I’m not going to go all cosmic on you and say that I saw God during my recent Near Death Experience.
Well…okay. It wasn’t really a NDE. But driving myself to the hospital that Monday morning the pain was so bad that I was afraid I was going to die. Then it got even worse, and I was more afraid that I wasn’t going to die.
Really. Not that I see myself as that old guy in the Dos Equis beer commercial ‘The Most Interesting Man Alive’ or anything, but as my mother used to say when I was a kid,”David doesn’t get sick very often, but when he does he gets really sick.”
What tipped me off was when I started vomiting blood. At first I wrote it off as the cheap wine I had imbibed the night before, but when the blood started flowing from both ends I decided that I couldn’t ignore the red flags any longer. Sorry for the bad pun and the graphics, dear readers.
It was Monday morning and I naively figured that the usual weekend crowd of drunks, overdoses and knife fights would have already been bedded down or else shuffled off from whence they came. As I approached the Civic Hospital Emergency parking lot I cursed quietly to myself as I read the ‘Lot Full’ sign across the entrance. I turned the corner and joined the line on Ruskin Avenue as I waited for a parking spot to open up. I’m not the most patient man in the world, but a few whispered feverish prayers seemed to open up the blockade. I realize we all have our own opinion on that.The man at check-in (nurse ? office manager ? administrator?- people seem to be awfully sensitive about their job titles these days) of course asked me for my Health card and I felt very proud when I flipped through my wallet and produced it instantly. He gave me a funny look and passed it back. I had handed him my fishing license. “Never mind, sir,” the ‘administrator’ had seen plenty of doddering old men, confused by any query up to and including reciting their own name. “I’m in the system,” I said, trying to help him out. And then, “How long is the wait?” He leaned back in his chair. It was the first time I had seen him smile. “Hours,” was the answer. “Take a seat.” He gestured to the waiting room, crowded with suffering humanity, hardly a spare seat in sight.
I was very fortunate that two chairs became vacant as I shuffled over, carefully eyeing the proximity of the nearest restroom. I plunked myself down and put my reading material beside me. My wife had told me that she would be coming, but so would Christmas, I thought. An older gentleman (my age?) saw the empty spot and hurried over. “Excuse me, is that chair occupied?” he inquired.
“I’m dying,” I answered. I thought a little drama might scare him away.
“We all are,” he replied. “That’s not what I asked you. Can I sit here?”
Of course I obliged. Maybe he could save my seat until my wife arrived while I was running to the restroom every five minutes.Two of the cleaning staff were over in the corner.”The usual manic Monday,” one of them opined. “When will people learn not to come in to Emergency on Mondays or Fridays.” Like most of my life lessons, I had just learned it through bitter experience.
Inch by inch, life is a cinch. I eventually did get through to a doctor, who listened to my symptoms and then sent me for bloodwork and a CT scan. I was called back in afterwards and by the look he gave me I knew that the news could be better. Thirty one years of reading people’s body language had left me with more than just a pension.
“The good news is that it’s not cancer,” he began. “The bad news is that you’ll have to stay in awhile for us to give you some more tests.” I looked over at my wife, who had arrived before Christmas. We were then led over to a young Asian male, who looked no older than someone sitting in my Grade Eleven Comparative Religions class. He introduced himself as Dr. Song, and proceeded to ask me all the same questions I had just gone through with the other young doctor. I know kids today don’t talk to each other much anymore, but couldn’t he have just texted the information over?
And then the young guy surprised me with a sucker punch. “I was looking over your records. It seems as if your PSA counts are high.” Oh shit. Here we go again. Dr. Song wasn’t finished singing yet. “It’s problematic. It seems as if you don’t have cancer but you don’t not have cancer.” Lovely. No better place to be caught than in No Man’s Land. Even though I’m not Catholic my condition is like those of countless souls floating in Purgatory, not knowing whether my final resting place will be heaven or hell.
Dr. Song was starting to get on my nerves. “So I’ll be getting a room tonight, or at least a bed?”
“Uhh, no.” He looked over at the recliner in the small examining room. “You can stay here. And we’ll be able to give you your colonoscopy and endoscopy tomorrow.” Wonderful.
An hour-and-a-half later I was meeting with Dr. Song’s superior and I was let go for the night, with promises to fast and not even drink water after midnight nor before my two operations at 12:30 p.m. the next day. “But I can take Advil?” I pleaded. By now it was like mother’s milk to me. “No, just Tylenol. Advil can cause internal bleeding and your system does’t need anymore of that.”
The next day after my two operations the head surgeon heard that I hadn’t eaten in three days and told me that he wanted to keep me in for a couple of days for observation. By this time I had seen three doctors and two surgeons had a CT scan, bloodwork and two operations. As my wife loaded me into a wheelchair I couldn’t help but wonder if I was just becoming another burden to the Canadian taxpayer. My wife Brenda pushed me into yet another waiting area where the old boy beside me was noisily puking into a bucket. Oh well, I thought, what I cost the system now will soon be negated because I probably won’t be collecting my old-age pension for very long. That thought brightened me up enough that I felt hunger for the first time in three days and asked for something to eat. The nurse obliged, the service was speedy and after one bite she looked at me and said,”That’s good. You can go home now.”
“The surgeon was concerned that you couldn’t eat. We were going to hook you up to intravenous. But now that you can eat, we don’t have to keep you.” So I was given the bum’s rush out the door, but at least my wife didn’t have to push me out in a wheelchair.
For several days I continued to live on Tylenol and the upside was that soft ice cream seemed to agree with me. Even though my illness was always at its worst in the morning the fact that I was male and sixty one years old allowed me to rule out pregnancy as the culprit.
I’m still waiting on my results. If I see any of you on the street, you better turn tail and get away from me as fast as you can… or else you’ll have to listen to another long story about the next phase of my treatment !