We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you the backstory of the emergency appendectomy, along with this update: I’m doing fine. Thanks to everyone who’s written to me with get-well wishes; they seem to be working.
There was no drama leading up to the surgery itself. On the contrary, I was in very little pain and had no other symptoms: no nausea, no fever, no nothing. Perhaps, I thought, I have a high pain threshold (I once played the final five minutes of a hockey game with two broken fingertips), but, as I learned when my dressing was changed on Saturday and when my Jackson-Pratt drain was removed on Tuesday, my pain threshold isn’t all that high. Anyway, it wasn’t as if I was wheeled frantically into an operating room while I writhed on a stretcher in mortal agony.
Instead, all the drama—and all the scariness—of the episode unfolded in retrospect. For the important thing about last Thursday was this: I was supposed to meet about fifteen of New York City’s finest bloggers for dinner and drinks at seven that night. The May meeting of the MLA Executive Council took place last Friday and Saturday, and a couple of bloggers—chiefly Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged and Seth the mysterious Talking Dog—got in touch with me to set this thing up. For weeks, I was eagerly looking forward to it. (I also had fun plans for Saturday afternoon and evening as well.) I even got all my suits dry-cleaned for the occasion; I was going to pick them up at 11, drive to Harrisburg to catch the 1 pm train, and be in Penn Station by 4:30. And then off to Chelsea for some fine food and absinthe with bloggers I admire and have long wanted to meet! What’s better than that?
My first sense that anything was wrong came on Wednesday afternoon, in the form of what felt like a little indigestion. It was so mild, however, that it did not stop me from doing my full-dress two-hour workout that afternoon—a workout that begins with three sets of 390-pound leg presses (I have a T. Rex body, if you must know, unlike all the other guys in the gym, who have frog bodies). Obviously, if I knew that my appendix was the size of a summer sausage and was going to burst its casing within twenty-four hours, I would have avoided the gym altogether. I was a little puzzled when I got home and felt bloated rather than honed, but it didn’t stop me from playing baseball with the boys in the backyard—and, crucially, pitching overhand to Jamie for the first time. (Thanks to everyone who suggested I do this, in response to my post about Jamie’s Little League. He resisted mightily at first but then found to his delight that he was hitting balls over the hedges and onto the roof. A real breakthrough!) The rest of the night was uneventful, and I didn’t think about my gut again until 2 am, when I suddenly woke from sleep with the realization that the pain had gotten sharper.
Still, I had no intention of missing my train. The next morning, I thought I would cancel my cardio workout and ask to see a doctor instead; I was still thinking I’d be free by 11. No doctor was available, so they told me to come into the ER—which I did, but not before putting away all my laundry and packing my travel kit. I was in no hurry. Then I drove myself over to the hospital, hoping I could be out within the hour. Only after they made me drink a Big Gulp-sized cup of contrast dye and sent me in for a CT scan did I realize that I wasn’t going anywhere that day.
The point is that if I had blown off what felt like an upset stomach and only gradually resolved itself as a sharp pain on the lower right side of my torso, I would very likely have been on Amtrak train 42 somewhere around Trenton when the crisis finally hit (and my surgeon assured me that my appendix was an “ugly” thing; maybe, he said, I had a couple more hours, but no more than that). And that would have been really, really bad.
So I’m sorry that I missed dinner with everyone—Elayne Riggs has pictures of the event—and I’m especially sorry that Janet’s phone messages to Julia didn’t get through, so that no one realized I was in surgery until they’d been at the restaurant for some time waiting for me (at which point Julia checked her cell phone voice mail). But on balance, I’m very glad I didn’t go to New York last Thursday.
Just a few observations about my hospital stay (this was my first major surgery):
-- Morphine is the shit. I weaned myself from it by Saturday afternoon, but long before then I had come to appreciate its extraordinary and fast-acting powers.
-- It is physically impossible not to sit on your IV tube when you crawl back into your hospital bed. I tried everything, including wrapping the tube around my neck three times, but it was like something out of Alice Through the Looking Glass: the harder I tried to avoid sitting on my IV tube, the more of it I wound up covering with my butt.
