Chapter 8: Extraction
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I’ve been drugged, I’m loopy and incoherent; but what’s worse is that I have no idea for what reason. All I know is that I am in pain.
My Mom and Stepdad stayed with me the entire time while I awaited the results of the test. It was nice of them, but I wasn’t much of an entertainer at this moment considering the severe pain and being drugged; a winning combination at parties– well maybe in Hollywood.
Before the nurse could arrive at 4pm with my next dose of pain meds, my doctor beat her to the punch. “Hey Jamie, so we have an idea of what may be causing the discomfort, and we want to try another CAT Scan.”
I was compliant because as much as others would be upset that they’d try the same procedure again, I had given myself over to them wholly. Whatever they thought best (within reason), I’d be okay with.
So I went for my second CAT scan of the day. At least it wasn’t that dreaded MRI. Screw that stupid machine.
This was quicker. They had a hunch of what was wrong so the procedure wasn’t as exploratory as the last time; no this time, it was confirmation.
I went back into my room, wonderful 851. By this time in my overall stay, I had accumulated quite the wealth of snacks, entertainment, and a wall of “Get Well Soon” cards; and it all greeted me warmly upon my return.
My Mom and Stepdad had returned from their time away to check up on me again. The doctor wasn’t too far behind.
“Hey, Jamie. It took us a bit, but after the most recent CAT Scan, we confirmed our thought: You have appendicitis. Normally, we’d immediately be able to see the inflammation, but that inflammation is caused by the white blood cells attacking the infection. …And since your counts are at rock bottom, there wasn’t enough to show up on the first results.”
The doctor continued: “And because of those factors, this is why your pain radiated outward into your lower back rather than remaining localized to the section of the gut where the inflammation occurs.”
I was in shock. “So… that means–”
“Surgery, yes right away.” Shit. Another first: my first major surgery. I’d been put under for a few spinal taps and the port insertion, but this was the first time I was being cut open in any significant way.
They prepared me for the surgery by giving me a few units of platelets. Platelets are the part of the blood that fills a wound to seal it and prevent more bleeding. The normal range for platelets is 150-400 billion/L, mine were at 43 billion/L and dropping. Imagine it this way: at the 150 b/L point, you’re severely anemic. If they hadn’t given me any platelets, then I could have bled out on the operating table.
I sat in my room watching the mushy platelets drip into the tube. It looked a lot like urine-colored applesauce; more yellow than gold. I needed to be up to a certain threshold to be safe enough for the surgery.
My Mom was worried about me (as she always is– it’s a Mom thing). I, on the other hand, wasn’t sweating it. It’s a common surgery done hundreds of thousands of times in even smaller hospitals than this. The only thing I would have been worried about would the potential of an allergy to the anesthesia. But I’d already been put under for the aforementioned spinal taps and the port insertion, and so even that worry was alleviated.
It’s funny though what goes through your mind when someone puts such an idea in your head. I would have never thought you could be allergic to anesthesia until they told me it could possibly happen. I mean, how else do you know which medications one’s allergic to unless you tried them, right? It’s not like I sat up at night as a kid and worried if I was allergic to anesthesia. Especially since I wasn’t on any of the “hard stuff” until my friend, Marinol.
An hour later the platelets were in, and they came to retest my blood to ensure I ready to go. After I was cleared it was time to get some serious surgery. Wow, surgery. Even with knowing I’d be completely fine after this surgery, I still had an uneasiness going into the operating room. The table they put me on was cold (I was beginning to piece together a theme), so I requested a blanket. At least this time I wasn’t holed up in a metallic tube.
They slowly injected the dope into my veins via my port-a-cath. They had me count down from ten. 10..9…8… Ha, yeah right. I was out by 8.5. That port-a-cath is mere inches from my heart.
A few hours later I awoke in the recovery room and I discovered a small swarm of people around me. The edges of my view were blurry and it was hard to keep my eyes open. Wow, it really is like the movies! Then I felt the ever-cool air near my groin. My Johnny flap was open. I quickly mustered all of my available energy to quickly shut the peepshow. As I reached down, I felt a sharp pain down there. “Oh, God. That hurts!”
The surgeon next to me noticed I was awake and greeted me nicely. “Hello, Jamie. The removal of the appendix was successful and there were no complications. We did find something else, however…”
I swallowed hard. I have a tumor or something. They slipped and castrated me. Oh no, oh no… “What?”
The surgeon had a smirk on his face. “While we were digging the appendix out, we noticed that you had two inguinal hernias.”
Why are you smirking?
“Had we known prior to the surgery, we could have received your consent and fixed them at the same time. When it rains, it pours, huh?” Oh, it was a smirk of circumstance. A few seconds later and I would have swung at him.
Still hazy from my anesthesia, I asked bluntly, “Oh… man, you couldn’t have fixed it anyway?”
The doctor chuckled at my stoned ass and assured, “We’ll get to it when we need to. As long as it doesn’t bother you, it isn’t necessary to repair.”
Oh great. So I have known holes in my body that one day can cause me harm, but you know what? Let’s just forget about it for now.
I thought a little more clearly. Yeah, well I am going through cancer, so… Noted. File that for later.
They rolled me upstairs on Grant 8. My room, 851, was the first room to the right. The door was closed as usual but they didn’t slow down to open it, instead, they drove past it. “Hey, my room is over here.”
“No, we’re going to 878,” declared the transporter. 878? I thought that the rooms only went to 868?
We rolled up to the Pediatric ICU (PICU). The face of confusion was cemented on my face. Huh?
Once I got into the room, the ICU nurse soon followed. “Hi Jamie, I’ll be your nurse while you’re in here.”
“Why am I in here exactly?”
“We wanted to keep a close eye on you after the surgery. Your counts are still pretty low so this will ensure everything heals just fine.”
That was enough for me. I nodded, then she added: “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask.”
“Thank you.” The nurse began to leave. “Oh, could you get me some Pepsi and something to eat?” Hmm, we don’t have Pepsi up here, how about some crackers and ginger ale?”
“Sure.” I wasn’t really a fan of ginger ale, but I needed something. She could tell I was disappointed. “We’ll add some Pepsi to your supper tray.”
I smiled brightly. “Thanks!”
My Mom and Step-Dad arrived soon after arms loaded with my stuff from my former apartment. Yes, I called it an apartment, hell, why not? I live in them like apartments, so why not call a spade a spade? I pictured my caregivers plucking all of those “Get Well Soon” cards that I had painstakingly taped to my wall; all that work for nothing. Oh well, I have all the time in the world to put them up again!
The surgery pain lingered; made sense considering the incision was fresh. Every time I coughed, it felt like someone was prying the wounds open. Yes, wounds. Plural. They were able to remove the appendix via a laparoscopic surgery (the surgery that features three small incisions: one for each tool– scope, scalpel, and clamps). It was better than a massive incision on the lower abdomen.
As soon as I ate supper, I was out like a light. After all of the confusion, the hardcore drugs, and intolerable pain, I wasn’t planning on staying awake for much longer.
The next morning, I awoke in pain. Damn, the drugs wore off. As I rolled over to locate the nurse button, I felt some tenderness in my nether regions, as in lower than the incisions. It was so tender that I yelped like a beaten dog.
I threw my pristine blankets off to reveal a mound under my Johnny. I lifted my Johnny and under it, my scrotum was the size of a softball.
Oh Dear God, what now?
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.