with, the pain itself must wait. How we’ve created a societal system in which one’s well-being is constantly being put off as less important, I’m unsure. In so many ways, it seems a travesty, and yet I can’t imagine it any other way. Besides, the mental benefit to being able to turn attentions elsewhere might be greater than I’m giving it credit for. I had a Latin teacher in high school who participated in a solitary confinement study in which all stimulus was shut off. He said that the researchers were amazed that he outlasted the other participants by days. When asked how, he explained that he spent the time practicing his declensions and conjugations. It helped his mind remain sharp and focused despite everything else.

My parents, wonderful people that they are, tell me that if I incur any costs, they’ll help. I expected no less, but I hate the idea of being a burden. Already, I struggle financially under the weight of my student loans and the low-income bracket I find employ within. The last thing I want is to saddle them with hefty medical fees.

“It might be my appendix,” I tell them.

“It’s unlikely,” comments the paramedic who suggested the solution.

“They say it’s unlikely, but it might be.”

“Don’t worry, just keep us informed,” my mother tells me.

Curtis, the dispatcher joins us bedside as I hang up. “Do you mind if I take a look?” he asks.

“Sure,” I say. At this point, I don’t care. I just want the pain to go away.

“I’m going to lift up your waist band,” he informs me.

“Go for it.”

“Oh man,” he says, eyes widening a bit. “That’s definitely a hernia.”

“What?” says the other paramedic, leaning in to take a look. I can’t bend forward enough to join them. “Oh, shit. See, this is what happens when you actually think to look.”

“We’re going to call an ambulance for you,” Curtis tells me.

“I can give you those pain meds now, if you want,” Jon chimes in.

“How can you tell it’s hernia?” I ask. “I mean, what are the physical signs that give it away?”

“You mean besides the huge bulge?” Curtis answers from the other room.

At least they all seem certain and in agreement. I wave off the pain meds once more and they leave me in peace while I wait for the ambulance. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten to ride in an ambulance.

It’s small consolation.

Continued in Thunder Down Under: Part IV