From clean underwear to an upcoming surgery, Thursday was a helluva day

photo (3)One of the things you learn while growing up is to always wear clean underwear because you never know what might happen or when an emergency might occur.

That was one of the first thoughts that entered my mind as I lay in a bed inside the Norwalk Hospital’s Emergency Room on Thursday afternoon.

Now let me say this: My underwear was clean. I had just put it on hours earlier, after taking my shower and heading out to start my day. That being said, however, when I opened my sock-slash-underwear drawer, the fact I was down to about three clean sets of boxers meant I was throwing on one of my least favorite pair. (C’mon guys, back me up, you know what I’m saying).

It’s funny the things you think about while you’re laying there, nurses and doctors coming and going, poking and prodding you, sticking needles into your arms, trying to find out what’s wrong with you.

And that was my Thursday, at least the latter part of the day.

But I digress. I should probably start at the beginning.

I had spent most of Thursday’s early hours working from home, putting together one of my company’s weekly newspapers.

I had promised to give my friend Nicole a ride to work, and since she lives 67 miles from me, I had to head out mid-afternoon in order to get to her and get back in time.

As I was about to take a shower, I noticed something odd and peculiar sticking slightly out of my stomach, about one inch below my belly button.

A few weeks ago, I had felt something different in that same location, only it wasn’t as alarming. It felt like a tiny fatty deposit and considering I’m a wee bit fat, I just passed it off as something I didn’t need to make a big deal about.

This was different, though.

This felt like a somebody had stuck an over-sized marble — about the size of a quarter — into my stomach. It wasn’t quite as hard as a real marble, but that’s what it brought to mind. Right away I knew it wasn’t right and while I didn’t fear the worst, it sent me running to a computer, to Web MD and wikipedia and any other web site I could find.

But I still had to go get Nicole, so I mapped out the game plan to get her, take her to work, and then drive to my doctor’s in Wilton — all told about a 160 mile round trip. All of this before driving another 75 miles to Hartford for work at 7 p.m.

I never made it.

I told Nik about the situation and we talked briefly about concerns, etc., but I was far more concerned than I let on to her. (Brave guy, right?). The timing wasn’t working out right for the long trip to Wilton and my biggest fear was not getting to my doctor’s in time before they locked the door.

Thankfully, after dropping Nicole off just outside New Haven, the timing of a trip further south was risk-able, so I raced toward my doctor instead of going to some walk-in clinic I had never been to before.

When I arrived at my doctor’s, my blood pressure was 159 over 110. That’s not good, needless to say, but they chalked it up to the hectic drive through heavy traffic to get there in time.

I explained what was going on, my doctor laid me back on the table and put her hands on the bump. I reacted accordingly, as it was very tender to the touch, and she wasted no time.

“We’re sending you to Norwalk Hospital,” she said.

“Umm, no, I need to be in Hartford by seven,” I said.

She looked at me. “You’re going to Norwalk Hospital.”


When I had done my online research before leaving the house, the term that hit closest to home was “umbilical hernia.” Some of the photos, which were no doubt worst-case scenarios, didn’t match up with what I was dealing with so I thought it might not be that, too. A trip to the hospital for a CT scan would confirm everything and then it could be dealt with, she said.

I was told to go to the Emergency Room where a valet service would park my car. Just like the Hyatt Regency, I thought. The nurses said they would call ahead to let them know I was coming.

I hopped in my car and began the long, lonely drive to the other side of the city. During the drive I called my boss at the office and told him what was going on. Yes, I drove while making a phone call. Dumb idea, I know, but I wasn’t thinking of my underwear and what might happen during a car accident at that point.

It was also during the drive that I thought about my worst fear coming true.

I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut, more than 300 miles away from my family and most of my life-long friends. I live alone where the closest thing I have to an extended family are my landlords, John and Julie, and their two kids, who I have had the pleasure of watching grow up from middle school kids into the young men (and college baseball players) they have become.

But I have nobody down here who I would be comfortable calling and saying, “Hey, I’m at the hospital, I’m alone, I’m scared shitless, What are you doing?”

