how to have a terrible weekend
Friday evening I picked Nora up from her “playdate” (terrible word) while feeling a bit crummy. I had an old-fashioned literal stomachache, with the pain centering around my belly button and not getting better no matter what I did for it. I managed to get Nora some dinner before heading to the upstairs bathroom and starting the first of many stomach-contents ejections.
This is clearly too much information, but I want to be clear about what “many” means in this context. I threw up about every ten or fifteen minutes for the next five hours. Of course after a while one has nothing left to throw up, but that did not stop me! I’m an overachiever! I reached for the stars and managed to throw up scary, should-be-on-the-inside bodily fluids, sips of water and Gatorade, and parts of my own digestive tract.
Vomiting is wrongness itself. However, its only redeeming feature is that you usually feel better after doing it. How unfair was this: I did not feel better. Ever. The pain was still more or less always at a frowny face on the pain scale, and sometimes (usually the right-before-vomit times) ramping up to the crying-hysterically face. All the fun of vomiting and none of the relief! After who knows how long I became dizzy and (according to LT) incoherent, so he talked to the dial-a-nurse, Googled WHY IS MY WIFE POSSESSED BY DEMON VOMIT, called his sister to stay with the sleeping Nora, and decided to take me (and my puke bucket) to the ER.
Oh the ER on a weekend evening! No, wait…the ER on a ST. PATRICK’S DAY weekend evening! It is a magical fairyland of warmth and good feelings. I registered all the loveliness only dimly, as I was kind of busy passing out and throwing up and writhing around on a waiting room bench, and the upside to all of those dramatics was that they triaged me fairly quickly. I guess sick and injured people were not made to feel any better by the sight of my violent, noisy vomiting. I was soon put in a room where I could writhe and heave in relative privacy, and overhear all sorts of ER amazingness, like head-injured drunks attempting to pull off their cervical collars, the moans of the dude who had tried to yank his own rotten tooth (it didn’t go well), and guys with spiderweb tattoos on their necks insisting they needed a very specific dosage of a very specific painkiller. Weekend ER personnel, you have the patience of saints.
And especially sainted was my very own ER attending,* who hooked me up to an IV bag with fluids, some anti-nausea stuff, and morphine. I felt like Kurt Cobain with my opiate stomachache, but it really worked and had the lovely side effect of making me think I saw cats everywhere. Not true hallucinations, just seeing something move on the floor or jump up on a cabinet, and I would think, “Oh it’s a cat” before slowly registering that it was unlikely this hospital was swarming with cats. (New mashup show! “Hoarding: Life in the ER”!) The differential diagnosis included small-bowel obstruction, which really freaked me out because hello, surgery. They did a bedside ultrasound and made me drink two Big Gulps of contrast medium for a CT scan, and it was all kind of inconclusive, so I was told I had to stay. By this time it was five in the morning so I sent LT home and tried to make the best of it.
(*One of the first questions this guy asked me was, “By any chance do you smoke a whole lot of marijuana?” I said no, because (a) hardly ever, now; and (b) even back in the day my “whole lot” was nowhere near other people’s “whole lot,” but that is a liberal-arts college for you. Later I asked him to elaborate and he informed me about cannabinoid hyperemesis syndrome, which was a new one on me. Weed abusers, you have been warned.)
Really, once the morphine, nausea meds, and bag #3 of saline had interrupted my ghastly pain-barf cycle, I felt better. I was mysteriously put onto a pediatrics ward with a whole lot of sad coughing babies. (Nora: “Why are you on the kids’ floor, mom? Because you fit?” OUCH: ICE BURN.) My door had a sign on it that said, “NOTHING BY MOUTH” and a cartoon of a crossed-out fat dude with a hamburger in one hand and a soda in the other. Nothing by mouth. Also, no visitors eating like J. Wellington Wimpy. I hung around more or less all day with my IV pole and games on my iPhone. LT and Nora brought me some books and some cleaner underpants. The only excitement was more doctor visits and getting to go down for an X-ray, which was sort of a sci-fi process. The doctor “calls for transport,” a dude shows up with the gurney, you get on it, he scans your ID bracelet, and then once out in the hall he lifts a phone and says, “Initiating transport.” When you get to where you are going he lifts another phone and says, “Transport complete.” Man I loved that.
Mostly I just really, really wanted to go home. I mean, I wanted to know what was wrong with me too, but that concern was way secondary to the idea of a shower and my bed and my kid. So when the nurses came to tell me that I had to spend the night (AGAIN, if you count the never-ending ER purgatory as a “night”), I kind of freaked out on them. I kind of cried a lot. I asked what was the point of devoting all these resources to watching someone not eat. Embarrassing, yes, but in my defense it had been a rough ride and possibly 36 hours with no food was causing me to lose control of my emotions a bit. They were sympathetic but unmoved, so after a few more tears on the phone with LT and my mom I gave up and went to bed. So restful, sleeping with an IV needle taped to your arm. And people coming in every hour or so to make sure you’re alive. And needing to pee constantly because of the insane volume of fluids being administered. And ambulance sirens, and coughing babies, and thinking about my own baby being sad and worried at home.
In the morning I got a very non-vegetarian tray with Jell-O, “sorbet,” a can of Sprite, apple juice, and chicken broth. Sugar, sugar, sugar, and MSG. Hospitals make people well! The doctor came and quizzed me some more, including the obligatory question about passing gas, which I answered in the affirmative and got a thumbs-up. That will probably be the last time anyone is so enthusiastic about my farting. I got home Sunday afternoon, showered, lounged around, and called in tired to work yesterday. I probably could have gone to work but I just wanted some time in my house, to be honest.
So hey. If it wasn’t a bowel obstruction, what was it? I am going back to the doctor on Friday to be a Worried Whiny Wendy or Hypochondriac Harriet and make sure it is not any of the dreadful things Dr. Google has come up with. I mean, I have had two expensive imaging studies, so you would think all the dreadful things would be ruled out, but I am a giant baby and want reassurance.
And I want to never throw up again. I have earned that right. I have vomit credits for a lifetime.
—mimi smartypants respectfully requests.