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  • Lime in the Coconut
    Phil's Gall-tastic Adventure Part 1

    Someone's got it in for me,
    they're planting stories in the press
    Whoever it is I wish they'd cut it out
    but when they will I can only guess.

    Oh what strange twists and turns my life has taken this month... For those of you who haven't heard through the grapevine, I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago because my gallbladder needed to be taken out. If not for my gallbladder, you'd probably be reading a "What I learned on my trip to N'Oleans (New Orleans)" commentary instead of what you're reading right now.

    I guess I'll start at the beginning because I hear its a good place to start... I used to get these abdominal pains. Excruciating pain in my upper right abdomen. Usually I would get it for a few hours and it would go away. No big deal. Except on September 7th, I got the pain... but it didn't go away.

    Long story short, I went to the ER, wasted pretty much the entire day (I was supposed to go to the SPXPO in Bethesda, MD but couldn't go because of the pain), the doctors couldn't find anything wrong with me and sent me home with nothing to show for my trip except a prescription for pain medication and a huge bruise on my right forearm.

    Fast forward to Monday, I had taken the day off because I was supposed to play chauffeur to my grandma that day. I was feeling better but I was running a fever, 102 to be exact. So no chauffeuring.

    They tell me that no one has a fever for no reason so late Monday night, I'm off to the ER again. This time a different ER.

    Who here has been to an ER before? Well if you haven't I'll let you in on a little secret. There's a lot of waiting involved. I mean a lot. Unless you're dying or in danger of dying, don't expect to see a doctor for at least a couple of hours.

    Where was I? Oh yeah, the ER. Apparently, I wasn't good enough to be placed in a room. The nurse led me to a stretcher... in the middle of a hallway.

    Now, at this point I've already seen two separate doctors who's best diagnosis of my problem was "There's something wrong but I don't know what exactly." After an hour and a half in the ER, two more doctors give me the same diagnosis. This, of course, gives me a strange sense of uneasiness... I mean 4 doctors? Its not like I have some alien physiology or something. Last time I checked, I was human.

    Not content on letting me go with a 102 fever, they want to run some standard tests before they discharge me. So they get a blood sample, a urine sample and take some x-rays of my abdomen. Then I wait.

    And wait.

    And wait some more.

    I feel like I'm in a crossover episode of 24 and ER because I haven't slept in nearly 20 hours and well, I'm waiting in an ER. But if someone wrote an episode of prime time tv about this, I'd bet the ratings would be worse than an episode of Charmed because I'm already bored out of my mind.

    Sometime later, my doctor passes by me. I expect him to say, "You're fine Phil! Now go home you magnificent bastard!" Instead, he says something like, "Your white cell count came back a little high in your blood sample so we're going to keep you for what feels like forever so we can run some more tests on you."

    I later find out that they want to do a CAT scan (or CT scan as they now call it). I'm told that in order to get a good scan one has to ingest some type of chemical compound. And lots of it. The nurse hands me a bottle that looks like a 40 except it's filled with a milky white pasty liquid. At this point, my stomach has been empty for about 10 hours so I drink about half a bottle and its not bad... then my taste buds kick in for the second half and tell me just how disgusting the substance I'm drinking is. But like a good patient, I finish the bottle.

    About a half-hour later, the nurse comes by to collect the empty bottle and gives me another bottle of the same substance to drink. It takes me a little longer to get this one down (since I know what it tastes like now) but I manage to get it all down without vomiting.

    Yet another half-hour passes and the nurse comes by again. As she collects the second empty bottle, I ask her, "How much of this stuff do I have to drink?"

    She replies, "Well, we're supposed to give you three bottles but nobody has ever finished 2 whole bottles. So if they ask you if you had three bottles, you tell them yes."

    "Yes, ma'am."

    Remember how I said going to the ER involves a lot of waiting? Well the staff doesn't wait for you because as I lie there waiting to get at CAT scan, I witness a shift change. A female doctor introduces herself to me and says she's taking care of me for this new shift and of course I promptly forget her name because this is the first and last time I see her.

    Now, here's one of the very few cool things that I witnessed while laid out on the stretcher. This new shift? One of the male nurses looks and sounds exactly like... Vin Diesel. Swear to God. He could have been Vin Diesel's twin, except I imagine Vin Diesel to be taller than this guy was. The Vin Diesel twin amuses me for a good 15 minutes then I go back to waiting for my CAT scan.

    Eventually, I get tired of just waiting and I make sure this new shift hasn't forgotten about my CAT scan. Luckily, they haven't forgotten. Unluckily, they're just really backed up. At 7:45 AM, I'm told that I was scheduled for 7:30 but since they're backed up they can't give me a definate time. "But definately before 9:00 AM, " I'm told.

    At exactly 8:57 AM someone rolls up with a wheelchair to take me to get my CAT scan.

