Archive for December, 2008

Once Again, Natalie Dee Captures My Mood

Posted in Uncategorized on December 30, 2008 by tom

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The Year in Review: 2008

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 29, 2008 by tom

January:

  • January 3: The Presidential primary season officially begins, after 3 years of foreplay.  Candidates hope to capture the "anyone but the douchebag we have now" vote.  Early prohibitive favorites are Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, which would challenge Americans to elect somebody who lacks testicles.  Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee win the Iowa Caucus, and its delegate.  John Edwards' hair finishes second, and Senator Clinton third. 
  • January 8th: In the New Hampshire primary, John McCain storms out of nowhere to win the Republican delegate, while Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic delegate.  New Hampshire residents are intrigued by the way John Edwards' hair remains immobile during nor'easters, and vote him second.  Barack Obama finishes third, and with the distinction of being the only black person most NH residents have ever seen.  Rudy Giuliani prepares his ingenious campaign strategy of focusing all of his time and money in Florida, which has lots of delegates.  "Once I win big in Florida, everyone else will drop out, and I'll be coronated."
  • January 18th: President Bush proposes massive, $146 Billion economic stimulus plan, which will enable average Americans to give more money to oil companies.  Bush describes the package as "a shot in the arm for the economy." VP Cheney snickers, then shoots an aide in the arm.
  • The Giuliani campaign rolls on by not competing in the Nevada or South Carolina primaries, preparing himself for his big win in Florida.
  • January 22: Heath Ledger dies in NYC of an accidental overdose.  Ledger was handsome and talented, with a beautiful and talented ex-girlfriend (Michele Williams), a beautiful baby daughter, and an Olson twin involved in the whole affair.  Tabloid editors wee themselves.
  • January 29: Rudy Giuliani loses big in Florida, placing a dismal third.  Americans will have to wait for another election to vote for a ball-less candidate.

February:

  • February 5: Super Tuesday sees John McCain emerge as the Republican frontrunner.  Hillary Clinton wins the big states, but Barack Obama wins more states. 
  • February 13: Senate votes to ban "Severe Interrogation Techniques" including waterboarding.  Cheney weeps cold black tears.  Dubaya wonders why the Senate just banned surfing.
  • February 20: US Navy, firing a ship-board missile, blows up a falling satellite.  Second missile accidentally shoots down US economy.
  • February 24: Ralph Nader announces his bid for the presidency, citing his desire to continue serving America by ruining elections for Democrats.  Cheney wipes away tears, celebrates by pulling pizza delivery boy's toenails out with pliers.

March:

  • March 4: John McCain locks up Republican nomination; immediately orders staff to "search for a running mate who comes off even dumber than Bush."
  • March 8: President Bush vetoes ban on "Severe Interrogation Techniques" including waterboarding, says soldiers and "them CIA boys" deserve a little fun.
  • March 10: The New York Times reports former white collar crime fighter-turned-New York Governor, Eliot Spitzer, was caught red-peckered in prostitution investigation.  Late night comedians rejoice.
  • March 12: Spitzer swallows his pride and resigns, taking new job as lobbyist for Benevolent Labor Organization of Women Just Operating Businesses.  Salary for his B.L.O.W.J.O.B. work is entirely made up of freebies.

April:

  • April 10: Senate passes landmark housing relief bill, with billions earmarked to help oil executives who only have two vacation homes.  Odd provision from lobbying firm includes tax incentives for new whorehouses.
  • April 6-7: The Olympic Torch continues to spread good feelings on its route to Beijing, leading dozens of Londoners to be arrested for heckling the torch-bearers, before the torch moved on to France, who immediately surrendered.
  • April 7: Sorry.  Actually, the Torch was dowsed numerous times in the Paris leg of its trip, probably for speaking French with a poor accent.
  • April 8: The Torch made its way through Iraq, but was again extinguished when it was waterboarded.
  • April 20: Danica Patrick becomes the first woman ever to win an Indy Car race, as she takes the checkered flag in the Japan 300.  With the favorable exchange rate, this race is equal to the Indianapolis 950.

May:

  • May 1: Congress passes law banning "Bias based on genes;" orders Americans to continue tradition of being biased on skin color, religion, and sexual orientation.
  • May 14: Interior Secretary declares polar bears to be endangered.  VP Cheney immediately plans to visit Alaska and "bag one of them white sumbitches before they're all gone."
  • May 15: California Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriages.  Mr Sulu immediately makes plans to beam himself and his longtime partner to the altar.

June:

  • June 3: Barack Obama locks up the Democratic presidential nomination.  Asked his opinion, Republican nominee John McCain says, "You kids get the hell off my lawn!"
  • June 4: California Governor Arnold Schwartzeneggar declares a drought, says Californians will have to conserve water now that Charlton Heston is no longer around to smack rocks with his staff.
  • June 18: Bush asks Congress to rescind offshore drilling ban, saying that this country's oil producers need more oil with which to price-gouge the American people.
  • June 19: Hoping the offshore drilling ban will be lifted, Eliot Spitzer buys cruise tickets.
  • June 25: Congress passes law expanding civil rights for the disabled; act adds "cancer, diabetes, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and multiple sclerosis" to list of covered diseases.  Lame Duck in Chief, anticipating future employment search, lobbies to add "just being a dumbass," but is voted down in committee.

