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Worldwide Ace » Thunder Down Under: Part VI

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Thunder Down Under: Part VI

3 January, 2012 (09:34) | Growing Up

Continued from Thunder Down Under: Part V

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.

I can feel the slow rumble of wheels beneath me.

Each jostle and jolt would barely register on the Richter scale, yet they combine to slowly rock me awake. I can the echo of voices around me, a surround sound conversation bouncing above my head. I carefully peel an eye open just a smidge to see flourescent lighting sliding upwards above me.

They converse genially as we weave through the halls. I want to participate, but every move of my tongue is like a sandstorm in the desert, dunes rolling ever forward in a slow press toward my teeth.

“How’s it going?” one of them asks me, leaning in a bit, her voice melodic and soft.

Still alive, I think. I try to swallow, rough sandpaper ripping across my throat. “Alright,” I rasp.

I close my eyes and take a mental inventory of my body as she introduces herself and the other nurse guiding my journey through the halls. There’s no shooting pain. My legs are stretched out before me, my feet dangling, as usual, just off the bottom of the cot. I’m lying flat on my back, my arms tucked at my side. I wiggle my big toe, reenacting Kill Bill in the only way that makes sense in a gurney. A small smile crosses my face, my cracked lips preventing it from being a big smile. I’m whole, or so it seems.

I feel good.

“Your stuff is in a basket beneath your feet,” she tells me. “You have an interesting backpack.”

“Comes with the territory,” I manage to reply. Parched has taken on a new meaning. Images of men wandering into town after long days in the dry Western sun flash through my head. I imagine being cast in a Sergio Leone film credited as “Thirsty Man from the Desert.”

“I understand you’re a ski instructor.” I mumble an mmm-hmm of acknowledgement. “Do you teach mostly kids or adults?”

“I do both,” I tell her, “but mostly kids.”

“That explains the backpack,” she says. I can hear her smile, but I keep my eyes closed, enjoying the calm of a pain-free existence.

“Sorry,” I say through the dry stickiness. “I’d be a better conversationalist, but I’m a bit…” I pause trying to avoid the term cottonmouth, “…parched,” I settle on finally.

“That’s ok. They’ll get you something once your settled in recovery.”

Even through closed eyelids, I can sense the lights slide by. I hear the ding in the elevator as we rise a level. I’m a little surprised at my lucidity.

“What time is it?” I ask. I hadn’t the prescience to inquire before the surgery, so an answer will only give me one small frame of reference.

“A little before ten o’clock,” she answers. I realize that I neglected to remember her name.

I hate the feeling of interacting with someone, developing a rapport, a familiarity, even if it’s only for a moment, and finding that it’s visual and visceral but has no name attached. I know the nurses introduced themselves, and yet not five minutes later, my mind’s a blank. My first year at Eldora, I tried to learn all the instructor’s names, as well as those lift operators I saw on a regular basis. With over 250 instructors, half of them new each year, I was still working  on it the day the mountain closed. My second season, I tried to learn everyone in rentals, food and beverages employees who worked in the children’s center, and the rest of lift ops, as well as all the new instructors I could manage. This year, I’ve been trying to learn the cashiers, the rest of food and bev, and those people in base operations I see nearly every day. The number of mistakes I make feels high and I often grab the wrong name when I grope into the strange little folds of memory. With 500 employees, it’s a near-impossible task. With two nurses pushing me through the halls, I should have no such failings.

I crack my eyes open and blink a few times as we come to a halt. We’re poised in the entrance of a room, the gurney arranged at a 45 degree angle from the  bed I’ll be moving to.

“This is Dorin,” the nurse with the melodic voice tells me. “She’s going to be taking care of you.”

“Thank you,” I manage to offer before she leaves with a smile.

Dorin smiles. She, like the doctor before her, has a wise and stately demeanor. “We’re going to move you over to the bed,” she tells me. “Would you like some help or can you stand up?”

“I got this,” I tell her. I pop up, sitting, and bounce to my feet.

Dorin lets out an exasperated sigh. “I was going to tell you to go slowly, but you seem to be doing alright.”

“Right,” I reply sheepishly. I pivot on my heels and sit down on the other bed, swinging my feet up onto the bed. I feel no discomfort or pain. “I feel good,” I tell her with a smile. “A bit thirsty. Could I have some water?”

“We’ll get you some ice chips, and depending on how that goes, you can have some water.”

The bed rolls into a track on the floor, clicking into place as she explains this. I frown a bit. It makes sense that they would keep me on a restricted diet after surgery on my intestines. I should take it easier, not push it.

She places a small paper cup full of ice chips on the rolling table to my right and begins to move my stuff to a table beneath the corner. I grab a few chips and toss them happily into my mouth. They melt and absorb instantly into my tongue, not even leaving a drop to swallow. I grab a few more chips as another nurse enters.

