One week ago, I was driven to the doctor’s office after one of the most miserable nights in my entire lifetime. The entire night I looked forward to returning to Chicago to continue working with the Nader/Gonzalez campaign in Illinois. However, the pain was too unbearable and I had to postpone my return. For the moment, it looks like I may never return to working on the streets this summer.
The pain was so stark that I could not sit up in a chair. I could not sign my name legibly. All I could do was curl up in the fetal position in the office and wait for a doctor.
The doctor took a look and we went over my medical history. By the time I was three, I had three surgeries to fix my digestive system which was structurally impaired. Food would not stay down and I was not eating. After the couple digestive surgeries, I then had a surgery to remove a hernia.
It took about five minutes for the doctor to examine my distended stomach and refer me to the emergency room. Quickly, my mother drove me from the doctor’s office to the emergency room where I was quickly put onto a bed to be looked at. Two doctors and a nurse came in and out of the room looking at me, asking me questions, and undressing me so that I could have x-rays.
Hooked up to an IV, shot up with morphine, and awaiting news of what would happen the hospital chose to pump some of the blockage out of my stomach that causing me pain. What was called an “ND tube” (I do not know the official term) was shoved up my nose and down my throat into my stomach. A pump that I listened to for the next three days removed material from my stomach.
Pain medication got me through Sunday, and on Memorial Day, I woke up and was given a CAT scan. The big GE apparatus was possibly one of the most despicable things in the hospital given what I know about GE. Yet, it was a very efficient machine that took all of about 10-15 minutes to process and show that I needed surgery.
In my pain, the surgeon described to me how the cecum, the pouch connected to the ascending portion of the colon and perhaps considered the beginning of the large intestine, was twisted. The twist had created an obstruction so that nothing could pass through.
The surgery would untwist and reconnect or remove that flap and would piece together my intestine with another portion of it.
The surgeon indicated that this was normally only seen in older people and that for someone my age, it was virtually unheard of. Interestingly though, twenty years ago, to the day, I was in the hospital for something just like this.
The surgery went well and I spent from Tuesday of last week until Saturday recovering in the hospital. The staff found me to be in good enough shape to come home and continue recovering here at home for the rest of the summer.
My digestive system is now in the process of adjusting itself so that I can go to the bathroom again like any normal human being. An incision on my stomach spans the height of my abdominal region and marks the second area of discomfort. When I move, pain cycles from being intestinal to just pain from muscles in my abdomen. Yet, somehow, I manage to keep happy because of how lucky I am.
A surgery like this reaffirmed my beliefs in what I want to do. I had spent the previous week not sure if what I was doing with the campaign was what I wanted to do or not. I do contend that some of the obstruction pain was coming on during that week since I felt abnormally sick and tired but there was a lack of focus. The lack of focus was so much that I came home for the weekend to get things straight for the summer.
All the time in the hospital in addition to the “cabin fever” and the discomfort a tube shoved down your throat gives you and the lack of food and water that you are mentally accustomed to allowed me to open up and see the bigger picture.
My twenty years of existence are now marked from beginning to end by surgery that without access to health care and medical advances would never have happened. That fact sets me free and allows me to value who I am, what I am capable of, and what I can gain and learn from working tirelessly to connect with people to work towards reshaping America.
In the hospital, I constantly thought about the dollars and cents patients were spending for care. I was all too often looking patients in the eye who were in pain and seeing looks that I thought showed fear. My own mind filled in the reason for fear as being one stemming from not knowing how to pay for all this treatment.
Nothing was more revealing of why I was so bothered about the way the hospital operated than this quote, “The longer they make you wait, the less money they make.” This came from a nurse who assured a patient he would be in surgery soon.