July:

  • July 1: US officials agree to end immunity for American contractors doing business in Iraq.  Henceforth, these private firms will be governed by all Iraqi laws, as soon as we allow them to pass any.
  • July 8: Leaders of the world's richest nations agree to limit greenhouse gas emissions.  In the future, their greenhouses will keep their doors closed more tightly. 
  • July 17: Library of Congress names Kay Ryan new U.S. Poet Laureate.  Dubaya's suggestion "That man from Nantucket" is a distant eighth.
  • July 25: California bans trans fats in restaurants.  Governor Schwarzennegar says, "We welcome gay fats, lesbian fats, and bisexual fats, but trans-fats are just too weird, even for us."

August:

  • August 8: Former candidate John Edwards admits to having an affair with a former staffer, but says, "The kid is not my son." The aide receives an immediate job offer from Elliot Spitzer.
  • August 8-17: The Olympics are held in Beijing.  US Swimmer Michael Phelps wins a record 8 medals, and American gymnasts do well in individual competitions, however the team Gold goes to the Chinese women's team.  Controversy erupts when it's revealed their average age is 9.  Barack Obama wins Golds in crew, decathlon, and rhythmic gymnastics.
  • August 25: The Democratic National Convention opens in Denver, with a rousing speech by Michelle Obama. 
  • August 27: Former President Bill Clinton speaks, saying "Barack Obama is ready to be president of the United States," and that Michelle Obama has "a great black-girl ass."
  • August 28: Illinois Senator Barack Obama gives his acceptance speech before 83,000 at Denver's Invesco Field.  In addition to his rousing speech, the nominee's electric guitar rendition of "We Shall Overcome" and his stage diving antics fire up the crowd.
  • August 29: Republican nominee John McCain announces his running mate: Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, a hunter, former beauty pageant contestant and tv reporter.  Tina Fey watches the announcement, then kneels in thanksgiving prayer. 

September:

  • September 1: VP candidate Sarah Palin announces that her unmarried teenaged daughter Bristol is "a little bit knocked-up, dontcha know." She goes on to tout the success of her "Abstinence Only" sex education proposals.
  • September 1: Hurricane Gustav threatens New Orleans, causing Republican leaders to scale down the RNC opening.
  • September 2: Republican leaders learn that New Orleans is over 1300 miles away from Minneapolis, and thus choose to brave on with the show.  God Himself is quoted as saying, "My people dropped the ball on this, or we would've sent a blizzard down from Canada.  Still, though, a message from Me is a message from Me."
  • September 4: John McCain accepts the Republican Presidential Nomination, saying, "Let me just offer an advance warning to the old, big-spending, do-nothing, me-first-country-second Washington crowd: change is coming, so you'd damn sure better vote for me if you don't want it."
  • September 27: A Chinese astronaut makes history by being the first in his country's history to make a spacewalk.  Zhai Zhigang steps out of the Shenzhou VII spacecraft, and delivers Moo Goo Gai Pan, Mandarin Chicken, and House Special Lo Mein, as well as four egg rolls and a large hot & sour soup, to the International Space Station.  In honor of this achievement, Zhigang was paid with a fifty dollar bill, and told to keep the change.

October:

  • October 2, 7, and 15: Candidates hold a lively round of debates.  The presidential and vice presidential candidates are not among them, though.  Results show that those who favor Obama think Obama won, while those who favor McCain go to sleep early.
  • October 10: Alaska's Legislature determines that Governor Sarah Palin "violated the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act when she used her office in an attempt to get her former brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired."
  • October 11: Sarah Palin fires the Alaska Legislature.
  • October 18: A Bush administration memorandum says federal entities subject to anti-discrimination law can give money to groups that hire only people of a certain faith.  Dubaya clarifies, "Well, as long as they're the right faith, of course."
  • October 19: Former Secretary of State Colin Powell–a Republican–endorses Barack Obama.
  • October 20: Lord Voldemort–another Republican–endorses fellow Slytherin, and 1322 Tri-Wizard Cup Champion,  John McCain.
  • October 29: The Philadelphia Phillies defeat the Tampa Bay Rays 4 games to 1 to win the 2008 World Series.  Barack Obama goes 12 for 25 with three home runs to win Series MVP.

November:

  • November 3: An independent counsel investigating Sarah Palin contradicts Alaska's legislature, and says Sarah Palin did not, in fact, violate the AEBEA by whacking her former brother-in-law.  Counsel spokesperson Bristol Palin says, "Nah.  My mom totally didn't do nothin' wrong."
  • November 4: Barack Obama is elected President of the United States, handily defeating John McCain.  In celebration, whippersnappers the world over trample old codgers' lawns.
  • November 12: The Bush Administration Treasury Department changed its course on the housing crisis.  Rather than buy troubled mortgages from banks, the new plan is to use the National Guard to evict those in default, then drill for oil in their yards.
  • November 27: Americans celebrate Thanksgiving Day.  Topping gratitude lists this year: 1) Friends and family; 2) Good health, and 3) "That this douchebag is outta here in less than two months."

