THREE DAYS AND TWO NIGHTSby
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CHAPTER 3: HOW IT BEGAN
The pain began Thursday, April 15, 2021. As soon as I woke up. My stomach was hurting, right in the middle; a pins-and-needles sort of thing. I didn't think it was a big deal. After my coffee, and morning bowel movement that follows, I figured I would be ok. Plus, this was not just another day. This was a Big Day. My daughter, Clementine, was scheduled to have oral surgery. She had a bad tooth -- just a baby one, thank the God! -- that had been giving her trouble since September. After a couple treatments and some antibiotics, it had only gotten worse. So today we were using the nuclear option and having an oral surgeon remove the tooth and clean an abscess that had developed. Our appointment was at 8:40 a.m., and it went smoothly.
By the time we got home, at around 11 a.m., things had gotten worse for me. I had had the coffee, and the bowel movement, yet felt no relief. In fact, I felt worse. The pins and needles in my belly were stronger now, burning; radiating from under my belly button. And I had some nausea now, too. I was starting to worry. Did I get poisoned by Tim Horton's? The coffee they gave me earlier had tasted off. (But, well, it was a Tim's. Not that strange, right?) I just drank it down at that time because it was all I had. If I had thrown it out, I would have had to wait another couple hours to make one more to my taste, at home. And Matt needs his morning coffee to function.
I was hoping my pain and nausea would just go away as the tainted coffee made its way through my system. So I went and laid in our queen-sized bed. It was up to my hard working wife, Beth, to deal with Clem and any after-surgery care she needed. (Seems like it is always up to poor Beth, to pick up the slack. Thank you, Beth. And I really mean it. I love you.) I was in too much pain to sleep, but I did find if I kind of laid on my side, and twisted my torso in just the right way, there was... well, less pain. And with the lights out, my body contorted to minimize pain, and a puke bucket at-the-ready (an empty plastic pretzel container), I just lay in bed. Hoping it would pass. But it didn't.
If I had to rate my pain level at this point, which I was asked about many times later, I would have given it a 4 out of 10. Here is how my pain scale works. A 10 is so much pain that you have no control over yourself, because the pain overwhelms you. You might shout, swing your arms, slap your own face, who knows? You are out of control, driven by pain. Child birth, which I have obviously never experienced, I peg at an 8 or 9. Because I can imagine it. My wife went through it, naturally, with Clemmie. I was there. She definitely made some sounds that were beyond her control. Moans and animal grunts. At the other end of the scale, 0, is no pain whatsoever. And 1 is small, manageable pain, that is there, but you can ignore. This is my scale, and my numbers. No one in the hospital later asked me to qualify my rating system; they just asked me how I would rate my pain. And at this point, twisted up in bed, I would say my pain level was a 4. I was not moaning. I was quiet. But I was in too much pain to sleep. It was interrupting my thoughts. Plus there was the nausea.
At some point, over the course of an hour or so, it got one degree worse. And my pain started shifting more to the right side of my abdomen and felt less like pins and needles and more like a dull pressure. Now my pain was a 5. At no point did my pain ever get worse than this, even when I was in the hospital later that day. Also, I was now in real danger of puking. I sat up at one point (ouch!) and put the bucket under my mouth, because I could feel my saliva collecting and my stomach getting ready to wretch... but it was a false alarm. If I had to rate my nausea level, when I almost puked, I will call that a 5, too. Actually puking I would rate at least a 6. But that never happened.
I don't know what Beth and Clemmie were doing during this time. I was focused on just getting by, minute to minute, and wanting whatever was happening to stop or at least diminish. I also had another new, nagging thought that was growing: I am going to need to go to the hospital. And worse: I am going to be going to the hospital during this stupid lockdown. It is going to be horrible. COVID makes everything so. much. harder. Fack!
During a pandemic, the last place I want to be is in a hospital. We take this shite seriously. I hardly leave our condo unit. For anything. Even before this latest, stupid, mismanaged lockdown. Beth and I chose not to send our only kid, 10-year-old Clementine, now with one tooth less, back to school last September, when they lifted the lockdown. We chose remote learning. In person was too much risk, for us. I have been staying at home, watching over her, and working a part-time job, which I can do remotely. And since this whole COVID thing started, Clem and I have been going out rarely. Only for essentials. My poor wife, a teacher, was forced to put herself (and thereby our family) at risk starting last September, which is outrageous to me. Imagine: we won't risk our own child going to school in person because, hello!, there is a pandemic going on, and yet my wife doesn't have that option. Two clowns with zero brains, Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce, decide it is worth the risk, and send teachers and students back, rubbing elbows and breathing on each other? During a pandemic. What a couple of douche bags. What if Beth got COVID? And then Clem and I, hiding at home, trying to stay safe, got COVID?
¡Incoming Rant! Doug Ford and Stephen Lecce are complete and utter douche bag morons. Just look at how things have gone here in Toronto. And Canada, for that matter. It has been over a year now. We can compare our approach here in Canada, to other countries, and cities. And we have done crap. Before the vaccine rollout, compared to the United States, we looked pretty good. But everyone looks good compared to the States! (In every way, almost. That place just south of us is cray cray.) But it is Australia, New Zealand, Iceland, South Korea, and a few others -- countries that took this thing seriously, and did a real lockdown, or put proper tracking and controls in place -- those are the countries that are winning this thing. Here in Canada we have blown it with half-measures and zigzags. And ultimately, hurt our economy. And ultimately, KILLED A BUNCH OF CANADIANS! And it is cliché, but it is so true: there are real people behind the numbers. And it pisses me off that my wife has been put at risk since September because the wrong people are steering the ship. "Iceberg, dead ahead, Captain Ford! What do we do?" "Um, you know what I know. I want to be fully transparent here. Let's, er, bury our heads in the sand, and everybody cross your fingers. Maybe we can just ignore it, and most of us will be ok. Ok?" The dude is a total half measure-taking moron. Cute and cuddly looking, like a big, blonde teddy bear, yes, but my God he is dangerous. ¡Rant over!