“This is Nora,” Dorin tells me.

“Hi,” Nora says, weaving around the bed with a blood pressure monitor and a bright smile.

“She’ll be taking your vitals every hour for the next five hours.”

“And then every four hours after that, or until my shift is over,” Nora chimes in.

“You’ll probably get some sleep during the longer stretches,” Dorin assures me as Nora attaches the blood pressure monitor to my right arm and slips a digital temperature gauge over my finger. “Until then, here’s the remote and a channel guide.” She sets the pair down on the table next to Nora. After a squeeze and a beep, Nora notes the results.

“We need to check the incision,” Dorin tells me. I immediately become awkwardly aware that I’m sporting a slight erection. It’s both slightly embarrassing and an utter relief to realize that everything seems to be working fine.

“Ok,” I reply, realizing I have no way of hiding it, nor is it important medically.

She lifts up the blanket and slides my gown up to reveal my latest scar. I try not to look or meet her eyes. I also try not to act embarrassed. For a moment, I wonder if she really did flinch slightly as my non-medical condition was revealed, but I brush it quickly out of my head. If it bothers her, she doesn’t mention it. “Looks good,” she says, covering me back up. “Dr. Pohlman will be in to check up on you in a few minutes,” she tells me before explaining how the lights work. “If you need to go to the bathroom, please use the call button and let us know,” she says before returning to her other duties.

I take my first moment of solitude to examine the damage. The incision is approximately three to four inches across. If I were taking a picture, it sits two inches above my penis and about two inches to the left. It runs almost perfectly horizontally, and I can see a little darkness beneath the six vertical strips of white medical tape covering it. In all, it seems minor, just another scar on my crotch, and not nearly as impressive as the one that runs from the tip of my penis to the bottom of my scrotum.

I note with minor disdain that they neglected to shave me all over, leaving an odd combination of growth on the right with the shorn incision site on the left. I know I won’t feel comfortable evening that out for several days at least, but my manscaping isn’t exactly my top priority right now.

A few minutes later, Dr. Pohlman, the surgeon comes in, his quiet confidence still readily apparent. He examines the incision as well, the awkward erection long gone.

“The surgery was a success,” he tells me. “We were able to do the mesh repair. You should be released tomorrow unless there are complications. We’ll need to do a follow-up in about two weeks. You aren’t allowed to do any heavy lifting for three weeks, and no running. Stairs are ok.”

“I live on the second floor, so that’s good,” I interject.

“Just take them slow,” he continues. “You can’t ride a bike either, though we can make arrangements for a stationary bike at some point perhaps. And no driving for the next three days.”

“That won’t be an issue,” I reply. “I don’t have a car.”

“Oh, good.”

“You said no running for three weeks. How long until I can ski again.”

“Well,” he says, thinking about it, “You could probably do some of the easier trails in about two weeks, but you’ll need clearance first.”

“Of course,” I reply, the thought of a faster return to snow leaving me giddy and excited.

“The nurse will give you my information in your exit paperwork.”

“Thanks, doc,” I say as he turns and strides out of the room.

I grab my phone to begin calling and texting people. It immediately chimes with voicemails and texts from friends and family. I call my parents, rousing my mother from bed. They tell me they’ll send out an email to their friends with an update since I called them earlier during a dinner party and people were concerned for my well-being. After getting off with them, I start to reach out to others. Most of them are people I’ve kept apprised of how things are going so far. A few of them are related to scheduled plans the next two days.

Since you left work early, I text Jess, my close friend whom I work with, I wanted you to hear this from me first. I’m in the hospital. Just got out of surgery. I’m fine. It went well. I realize too late that I didn’t tell him why I was there, letting his imagination run wild.

I text Tzvi so the higher-ups will know whats going on. Surgery went well. I feel great! I should be discharged tomorrow. Thanks for everything today!

I inform my roommate I won’t be home and may need a ride the next morning if he can. I let my friend Amy know I can’t make lunch the next day, most likely. I call my uncle and tell him not to bother coming to visit, that I may be dismissed from the hospital before he can even get up there. I let my trio of card partners know that I should still be able to play the following night, depending on how I’m feeling. I’m still on the phone in some capacity when they come in to take my vitals for the second time.

“Mind if I try to use the bathroom,” I ask tepidly.

“Sure. Do you need any help?” Dorin replies.

“I think I’m good,” I answer, rolling out of bed and straightening up.

I feel stiff, a little sore, but the lack of pain is wonderful. I walk slowly to the bathroom, closing the door behind me and stretching my legs as I stand there expectantly. It’s barely a trickle, but everything seems in working order. I wash my hands when I leave, drying them carefully before climbing back into bed.

“If I need to go again, do I need to let you know, or can I go on my own?” I ask.