December:

  • December 1: The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunges, after reports say the US Economy has been in recession.  Reached for comment, John Q Public replies, "No shit, Sherlock!" Most Americans' 401(k) accounts are reduced to 401(f)'s.
  • December 9: Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate Seat.  Blagojevich had offered to sell the seat to Oprah, who laughed: "Why would I want to give up all my power?"
  • December 11: Investment manager Bernard Madoff is charged with running a $50 billion Ponzi Scheme.  When asked, President Bush says, "I always liked Fonzie, myself.  You know…`Aaaayy,' and how he could hit the jukebox and make it start playing?"
  • December 11: Senate refuses to approve a $14 billion bailout plan for US automakers, citing "Um, we sorta gave the money to this Bernie Madoff guy to hold for us and, well…"
  • December 13: In NYC, Barack Obama is awarded the Heisman Trophy.  Officials say, "Nobody has EVER run like he did."
  • December 24: In Bethlehem, Baby Jesus is born in a manger.  President Bush issues executive order to begin drilling under the manger, while Elliot Spitzer heads over to investigate "that hot virgin chick."
  • December 31: (tentative) This ridiculously long and tragicomic year will end.  I hope your 2009 is a great one.

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The Bright Side of Almost Dying (Part II, Nigel and the Jamaicans)

Posted in Fun with Fournier's with tags on December 23, 2008 by tom

So Dr D left my ICU room, leaving me alone for the night.

Or so I thought.  It became abundantly clear, over the next few days, that there was a note tacked to the doctors’ lounge bulletin board saying, “Y’all? You ain’t gonna BELIEVE the what the guy in ICU 4-B has! Go check it out!”  Granted, I had far more docs on my team than just Dr D the urologist/surgeon (“The piss doctor,” as he described himself (I think urologists sometimes have an inferiority complex)).  We’ll get to them later.  But I’d lay odds that I was seen by at least 30 doctors, and I mean “seen” because they just showed up to take a look at my poor, 25% off nardsack.  I understood the plastic surgeons, of course, but the OB/GYN? The pediatrician? I’d swear there were even a shrink and a podiatrist who came in for a peek.  In whatever bar doctors congregate, I’m sure my poor nardsack was mentioned.

I should’ve charged admission, quite honestly.

My parents had endured a truly taxing Friday, with both of them driving an hour up, then waiting while their son was cut upon and treated for a truly nasty infection.  They hung out awhile in my room, ascertained that I was in good hands (and kinda trippin on the meds and residual anesthesia), then they went home for a rest.  I had my Power Book with me, and St Anthony’s had wireless broadband free for all of us guests.  Yay.  I was quickly introduced to my two night nurses, both of whom were Jamaican by birth.  They were hilarious, kind, and as much fun as nurses can be in ICU.  They brought me a sandwich and Diet Pepsi, since I hadn’t eaten all day.  They brought me a pitcher of icewater.  They brought me a blanket when I needed it, and got me a fan for my room.  They were like two smiling angels…

…until it came time for two words I grew to dread: “Dressing change.”

Sadly, a dressing change did not involve switching from 1000 Island to Ranch, or from cornbread to oyster stuffing.  It involved changing the dressing on my wound.  How bad could it be, right? Take off the old bandage, and put on a new one.  Maybe make sure the stitches were holding up.  No problem.  The problem is, I didn’t have any stitches.  There wasn’t enough left to stitch together.  Plus, my nardsack, although cleared away of the bad bits, was still somewhat distended.  The dressing change was a four-step process.  They had to untape and remove the giant gauze pads covering the wound.  Logical.  Then they had to remove the two giant rolls of something called Kerlix, which is gauze impregnated with a “biocide” solution that helps “prevent colonization.”  These giant rolls were not wrapped around anything, but packed into my nardsack whole.  Two of them.  Like two Ace bandages rolled up and crammed inside.  I didn’t know this when we began my introductory dressing change (probably about 0300, Saturday morning 22 Dec 07).  Once the two rolls of Kerlix were removed, they soaked two new rolls of Kerlix in saline, then stuffed them inside the wound (step 3).  Step four was recovering the whole area with gauze, then taping it down.

Freaking.  OUCH! Beyond the whole “being stuffed like a turducken” thing, there were two added bonus factors that made this all the more horrific.  First, there was one little nerve left exposed toward the bottom of the wound.  Anytime something hit that nerve, pain shot up my body and out my head.  The second fun part was that for them to get access to my woundpit, I had to roll over on my left side, grab onto the bed rail, and hold my right leg up in the air, like some sort of gymnast-pornstar.  My Jamaican soul-sisters got faster during my ICU week, but there was a learning curve.  For ten minutes, I had to hold my right leg in the air while they swapped everything out.  Yow.

