Tuesday, January 18, 2011

You're going to do WHAT?

When the bad days erupt, they can feel like a slow controlled explosion, with each passing hour feeling worse than the one that just came before.

This past week, I’ve been trying to reduce my morphine dose, as I’m seeing a new holistic doctor in New York City, who has put me on a nutritional regimen that is suppose to reduce my pain. But I’m still on a hefty dose of the stuff, which combined with all these new vitamins he has me on, landed me in the hospital the other night with a case of constipation that was literally off the charts.

As embarrassing as telling this tale might be, it’s a grim and somewhat common reality that anyone who takes opiates, whether by choice or not, must deal with the sometimes extreme irregularity it causes, and Saturday night at 3 a.m. will go down in the annals of my life as yet another indignity my poor body has suffered as a result of this unrelenting pain.

It’s happened before—this extreme constipation, indelicately called fecal impaction—but somehow I was always able to, er…well, push through. You would think that one would be able to tackle the problem with some basic laxatives long before it would get to these end stages, but for some reason, it often can happen hard and fast (oh, these puns), with little warning that a huge amount of cement is building up where it ain’t supposed to be.

Each time it’s happened, I’ve sworn that it would be the last time, that I would do whatever it took to prevent these occurrences, but the new supplements must have been my undoing this week, for when the clock struck around 3 a.m. Saturday morning, and all measures I’d been employing for the previous eight hours or so had failed, I intuitively knew I’d been beaten and that this time, I’d have to go to the emergency room, as even waiting until morning could make this dangerous case even more perilous to my health. Plus, having a brick sitting in your bowel feels like, well…a brick sitting in your bowel, and you want it out as quickly as humanly possible.

I did get myself to the emergency room, and luckily I didn’t have to wait too long for a young male doctor to come in and remedy the situation, which was basically sticking his finger up my ass in order to break up and pull out the offending material a little at a time. But oh, the indignity…and the discomfort! I can’t believe that we can put a man on the moon, but the best we can come up with when it comes to a clogged pipe is manual dexterity.

Before he took the plunge, I asked in astonishment if there was any other way, if there was any magic potion they could shoot up there to break things up, but he said somewhat curtly, “Nope. I just have to get in there, and it’s nasty.”

He then told me to take down my pants and roll over, as a nurse stood by, pan in hand, ready for the rocks. Before I knew it, he’d put on two pairs of rubber gloves, greased up, then plunged in with such ferocity that I grabbed onto the side of the bed for dear life, fearing that my poor anus was being ripped from its moorings.

He wasn’t in there for even a minute when the intercom clicked in, saying he had a phone call. “Excuse me,“ he said, removing the gloves, “but I have to get this.” “What?” I whimpered, shocked that any phone call could be more important than stopping in the middle of a procedure such as this. As one might imagine, a patient in this position wants the entire matter over as quickly as possible, and it felt like an hour for him to return as my poor butt was throbbing, even though it was probably just a few minutes.

It gave me just enough time to ponder how awful it was going to feel all over again when he returned, and my imagination didn’t disappoint. He was just as vigorous the second time around, to which I grunted, “How long is this going to take?” “Oh, a few more minutes,” he said, which inspired such fear in me that I gave a mighty push, and well, the matter resolved itself from then on in just a few seconds to the surprise of both him and the nurse. They both acted like a baby was coming as they rushed to get the pan underneath me, realizing that nature was taking its course in a way I just couldn’t control.

And just like that it was all over, and before I knew it, I was back in my apartment, back in bed tending to my severe case of bronchitis and fever, which felt like kids’ play compared to what I’d just been through.

Since then, I’ve been trying to reduce my morphine even more, and I’ve been staying away from the supplements for now, but frankly, I’m miserable. The pain in my face is too fierce right now to reduce the morphine any more, and I was in tears most of the afternoon, wondering how in god’s name my life has come to this—that I’m on so much pain medication that I actually needed an emergency room doctor this week to pull a brick out of my butt with his bare, if gloved, hands.

The poor guy didn’t even stick around for me to thank him. I did thank the nurse though, who was left with the grunt work, ‘natch, of throwing out my poop. I told her I was sorry that I’d come in with such an unpleasant task, but she couldn’t have been nicer, shrugging off the whole ordeal with, “Honey, this is what we’re here for. We’re here to help, and it’s not just you…this happens to people all the time.”

And with that I walked out a little easier than I walked in, if a little bowlegged.


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