“Interesting Times”… In the Chinese sense of the words.

This is first in a series of articles about my recent trip to the emergency room, my intestinal surgery, and my recovery afterwards. Here is an index to all of the articles in this series.

I’ve heard there’s allegedly an ancient Chinese curse that says “May you live in interesting times.” That joke of course is that while “interesting times” might be considered a positive thing, according to this proverb it’s actually quite negative. Boring times are peaceful, uneventful, unextraordinary, and difficult (or at least uninteresting) to write about. So the fact that I have decided after all these years to do some serious semi-public blogging means that something happened in my life that was unfortunately “interesting”.

Our saga begins at 9:30 p.m. on August 7, 2006 when I started developing some nasty stomach cramps and decided to go to bed. Although I used to stay up until 11 p.m. almost every evening, in recent months have been hitting the rack about 10 p.m. so this was only a little bit early. Dad picked me up using our trusty Hoyer patient lifter. While lifting me, my back brace does a pretty good job of protecting my insides from getting jostled around too much. However once in bed when Dad took my brace off we had to be really careful while undressing me because my belly was very tender.

I took some Gas-X and some Tylenol but it didn’t help much. I took some more and it may have helped a little bit. I eventually developed chills and fever of 102.5 by about midnight but eventually the Tylenol brought that down. I gave serious consideration to going to the hospital but I hated to do that unless it was absolutely necessary.

I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me. About 15 years ago I had a couple of flareups of diverticulitis and although this was almost as bad as those, I didn’t really think that was my problem. I’ve been having lots of constipation lately but ironically the past two days things had been moving rather well.

I was also starting to feel some back pain in the left kidney area which could have been a sign of a bladder infection. Urinary infections are a constant battle for me. My urologist has given me a standing prescription for Levaquin antibiotic that I’d keep in stock. However just 11 days prior to this I thought I had some sort of infection coming on and assumed it was urinary. I’m supposed to start taking the antibiotic and then send him a urine sample to make sure that’s what it really is. This time I didn’t do that. We were getting ready to go to the Lake for the weekend and I was pretty sure what I was doing so I just took the antibiotic for 10 days and it seemed to work. I finished the antibiotic on Sunday, August 6 and by Monday night August 7 I was running a 102.5 fever. Whether it was urinary or not, it was pretty obvious I was taking the wrong stuff for whatever was ailing me. Eventually things settled down and I got to sleep somewhere around 2:30 a.m.

I woke up about 6:30 a.m. and still was feeling terrible. I knew I needed to see a doctor but my belly was so sore that I couldn’t imagine getting wrestled around into my back brace and trying to set up in my wheelchair considering the pain I was having. That meant to see a doctor it would mean an ambulance trip to the emergency room.

The last time I went to the ER with abdominal pain was probably a year and a half or two ago. Like this time, I wasn’t sure if it was urinary or intestinal. In that previous visit, I think it was probably both because bladder infections don’t give me that kind of pain. However that day that urine sample came back positive. They also came to the conclusion somehow that I had a partially blocked bowel and concluded I needed an enema. They pumped me full of an enormous amount of fluid and got absolutely nothing out of me. I was pretty sure I wasn’t blocked but they were convinced I was. My belly was somewhat distended but we never did figure out why. They sent me home with antibiotics and nothing else ever came of it. All I knew was that if I ended up in the ER again they were going to have to do a pretty serious job of convincing me before they came at me with that enema hose again.

After talking things over with my Mom and Dad I decided we really needed to go to the ER and figure out what was going on. The pain wasn’t nearly as bad as the night before but it was still too much to put the brace on, get dressed, and sit up. It wasn’t exactly an emergency situation where you call 911. Mom was afraid that if we just called an ambulance on our own for a nonemergency run that the insurance might not want to pay for it. We decided to call my primary care doctor Dr. Steven Swinney to see what he thought. We spoke to his nurse and she agreed I needed to get to the ER and said that I should simply call a private ambulance and tell them I “was going on my doctor’s recommendation”. Language like that sounded like the kind of thing you can defend to an insurance company so that’s what we decided to do.

In our next installment we answer the musical cinematic question “Who You Gonna Call?”

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