My gut feels odd. Just a little ping here and there, but it gives me pause. Oh well, best not to think about it.
My childhood friend Chips and I are in her car. We are leaving for Palm Springs for our annual vacation with five of our other childhood friends. We all gather some place once a year.
Day One: I have the pings. Then after I eat a meal, I feel strangely too full.
Day Two: I don’t eat. I have gripping pains in my gut and snorting, stinking roiling gas. I sound like a tuba.
“Don’t worry,” I tell my concerned friends, “I just ate too much raw food for a few days before I left home and raw blended stuff. It’s good for you, you know…but, I think maybe not for me.”
Day Three: I think I may die. I’m nauseous. I can hardly stand up.
When my eyes start rolling around in a restaurant, the girls insist I go to Emergency.
I have a phobia about doctors and diseases. I tell my friends I would rather die than go to Emergency at the hospital.
My friends think I may be close to death. They’re alarmed, and cart me off to the hospital.
Chips stays with me from 9 PM until after 3 AM. We sit in the waiting room. I have a blue plastic barf bag.
I moan. I cry. I’m cold. The metal chairs are cold. I’m ready to vomit or faint and maybe both at the same time.
Chips keeps patting my arm. “You’ll be OK. You’ll be OK.”
Pat, pat, pat.
Finally I turn to her and snort, “Stop touching me! Stop talking to me! It just makes me worse.”
Chips gives a little squeak. Later she will tell our friends how startled and offended she is and they will all laugh uproariously, but only because I live.
The various emergency personnel think I may be having a “heart attack…or a strangled gut that will necessitate an instant operation” to save me. Or, a mysterious blockage or a tumor in my gut.
I don’t care. I feel too sick to care.
We sit and sit in the icy waiting room. I get an EKG. Sit in the waiting room.
Pee in a bottle. Chips says my pee is the palest of all the bottles of pee on the table in the hall.
We sit in the packed waiting room. Chat with personnel about my symptoms. Sit in the waiting room. Walk unsteadily down a long, dreary hall for X-rays.
Late into the night an ambulance pulls up to the front door of the emergency waiting room and four paramedics hop out. They bustle in an out of the ambulance and then trot in with a very bloated old man on a stretcher. The man has little pointy gray whiskers growing right up to his eyes.
They unhook him from all his tubes and wiring. Then they haul him off of the gurney and prop him up in a metal chair in the room with the rest of us hollow-eyed folk.
“My god,” Chips says, “this is incredible.”
“If I could just lie down,” I whimper, “I would feel better.”
The middle-aged lady who sits across from us is moaning and clutching and clawing at her chest. She has been doing this for four hours!
I wish I felt better. I could enjoy this more. I am trying. I am practicing having “an adventure.”
It’s a bit hard to have the Adventurous Spirit considering my phobias: Disease and doctors. I have been dumped right into the playing grounds. Even at this moment I can see the humor in this.
Here I am in the lion’s den; left to suffer all night and into the dawn. Left to consider a heart attack or a sudden major operation for a ghastly disease. I have the opportunity to obsess for hours.
Oddly, I don’t. Oddly, I am perfectly at peace with my situation. Whatever will be, will be.
Nine hours later, by the time I am finally called in for a diagnosis, I don’t really care what happens.
Chips does. She wants to go home.
I’m led into a room and the woman says, “Don’t sit down. You won’t be here long. You have severe constipation.”
I start laughing. What? Not a heart attack? No strangulated gut or suspicious bowel obstruction? It’s not cancer? It’s severe constipation?! I am delighted.
It’s 3:30 AM and I am only constipated. Lucky me.
The sun will be up in a few hours and it’ll be a good day. Every day can be a good day, I’m thinking. It’s just how we choose to see it.
Sometimes it takes severe constipation and a cold night in hell to refresh our thinking.