“I think you’re good on your own.” Dorin smiles. I’m sure she prefers it that way too. “If you have any issues, though…”

“I know, let you guys know.”

The night passes as I slide in and out of peaceful rest. I seem to wake up just as people enter the room, the small sounds guiding my expectant consciousness. I leave the TV off, choosing instead to converse when able and rest when not. The light from the hallway doesn’t bother me.

Nora is about to start nursing school. She tells me that most of the nurses assistants are either in school or will be soon. Dorin oversees the entire ward when she’s on shift. She has six other registered nurses under her guiding hand. She has two kids, both in their teens, both too old to be in the YMCA programs I’ve worked with.

At seven in the morning, the shift changes, Janie takes over for Dorin, Vania for Nora. Vania’s family happens to own Efrain’s Mexican Restaurant, and she occasionally works at the Lafayette location. We chat about my dad’s obsession with Mexican food, but it’s clear her family’s business isn’t her passion.

I’m fed a liquid meal for my first meal. The apple juice is awful, the tea alright. Vania tells me the cranberry juice is way better. The chicken broth is wonderful. I drink everything. An hour later, they bring me real food: french toast, cafeteria sausage links, and oatmeal with coffee and milk to drink. I eat it all save the butter and milk despite not being hungry. I feel like I have to prove that I can.

By nine, Janie has begun to fill out my dismissal, I’ve got the TV tuned to ESPN, and I’m regretting not bringing my current book to work for the first time in days. Usually, I keep it in my flower backpack, but given how busy Eldora’s been, I didn’t think I’d have time to read.

I get a text from my roommate around noon saying he’s on his way. I’m antsy to leave. I’ve watched two episodes of Pawn Stars because Sportscenter and the other ESPN programming is in reruns. I can’t remember why I liked TV so much for so long.

My clothes smell terrible. There’s a noticeable funk of stale body odor. I slide into my snow pants and jacket, eschewing my sweat drenched long underwear. Putting my socks back on was never an option. I toss my backpack over my shoulder and carefully pick up the plastic bags with my other clothes. I step out into the hallway, looking carefully for Janie to check out.

Another nurse wanders by and sees me standing there expectantly.

“Are you leaving?”

“Yes,” I tell her. “My ride will be here momentarily, but I promised Janie I’d check out with her and get someone to walk me down.”

“I can walk you down,” she tells me with a smile. “Just give me a moment.” She ducks into the next room down and then begins to lead me out.

“Thanks for everything,” I tell Janie and Vania as I pass. They wave us onward, clearing my path to normalcy.

“Nice backpack,” my escort says as I step into the elevator and we begin to descend.

“Thank you,” I reply. “I’m a ski instructor, so it entertains the kids.”

“I’m terrible at skiing,” she tells me as we reach the large glass entryway.

“We can fix that.” My voice carries a confidence that mimics that of my surgeon. She laughs with a slight nervous excitement at the prospect. “I won’t be back on snow for at least a few weeks, but we have plenty of other good instructors up there.”

“Maybe,” she says. I’m tempted to give her my card, but it would mean adjusting everything I’m carrying to get to my wallet.

“Seriously,” I intone with a smile.

“Good luck,” she tells me as she turns back in.


I let the doors slide open before me, bright sunlight coursing down on the pavement. With a slow and deliberate step, I exit into the warmth.



  • Anonymous

    Is this the last installment?  Surely there is more to this tale.  I expected a continuing Dickensian saga, as described by Charles Dickens aficionado David Perdue:

    Dickens’ ability to capture the imagination of his audience, many of them new to fiction due to a rise in literacy during the industrial revolution, was due largely to his amazing power of observation, incredible wit, unforgettable characters, and a command of the English language probably second only to Shakespeare. His fiction provided a voice for the causes and frustrations of the poor and working classes helping to assure popularity across class boundaries.

    Another factor contributing to Dickens meteoric rise in popularity was the way in which he and his publishers, Chapman and Hall, chose to publish his books. All of Dickens major novels were published serially, in monthly (or weekly) installments. A full length novel was out of the price range of most of his readers (a novel cost 31 shillings in 1836, average worker earned 6 to 20 shillings per week) but a monthly installment, 32 pages with 2 illustrations and advertisements, could be sold for a shilling.

    Dickens wrote each installment with this type of publication in mind, many of the installments ended with a hook that kept the readers glued to the edge of their Victorian seats wondering what would happen next, thus ensuring the sales of the next installment.

    (source: http://charlesdickenspage.com/works.html)

    I still have a few shillings left. I hope there will be more installments of your writings.

  • There’s always more, but that would be an autobiography. I may do an epilogue enumerating my recovery in a slightly less detailed manner, but I have no desire to spend a quarter of my waking hours each day cataloging the other 12 or so waking hours. As my friend Tres revealed in one of his most recent entries in his travel blog, trying to capture everything can be overwhelming.