…then I went and almost died, which would have been a pretty good excuse had I missed the deadline, but also slightly awkward.
It’s been three days. (Good Gods. THREE. DAYS.) I’m stuck trying to process what happened. Maybe I am over-dramatising or remember some parts wrong because of the fever, I tell myself. Wait, but if I had that much of a fever… well, I didn’t really feel like I had it, so maybe it doesn’t count? Then a realisation hits me: those hours, or maybe minutes, when I thought I was falling in and out of sleep? I was falling in and out of consciousness. The stormtroopers, or whoever they were, might have been very quiet, respectful, and even kinda sad when they kept entering and flanking my bed again and again and again and again… I wonder, was it more minutes or hours? I remember I tried to look and one of them covered my watch, so I couldn’t see. Can a hallucination do that, or was I actually hallucinating my attempt to look, but I actually couldn’t move my hand?
Isn’t this the sort of thing that only happens to other people? I’ve already collected spine injuries, an impressive collection of mental health problems, how about other people take their other people stuff and leave me alone to do boring stuff like finishing books?
CW: The following contains medical talk (I took out the most gruesome bits) and me not dying. It’s also a mess representative to the state in which my mind is as well.
Recap + Tuesday
On May 26 I had a surgery. The next sentence just BEGS to be “it was a routine surgery, performed with local anaesthesia”, but no, it was not routine and I went under. Still, the whole thing took 24 minutes, as Husby later told me. The anaesthesia was a bit of a magical experience, because I would swear that I was on the table, then I blinked and I was in another room and everything was over.
We were home a few hours later. I had some weird mood swings, because anaesthesia does that, but I felt really quite good. The effect of the morphine, or whatever I was given, lasted another 24 hours, then it started to hurt. Welp, I was surgimacated, so it had to hurt. Right?
Days have passed and I became somewhat concerned that it was not hurting any less, but still, it was bearable. I took paracetamol four times a day, avoided certain movements, didn’t go anywhere or do anything much. Finally on Tuesday we walked to the dentist. Walked, as in using legs and stuff. The trip was slow because of my pain, so it took maybe 15 minutes total. The day was lovely, we compared flowers on the other people’s yards with ours, I made an appointment with the hygienist. Then Husby went to work, I returned to my own work and spent some time finishing the ninth chapter out of ten. Something was distracting me, though. The pain went from about 4 to 7 on that 0-10 scale.
I tried to continue working, but it started hurting so bad that the text blurred in front of my eyes. I took the painkiller I use for my back, added paracetamol, then played Toon Blast on my phone. I only had one more chapter, which I would work on in the coming five days, then have the whole next week for the final re-read and corrections before sending the book to my editor.
The next time I try to set up a deadline for ANYTHING, no matter how reasonable it seems, please poke me with a cattle prod, or something. It’s not a black cat or a ladder that bring bad luck, it’s Bjørn deciding that he knows what will happen when.
I woke up at 4:45am with 101 degrees. That in itself wasn’t a huge problem, but the pain was. It took my thermometer 30 seconds to decide how much fever I had and within those 30 seconds I nearly passed out. Bumping into walls I returned to bed, miraculously not breaking a leg or something. I then spent half an hour pondering over the important problem. Husby can’t use Scrivener. Or, worse, my laptop, and come to think of it few people on Earth know how to use my laptop. I had to export the file with the book and send it to my editor in case of…something dramatic. (I HAD FEVER. 101 degrees = one (1) pass for being dramatic. And as you’ll see soon I wasn’t that far off.)
Since I couldn’t even imagine making it back to the bathroom, which required me to get to the door, turn around the corner…and that was it, I finally had to get used to the thought that I won’t be going to the ground floor and compiling files in Scrivener anytime soon. Feeling guilty and rather sheepish I woke Husby up and asked him to call the ER. We were told to feed me some more paracetamol and call the urology (you don’t need more details) in the morning.
I even managed to get some more sleep, even though it took me two hours to fall back to sleep. I got out of bed, discovered that I was now on 102 degrees but could more or less walk, compiled the Scrivener file, sent it to my editor and a few other people, then sighed in relief. The important stuff was done. In the meantime, Husby got through to my surgeon.
“It’s almost certainly not septic shock,” said the doctor reassuringly, “but how fast can you be here?”
