Saturday, August 21, 2004


Boy, You've Got To Carry That Weight

Well what a week from hell this one turned out to be, probably one of the least fun I've ever had the opportunity of experiencing. On Wednesday I was foolish enough to chance my arm with half a packet of cheese potato chips, ridiculous really given my condition. Yes they did exactly what I should have realised that they would - brought me a quick and very painful attack of Acute Choleocystitis.

So about 10.00pm, I realise that despite how many Panadol I try to chow down, and how much I hug that hot-water bottle to my belly - I really should get my ass down to the Emergency Room at St Vincents Hospital in Darlinghurst. So I pack a bag and call a cab for a bumpy ride across town, which doesn't help when you've got a gall bladder full of rocks, banging up & down. I arrive just in time for an agonising hour and three-quarter wait, on a plastic chair, whilst a bed or even a trolley becomes free [lucky this wasn't in London, where the wait would probably have been about eight hours, so can't really complain about that].

Finally, after much moaning, groaning and looking pathetic on my part, a bed comes free - it's out on the emergency floor under the lights, with chaos whirling all around but I'm more than grateful. Especially when ten minutes later, they stick a drip in my arm and shoot me full of Morphine, it's pretty amazing how fast it works and sends me off to that happy place. Not really asleep or awake, just in a warm fuzz, not really part of the world - and luckily the pain just starts to ebb away into nothingness - who originally extracted Morphine from Opium? I don't know, but I'm really grateful to medical science for that one.
However, the Emergency Room is not really the kind of place where you can have much peace for very long - an old man, laying out of sight behind a curtain somewhere, is repeating a mantra over and over, of how he needs to go to the bathroom, and why won't anybody listen to him? He's deaf as well, and every now and again lets out a single plaintive cry of "Help!" - the nursing staff aren't ignoring him but he's been doing this for the last three days, and they've kind of got used to it and there is to much other craziness going on.

A guy starts ranting and cursing somewhere, warning people to keep away from him or he's going to "fucking kill 'em" - I can't see him from where I am, it would mean turning my head and opening my eyes, and I'd really rather not shatter my safe little bubble world of Morphine. Doctors and nurses come and go, pressing my abdomen, swapping my drips around, putting some tight rubber contraption around my arm to take blood pressure, sticking thermometers under my tounge and clipping a peg like sensor on the end of my fingers, could never really figure what that was supposed to do.

Sometime early in the morning, they trundle my little bed over into a quieter corner, with curtains and low lights, where I manage to doze off for a few hours. Then comes the early morning hospital ritual of breakfast [not for me], cleaning, shift changeover [it's amazing how loud and chirpy nurses are even at 6.00am, I suppose they have to be to contend with this mayhem]. Somewhere a woman is speaking in a high voice, like she is barely concious - repeating a little phrase over and over for ten minutes at a time - then she'll stop and begin again with a new phrase, each one intoned exactly the same. It's very disturbing, I begin to suspect that during the night there has been a mix-up and I've been sectioned off to a mental hospital by mistake.

Around 10.00am I'm put in a wheelchair and trundled off to Ultrasound - I feel a bit of fake, the pain has virtually gone and I could easily walk, but it seems to be what they want so I go along with it. A bad-tempered operator, swabs my belly down with a freezing cold Swarfega type jelly, and proceeds to run this hand-held scanner over me for about twenty minutes - trying to locate the stones in my gall-bladder. "Breathe in" he snaps, "Hold it!, I said hold it!" then "Too much bowel gas". Well I'm not going to apologise for that. Finally he tracks the little offenders down and we get a couple of good mugshots, then it's back to the ward for me.

Luckily I've brought a book, unfortunately it's not really the sort of thing I need in hospital - being a local history of crime in the local Darlinghurst / East Sydney area entitled "Razor". It keeps mentioning this hospital I'm in, St. Vincents and all the victims of razor attacks and shootings, that were brought in here back in the bad old days of the late 1920's and early 1930's, Maybe I should have considered something more escapist.

All day doctors, nurses and medical students come and go - they all tell me their names, which I immediately forget, with all the prodding and testing and questions, I just really want to go home, this is my lowest point of misery - I hide my watch.

Around 6.00 in the evening they move me again, this time they trundle the whole bed, through the labyrinth of hospital corridors, and up in lifts until I'm way up on the ninth floor, of a tower somewhere. Joy of joys, I've got my own television, hanging over the foot of the bed and it's Simpsons time - Homer was always right 'TV is your friend', especially in times of mind-numbing boredom. People come and tell me stuff, ask me questions I'm really not listening 'I'm watching the TV' - I even signed some papers, God only knows what they were - maybe they can sell my organs in event of an accident with the scalpel.
When I eventually become aware of my surroundings, I'm completely freaked out to discover that the young guy in the bed opposite is an exact dead ringer for a character in "League of Gentlemen", Mickey Michaels the Jobseeker [who wants to be a fireman] special friend of Pauline with the pens. Honestly, this is completely true, he has the same long mullet at the back, the same missing teeth in front, he's tall, skinny, walks with a stoop - and speaks exactly the same way that Mickey would speak if he was an Aussie. I keep finding myself staring at the guy, and wondering if I'm having some kind of hallucination, I can't talk to him - I'd just say something about 'pens'. Although later that night I'm am tempted to suffocate him with a pillow, when he decides to watch the bloody Olympics on his TV at 3.30am, whilst I'm trying to sleep.

Friday morning, I'm feeling a lot better - despite not having eaten anything for 36 hours, except what they've pumped through my drip - by 8.00am I'm fully dressed with my shoes on waiting for the doctor to do his rounds and send me home. Unfortunately they need more blood tests to be made, so I still have more hours to kill - luckily they take me off the clear fluids diet, so I raid the kitchen and eat as much toast as I can squeeze down.

I feel pretty guilty for feeling sorry for myself, when they wheel a guy into our ward wearing a full body corset, and have to lift him up onto a bed. He's been in a truck crash, somewhere in Mongolia and has had to be flown all the way back to Aus via Hong Kong. Now that must be proper suffering - not like eating a few fatty potato chips and giving yourself an inflamed gall bladder.

Finally I'm sprung, carrying a hundered weight of anti-biotics, I'm out in the Sydney sunshine. I've had to make a promise to come and visit with the surgeon in three weeks, so we can discuss about having him whip out the offending organ, with keyhole surgery - which is going to mean another two or three days in hospital world, so now the trick is keeping out of the emergency room until then.

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