The comedic part is that this procedure was just so off-the-chart awkward, it had to be funny.  It really was.  It didn’t hurt as much as it would have if I’d been able to see what they were doing–except when they hit that nerve, of course–and there was physical comedy in the entire set-up.  Over the next day or two, we developed a great routine.  About 30 minutes before dressing-change time, they’d come in and bring me two Percocets, and tell me to start pushing my button.  Wheeeeeee! It was like reverse rehab, with the medical staff TELLING me to do drugs.  Yay.

The height of hilarity during this procedure came when the Jamaican-born New York nurse had to run out to get another roll of Kerlix, and Jamaican born and raised nurse sat there, helping me hold up my leg.  The lights were on for the change, and she and I were chatting amiably about something, when all of the sudden she burst forth with, “Oh my God! I can see your testicles!” I pointed out to her that she had four kids, so it was likely she’d been acquainted with testicles before.  “No, silly.  I’ve never seen them in the open before.”

I don’t blush anymore, in case you were wondering.  I think that was the end of embarrassment for me.

Finally J/NY got back with the Kerlix, and she and J/BR were able to stuff me back up, leaving me to watch an anime marathon on Cartoon Network’s “Adult Swim.” (Anime on Class II narcotics rawks, btw)

On Saturday evening, after two dressing changes, a strange doctor came a-calling.  We’ll call him Dr P, both because he was a plastic surgeon, and because he became pissed during his visit.  This was a couple hours after my most-recent dressing change, and Carrie was up visiting.  He asked her to step out, which he didn’t need to do twice, and after she fled, he lifted up my gown and asked me to roll over.  He removed my dressing in a less-gentle manner than J/NY and J/BR did, and bent down low to look at my wound.  “I was afraid of that.  I don’t know why he didn’t take more.”

Gulp.

Turns out, Dr P was annoyed that Dr D hadn’t “debrided” more of my poor nardsack.  I felt like I’d done something wrong.  I didn’t know what was happening, only that J/NY and J/BR had to come back in, and we did our odd little ballet of pain and gauze.

That Sunday, 23 December 2007, was MRSA day in room ICU 4B.  When I was all the way back in the ER that Friday, the cheery nurse had cheerily taken several vials of my blood, mixed some of them with various chemicals, and left with them.  These were for cultures to see what sorts of evil stuff was running through my system.

I don’t know what happened, but they’d neglected to do the MRSA test on me when I first checked in.  Probably seeing whether I was going to be around long enough to waste the agar.  On Saturday, a nurse came in and said she had to do a “mersa” test on me.  I thought she said “Murtha,” as in the Congressman from Pennsylvania.  I’d read about MRSA, but I’d never heard it said aloud.  Anyway, while testing me for ABSCAM-implicated Congressman cooties, she got out a big Q-Tip, and said she was going to swab the inside of my nose.  “You may feel some discomfort.”  I just looked at her with raised eyebrows.  “Oh, no. Not discomfort!” She and I laughed.  She could’ve stuck the thing all the way up through my brain and out the back of my skull, and it wouldn’t have made me any more uncomfortable.

Apparently, the only way to protect my visitors from either MRSA or Rep Murtha was to require everyone to don masks and gowns.  This was funny.  Truly funny.  My friend Bill came, and brought me a little Christmas tree.

I took a picture of it, and used the Power Book to process the image so it better resembled what I saw.  I don’t think Moses’ desert bush was glowing more than my tree.

Anyway, when Bill brought the tree, one of the other nurses stopped him. “You can’t take that in there.”
“Why not?”
“Because he’s under quarantine.  If you take it in there, you can’t bring it back out.”
Bill barked back at her, “Lady, why the hell would I bring him a Christmas tree, then take it with me when I left?”

She grimaced at him, then made Bill put on a gown and mask.  Bill was a Drill Sergeant in the Army.  Remember “Full Metal Jacket?” That was Bill, except he looks more like Mr Clean mixed with Dwight Eisenhower.

My parents came to visit, and gowned up.  The only real ICU rule was that I could only have two visitors at a time.  I had two parents, and multiple friends showing up throughout the day.  Thus, my poor dad had to put on and remove his gown, mask, and gloves at least four times.  The good news is there was a Starbucks downstairs, and whenever he was displaced, he’d bring me coffee, after watching a quarter of the football game.

Around 1600 Sunday, the result came from the lab: John Murtha would not be bothering me.  Yay! Also, I didn’t have MRSA, which would’ve been almost as bad.

Before I knew it, it was Sunday night, and I was being given a sandwich and water, and being told that I needed to be done by midnight, because they’d be taking everything away after that.  “Why? Why take my water?”

“Because you’re going back into surgery at noon tomorrow.”

I called my parents.  “Oh, by the way, I’m going back into surgery at noon tomorrow.”
“Why?”
“I guess they realized they missed something.  Or this is how Jewish urologists celebrate Christmas Eve in a Catholic hospital.” No matter how sick, in pain, or drugged up I was, I never lost my ability to be an insufferable smartass.  Or to screw around with everything in sight.