    One of the things about being in the hospital is, if you're being treated, they wheel you around everywhere. My x-ray? Down the hall about 30 feet. I get a wheelchair.

    CAT scan? Up three floors and in another building. I get a wheelchair.

    A guy could get used to this kind of treatment.

    Before performing the CAT scan they (predictibly) ask me if I drank three of those bottles. Like a good boy I say, "Of course," and pray that the scan isn't effected by skipping that third bottle. I also pray that I'll get out of the hospital before lunch time.

    Luckily, everything seems to go off without a hitch and they wheel me back to the hall of the ER.

    More waiting.

    As I lie there, two doctors walk up to me and introduce themselves. They give me the bad news that my gallbladder needs to be taken out. Any dream I had of actually getting discharged went out the window at exactly that moment. I go through the motions with these doctors, telling them where the pain was, why I was there, etc. At this point, my descriptions have become something like a pitch. The words roll off my tounge like an experienced salesman giving the hard sell.

    After taking notes, the doctors upgrade me from the hallway into one of the examination rooms. I remember thinking, "Yay! A room! TV! Now I won't die of boredom!"

    The dual doctors start asking me some standard questions... then the one asks me, "Have you had a rectal exam?"

    "Excuse me?"

    They tell me a rectal exam is the best way to check for blah, blah, blah. I don't exactly remember what they were checking for, all I remember is thinking how much I didn't want a guy's finger up my ass.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not that big of a homophobe. Its just if someone's finger is going to be up my ass, I'd prefer it to be a member of the opposite sex. That's just the way I am.

    Some more questions later, they wheel me back out to my hallway my hopes for a less boring hospital stay slip away. (At least they had the decency to give me a little privacy for my rectal exam.) Before the doctor duo leaves, they tell me that I'm going to have an ultrasound because it's really "the best way to examine the gallbladder."

    Yay, more tests and more waiting.

    Later, a doctor in scrubs stops by my stretcher. He says, "I'm Dr. Callback (I would later find out its spelled "Kaulback") we're going to be taking out your gallbladder." And that's the last I saw of Dr. Kaulback that day... or at least of what I remember.

    Now, There's something inherently sexual about getting an ultrasound. I mean, someone rubs a gel over your stomach and presses a strangely phallic symbol to it? C'mon now.

    As luck would have it, the technician administering my ultrasound was female. Not really a big deal... but having two quasi-homoerotic medical tests done and learning that one of my organs had to be removed would've been a little much for one day.

    After having the most interesting conversation I've had since I've been in the hospital with the technician, she leaves without giving me any word that I can get dressed. I half wonder if the getting dressed part is implied but I decide its best to stay put. Lying there with my stomach exposed and covered with a cold gel, I begin to wonder if I've been a victim of some sort of bizarre fraternity prank.

    A few minutes later, the technician returns with two other people who want a look at the inside of my gallbladder. I must be some sort of abberation because as soon as they leave, two more doctors come in to take a look at my ultrasound. Finally they get their fill and I wipe my stomach down and get wheeled into what I mistakenly read as "Impatient waiting area." (Its actually INpatient waiting area.)

    Back in the ER, its getting busier and busier. Some guy is using my stretcher to refill the boxes of disposable gloves on the wall. He thought I had been discharged (ha! not a chance in hell, my friend) he apologizes and cleans off my stretcher. All my tests are done and I wait to be brought into surgery.

    In the eternity that it took for me to get into surgery, more doctors visit me. Some familiar, some not. They get me to sign a release for my surgical procedure. They explain the procedures and the complications that might arise... like I really want to hear that I might die from the procedure. But I guess for legal reasons they have to tell me.

    They serve the rest of the patients dinner now. But I'm not supposed to eat because I'm going into surgery. My stomach growls in protest and I lie back and try not to smell what they're serving for dinner.

    As I lie there waiting, I my mind begins to wander. I wonder what it will be like to be in surgery. Will I wake up in the middle of the procedure? Will I feel anything? Will I have any scars? (I hope so, because scars are bad ass.)

    What's worse than waiting in an ER so long that you witness a shift change? Answer: Waiting in the ER so long you witness a second shift change... and adding insult to injury, the shift that's coming in is the same shift that was there when you first came in.

    Approximatly 21 hours after I first entered the ER, my nurse taps me on the foot to tell me they're ready to take me into surgery.

    I get into a hospital gown and my various belongings are shoved into a plastic bag with my name on it. I get wheeled into a room (this time on a stretcher) where they prep me for the anasthetic.

    From there I get wheeled into yet another room. I can't tell what they're doing to me but I think they're attaching monitors to me to montior my heart rate, etc. While they do that, they explain to me one final time that Dr. Kaulback will be removing my gallbladder.

    I say to one of the masked faces, "Dr. Kaulback is such a cool name..."

    And that's the last thing I remember before my surgery.

    To Be Continued... (P.S. Cheese points for anyone who can tell me where I got the name of this commentary from...)

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