-- I have learned that I am quite shy about urinating from the side of the bed when there are strange people in my room. This is not a critical insight, and I don’t think it says anything important about me (after all, I clearly have no inhibitions when it comes to blogging about urinating from the side of the bed), but it was critical to my well-being on Thursday and Friday, because unless I started producing more than the piddling 50 cc I’d managed to that point (being shy and all), I was going to be catheterized. They actually did an ultrasound to determine that yep, my bladder was full (and I could not resist asking whether they could tell if it was a boy or a girl), and would have to be emptied one way or another. So for the next 48 hours, I played a fun game called Avoid the Catheter. But every time I clammed up upon hearing someone on my roommate’s side of the screen (he was recovering from hip-replacement surgery, which made me feel rather like a wuss), I would have to unplug the damn IV machine from the wall and shuffle over to the bathroom. This proved to be so tiring that by the time I was released on Sunday afternoon, I could let fly with 400 cc from the side of the bed with the best of ‘em. I hope this comes in handy later on.
-- For all their hideousness, hospitals have moments of eerie calm. In the wee hours of Saturday morning, I lay in bed wide awake but without moving a muscle for about half an hour, eyes closed, breathing slowly and deeply. Suddenly I felt a cool rushing sensation in my left arm, as if a wave had rolled over it, or more precisely through it. Alarmed, I opened my eyes and looked over at my IV machine—and found that the mefloxin (antibiotic) drip had run its course and that I was now getting straight saline. Holy shit, I thought, I felt the switchover. The rushing sensation no doubt had to do with the rate of the drip—the mefloxin was set to 100 ml/hr, the saline to 175—but the feeling of being “watered” was distinct. And I lay there for about another half hour, acutely aware now of my circulatory system and hearing the gentle fluttering of the IV as if it were some kind of paper helicopter hovering over my bed. How could I go to sleep with all this excitement going on? Actual saline coursing through my bloodstream and a gentle fluttering noise by my bedside?
As for the present: I’ve been walking a little bit each day, but there will be no weightlifting until July and very possibly no hockey all summer. So much for my dream of playing as an NHL scab next fall. The staples, all nine of ‘em, come out this afternoon. They tell me this is no big deal.
Thanks again to everyone who’s wished me well, and to all you fine New York City bloggers for sending me that cute card. I think I’m going to extend my blogging hiatus a week, into mid-June. Reading the news is vexing beyond measure, so I’ve consumed more novels and movies in the past week than I’ve managed all year. Which reminds me: yet another thanks to Janet, this time for buying me the portable DVD player that made my hospital days so much more tolerable. And thanks to the English Department colleague who visited me last Friday and brought me the hilarious travel guide to Molvania, even though it turns out not to be a good idea to laugh just after you’ve had abdominal surgery.
Now I know you’re back and doing well. A funny, longer post!Posted by Mitchell Freedman on 05/27 at 11:30 AM
Nice to hear you are on the mend and congrats to Jamie for making it to the overhead-hitters club. (woo-woo!)
Now the soapbox moment (ahem):
From a serious exercise freak: regardless of how bored, itchy or lazy you feel, do not ignore your doctor’s advice and get your mending done before any athletic prowess. It’s going to blow, I know, I’ve been there-but not half as bad as hurting yourself and regressing. Anyway, get well soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!Posted by on 05/27 at 11:46 AM
Glad to hear you’ve pulled through and are well enough to sit and watch DVDs, but I’d avoid comedies for a week or two while the gut heals. I friend of mine pulled several stitches the first time he saw Spinal Tap.Posted by rev.paperboy on 05/27 at 11:50 AM
Wait. You’re saying I don’t have to read the news anymore if I burst an appendix?
Hmmm.Posted by Chris Clarke on 05/27 at 11:51 AM
What does it take to get a doctor’s note saying I shouldn’t read any more David Brooks? Hemorrhoids? Do they have to be oozing or just annoyingly itchy? Glad you’re back on your feet, just don’t blow out a rotator cuff trying to teach Jamie to hit the curveball. If you need a painfully repetitive song stuck in your head, come by may place for some great suggestions.Posted by corndog on 05/27 at 11:57 AM
Great to hear you’re back and feeling better. Glad you got things taken care of in time.
But your fans in DC are jealous about all the attention from NYC, so if and when you get down this way, we should all meet up. We have a Drinking Liberally on Thursday nights.Posted by Bulworth on 05/27 at 12:26 PM
Glad to hear you’re on the mend and that episode is behind you. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!Posted by DK on 05/27 at 12:46 PM
Thanks for the update (and the lovely plug!), Michael - even though you’re in far better shape than I was when I had my abdominal surgery, I’d recommend as much time as you can take to recover. I was forced to get out and about and to rush back to work way too soon for my state of health, and I’ve never quite recovered in the five intervening years.Posted by Elayne Riggs on 05/27 at 01:54 PM
A gezunt ahf dein kop!