I’ve always loved gadgets.  If there are buttons to push and switches to flip, I’m amused.  Thus, I was constantly fiddling with my bed.  This thing was awesome! I was able to raise and lower different parts of the bed, just to customize my discomfort into new and exciting shapes, like Gumby.  There’s were two buttons on the controls called “Trend.” and “Rev. Trend.”  These were especially fun, because whatever shape I’d made with the bed would either rock completely forward or completely backwards.  Again, my enjoyment thereof was heightened by the still-rampant delirium and narcotics. So around noon, a grim posse of doctors, therapists, and nurses came to wheel me off to the cutting room.  Between the five of them, they probably had 30 years of college, but they couldn’t get the bed to roll.  This one guy was pointedly angry about things; apparently, he’d come especially to wheel me away so he could watch the surgery or something.  He was stomping on the brake lock, then stomping on the brake release.  He hissed at one of the nurses that she wasn’t stomping on the brake release hard enough, and she hissed back that he was a doofus, and that her side was unlocked.  The one person uninvolved in this debate was the patient, who’d read everything on the bed (as well as the constantly changing flashing ceiling tile words), and knew that the bed would not roll unless it was completely flat.  I finally hissed at Murse Grumpypants, “Stop for a minute.” I calmly pushed the “Trend.” button.  The bed flattened, and we were (literally) ready to roll.  He humphed, apparently disgruntled that he hadn’t found the solution.  “For some reason, the bed was in a Reverse Trendelenburg position .”  He seemed suitably chastened; I was ready to be rolled away, plus I’d learned a new vocabulary word.

Away we went, me being rolled importantly through the brightly lit hallways like a parade float.  My nurses waved at me, and I waved back.  We got to the OR, and they wheeled my bed over next to the operating table.

The operating table was about as wide as a tongue depressor, or so it seemed to my whacked-out senses.  I am a very tall, wide person.  This was like a Surgical Barbie operating table.  I had to scootch over onto the table, which was a definite labor in my condition, and yet I didn’t let go of the bed.  “Let go of the bed, Tom.”
“No.”
“You need to let go of the bed.”
“No, I’m not centered.  I’ll roll off the table onto the floor like the meatball in the song.”
“What? Let go of the bed.”
“Fuck that.  Sorry.  Fuck that, sir.”
“Would it help if you moved over a little bit more?”
“Yes, sir.”
“Let’s try that, then you can let go.”

I did.  As soon as I was centered, this guy set a mask on my face.  I was out like brown trout.

Somehow, I skipped right over the post-op room.  My guess is I was there, and they pulled another tube out of my throat, then they wheeled me back to my new home in ICU.  Carrie was there.  My pain-med machine was there.  Life was good.

Except that nobody had bothered to tell my parents and brother that I’d finished surgery and post-op and was back in my room.  They were a little chagrined I think when they came in to find me eating a popcicle while Carrie and I watched “Christmas Vacation” on the little TV.

“How did it go?”
“Couldn’t tell you.”
“How do you feel?”
“I’m enjoying the popcicle.  Let’s leave it at that.”

It was Christmas Eve there in ICU 4-B, and Carrie had to leave to go to candlelight service with her mother.  My parents and my brother headed back to Sarasota to do the same.  I was alone.  Utterly alone, in pain, and sick as hell.  The weird thing is, I hadn’t worried during my hospital stay thus far.  I still wasn’t, really.  The meds helped, as did the delirium.  The infection didn’t seem to be spreading.  They did frequent blood tests, and the nearly constant antibiotic IV’s seemed to have stopped the infection’s spread, and maybe they were starting to beat it back.  That night was the first time I’d really felt alone.  J/NY brought me some Percocet and told me to start pushing my pain button.  I chewed up the Percs, just like when I used to take them for fun years ago, and I tapped out my Morse code on the Dilaudid drip.  I turned into wet sand.  J/BR stuck her head in and said, “T’ree minutes, hon.” I waved.  I wondered how the hell I was going to get through this thing–first dressing change after the new surgery–and that’s when Nigel reassured me that everything would be fine.

Nigel was my right middle fingernail.  For whatever wet-brained, infection-addled, panic-stricken, drug-induced reason, my mind hallucinated that my right middle fingernail was named Nigel.  A big, rough-housing yet kindhearted, rugby-playing English soul.  My right fingernail.  Nigel.  The reassuring Cockney presence.

I laughed my ass off.  J/NY and J/BR came in for the dressing change.

“Are you ready hon?”
“Yes, ma’am.  Let’s do this.”
“What are you laughing at?”
“Life is good, m’dears.  Let’s change my stuffing.”

I was still chuckling to myself as I rolled over, grabbed the rail, and stuck my foot high in the air.

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The Bright Side of Almost Dying (Part I)

Posted in Fun with Fournier's with tags on December 22, 2008 by tom

(In these posts, I will recount–in a rather lighthearted tone–the infection I had a year ago, and the treatment and hospitalization I went through.  Herein, I might edge a little closer to the TMI line than you’d like, and I use the word “nardsack” frequently.  “Nardsack” amuses me, and since I’ve had to regrow mine…well, you’ll see.)

One year ago tonight, I was in St. Anthony’s Hospital, a couple hours post-surgical, with various organ systems on the verge of failing.  That was my first night of a five week hospital tenure, during most of which I was subjected to 16 hours a day of IV antibiotics and various “wound treatments” that make me cringe to remember.

