It’s midnight and the tarry stools have been replaced by floating squid ink as black as Ahab’s soul. It gushes from my posterior every twenty or thirty minutes – enough digested blood to require me to bend over to remain conscious. I’m bleeding out.
In the brief intervals between changing sheets, I’ve been taking inventory of what I leave behind for Delphine. The homestead is too much for one person to manage. Maybe Doug, her brother in Albuquerque, would like to take a crack at farm life. He’s a good guy – someone you can depend on, someone with a ready laugh and a good spirit. Of course he also has his own life and chopping wood may not be how he’d like to spend it.
I really don’t want to go to the hospital. But it’s getting worse. If I have to go how will I get down the stairs? Maybe I can sit on the steps and lower myself one at a time. Yes – sit on the steps.
It’s almost 5:00am. As the clock chimes the hour I soil the bed – again. This is ridiculous. I no longer have control over my body. I wake Delphine and tell her it’s time. We leave for the hospital in darkness. On the way I mention her brother and give her a couple of checks just in case.
We follow signs to the Emergency entrance. After answering the same questions three or four times, Dr. Twinker, a gastroenterologist, introduces himself. He’s a fifty-something gentleman with a welcoming smile. He asks a few questions and says he wants to take a look at my plumbing. He schedules a esophagoastoduodenoscopy for 11:00 that morning. I conclude that the space bar on his doctor school computer must not work so well.
At the appointed time I’m wheeled down to an operating room. My anesthesiologist says, “This will tingle for three seconds”, injects Propofol into my IV, I feel a little burn…
…and Dr. Twinker is talking to me. A minute or an hour or three months have been edited out of my life.
Luckily, Delphine is there. He hands her a report and they chat.
I read later that the report says ulcerations at cardia with minimal hem, larger amounts of melenic blood covering the gastric mucosa, third degree esophagael varices. I decide I’ll need a trip to WebMD to decipher the document. But it seems that Twinker has actually found something.
And this time there are pictures. It looks as if I have some kind of a B-grade sci-fi movie worm monster in me. Delphine tells me it’s just my throat.
My blood count when I entered the ER was 11. Normal is 13. No big deal. Last time I had a bleeding problem I was down to half that.
Between hourly vitals taking, a bed a third the size of the one I’m used to with a mattress that surely is marked Portland Cement, and a jumble of pads and sheets and mats that wind around my body, I haven’t gotten twenty minutes of sleep all night. Yesterday I was given no meds for my diabetes and a sugar level of 201 has my legs jumping in spasms.
Today is nearly half over and I still haven’t been given any blood sugar meds. I’m exhausted. I’m ready to confess to anything.
The shift doctor meets with me and wants to do another blood count before I’m discharged. My latest blood count shows I’m down to 9.4, not the earlier reported 11. (9.4? Another 15% drop?) I’m down over three pints of blood. The doctor says the test can’t happen until noon. And then the results have to come back from the lab. And then they have to be reviewed. And then the paperwork starts.
If the new test confirms the 9.4 they’re going to want to keep me. Even if it doesn’t, it means six more hours in the hospital, six more taking of vitals, six more hours of torture.
I want to go home. I plead, cajole, beg, and finally resort to showing off the huge purple patches on my arms that get squeezed every time someone puts a blood pressure cuff on me. I point out the wounds are from a dozen attempts by a junior tech trying to find a vein. The doctor relents and cancels the test.
An hour later a nurse comes by to remind me that I have a blood test scheduled for noon. I tell her it’s been cancelled. She wanders off to confirm my story. There are so many chefs in this kitchen nobody knows for sure what meal they’re cooking.
A Discharge Planning Coordinator shows up to interview me for my pending exit. Do you have someone to drive you home? Will someone take care of you when you get there? Are you safe? Am I safe??? It takes me a few seconds to understand what she’s asking. She wants to know if I’m being abused at home. I think of Dustin Hoffman in Marathon Man. I say, “Yes. I’m very safe.” I glance at Delphine and whisper to the Coordinator, “I have to say that or she’ll beat the hell out of me.” I show her my arm.
I’m giggling and the Coordinator turns pale. Delphine says, “He’s joking.” Now I’m laughing and the Coordinator says, “Another form to fill out.” Government.
Home again. I’ve only been away two days but the dogs and cats stare and sniff me suspiciously. There’s something familiar but apparently my fingers smell evil. It’s going to be awhile before I’m let back in the pack. Dove won’t even be in the same room with me.
My bed. My glorious bed. A mattress has never felt so good. Cool, smooth sheets, pillows with just the right firmness, my down comforter – heaven. Now I’m safe.