We reached her within 30 minutes and I was diagnosed with hematoma, internal bleeding. Apparently it shows up either on the first day after the surgery, or 5-6 days later, when the “scab” is gone, but the new tissue fragile. It was simply a clear, if somewhat delayed, sign from the Gods that I shouldn’t have gone to the dentist. I got some antibiotics, some oxycontin, and we went home. I wouldn’t say that the painkiller made an awful lot of difference, but when I went to bed I fell asleep fast and woke up at normal time. I just didn’t feel normal.
My fever now exceeded 102 degrees and the pain was excruciating. I planted myself in my usual corner, my mind blank. I couldn’t really eat, which later proved to be a good thing. Either before or after I asked Husby to call and ask if they could, like, give me some sort of pill that would force the fever to drop. Somehow I was not in my corner but in bed, Husby on the phone, telling me that we had to go over there right now.
“But I’m not in the mood,” I complained. I was mostly not in the mood for the pain that resulted from me standing up or generally moving. But my feverish mind explained patiently that when we go there they will give me a pill that will stop all this, so we went.
I was put in a wheelchair and we sat in a waiting room forever.
We were in the emergency room, where for the first time in my life the nurse couldn’t find veins to get blood from. I’ve always been complimented for my gorgeous veins and felt that maybe she wasn’t very good at the nursing. She finally managed, took absolute metric fucktons of blood, refused me any water, but pleased me greatly by checking my temperature. 103.1 F was my lifetime best and I felt proud of myself. I love beating records. She also did a Covid-19 test, which is having a sample taken from your throat and having a stick with cotton on top pushed deep down your nose. She was surprised by how well I took it. Gurl please. This barely diverted my attention from the other pain and you wouldn’t give me any painkillers or even tea. Just give me my pill for the fever and let me go home.
The odd thing was that I did not feel sick in the slightest. Yes, the pain in the area that had been surgimacated was horrible – a solid 9 and I know what I’m talking about, because I have experienced 10 – but as long as I was lying down and not moving it was really just unpleasant. The only other symptom, apart from the fever I wasn’t really noticing, was very mild headache. The nurses kept coming in and out with various tidbits of information, the worst of which was that I was not getting any tea. The urologist would most probably be doing another minor surgery, explained a nurse, whose badge declared REANIMATION/BURNS, and in case that happened today they had to keep my stomach empty.
“But I didn’t have another surgery planned,” I groaned.
I was taken to have an ultrasound done. I was asked whether I could walk, but I couldn’t even sit anymore. The nurse who did the ultrasound was as gentle as she could be, barely touching me, but the pain was blinding. I broke down and pleaded for another oxycontin, and I was told that I couldn’t have more, because it’s addictive. With a sigh I accepted a paracetamol instead, mostly because I got six drops of water to swallow it with. I had more blood taken and suddenly I was giggling with Husby at how one bottle totally looked like a Tabasco bottle. Even the blood colour wasn’t that different, just darker.
I was going to stay the night, announced another nurse. (I have no idea how many nurses I met that day/night. Twenty?) My bed was moved to the room where I would be staying, Husby went home to bring the things I would need, and I could finally stop white-knuckling it and let go of reality a bit.
At first I just was and wasn’t in the room, like I was taking very short naps. Suddenly Husby was there again and, for the first time in my life, I found his presence incredibly irritating. There was a four-page form that had to be filled, with lots of questions about heart problems, no heartbreaks recently Sir, trombosis, how do I even know what that is, whether there were muscle illnesses in my family, good Gods, I don’t have any family, I don’t have any illnesses, give me tea and leave me alone…! He must have noticed something, because he finished filling the list on his own and nearly escaped, only to bump into my original surgeon in the hallway and come back with her.
The surgery would take place that evening, I was informed. She was just finishing her shift, so her colleague would do it. I had a bacterial infection, which in connection with the hematoma gave the bacteria wonderful conditions to multiply at speed the medics didn’t like at all. At least now I knew why they took my blood twice. I got injected with two GIANT syringes of antibiotics, didn’t get any oxycontin but received another eight drops of water to help me swallow paracetamol, then she told me she’ll keep me posted and left.