Needless to say, the past year has been a metaphysical roller-coaster ride, especially when I had numerous friends shuffle through that fabled door at which I stood.  I could write about how happy and grateful I am to be alive today, but I think I’ve done a pretty decent job of mentioning that over the past year.  I’m sorry I seem saccharine when my Things on Tuesday posts always end with “Ten fingers, ten toes, one belly button, and a steady pulse,” but I’m more aware of those gifts now.

I could also write about the extremely nasty infection I had, all the pain and yuckiness and having to regrow parts as if I were some sort of starfish.

I won’t do that, either, other than as is necessary for narrative purposes.

The past few days, I’ve been mindful of this date, and the significance thereof.  I didn’t know how I’d manage.  I’d never been this close to dying before.  Sure, I was on my way a few years ago, drinking enough alcohol to render myself flammable, but I hadn’t ever come to the brink.  Yesterday, I was sort of maudlin, detached, a little freaked-out.  Today, I realize that–despite all the nasty, painful parts–there was also a good bit of comedy, some things that in retrospect are pretty amusing.

I choose to remember the funny bits tonight.

Okay, there’s nothing really funny about Fournier’s Gangrene.  There are two parts of the male anatomy no man would want to have turn gangrenous.  In me, this involved the second of these parts, which is just below the first of them.  Basically, there was a multiple bacterial gang war going on in my nardsack, which swelled up to the size of an eggplant.  No, I’m not exaggerating.  This was very uncomfortable, to say the least.  Especially doing things like driving a clutch or, say, walking.  Or sleeping.  I managed to make it to my doctor on Wednesday of that week.  He diagnosed scrotal cellulitis, and he prescribed Levaquin, a big-ass oral antibiotic.  He was going on vacation that Thursday, so he made something verrrrry clear to me: “If you notice any dark spots or weeping discharge, don’t call the office.  Go straight to the hospital.” No problem, doc.

Other than the awkwardly gargantuan swollen pain melon in my pants, I was enjoying NyQuil-esque brain activity.  I later found out this was because my kidneys weren’t working very well, and I had lots of bizzaro chemicals not being filtered.  I took the Levaquin, as well as some lovely NQ gelcaps, and I kind of tossed and turned my way through Wednesday night and Thursday.  At one point Thursday night, I was trying to sleep on my side, when I felt a small trickle of liquid hit one of my thighs.  Uh-oh.  I blotted it away with a Kleenex.  It was a sickly grey-green color.  I recalled what the doctor had said about “weeping discharge,” so I decided to investigate whether I had any dark spots to complete the winning quinella.

While this made perfect sense to me at the time, I soon realized that the human male is not designed to see the bottom of his own nardsack.  Ingeniously, I did the only thing I could do: I used my camera-phone to take surveillance photos of the area.  In my mind, my trusty Motorola Razr was a U-2 spy plane, scoping out missile bases on Cuba, or checking Soviet troop movements.  Sadly, given my bacterial intoxication level, this was not all that easy.  Truth be told, I’d have had better luck lying naked outside, hoping a keyhole spy satellite passed.  (I know the infrared would’ve been off the chart).  Finally, I got a clear shot that showed two quarter to half-dollar-sized enemy encampments.

Aw, fuck.

I’d gone online, of course, as soon as my doc said the words “scrotal cellulitis.” I saw some pretty rough pictures, but the few articles I found talked about this “Fournier’s Gangrene” thing.  I read enough to know that A) this is what by doctor was afraid would happen; B) Fournier’s had a mortality rate of up to 75%, and C) I did NOT want any part of it. (One site reported that “Without early treatment, bacterial infection enters the bloodstream and can cause delirium, heart attack, respiratory failure, and death.”)  As in the Cuban Missile Crisis, the surveillance photos didn’t lie.  I knew I had Fournier’s.

I also knew that I wouldn’t be able to drive myself to the hospital.  I couldn’t really sit up straight, nor could I put my legs together or operate a motor vehicle.  Plus, I’d been increasingly stoned for four days.  The beauty was that this was all happening about 5 AM.  I called the doctor’s office, and told them what was happening.  They called and woke up Dr S, who was filling in for my doc, and he called me back.  I filled him in.  He told me to come into the office around 0900, and he’d see me immediately.   I called my parents around 0700, and my dad agreed to come drive me to Dr S.  I figured I’d take a shower, just to wash away some of the steady “weeping.”

Here was another problem.  I could hardly breathe when I moved.  Since that Monday, when I’d thought I was battling the flu, I’d been drinking lots of water.  I was hardly urinating any of it away.  I managed to squeeze my legs together sufficiently to get on the scale.  I’d gained 22 lbs in four days, despite hardly eating.  This extra fluid sapped my stamina.  I managed to rinse off, then climb out of the shower, and lean on the counter for a few minutes, gasping for breath.  I settled down enough to walk back into my bedroom and collapse on the bed.  Another ten minutes, and I was able to pull on a pair of old sweatpant shorts and a t-shirt.  Rest.  Then I packed my laptop and phone, made sure I had my insurance card, and walked the 20 feet to my front door.  Rest.  I stepped gingerly outside, and leaned against the doorframe while I locked up.  Rest.  Walked ten feet to the stairs.  Rest.

