Archive for the Fun with Fournier’s Category

The Brighter Side of Almost Dying (part 3)

Posted in Fun with Fournier's on May 9, 2010 by tom

One of the interesting phenomena of being hospitalized at length is the hospital visitor.  Between St. Anthony’s and Kindred, I was in the hospital for exactly five weeks, from Friday December 21, 2007, to Thursday January 24, 2008. For many people, the most difficult thing about being in the hospital is…

Wait.  I don’t really like the word “hospital.” The Germans, bless them, have superior verbiage for many things, and the place where sick people are warehoused is just one of them: Krankenhaus.  It’s like “rattlesnake.”  What’s a rattle? A baby’s toy.  In German, we have “Klapperschlange.”  Fantastic! It sounds deadly and scary.

So anyway, when most people are in the Krankenhaus, in addition to the pain and illness (and non-good food), they suffer from loneliness. The loneliness didn’t get to me for two reasons.  First, I’m sort of like Scrooge, in that I’m, “Secretive, self-contained, and solitary as an oyster.” The second reason is that I was blessed with a good number of regular visitors.  My parents live an hour away, and they came to see me most days.  Carrie lives here in St. Petersburg, and she came to see me most days. The others were a ragtag lot, a combination of friends from AA and radio, even family friends who came more to see my parents than to see me.

Okay, that last group sounds dodgy, but one of them brought me some beautiful flowers, and the other brought two twelve-packs of Diet Sunkist Orange Soda, so I can forgive them.

One of my visitors my first week, my ICU week, was Abby.  I have an annoying-to-some habit of issuing nicknames to people to delineate them from others with the same name.  For example, I have about a million Jennifers in my vortex.  To me, it’s only natural to have Jenn the Lesbian, Jenn the Dame (who resembles a 1940’s film actress), and Jenn my Twin (I was closer to Jenn than her twin sister, Jo).

Even though I have no other Abbies in my life (of any spelling), this Abby was “Little Orphan Abby.” Basically, she’s the little sister I never had.  Abby worked at WSJT when I was there.  She put herself through college, and asked me to perform her marriage ceremony.  I did.  Then I checked into the nutbin for a month.

Anyway, Abby is family now.  She and her husband, Bryan, join my parents for Thanksgiving every year.  Like I said, I consider her to be my sister.  And she’d sprained her ankle in December 2007, but she managed to crutch her way all the way through St. Anthony’s Krankenhaus to ICU, where she spent a lovely 90 minutes visiting me.

And I didn’t remember her being there.  The next week, I gave her shit for not visiting me, and she exploded.  Oh, well.  We laugh about it now. (I laughed about it then, but remember that I had the Dilaudid pump)

One Krankenhaus phenomenon is that everything you do–input and output–is measured and recorded.  If I didn’t eat my obligatory morning oatmeal, somebody made a note.  Every time they emptied my catheter bag, the nurse measured and recorded the quality and quantity of my urine.

And there was a lot of it.  I had nothing else to do, so I drank an awful lot of sodas people brought me: DIet Pepsi (my parents), Diet Mountain Dew (Carrie), and Diet Sunkist (my mom’s friend Mary).  Being catheterized is a wonderful thing if you’re chugging huge amounts of soda.  Keep in mind, I’d gained 24 lbs in the four days before I entered the Krankenhaus–all of it water my down-shutting kidneys didn’t process–and the pill lady brought me Lasix a couple times a day.

Between the huge amounts of fluids and the diuretic, I was a peeing machine.  I think I set a record at some point, although the Guiness people never showed up to confirm my feat.

I was assured, though, that I set another record.

My first few days in the Krankenhaus, I didn’t…well, I just didn’t go number two.  I hadn’t really eaten, and Lord knows I was taking lots of constipating narcotics, so this was one process I didn’t need.  The doctors had some sort of conference, and decided that the world would be a better placer if I “moved my bowels.” Accordingly, they slipped a double-secret pill into my evening cup o’ meds.