Reality was so exhausting. There was one other person in the room, one of those older guys who keep either coughing or talking to themselves, so I put on my noise-cancelling headphones, played The Cardigans and resignedly watched the stormtroopers. They would enter through the opening in the curtain, flank my bed – two to my left, two to my right, and sort of guard me. Sadness and sympathy emanated from them. I didn’t want anything emanating from anyone, so I’d blink a few times to give them a hint, and they would be gone for a moment before coming back in. I lost track of the songs, or possibly I never pressed play at all, so this took somewhere between five minutes and five hours. I have a feeling that if someone were to check my fever at that point it would have been an even more impressive lifetime record for me.
It wasn’t until today, i.e. three days later, that it occurred to me that the exhausting reality was perhaps not completely real. I wasn’t falling asleep to dream about stormtroopers and wake up, I was drifting in and out of consciousness. The pain was spreading further, so was the swelling. I didn’t look – I didn’t want to see it, especially since it would be awkward in front of the stormtroopers. I felt it. That part was very real. My entire reality shrank to nothing but this ball of burning pain placed in my, eh, chakra. It was hard to pay attention to anything else, even the stormtroopers, who were now replaced by a nurse telling me it was time, and then the bed was moving. I knew it really was, because every now and then it bumped into something and waves of extra pain went through me. I felt as if my skin was so hot that the sweat immediately evaporated.
Then I remembered something.
“What if my corona test came back positive?” I asked, just to make some small talk, because I wasn’t really all that interested in anything but painkillers and tea.
“Nothing,” said the first nurse and I was briefly surprised. What was the point then? “We’d send you home with antibiotics and lots of morphine, and wish you all the best…”
“…but we would be very sad,” interrupted the other one immediately.
Ah. She meant that “nothing” literally.
I actually understood that what she really told me was that they’d send me away to die at home instead of contaminating the entire surgery block and causing the hospital to shut down again, but I didn’t care all that much. I was looking forward to not feeling like this.
When I was brought back to my room my fever was gone – just like that. I got food and drinks. My dinner was interrupted by a nurse, who had to take off some of the gauze compresses, which meant I had to look at the effects. I didn’t expect to ever see stitches in some of those spots. The wet, bloodied compresses were replaced by clean ones (that went fast, I thought, but honestly, the way time was passing that day it might have been three minutes or three hours). The final check showed that my heartbeat, blood pressure, body temperature went to normal. Just like that. As for the pain, yeah, it kinda hurt somewhat.
When a nurse woke me up at 6am to connect the IV with antibiotics, the poor IV machine turned out to be very nervous. It kept getting upset very loudly when I bent my hand. When I extended it too far. When the drops, dunno, were a bit too large or too small (“the sensor is very sensitive”, I found out). When they disconnected it from the socket, so I could go to the bathroom. In my attempts to shut the thing up I accidentally switched it off and it started screaming that it wanted to be on. THIS IS NOT HOW BEING OFF WORKS, MACHINE. I hate loud, piercing sounds, yet I was accidentally torturing both the poor coughing-and-talking bugger and myself.
The doctor came at some point and told me that when she started, she expected to see bleeding. Instead she found so much pus that it pushed the blood out. (At this point I congratulated myself on not agreeing to local anaesthesia. I really wouldn’t have wanted to hear/smell any of that during the procedure.) They pumped me full of antibiotics already, but she recommended that I also finish the course that I was earlier prescribed. I thanked her heartily, interrupting her attempts to give me some more detail on how the surgery went. She explained the aftercare for me. The IV screamed at her.
I wolfed down lovely, super-sized breakfast, drank two cups of tea, and put a few things together. Oxycontin is addictive as fuck. If they were willing to send me home with tons of it, that meant the added antibiotics would really be placebo at best. My surgery was squeezed in, because it couldn’t wait until tomorrow. Stormtroopers were dressed in black, and black meant… it meant that my inner drama queen was fine. So basically if I had the coronavirus, the infection would have killed me and the only consolation would be that my addiction to oxycontin would only last for a very short time. If the surgery couldn’t wait overnight, which meant that the entire team worked overtime AND remained impeccably kind and nice just so that I could find stitches in embarrassing spots on my body, that meant I would have most probably died before the morning came. Without even completing the tenth chapter after 14 months of work. How RUDE would that be?