With all due respect to your venous sensory capabilities, though, I think that rushing feeling may have had more than a little to do with the powers of morphine, as well…Posted by on 05/27 at 02:01 PM
Actually I saved the morphine for emergencies—I wouldn’t waste it on a calm overnight.Posted by Michael on 05/27 at 02:09 PM
Told you that J-P drain is a bother… worst pain ever.
Lots of walking. Recovery will take longer than you think.
I found the “how long does it take to move the lawn” metric provided remarkable fidelity.Posted by Steinn Sigurdsson on 05/27 at 02:29 PM
Michael, I had a similar appendectomy experience as you and I’m glad to know my situation wasn’t THAT unusual. I did have some severe abdominal pain when the thing actually burst, but I went a whole WEEK afterwards feeling fine. Anyway when I had my surgery they didn’t wait for me to recover before catheterizing me you lucky dog! Let me tell you when they take that sucker out you definitely feel a “rushing sensation” and it is not a good thing. Worst pain I have ever felt.Posted by Buck Turgidson on 05/27 at 02:55 PM
Saved from scabbing the NHLPA, hoo-ray! My brother-in-law (NHL GM) senses that the apocalypse will be avoided… hope he’s right.
Glad you’re fine and mending. Do what the doctor advises. Less hockey = more writing???Posted by on 05/27 at 03:25 PM
Welcome back, Cap’n! I was going to ask about those post-morphine-weaning leftovers, but see above that you’ve wisely decided to hoard the stash. Could use some of that myself, just to take the edge off for various vexations. If Jeb ends up running in ‘08, I’ll probably shoot myself in the foot, literally for once. Anything for Sister Morphine in that horrible case!
As for laughter, my sadistic parents brought a copy of “The Big Book of Jokes,” or something like that, right to my very hospital bed on the second day post-op. Molvania? Been there, done that.Posted by on 05/27 at 04:01 PM
Sure am glad you’re feeling better. And I second the sentiment about being neglected here in DC!Posted by Roxanne on 05/27 at 04:39 PM
Good to see you’re feeling better, Mr. Berube. And Hi Elayne!Posted by on 05/27 at 06:11 PM
Glad you’re feeling better. This will make you feel worse: Reports coming out of Qinghai suggest H5N1 infections in humans and birds are out of control, with birds distributing H5N1 to the north and west, while people are being cremated and told to keep quiet.Posted by on 05/27 at 07:26 PM
people are being cremated and told to keep quiet.
I’d think that second step unnecessary.Posted by Chris Clarke on 05/27 at 07:30 PM
I’d think that second step unnecessary.
That’s what’s so scandalous about it.Posted by Lee on 05/27 at 07:44 PM
OK, in my own feeble defense, on one of the last occasions prior to this when I’d answered the phone, it was the restaurant we had reservations at letting me know that they’d forgotten they were closed on Thursday, which is an aversive thing to happen on Tuesday night. Also my battery ran out. Also I didn’t get out of work until five minutes to seven and I couldn’t get a cab.
Janet, may I say, was remarkably calm and gracious on the phone under extremely trying circumstances and is a mensch.
Gee. There are a lot of DC bloggers I haven’t met yet, aren’t there.
Hmm.Posted by julia on 05/27 at 07:56 PM
Oh, and Teresa picked the card.Posted by julia on 05/27 at 07:57 PM
Happy mending, Michael. Good to know you’re finding ways to help the medicine go down.Posted by on 05/27 at 08:48 PM
Glad you’re on the mend, and if it’s any comfort to you, consider that you’re now a walking exhibit in the fight over Intelligent Design.Posted by Doghouse Riley on 05/27 at 10:01 PM
Once upon a time, there was a real fine bro’
On a train to NYC he was about to go.
Something wasn’t right, deep down in the gut
And so he went to see the doc, not thinking he’d be cut.
But the ER doc said WHOA!, this thing’s about to blow!
So into major surgery, Mike Berube did go.
The story did get scary, the operation “hairy”
But happily, embee is fine, as all of you do know.
