The story of how I spent 12 hours in the ER followed by emergency hernia surgery and then a four-day hospital stay begins, as all good stories do, with debilitating gas pain.
Last Monday was already a pretty rotten day to begin with. I hadn’t slept much the night before and was operating in zombie mode for most of the day. I’ve had a bulge in my groin (pause for laughter) for the better part of a decade that has never been anything more that something odd to look at in the mirror. A couple of years ago during a routine physical my primary physician looked at it and diagnosed it as an inguinal hernia. He said at some point I should have it fixed surgically and then I followed the traditional American male path of action and did nothing. I was paid back for that decision in full force last week.
After a few times of being bent over with such awful pain in my gut, I knew something wasn’t right. I texted Becky I was heading to the ER and told my boss who seemed genuinely concerned. A co-worker offered to drive me but I made a joke or something and told her I’d drive myself. I was about halfway to the parking lot when I reconsidered that decision and let her drive me.
I spent the next 8 hours live tweeting my experience in some amount of discomfort, but nothing truly awful. I read a lot on my Kindle, watched some horrible TV, and then Becky joined me later with Jimmy John’s and my laptop. It was a fun date night. But as the night went on, the pain got worse. After about 8 hours I went back to the ER nurse and told her the pain was getting awful. They took me to a room, hooked me up to some morphine, and then a parade of residents, med students, and surgeons came through trying to push the hernia back into place with no luck.
A couple of highlights were feeling like I was going to die after my first shot of morphine and giving the med students on duty far more information and access to my injury than I think they had ever expected in the ER. After a while the surgery chief deemed my hernia incarcerated (pause for crime fiction related laughter) and schedule me for surgery.
After the surgery he smiled and said it had been an impressive hernia that encompassed my intestines, my bladder, and even some poop. Ew. I know. I slept the sleep of the Oxy-drugged that evening and expected to go home in the morning. My body had different ideas though. I woke up the next morning with pressure in my chest that wouldn’t go away. I mentioned it a few times to the nurse and she said it was likely due to the anesthesia. It never got worse, but it didn’t go away either. I couldn’t rest because the pressure was constant. I couldn’t pass the time or focus on anything else except the pressure.
The slow passage of time and the inability to do anything to make it go away quickly drove me batty. I finally had a full-on panic attack sometime in the afternoon that I have to say was not pretty. It kind of freaked Becky out too. I was standing up screaming about wanting to rip my body off and run away. I cried and told them all I really wanted was to be able to breath well enough to take a nap and watch Judge Judy without thinking I was going to slowly suffocate to death. The doctors rushed in and did some tests and tried some things to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack or anything before finally giving me a Valium and telling me to take a nap. They gave me another Valium before bed and that was the kicker. I got a good night’s sleep and the next morning felt much, much better.
And now I’m home recovering. I posted this to Facebook and think it’s a good point to reinforce:
I was in the ER for 12 hours, had complicated emergency surgery, stayed four days in the hospital, and paid NOTHING out of pocket.
I have two weeks of sick time to receive full pay and benefits while I read and watch Kimmy Schmidt reruns to heal.
It’s disgusting that in a country as great as ours these things make me an anomaly.