**Warning: for those of you familiar with my old blog, the length of this post is very much a throwback. Feel free to skim.**
The boy who didn’t cry wolf
When Carson got home from his fire shift on Monday morning, he was looking a little pale and said he didn’t feel well, which he attributed to having spent so many hours in a bumpy engine (Humboldt to Fresno and back in 36 hours – yeesh). He spent the rest of Monday and most of Tuesday in a flu-like state with a decent fever. He was lightheaded and his lower abdomen really hurt, but he had a vigorous appetite and managed to change a flat tire (his, not mine – I told him to call AAA!) so I figured it was a flu/sore-muscles-from-bumpy-ride combo. “Maybe I have internal bleeding,” he weakly suggested all day on Tuesday, followed by bouts of gentle moaning. “You’re fine,” I kept telling him, possibly with a few eye rolls. “It’s the flu.”
It’s not the flu
About 4 pm, he was doubled over in pain and his face was screwed up in what seemed to be a permanent grimace. I called the local urgent care center. “What’s his pain on a scale of 1-10?” asked the nurse I spoke with. “Four…” he mumbled. “Four?!?” I replied, not kindly. “We’re calling urgent care for a FOUR? Look at you. You’re like an eight.” The nurse advised we go to the ER, so I packed some snacks and a book and sweatshirts – knowing the hospital would be highly air conditioned – and away we went.
The triage nurse saw us at 4:30. By 5:00, he’d had blood drawn and an IV put in for fluids due to his high fever.
By 5:30, we knew his white cell count was high and he needed a CAT scan. By 6:30, we knew the results. The ER doctor was nice but spoke important things in a rushed way that made it hard to grasp, so when he walked in the words were already out of his mouth and we had to ask him to repeat himself. “You have acute appendicitis,” he said again. “You’re having surgery tonight.”
“What??” I exclaimed, raising my eyebrows and giggling in Carson’s direction, who was having a similar reaction. “That’s crazy!” I blurted out. “Way to keep calm for the patient,” the doctor scolded me. “Huh?” I replied, taken aback and embarrassed. “Oh, I mean, he’s… it’s fine. He knows what I mean.” And he did, of course, because it’s Carson and it’s hard to get him whipped up about anything. We’d been calm all day and we were still calm… we were just both so surprised! One of his first reactions was to say, “Well, at least it’s not a problem I’ll ever have again.” Then a much more ridiculous thing came out of my mouth: “It’s our first medical emergency as a couple!” It was Carson’s turn to roll his eyes.
Within 10 minutes the surgeon came in, then the anesthesiologist, and 30 minutes later he was being wheeled away, so that a mere four hours after stepping foot into the ER Carson had his appendix removed. Later, the surgeon told me his appendix was twice the size of what they consider acute, and it had probably burst days ago. The operation didn’t take more than an hour, and they let me in to see him in recovery. From there I drove to Mary Anne and Howie’s to drop off a gluten-free peach cobbler I’d made for them earlier that day, the irony being that the glutenous one I made was special for Carson and now he wouldn’t get to eat any of it. I went back to the hospital an hour later to drop off some things. He was in his room and alert but sleepy, so I left him to rest.
Day Two: Under Pressure
The next day I spent 12 hours in his hospital room. Luckily the hospital has internet so I was able to work (because naturally this happened during my busiest work week yet as a freelancer). “Sorry I’m not paying much attention to you,” I told him after a few hours. “It’s okay, I’m not paying much attention to you, either,” he replied. We laughed. He was just happy to have me there, and I was happy to be there for him.
Unfortunately, his pain worsened throughout the day. As is common with most surgeries (or so I’m told), the air they fill the body cavity with builds in pressure until it finds some way to escape. Nothing we or the doctors or nurses did would relieve the pressure. When I finally left after 10 pm he was still trying desperately to work it out of his system.
Up Until the Wee Hours
When we’d left for the hospital on Tuesday I was in the middle of processing eight quarts of whole tomatoes. I had them all stewed, peeled, and packed, so I put them in the fridge until I could waterbath them. Wednesday night seemed like the time to do it (yes, at 10:30 pm), except I forgot that tomatoes take 45 minutes to process and I had to do it in two batches. It was a pain, but I always think preserving food is worth it, even when it keeps you up until 2:00 am. Turns out Carson was up most of the night, too. Hospital rest isn’t easy.
I did at least use the waterbath time wisely, taking the opportunity to cook the chicken we had marinated for Tuesday’s dinner, make three quarts of pickles from our cucumber bounty (since, hell, the water bath was already going), write most of this and two other blogs, clean the kitchen, and take an oatmeal bath. Why the bath? Oh, didn’t I mention that part? I’m covered in hives from head to toe.
When we went to the ER on Tuesday we both agreed it was ironic that we were there for him and not me. I really am a pathetic sight – the hives have grown so that many of them look like superhives, and the one on my face is especially attractive. (Note to self: SHOWER IMMEDIATELY after a long day of hiking in hot weather, sweating, swimming in lakes and rivers, and repeatedly applying sunscreen. This is not the first time I’ve done this to myself.)
Day 3: On the Mend
I spent 15 hours by Carson’s side on Thursday, watching TV and working. It was a strange time vacuum, but it’s always nice to be there for the ones you love when they need you. Plus it was a good excuse to avoid social interaction and give my hives time to heal. When I got there in the morning he looked a thousand times better, and he got up frequently to wander the hospital halls in the hopes of relieving some of that ever-present pressure, occasionally joking that he was “plotting his escape.” They wanted to keep him one more night, though, so I went home around midnight and told him to call me when they were ready to release him the next day.
Day 4: Home Again, Home Again
The doctor decided to release him at 6:30 am – love that early morning wake-up call! – and he’s now in his own bed, semi-comfortably resting. I took a picture of him as he was leaving the hospital but he wasn’t very happy about that, so I’m not going to post it here. (I guess some memories don’t need to be cataloged?)
I’m having to dig down deep to find my nurturing side (my family is not comprised of the most patient caregivers [no offense, Mom]) but he’s an easy and grateful ward, and when he’s sleeping I can steal his narcotics so it’s not without recompense. (Kidding!!) He’ll have to take a few weeks off work but it’s nothing compared to what would have happened if we’d waited much longer to get it checked out; I shudder to think how quickly he would have turned septic. Here’s to a healthy and speedy recovery!
Shout Out to Ukiah’s Awesome Hospital
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the quality of service and treatment Carson received at the Ukiah Valley Medical Center. It really is a wonderful hospital. I was amazed at how quickly everything happened in the ER, and the doctors and nurses were all extremely helpful and accommodating (though the doctors tended to talk too fast). Also, all the rooms are private, with private bathrooms and windows that open onto a grassy courtyard. The cafeteria serves pretty amazing food – dinner on Wednesday was a variety of Asian-inspired dishes, and Thursday offered authentic Mexican food including an incredible pozole – and I’m told the chef sources as many ingredients locally as possible. (Oh, Mendocino. Never change.) Also, the total bill seemed relatively affordable compared to what I think a CAT scan, surgery, and three-night hospital stay would be in San Francisco, for instance. Over the course of my life I haven’t had to spend much time in hospitals – happily – but I’m relieved to know that my local hospital is such a good one.
If you’re around and want to stop by, Carson will be a captive audience for a few days!