Ever try to walk downstairs when you can’t put your feet near each other? It’s tricky.  I made it to the bottom, flushed and breathing hard.  Rest.  Then fifteen more feet to my truck.  I opened the door and climbed in, collapsed in, more accurately.  Anyway.  I called my dad to tell him we’d be forgoing Dr S’s office, and going straight to the hospital.

When he finally arrived, he was a bit taken aback, to be sure.  I’m sure I didn’t look good, and the whole “holy crap, if he falls, I’ll never catch his Hagrid-sized ass” thing didn’t help.  I managed to get into the back of his Honda Odyssey.  Sweet.  It was a cool morning, and we had the windows up.  I remember we made it about halfway to the hospital when I started smelling the gangrenous “weeping.” Yuck.  We waited awhile in the waiting room, then I got taken back to the ER proper.  The nurse was really cheery, despite my sad condition, and she drew blood, gave me an IV, and gave me the smock/gown thing to wear.  The ER doc came in, lifted up my gown, looked down, winced, and said, “You have something called Fournier’s Gangrene.  I need to call a urology surgeon.”

She went away.  My dad went outside to call my mom or go eat lunch or something, and I realized I was absolutely tripping balls (no pun intended).  The ceiling in St Anthony’s ER had those suspended panels that were white with little speckles in them.  I was seeing words flashing in the speckles, sort of like Russell Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.” They were making little nonsense sentences, which amused me to no end.  Dr D, the urologist, showed up, poked around, and told me we’d need to go to surgery ASAP.  I was amenable.  It seemed like a good idea, if only so this whole agonizing pain thing would stop.

Again, I was left alone, just tripping on the flashing word dots on the ceiling.  I got wheeled back to the pre-op area.  My mom–a nurse–had arrived and came back with me.  An anesthesiologist came by to check on me.  He checked my teeth, as if I were a racehorse, asked me some questions, then left.  The guy looked like he was 20.  Awhile later, another anesthesiologist came by, rechecked my teeth, asked me the same questions, then left.  I still don’t know which one knocked me out.

About every 15 minutes, there was a bird sound out in the hallway.  It was early on the quarters–it seemed to chirp at :55, :10, :25, and :40.  I never did find out what it meant.  Probably some sort of reminder tone for the docs and nurses.

My mom left, and I was left alone, benignly looking at my flashing word speckles again.  Strange how they followed me from the ER to pre-op.

Then it was show time.  A couple orderlies came in and wheeled me along the corridors.  We got into the OR.  They put a mask on me, and next thing I remember, somebody was telling me to cough.  I did, and they yanked a giant tube out of my throat.  Holy SHIT! That’s probably why I’d been having trouble breathing! I’d somehow ingested a plastic tube.

I ate some ice chips, then got wheeled into my new home in ICU.  It was a nice room, I suppose.  There was supposed to be a view, but it was behind me.  I was hooked up to a Dilaudid machine, where I could push the button and have a few drops of hydromorphone enter my bloodstream.  Suh-weet!

The urologist-surgeon guy came in after awhile, lifted up my gown and poked around at his work.  I asked him what was going on.  He told me they’d had to cut away about a quarter of my nardsack (note: he didn’t say nardsack, but I insisted on using that word, to my parents’ chagrin and embarrassment), and that I was on a cocktail of IV antibiotics to battle the infection that still raged.  “It’s a good thing you came in when you did.  If you’d waited another 24 hours, you probably wouldn’t have been saveable.” He turned to leave.  I pushed my Dilaudid button and said, “Light up a room and then leave,” but I don’t think he heard me.

(Tomorrow: How Nigel (who wasn’t real) got me through, and Abby (who IS real) got forgotten)

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Answering the immortal question…

Posted in Uncategorized on December 21, 2008 by tom

…What do you get when you mix a hip-hop remake of a bawdy 70's R&B song, anime, and twisted minds w/sick senses of humor?

Pedo-bear, ftw.

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Introspeconfession Meme

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on December 21, 2008 by tom

(I lifted this from Bold as Love.  I'm in a strangely pensive mood, so here goes)

TEN things you wish you could say to 10 people:

  1. Thank you for paying attention and working hard in medical school, being kind, and saving my life.
  2. Thank you for paying attention and working hard in nutbin school, being kind, and saving my life.
  3. Thanks for always being there.
  4. I'm grateful for all you've done for me and for who you are, but I'll never be able to be what you want me to be.
  5. You were never a radio guy in the first place.  You played politics and ruined a lot of people, but now you're running a used car lot, so kiss my scarred-up beanbag, you tight-assed twat-waffle.
  6. Breaking up with you the way I did was a huge mistake, and I'm sorry.  I hope you're happy.  You deserve it.
  7. Your friendship means the world to me.  It gets me through some tough days.  But don't even kid about us being together someday.  It would be a mistake.
  8. I love you guys, but there are times I really need to be alone.  It doesn't mean I've relapsed or I'm suicidal–I can only handle being around people so much.
  9. Going to church regularly doesn't mean somebody is a good person; never going to church doesn't mean somebody is a bad person.  You can show up at a restaurant regularly too, but it doesn't mean you eat.
  10. I think you are beautiful, inside and out, and you are one of my favorite carbon-based life forms on Earth.

