Return again

Back home once again from Stanford Hospital. Yes, after a short time at home, I was taken in extravagant pain (brief explanation to come below) to urgent care at PAMF Palo Alto, then from there to the emergency room at Stanford and back into the hospital for a couple of (overfull) days. Now at home with various caregiving helpers, just barely coping, in the midst of truly alarming mess. (Warning: there will be, not just the usual piss, every 20 to 25 minutes, but a whole lot of shit. Most of this posting will be deeply distasteful. Let the language I’m using here be a guide to whether you want to go on.)

But I am, once again, like Mary, Queen of Scots, NOT DEAD YET. That’s the crucial thing. I have the gift of yet another day, and despite everything, that feels wonderful. Be happy for me.

In a previous posting I talked about my earlier time in Stanford Hospital, not mentioning that during this whole time I had no bowel movements — mostly because I was given no solid food at all, but also because I had two doses of oxycodone for belly pain, and oxy is a powerful constipant.

I was moved to a light diet and then to real food, with the warning to stay low on fats, because gall bile processes fats, and when you suddenly have no gall bladder, you’re likely to have some time avoiding resulting diarrhea. I, however, had a large concrete mass in my lower intestines — industrial-strength constipation.

This is remarkably, weepingly, painful. A pain in the ass is no joke. I took two doses of Metamucil, but it didn’t help, and eventually I had to call for help. The advice was to go to urgent care at PAMF for an enema. Docs there did their best; one tried to break up the mass manually, with a finger up my ass, but with no real success. They had to pass me on to Stanford, where two more enemas were attempted. A very messy process.

Meanwhile, my other afflictions kept playing in. My blood pressure went way high — pain and the fear of death will do that — and then plummeted to dangerously low levels. My heart fluttered, quite literally — atrial fibrillation — veering between racing and then just barely beating. Earlier I had gotten an MRI, which I couldn’t endure to the end because of pain from an old vertebral fusion and my titanium hip implant. They took me weeping in pain out of the machine.

But all was not lost. They got a good enough image to visualize things and proceed with treatment (the first time at Stanford Hospital). This time, in the Critical Care ward (more about this in a later posting) they did a CT scan, much briefer and easier to endure, saw that I was bloated with fluid.

And then, in a much delayed response to the failed enemas, I suddenly needed a shit in the worst way and the staff managed to get me to a toilet. Where I had this enormous beautiful shit — not too hard and not too soft — which was unbelievably relieving. And then, the next day, another of similar quality.

Eventually everything else got settled down, and they sent me home.

Where I almost immediately crapped my pants and pretty much everything around me, making the most amazing mess all over my condo. But I had an able young caregiver with me (Annette Gonzales), who spent well over an hour cleaning things up. And put me into an adult diaper (which I fortunately had an ample supply of, from earlier days of intestinal disaster as part of alcohol withdrawal syndrome).

I got settled into my recliner chair for a night on my own. First, pissing (literal) liters out almost immediately (all those diuretics I’m taking) and then involuntarily filling the diaper with shit, but I know how to handle that, clean myself up, and get into a new diaper, which hasn’t (yet) been challenged, but undoubtedly will go the way of the previous one in a while. I can handle that.

Eventually, having despaired of ever getting to sleep, I dropped like a stone and suddenly it was 2:30 am. (A normal arising time for me.) It’s a bit after 5 now, and I can probably get myself breakfast. Or wait for today’s caregiver to appear at, 6:30, to take that over.

I am way cold but can’t risk putting on more clothes, because they would probably just get shit-covered.

I have made myself some green tea, to soothe the moments. I have a scheme that lets me do that sitting at my work-table in front of the computer. So I’m uncomfortable but not entangled in any sort of disaster. (And not in pain, though I have Tylenol for that, sitting right on my work-table.)

I even managed to work in a shave, to clear away 10 days’ growth. That helps me feel more human.

I’ll need to sleep some more soon. But, take things as they come. It could be way way worse.

The sun is rising. It’s a new day.

Coming in later postings: notes from Stanford Hospital.



4 Responses to “Return again”

  1. kenru Says:

    You have such amazing resilience and the will to carry on. I can only hope to emulate your attitude when my inevitable decline occurs. You are a beacon of hope; and please keep on keeping on.

  2. Robert Southwick Richmond Says:

    Thank you for this! An 84 year old pathologist is of course well-nigh un-yuckable, but, more important, you don’t quetsch, in your narrative of an indomitable spirit. I hope you’ve enlisted someone to write the inevitable final entry (kinnanoreh).

    I learned a new word from you today: constipant, one of those wonderful old words for the actions of medicines, gone from usage by the time I was a medical student in the early 1960s. To judge by what I found online, it’s a French word with a rather tenuous existence in English.

    Here’s a delightful French web site on the subject:
    I note that the French do not mention cheese as a constipant, an enduring urban legend in English.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      Annoyingly, constipant isn’t even in the OED, much less smaller general dictionaries of English. Annoying, because it’s exactly the word for the thing, and its meaning should be immediately clear from its morphology. I’m sure I didn’t get it from French, but vaguely remember have seen it in English and admired its usefulness. (Ok, I admit that the customary usage is with the adjective constipating, as in: Cheese is wrongly believed to be constipating.)

      • Robert Southwick Richmond Says:

        I didn’t think to check OED2, but I did check my daddy’s 1920 Dorland medical dictionary, my go-to for old medical words, with etymologies in Greek. (The present version doesn’t even HAVE word origins.)

        Perhaps you coined the word anew, easy enough to do.

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