Saturday, February 21, 2009


I just got home this afternoon after being in the hospital in Iowa City for almost a week.
I started having cramps a few weeks ago and it just kept getting worse and worse. Eventually I stopped pooping and my abdomen was bulging out like I was pregnant. I figured maybe if I took stool softeners then it would eventually go away but it just kept getting worse.
There was two nights where I was in such bad pain that I couldn't sleep and I figured that I better go to the doctor.
When I had cancer back in 1999 the doctors had to put in a "ventricular shunt" which is a tube that drains excess cranial/spinal fluid from the brain and through a thin tube that drains into the abdominal cavity. Since I knew the tube was on the right side of my body where I was feeling the worst cramps I was almost positive that my shunt had broke.
By the time I got to the doctor's office in Waterloo I could barely walk. When I laid on the examining table on my back the doctor pointed out how much higher the right side of my belly was from my left. That morning when I was taking a shower I was freaking out because when I stood up straight I could barely see my dick over my gut.
They drove me in an ambulance to Iowa City Hospital and gave me CAT scans and MRIs. They discovered that I had a 8"x15" mass of fluid in my abdomen that was pushing all my bowels and lower organs over to the left side. My shunt had broke and started leaking brain fluid into my belly.
The medical students who drained the fluid out where two girls and a boy who looked like they were only teenagers. The main boy who stuck in the needle reminded me of someone you would see playing "magic" at the local comic store. A young nerdy "Doogie Howser" type. And the two nurses looked just as young. When they stuck in the big needle they drained 680 ml of this crystal clear fluid into this big jar. I just laid there watching it fill slowly. I couldn't believe all that was in there. It was like half of a two liter bottle.
When I got back to my room my wife Laura looked at my belly and it was almost flat. All this time I thought I was getting a fat belly. The doctors told me later that I had the mass of a six month old fetus in there. So not only did I get to feel what it is like to be pregnant but I also got the pains.
I had to share a small room with an old man named Dick who was hard of hearing and said, "What?" really loud when anyone said anything. We ended up becoming friends but neither of us got any sleep because the nurses kept coming in an turning on the lights and making us both do neurological tests on the hour. I couldn't smoke so I was forced to quit cold turkey. That ended up being a god thing because there's no other way I would've done that on my own and I knew I needed to quit. I also hadn't eaten anything for three days. I ended up getting really grumpy and discouraged. No sleep, no food, no cigarettes, and in pain the whole time.
The nurses were so busy that they would miss my pain medication.
I called my wife to come help take care of me and she ended up staying there with me the rest of the time. She brought me some stuff that Chuck and Leah Hoffman sent with her and a bunch of food and stuff to do from my friends Nikki Johnson and Aaron Edwards.
The doctors shut off the shunt for 48 hours to see if I would get headaches but it never happened so they knew that I didn't need it anymore and it could be removed. Most shunts have to be replaced every five years or so mine had lasted twice as long as it was meant to. It was fused to my body pretty good by now so I was scared the surgery would be painful.
Dick and his wife left a day before I did so Laura and I got the whole room to ourselves. Dick had stitches all the way up his spine so he was scared about a rough ride in an ambulance to Mason City. I was up out of bed starting to walk around so I went over to his bed and laid my hands on him and said a prayer for him to have a smooth painless trip. Before that we had only talked across a room. I got a kick out of him because when the nurses would wake him up in the middle of the night he would be half awake and talking about nonsense. There was this young blond nurse who was the nicest one of all. One night she woke him up and he thought he was at a surprise birthday party for a coworker and she sat next to him and listened to him talking about it for about 15 minutes just nodding her head and playing along.
Dick liked me also because when I would get pissed off I had the greatest insults and curses. He kept telling the nurses that I was as popular as the president because of all the phone calls I kept getting.
I finally went to surgery to get the shunt removed and as soon as they gave me the anesthesia it seemed like they woke me up thirty seconds later and it was all over. I felt like I got ran over by a truck. I hope I don't have to go through that ever again. That night I stayed up all night long because my head was too sore to lay on the pillow. I watched an entire infomercial twice in a row with no volume all drugged up on Oxycontin and morphine. Then I watched this old movie and right before the end the nurses came in and spoiled the ending for me.
I have to take it easy for a couple of weeks but I should be feeling better before it gets warmer outside.