So, since I live in the 21st century, I did what everybody else does and turned to both Facebook and text messaging via my cell phone,  which sadly had less than 20 percent of a battery live left. (An ER nurse at Norwalk Hospital saved me on that one, loaning me an iPhone5 charger … They really do save the day there!).

A little bit before 5 p.m on Thursday, two hours before the start of my basketball game in Hartford, I walked alone into Norwalk Hospital’s ER, not having a clue as to what was going to come next. (Next blood pressure reading was 170-something-over-110-ish).

To make a long story short, I had self-diagnosed myself hours earlier. Umbilical hernia was the diagnosis, but there were a couple of questions that needed to be answered first any next step would or could be taken.

Was it serious enough to be causing some sort of blockage in my intestines, which would require immediate surgery, or was something else going in there?

I was given an IV and waited for a ride to the CT scanning room, updating people via the phone, and also thinking of my mother for the slightest bit of strength.

More than a decade ago, my mother had open-heart surgery. I had lived out of state at the time, though not quite as far away as i do now, and one day I drove up to see her shortly after the surgery. To this day, I vividly remember the image of her lying there in the ICU, looking more frail than I had ever seen her. How scared she must have been, I thought. Didn’t matter. She was strong, went through it and came out with an extended life.

Why the hell should I be fearing a bump in my belly when she had shown the strength to go through that, right?

So I surged ahead, using my keen and corny sense of humor to get the nurses to roll their eyes (I’m pretty sure they’ve heard it all by now).

Before my CT scan, I was given something through the IV and was told it was going to make me feel hot. When I asked, “How so?” I was told it was like taking shots at the local bar, only I wouldn’t be getting drunk. As I felt the warm flush run over me, I thought, “You know, it kind of does feel like that.”

I was wheeled back to my room where I waited … and waited … and waited. And updated my Facebook, and text messaged others who had expressed their concerns.

Nicole is one of my newer friends, having grown close since a chance meeting two months ago. Through a series of texts with her, though, I felt her concern. That meant a lot to me. Two hours before we were riding in a car and while she knew I was headed to the doctor’s office, she was obviously startled by the texts that read, “They’re sending me to Norwalk Hospital” and “I’m in the emergency room.”

Another friend, Liz, was in New York City with her daughter for a concert, a trip I had been invited on and probably would have gone had it not been for my 7 p.m. basketball game. Her concern was also evident as was the helplessness she felt being so far away and unable to do anything for me (Not that there was anything that could have been done … she’s not a trained surgeon, so any chance for a discount was out the window).

Old friends from Maine and New Hampshire sent messages of concern and jokes that would make me laugh out loud, literally; no doubt making the nurses of the ER wonder I belonged more in the mental ward than the ER.

As the doctors were pondering surgery for that night, or later, and I posted as such, my favorite response came from my old bar buddy Bill in New Hampshire: “Johanna?” – assuming it was THAT type of operation. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Finally, shortly before nine o’clock, a surgeon came into talk to me.

I needed surgery to fix the hernia. That was certain. They could do it that night, or I could wait, make an appointment, and schedule it on an out-patient basis the following week.

In another place and time, I would have said, “Go for it.” I wanted it over with.

But first I needed to take care of a few things at home — including getting my apartment cleaned up in a respectable manner so somebody could take care of my cat, and, perhaps, so I could put on a respectable pair of underwear, as well. (Do I need to check my will for such things?)

So I was sent home with orders to call the doctor and set up my surgery.

It’s Friday morning as I type this. The bump is still there. It’s tender to the touch, still, but I’m trusting the doctors diagnosis that no further damage will be done. I haven’t made the call yet as I wanted to get my thoughts and feelings of a whirlwind Thursday in order first.

But I’ll make the call so I can go under the knife on Monday (or Tuesday).

I don’t feel great, but I don’t feel horrible.

I am, however, grateful for the nurses and doctors of Norwalk Hospital’s ER for taking great care of me. I am also grateful to my Facebook friends and their messages and texts of concern, and keeping my mind occupied so I didn’t over-think things.

Stay tuned, I suppose.

I haven’t had surgery since I had my tonsils out when I was boy.

I remember ice cream as a good way to celebrate.

Now, I need to do some laundry so I can wear some respectable underwear.


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