NINE things about yourself.  

  1. I can nearly always charm people–make them laugh and feel at ease–even though I may be grinding my teeth while doing so.
  2. If my life had taken a slight turn one way or another, I easily could've been a surgeon or a crackhead, with equal aplomb. 
  3. I don't have a lot of friends.  I really don't feel compelled to cultivate friendships just to stave off loneliness, to which I'm generally immune.
  4. I feel like my brain runs way too fast for my own good.  Especially if I'm off my meds. 
  5. My interweb friends are as real to me as are my real life friends, sometimes moreso.
  6. I don't fear death anymore.  To me, that frees me up to live.
  7. I've never been one to have my spirits crash or soar depending on a sports team's performance.  (Two soars: watching Carlton Fisk's homerun in the '75 World Series, and when the Bucs beat the crap out of the Raiders in the Super Bowl; one crash: when NC State beat Houston at the buzzer in the NCAA Tournament)
  8. In the words of Raymond Babbit, "I'm a very good driver."
  9. When I was 17, I couldn't wait to get the hell out of Florida.  Now, I'd be perfectly happy staying here the rest of my life.

EIGHT ways to win your heart.

(i think 'winning your heart' is quite broad. I think we all share our hearts with our friends, family AND partners. so i'm renaming this a piece of my heart.)

EIGHT ways to win your a piece of your heart.

  1. Be your own person, without trying to impress me.
  2. Don't flatter me–I wouldn't believe you anyway.
  3. Don't be fake–if I see you being fake to other people, I'll suspect you're being fake to me as well.
  4. Be happy with yourself as you are: if you don't have naturally occurring 2 inch orange fiberglass fingernails, for God's sake don't pay to have somebody glue them on for you.
  5. Be interesting, but realize that being interesting means being real, not trying to impress me or say things I'd say.
  6. Judge not, lest ye be judged, as they say.  In other words, don't just bitch about others.
  7. Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are" adroitly sums it up for me.
  8. If you are mean to my cats or my friends, you will be willed to the cornfield.

SEVEN things that cross your mind a lot.

  1. Jayzus, is THIS the biggest thing this person really has to worry about?
  2. When is payday?
  3. Is 2008 over yet?
  4. Holy crap, is 2008 really almost over already?
  5. This absolutely sucks, but compared to being unemployed/hospitalized/starving/in the Abyss, I'm doing just fine.
  6. Yeah, THAT looks natural.
  7. Can I go home now?

SIX things you do before you fall asleep.

  1. go to the bathroom
  2. Add water to my CPAP machine.
  3. Select 15 minutes or so of music.
  4. Turn out all the lights.
  5. Be thankful
  6. Invite Ana-Sofia Vargas to join me in bed.

FIVE people who mean a lot at the moment.

(what does this mean at the moment?)

FIVE people who mean a lot

  1. C
  2. K
  3. Ann Marie
  4. My parents
  5. Little brother

FOUR things you see right now:

  1. Power Book
  2. Glasses case
  3. Bottle of water
  4. Ana-Sofia Vargas with my rapidly being-devoured copy of the spectacular new Laurie Channer novel, "Godblog," available for Christmas delivery from Amazon.com

THREE bands/singers that you listen to often:

  1. Bruce Cockburn
  2. China Crisis
  3. Marillion

TWO things you want to do before you die:

  1. Find another place where I can use my brain ninja skills
  2. Live happily

ONE confession

I sometimes think I'm missing some gene or synaptical junction that keeps me from needing other people as much as I feel like I should, that I'm too content being alone.

(sorry to be so maudlin, but I figure it balances out the "You Can't Say C**t in Canada" video on my previous post)

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Rated N: Not suitable for anyone to listen to

Posted in Uncategorized on December 20, 2008 by tom

Okay, I'm getting to the end of my garland, X-mas wise, and I was looking for one of my favorite X-mas songs.  There's "White Christmas," "Silver Bells," and my choice, "Ho, Ho, Fucking Ho."  So I figured, hey! I would find this song, which contains the classic yuletide sentiment, "Stick your Christmas up your arse, ho ho fucking ho." Then…well, as I was researching the works of master poet, Kevin Bloody Wilson, one of Australia's greatest natural resources (along with bauxite, hot women who star as Americans on TV, and platypuses), I stumbled upon this paean to my dear friends, the Canadians.  It seems…well, there's one word you're not supposed to say in Canada, because it's…well.  I'll let him tell the tale.  This song is now going through my head repeatedly.  Listen, enjoy, and sing along tomorrow.  (just do so discreetly, and for the love of Pete, if you're easily offended, you might want to forgo this one)

Happy Weekend! (And thanks, Australia)

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