All those thoughts kept disconnecting, bumping onto each other, repeating, never really finding fertile ground. I knew a few things for sure. I was mostly pain free, completely fever free, and going home. The whole ordeal took less than 24 hours. We had the same taxi driver. He brought a pile of crying groans to the hospital and picked up a rather happy person who maybe walked a bit funny. He made no comments, but remembered to turn the radio down and wished us all the luck.
I felt good. Suspiciously good. I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-butter good. Husby went to work in the afternoon and I sat down to my tenth chapter, but…didn’t. My mind kept going into very small infinite loops.
Perhaps I have imagined some of this, because my fever was so high. But then, if my fever was so high, then it was really quite bad. If it was that bad, then I haven’t imagined it.
I am over-dramatising this. There’s nothing unusual about… eh… well, this really was quite unusual, but still, there’s no need to go all “nearly dying”. I probably wouldn’t have died, they just operated in the evening because… because… eh… maybe they just had a… cancellation…
If I didn’t spend almost all my waking time at home and tested positive, Husby would come over to pick up the barely conscious swollen friend of stormtroopers and a bag of very addictive oxycontins. He would take me home, where I would either take all the pills at once and die, or not take all the pills at once, then also die.
In my attempts to stop thinking I watched a documentary on JT LeRoy – one of my special interests, I wish there was a way for me to give all those people truth serum and get out ALL the information. I did my aftercare routine twice, and while it’s not exactly something I would recommend heartily as a lovely pastime, I was alive and well. Well. The pain, once the anaesthesia wore off again, became really quite unpleasant, but nowhere near the levels I have experienced at any time since the original surgery. I tried to write, to read, to focus on something, but my mind just kept looping and the most refined product of all that brain work was the thought “wow, it would have felt so weird if I had died”.
I wrote the first draft of this post, trying to make it funny and neat and arranged, which didn’t quite work.
I can’t stop thinking.
Perhaps the most confusing thing is the speed. Wednesday: fever, lots of pain. Thursday: nearly dying a whole new level of pain. (I actually had this thought many times, “I’m not afraid of death; I’m afraid of the pain”, it still stands.) Friday: being well and sitting at home, free to ponder over all this. True, the pain was horrible and the person saying that has very high pain threshold, but… there was no respirator, no beeping things except the bloody IV which beeped for completely non-exciting reasons, I didn’t even get those oxygen tubes in my nose for a dramatic selfie. Despite the lack of #influencer-style equipment I still nearly died, and had I been an asymptomatic carrier of Covid-19, I would have very definitely died. Not from an underlying condition, but from an overlaying condition. Covid-19 would have killed me without me being sick from it.
It wasn’t so bad. Well, it was, really. But if I haven’t died, that means I couldn’t have been dying, so it wasn’t so bad.
This doesn’t happen to people like me, it happens to other people, the ones on TV… Was I on TV? All the nurses were gorgeous, like, Miss Universe or TV series gorgeous, all of them were incredibly kind and nice to me, then the stormtroopers… no, but they were not real… or were they? Did I hallucinate all this? No, the stitches…
I should have some sort of epiphany, a sudden realisation that I knew how to fix my life, an urge to travel to India, where I would eat pray love, then feel Wise and Enlightened. I feel no different than a few days ago, only not in horrid pain and not, uh, swollen. I’m not even particularly freaked out. I just don’t believe any of this, and don’t trust my thoughts and feelings. I can’t tell how much of all this I don’t remember. The one thing I know for sure is that yes, it DID hurt so bad and yes, it DID look so bad, and no, I didn’t take pictures. If anything, I would pay to unsee it.
I’d have a really stiff drink to stop thinking about all this, but I can’t for obvious reasons, so I’m stuck with the feelings, except I don’t know what they are. Like I am still in the denial phase of grief over…not having anything to grieve? Although if I had died, I wouldn’t have anything to grieve either? I feel everything or nothing or something that I don’t have the name for. A kind person who talked to me, since my therapist is having one of those “weekend” things, told me that my brain has no reference point. Perhaps this is going to one day become a reference point for… uh… no, how about not?
So, er, I will not be finishing Children this coming weekend. I can’t even tell if I will be working on it this coming week. I don’t understand anything, I can’t process any of it, and the main benefit of the whole thing is that now I know how Maya feels the first time someone tries to kill her.
Photo: oxygen-tube-free influencer-disapproved selfie with the screamy IV.