The moral is quite clear: some bloggers we hold dear!
The ones who give us hope as we’re consumed by fear.
The good fight up we’ll keep, though more and more we weep!
gee dubya bush has GOT TO GO! This much is quite clear.Posted by deb on 05/27 at 10:07 PM
Dude, are you boasting of your 400-cc output? ‘Cause I hit about 800 cc first thing yesterday morning. (Granted, I wasn’t perched on a bed with company, but still.)Posted by Orange on 05/28 at 12:13 AM
800? Pshaw. As a side effect of my only-ever hospital incarceration, I found I’ve got a 1000cc capacity. Maybe I’m a descendant of Great-Bladdered Eomer. I figure everybody needs some kind of talent.
More to the point: jeezus, Michael, nine staples? Now I’m impressed.
They did tell you to clutch a pillow against your gut if you have to laugh or cough, didn’t they?Posted by Ron Sullivan on 05/28 at 01:55 AM
More importantly, I’m curious as to your thoughts on the future of the NHL. When you’re
feeling better (and jr. keeps his yap shut for a day) perhaps you can do a quick post.
ps Did the morphine help with the withdrawal symptoms (hockeywise)?Posted by on 05/28 at 02:09 AM
If you liked Molvania, you may enjoy this DVD by the same people.Posted by on 05/28 at 05:44 AM
Orange, you’re comparing your early-morning delivery to my every-90-minutes output? Hell, I was being pumped full of 175 ml of saline every hour, and if I waited til morning to drain my bladder, they’d have had to bring around the two-liter bottle for me.
This part of the thread reminds me of the Onion story of Coke announcing its new 30-liter bottle, on the rationale that “The three-liter didn’t fail because it was too big, but because it was not big enough,” Coca-Cola CEO Vic Hertner said. “With our new 30-liter size,that won’t be a problem. Two liters is nothing. I could urinate two liters for you right now. But, 30 liters? That’s untouchable.”Posted by Michael on 05/28 at 11:08 AM
The heck with those DC bloggers! How about your faithful readers in Chapel Hill (I know there’s at least two of us)?Posted by on 05/28 at 12:06 PM
Glad you are doing well. But, you would have crossed the picket line to play?Posted by on 05/28 at 03:17 PM
you would have crossed the picket line to play?
Of course not. Besides, I wouldn’t pay to see me play anyway.Posted by Michael on 05/28 at 05:05 PM
get better there, buck. I hope the family is well.
DavidPosted by David Ross McIrvine on 05/28 at 08:28 PM
Have to agree with you on the morphine. Even though it’s the Wizard of Oz in 3D, save it for a future emergency. I’d gotten my first taste of the stuff when I busted my arm, but only took it for 2 days figuring, eh, you never know. Thank ghod I had a bunch left over 2 years later when I seriously fouled up my back.
Danged if I know where that intelligent foresight came from cos my motto has always been if one is good, ten more’s gotta rock.Posted by on 05/28 at 10:13 PM
Hey, BTW: the team that wrote ‘Molvania’ (comedy royalty here in Melbourne) have brought out a second one with a SE Asian flavour.
It’s called, ahem: ‘Phaic Thanh’.
It’s just as good.Posted by on 05/30 at 02:52 AM
Michael -looks as though this fellow PA public university teacher has also recovered from his appendix tsuris. Things are looking up all over.Posted by on 05/30 at 04:14 AM
Best wishes for your speedy recovery. Abdominal surgery is indeed no fun at all to recover from, though you will develop a deepened, lifelong appreciation of your stomach muscles in the bargain.
Also, thanks for the reminder of the weird circulatory system sensations you get with an IV, I haven’t thought about that in ages. I remember the pressure change sensations that came after they’d inject something extra into the feed or when I clicked the morphine button, as well as the temperature changes. From a hospital bubble of mostly unpleasant sensations and noxious smells, that’s at least an interesting memory to dredge up.Posted by natasha on 05/30 at 03:57 PM
Great news about your recovery and Jamie’s hitting prowess. I’m sure your fatherly pride will evaporate the first time he sends a line drive through a neighbor’s kitchen window though.....
Morphine is the shit.
I can’t remember where I read the quote, but someone once said “If God made anything better than opiates, He kept it to Himself”.Posted by on 05/30 at 05:45 PM
"I have a T. Rex body, if you must know, unlike all the other guys in the gym, who have frog bodies”
So you’re saying that you have a huge tail?Posted by on 05/31 at 01:27 PM
Michael - I must know what you would say about my list of the “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries”. Please, please comment!
