I was feeling a little crummy on Friday evening, and elected to skip the grad students' potluck. I took the weekend easy, used it to grocery shop, do laundry, take out the trash . . . all things that I would later be very glad I had done. I was having these weird abdominal cramps all weekend. They felt like a girdle pulling tight around my tummy, and hurt, but they responded pretty well to heat and rest. I figured they were some weird stress-induced muscle cramp, and went ahead to my dance class Sunday night.
On Monday, I woke up in utter, crushing, shoot-me-now pain. When the pain didn't go away and didn't go away and didn't go away, and I could barely move, I knew something was wrong. I called Dad Pony and then called the Student Care Center. They gave me a mid-morning appointment, so I threw some random things in a backpack and hauled myself downstairs to the bus. (Several people have since expressed amazement that I took the bus to the SCC. These people are actual grownups. Any student knows that, basically, you have two ways to get to the SCC -- by foot or by bus. And I was in no shape to walk that mile.)
What followed was a nightmarish day of laying around writhing in pain until the doctor put in an IV drip and gave me a shot of morphine while we waited for there to be an opening at the CT lab. Now, the thing you have to understand is that I have a terrible fear of medical needles, and there's always been a worry in the back of my mind that, if I went to the doctor, they'd basically kidnap me into the Medical Establishment, and I'd never find my way out again. This is a great incentive to keep oneself in basic good health.
Eventually, they wheelchaired me down to the CT lab, where I waited for hours, alternately in pain and conking out from the morphine, until they did a CT scan. Kind of interesting, since I'd never had one before. What with one thing and another, it was almost five in the afternoon before I was wheelchaired back to the SCC. The doctor came in with her diagnosis.
I had a ruptured appendix. Not just appendicitis, mind you. The thing had gone blooey sometime over the weekend, and I hadn't noticed. I hadn't had the really classic symptoms of appendicitis, and my pain threshold is high enough that the cramps I did have weren't immediately alarming. So there I was, Monday evening, with a burst appendix and a massive abdominal infection. I was told that I would be taken to the Emergency Room and processed into the University of Chicago Hospitals, there to await some form of treatment that would probably involve surgery. A terrible medical nightmare had come true.
They let me call the Pony Parents, then took me down to the ER, and I spent much of the evening there, doped, in pain, having nothing in the way of overnight supplies, no way to contact anyone, no ability to do so even if I'd had a way, and not a clue about the immediate future except that it was clear that I wasn't going to be able to teach my seminar on Tuesday. Fortunately, Mom Pony called one of my friends here in Hyde Park, and she roared right down to the ER, declared herself in loco parentis, and stayed with me for most of the evening. She handled the discussions with the doctors, and agreed to contact my advisor and the writing program that night.
The doctors eventually decided that immediate surgery was out of the question, since the infection was so huge. They elected to admit me to the hospital and put me on IV antibiotics for a few days to get the infection under control, then schedule a minimally invasive surgery for a later date. "That sounds great," my friend said. "Wrrrg," I said. I had to take out my contact lenses, but I'd forgotten to bring my glasses, so I was pretty much blind. Blind, doped, and hurting is a bad combination. But my friend stayed with me, and called Mom Pony regularly on her cellphone to keep her updated. Meanwhile, Mom Pony was booking the first flight out to Chicago.
They inserted another IV (I still don't know why I needed two; the one from the SCC was much better done), took me up to a hospital room, and deposited me in a bed. My friend left to go contact people, and the doctors and nurses kept me awake for the whole night, taking vitals, taking blood, taking more vitals, asking stupid admissions questions ("Religion?" "Jewish." "Would you like a non-denominational clergyperson?" "Go away, bitch."), taking more vitals, giving me a breathing toy and trying to show me how to use it, putting me on oxygen, until I had almost no sleep in a mysterious hospital room that I couldn't see and where I was utterly alone.
Fortunately, Mom Pony arrived bright and early the next morning, fully prepared to move into the hospital room with me and stay until I was better. She went back to my apartment and brought my glasses and a few other things, and I could finally see my surroundings for the first time. I had a private room that was originally intended to be a double, which meant there was plenty of room for Mom Pony to stay on a cot with me. Since they didn't yet know whether I would need immediate surgery, I was on a surgical floor and under orders not to eat or drink anything. I had an IV pole that dripped saline and lots of antibiotics. I could sit in bed, or in a chair, and as soon as I felt able, I could get up and walk, dragging that pole around with me.
That was pretty much my life for the next week. I slowly came out of the morphine fog, and the pain started to go away. Lots of friends called, and several came to visit after the first couple of days, when we could be reasonably sure that I'd be awake most of the day. The really bad part was at night. They love to bother you at night in a hospital, poking and prodding and checking things. The worst bit was the phlebotomists. They wanted bloodwork each night, but I had IVs in both of the best veins on my body. So the phlebotomists stuck me with needles, again and again, failing to get a vein, or failing to get the veins to bleed. They'd wiggle the needles around and try in really sensitive places, and when they failed, they sent in the nurses, and they would not leave me alone until they got their damn blood each night. My arms look like I've been attacked by vampires, which is not too far from the truth.
After a while, I got hungry and stir-crazy. They eventually let me have liquids, then real food. The plan was working, and the infection was coming under control. Little Sister Pony sent flowers, which were a real perk, Mom Pony and I watched SVU and Orangutan Island together, and people continued to call and visit. On Thursday, the shape-note singers called from the singing, so I got to listen in over the phone.
Yesterday, they did another CT scan, and after dithering about the results for four hours, the doctors couldn't decide what to do with it and let me go home, late in the evening, with a prescription for two oral antibiotics.
Today, I laid around for most of the day. I'm pretty tired, and I have to move slowly and cut back on some activities, but I can function. On Super Tuesday, after I vote, I have an appointment with the surgeon, and we'll sit down and schedule the surgery to clear out the remains of the appendix and the abscess around it.
So. All in all, a week that I very much wish had not happened. However, if it did have to happen, it probably happened in the best way possible. Mom Pony was able to stay with me through the whole thing, I got "better" pretty quickly, and all of my friends came out to love and support me, which cheered me more than I can say. I'll go back to school tomorrow, but take things slow, and we'll just toddle along from there, I suppose.