Us men, we are invincible, right?
Maybe it’s “machismo” or just stupidity.
I don’t have time for my own well-being, right?
Some years ago, I discovered the answer to that question and in the process, faced my mortality.
It’s ironic that the night this started, I was attending the funeral of a family man who had died before his time.
It began with a bad stomachache that I attributed to lunch but when I got home it just got worse.
I was up all night puking. I was on the bathroom floor, delirious from pain but never did I once say to my wife that maybe – just maybe – I should go to the ER.
Finally I was able to sleep and when I woke up, I felt a little better. I saw my wife off to work and got the kids off to school.
Meanwhile, the pain had settled into my lower abdomen, on the right side.
Damnit! This was probably appendicitis. I called in sick to work and called my wife and told her that I would drive myself to the hospital.
No problem. I got this.
Why should I bother anyone and inconvenience them? I was feeling better and the hospital was only a few minutes away.
The doctor checked and he agreed with my diagnosis and sent me for a CT scan for confirmation.
I eventually got wheeled into the OR and when I woke up in recovery, the nurse told me that my appendix had actually burst.
With much difficulty, I made my way into the bathroom. I leaned on the sink and looked in the mirror and saw someone I hardly recognized.
Who the hell was this guy with the pale face, sunken eyes and look of death?
This was me and this was serious.
With a burst appendix, I could’ve died. It probably burst right on the floor of the bathroom that night, which is why I felt better.
But all that time that I wasted refusing to admit I needed help, those toxins were leaking into my gut and setting me up for an internal infection that could have done me in no matter what the doctor did.
I spent the next two-plus weeks in the hospital, always with a fever and constant IV antibiotics.
I don’t think I ever realized how grave my situation was.
To this day I have downplayed the whole thing.
Maybe I’m still lying to myself because it scares the shit outta me that I flirted with death.
I missed my kids performing in the school talent show and I missed some of my son’s baseball games. In truth, though, I came close to not seeing them grow up at all.
At the hospital, I convinced the doctor that I could go home and take my own temp every day, take my meds and come back if I was not feeling well.
I just wanted to go home.
I should have stayed in the hospital.
Better yet, they should’ve just shot me.
Two weeks later, I felt a weight in my lower abdomen, so I went back for another CT scan.
The doctor said he would need to drain the abscesses from the infection caused by the burst appendix. He explained he was going to go in through my anus — using both hands and a syringe — to drain the fluid.
Nice. I should have at least gotten dinner and a movie first.
Still, the procedure was successful.
After all of this, I was not the same person. It took most of a year to really get back to normal.
I still don’t think I realized how close a brush with death this was.
Thank goodness for antibiotics and for my doctor for violating me with that syringe.
I’m glad I’m still here to talk about it.
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