1. The Communist Manifesto
2. Mein Kampf
3. Quotations from Chairman Mao
4. The Kinsey Report
5. Democracy and Education
6. Das Kapital
7. The Feminine Mystique
8. The Course of Positive Philosophy
9. Beyond Good and Evil
10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money
Let the burning begin!!!
...a few more (dis)honorable mentions
The Population Bomb
What Is To Be Done
Beyond Freedom and Dignity
Reflections on Violence
The Promise of American Life
Origin of the Species
Madness and Civilization
Soviet Communism: A New Civilization
Coming of Age in Samoa
Unsafe at Any Speed
Wretched of the Earth
Introduction to Psychoanalysis
The Greening of America
The Limits to Growth
Descent of ManPosted by on 06/01 at 01:03 AM
I do indeed have a huge tail, Barry—that’s why I kept sitting on my damn IV tube. And Phyllis, thanks so much for the Human Events list of evil books. I was hoping that Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks would place higher, but jeez, it was up against some very, very evil competition: Dewey, Keynes, Mill—the Evil Johns of Liberal Modernity. (The Human Events crew clearly prefer to party like it’s 1399.) And, of course, Kinsey, whose reports, as HE puts it, “were designed to give a scientific gloss to the normalization of promiscuity and deviancy.” Human Events should have put Kinsey at # 1 for this, I think. Sure, Marx and Mao were bad—but after Kinsey, it became nearly impossible to burn a witch or beat a gay man to a pulp without some annoying secularist whining about how “politically incorrect” you were. . . .Posted by Michael on 06/01 at 11:35 AM
As you probably know by now whoever told you taking the staples out is no big deal lied. Or maybe you have a higher threshold than I do. Of course, considering I had considerably more staples than 9, maybe not. (Knee replacement=8 inch incision.)
I had dilaudid rather than morphine but it certainly was lovely, yes. As was the oxycontin they gave me when they took the dilaudid away.
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Appendectomies are scary. I know a few people who let them go too far and had some close calls. They are nothing to joke around about.Posted by Tony on 12/17 at 05:15 PM
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From a hospital bubble of mostly unpleasant sensations and noxious smells, that’s at least an interesting memory to dredge up.Posted by mobile chat on 06/23 at 11:45 PM
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Great news about your recovery and Jamie’s hitting prowess. From a serious exercise freak: regardless of how bored, itchy or lazy you feel, do not ignore your doctor’s advice and get your mending done before any athletic prowess.Posted by Cremation in Ireland on 12/06 at 02:17 AM
waiting you come back to write better another post.
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also visit me, treat urinary infections with herbs. see youPosted by uti on 02/03 at 12:28 AM
42.As you probably know by now whoever told you taking the staples out illuminati tf How the illuminati work
is no big deal lied. Or maybe you have a higher threshold than I do. Of course, considering I had considerably more staples than 9, maybe not. (Knee replacement=8 inch incision.)Posted by on 02/07 at 10:41 PM
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Michael,Glad to hear you’ve pulled through and are well enough to sit and watch DVDs, but I’d avoid comedies for a week or two while the gut heals. I friend of mine pulled several stitches the first time he saw Spinal Tap.Posted by Law enforcement training on 05/09 at 02:30 AM
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Michael,Glad to hear you’ve pulled through.Posted by Sexo on 06/28 at 01:31 AM
That’s too bad. Get well soon. I wish you all the best. I had same surgery last year. Now, I’m normal.Posted by Web Development Tools on 07/02 at 07:10 AM
I did have some severe abdominal pain when the thing actually burst, but I went a whole WEEK afterwards feeling fine. Anyway when I had my surgery they didn’t wait for me to recover before catheterizing. automateandvalidatePosted by on 07/17 at 05:15 AM
Hope you recover well, my cousin had the same thingPosted by 50 Shades of Grey PDF on 08/30 at 04:26 PM
Sad to hear. Glad you’re on the recoveryPosted by Superdrol on 09/01 at 08:52 PM
Wishing you a speedy recovery. That’s quite an adventure! Well at least you can vent and share your experience here. It important to keep a sense of humor in these situations. Get well soon.Posted by lauricef on 10/09 at 09:56 AM
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