My nurse that night was Joanne, a lovely French-Canadian woman with an awesome personality. Despite my rather un-suave circumstance, I found myself flirting with Nurse Joanne.  She had a great laugh.  I remember that.  My brother Marky called that night, and I was chatting with him, hydromorphone-giddy and happy to be alive.  Suddenly, a great, thundering rumble of borborygmus shook my bed and caused plaster to fall from the ceiling.  Or so it seemed. I told my brother I’d call him back, and started pounding on the call button.  Joanne came in, and I immediately requested “the litter box,” as we euphemistically called it.  After what seemed like an hour, I pushed the button again, then called my brother back.  Nurse Joanne returned, and we began anew our flirting.  My brother told me I was shameless, and was talking about football or something, when Joanne exclaimed, “Mon DIEU! That has to be the biggest bowel movement in the history of the world!”

(sfx: wilting)

My brother laughed himself incontinent, and I just started mashing my Dilaudid button in self-defense.

The good thing is that both illness and pain meds allowed me to forget this incident. The dark cloud of this silver lining is that my brother was neither ill nor on narcotics.  A couple nights later, we were talking, and he asked if I’d broken my world record.  I asked what he meant, and he imitated Joanne’s sense of alarmed wonder perfectly: “MON DIEU!”

Damn.

Puddin (aka, “Michelle”) came to see me in St. Anthony’s one night.  She got very lost en route–indeed, St. Anthony is the patron saint of lost things, and Michelle’s ass was definitely, and ironically lost. While she was lost, we were talking on the phone, with me trying to give her directions.  Yeah, like I had any idea where I was–I was seeing glowing words on the damn ceiling tiles and gaining reassurance from Nigel, my middle fingernail–but I did my best.  Finally, Michelle not only found St. Anthony’s, but queased her way through to ICU.

Two things I should mention.  First, Michelle hates hospitals under the best of circumstances.  Second, ICU is not full of cute healthy babies or puppies.  The people in the other ICU rooms probably had missing limbs, or ventilators, or they were just a head in a jar, or a giant tank of mixed viscera into which the nurses dumped medicines or MSG.

So I invented the verb “quease” advisedly to describe Michelle’s walk through the fires of hell halls of St. Anthony’s.  As she was queasing along the hallway, my Jamaican nurses came in to tell me I was being moved.  I had my computer and my phone already in my bed with me.  The nurses took my fan and Christmas tree, and piled them on top of me, then bade me farewell and left me in the hands of two orderlies.  We shall call them Dumb and Dumber.

That might not be fair–maybe they weren’t dumb.  However, at this point in my life, I was not a keg of beer.

Once again, I mention that I am Hagridian in size, and I had an appropriately Hagridian bed.  This is the only bed I’ve ever slept in where my feet didn’t dangle off the end.  I liked this bed.  D&D, however, had some problems with it. We hadn’t even made it out of the room, when BAM! They rammed the bed into the door jamb.  BAM! They hit the nurses’ station.  Apparently, I made quite a comical face when they BAM!’d me, because Michelle was laughing at me.  I waved goodbye to my BAMFLINCH nurses, as we hit a pothole.  Seriously? A pothole in the ICU corridor? Yup.

Michelle came over and kissed my forehead, then lifted the fan off of my lap. Narrow doorway…BAM!

The journey’s slapstick pinnacle had to be when they tried to maneuver me into the elevator. The problem is, the bed was, say, x inches wide.  The opening to the elevator was x-1 inches wide.  BAM to the left; BAM to the right; BAM to the left; BAM to the right.  I flashed back to slamdancing in a college punk club.

Finally, Michelle was blushing and giggling, and I sort of snapped: “WE NEED A DIFFERENT ELEVATOR!”

“Oh.  Yeah.  We should try the other one.”

Grr.

One last exuberant BAM against the wall, and we were off to the other elevator which–shockingly–was designed to carry beds and things.

Michelle didn’t stay too long that night.  Quite honestly, she couldn’t stop laughing.  Plus she was queasy, and she was afraid that suppressing her laughter would make her puke.  She asked me if the BAM!s had hurt.  I explained that yes, I had an open wound where half my nardsack had been cut off, and that yes, the BAM! pain factor was pretty high.

Thankfully, so was I, so I managed not to explode.

Michelle never came back to the hospital to visit.  After the Keystone Kops orderlies, I didn’t blame her a bit.  I didn’t really want to come back either.

But I was alive, and I was slowly and painfully healing, and I was grateful enough for that.

Plus, my place in human digestive history was now secure.

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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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