Anyway, COVID is a big concern of mine, and the last place I wanted to go was a hospital. But contorted in my bed, in pain, with a puke bucket lying beside me, it was becoming obvious that might be where I was headed, like it or not. But unlike most people, I had an ace up my sleeve. You see, I have a lifeline for situations exactly like this. It turns out I can use the "Phone a Friend" option, like on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. It so happens I am close personal friends with exactly who you would want to be friends with if you were in bed, feeling totally crap, contemplating going to the ER. I had my wife make a call to another one of the heroes of this story: my Nurse Friend Heather.
Nurse Friend Heather works in an ICU in downtown Toronto. She has been a nurse for over a decade. Like many nurses, she found her calling; it is not just a job to her. I have known her a long time. She was like a nurse before she got the title. She is science-minded and curious about how things work. I went to the University of Toronto with her, way back in the 1990s, and I remember her talking about how incredibly interesting her Parasitology class was. She had one professor who deliberately made himself host to a tape worm, to see the effects firsthand. From what I remember, sometimes his little friend would pop out of his ass when he was using the toilet, but to him, it was all good. And he lost weight! Heather loves stories like that, and so do I, to be honest. (Have you heard about the fish parasite that literally kills off and then replaces the tongue of its fish-host? As in, the creepy bugger becomes its new tongue? That is the Cymothoa exigua, or the tongue-eating louse, and it is worth a google!)
Beth hands me the phone, and I launch into my situation with Nurse Friend Heather. I describe the symptoms, and she asks a few questions, and very quickly says: "This sounds like appendicitis." I am no doctor, or nurse, but my appendix had been on my mind. That, and my gall bladder, and the possibility of having an ulcer, and the idea of being poisoned by a Dark Roast Coffee from a Tim Horton's store near Yonge and St. Clair. These other options, though, are not percolating in Nurse Friend Heather's mind. In her mind, based on my symptoms, my appendix is the likely villain. And she tells me if I suffer a burst appendix, well... wait for it... it can kill me! So, at the prompting of Nurse Friend Heather, my decision is made for me: I have to go to the ER. Fack.
If this were all Nurse Friend Heather did in this story, she would already be a hero. But I am really good friends with her. And she plays a huge role throughout this story. She was like my guardian angel, always just a text or phone call away. The whole time. So let me say right here, for everyone to see: Thank You, Nurse Friend Heather. You are a great friend and a great nurse and I really, really appreciate our friendship, and your medical mind.
Nurse Friend Heather now told me to not just go to any ER, but to choose one of the downtown ones, on University Avenue, where there will be a cluster of options, in case one ER is too full. She says they are all world class, but she would start with Mount Sinai. This last recommendation proved to be priceless.
So I was going to go to Mount Sinai. The thought was unappealing: no bed, bright lights, being on my own (thanks COVID!) and undoubtedly many hours in a waiting room when I felt absolutely horrible. I wanted a bed, dark lights, a puke bucket, and to be waited on hand and foot, by my poor, long-suffering wife. But this had to be done. Beth would drive me there, and drop me off, and I would forge ahead, alone. But to get there, we needed someone to come watch Clem. She only just had oral surgery, and we didn't want to sacrifice her comfort or jeopardize her recovery. Here, another hero was called upon.
I am a private person, and an introvert. I don't have hundreds of friends on Facebook. But I have a small, close network of friends and family. In real life. (Fuck Facebook, by the way. And Mark Zuckerberg, you are a cyborg clown.) When needed, I am not afraid to call on my friends and fam, and they know they can count on me, too. That said, the person I count on the most, without a doubt, is my big brother, Chris. So I made the call to Chris, and explained Beth was taking me to the ER, and we needed someone to come watch over Clem, who only just had surgery. (An aside: This would be the first time, in over a year, someone outside The Triangle of Power -- that is Beth, Clem, and Myself -- would enter our condo unit. But desperate times called for desperate measures.)
Big Brother Chris is a big, gruff, bear of a man, like myself. He is solid, physically, and solid metaphorically. Someone you can count on. Big Brother Chris lives about 15 minutes away from us. And he showed up, at our door, not more than 15 minutes after hearing my cry for help.
So, with that in mind, I want to say: I love you, Chris. I don't say this often, to my strong, level-headed, bear of a brother. And typing it out like this, I literally think may be the first time I have said it. Properly, anyway. But he should hear it and not just think it is likely the case. Words are important; I tell Clem that all the time. So Chris should hear it, from me, and now he will: I love you, Chris. From the bottom of my heart. I love you. And I thank you for being the go-to guy, time and time again, for me and my small family, whenever we are backed into a corner, and need someone to help.
Chris came in, I said goodbye to him and my little Clem, and Beth and I got in the car, and headed for Mount Sinai Hospital, in downtown Toronto.
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