2014: Happy New Year! …It Can Always Be Worse…
|January 1, 2014||Posted by Wes Hazard under Uncategorized|
So, I’m pretty much sick as a dog. I took today (New Year’s Eve) off from work and stayed in bed for all but the 5 minutes it took for me to make a bowl of ramen. But, I had a NYE comedy gig that I was booked for back in the summer that I couldn’t (and wouldn’t) bail on. So I dragged myself into the shower, steeled myself with some DayQuil, drove to the gig, and had what (considering the circumstances) was an extremely fun time with a really rad crowd in a cool venue.
I just got in about 20 mins ago, and as the ball drops on a TV screen I’m not watching, I’m sitting here, moments before launching myself into bed to sleep the sleep of the dead, and thinking of a different New Year’s Eve, more than a decade ago, when I was MUCH MUCH sicker. The full story is below (I wrote it down a long time ago for a creative writing assignment that went…less than well). It comes to mind because as we transition into 2014, I like to recognize that no matter what happened to us during the past 365 days, no matter how trough it got, how bleak it looked, it can ALWAYS be worse. I personally happened to have a pretty damn good 2013, but the realization is important in good times and in bad. Just because you’re coasting comfortable, doesn’t mean you can’t crash the next second, and if you crash, but get to tell the tale afterwards, well…it could’ve been worse.
December 31st, 1999:
It’s hours away from what might be the end of the world and I’m watching fireworks burst over the Sydney Opera House. The image is flipped 90 degrees because I’m lying curled up in the fetal position on the bright white sheets of an ER gurney in Children’s Hospital and the TV is mounted from a corner in the ceiling. Through the pain I reflect that if Australia can party on, having avoided darkness and anarchy, there’s a fair chance that the Y2K bug won’t bring apocalypse to the states either. I am happy about that, but overall it offers little solace as I lie there, hoping to puke again because of the temporary relief it will bring from the nausea. At least I don’t have to fake being sick now. (More After the Jump)
That had been my dad’s advice the night before, after he had picked me up and we discussed my visit to the doctor. The stomach pains and queasiness had been coming and going for months now and it was clear that I needed to see someone about it. My belts were all on their last notches because I’d lost so much weight from fear of eating and the pain it usually caused. On Christmas, my aunt had seen me for the first time in months and expressed concern over how frail I looked, she said she’d pray for me and told me I really should see a doctor. I knew this already but I’d been downplaying how bad it was out of fear of what I might find out. I was paranoid about my health and usually assumed the worst. Once, because of a phlegmy cough and some muscle aches, and with the aid of WebMD, I’d convinced myself that I had Legionnaire’s Disease and not simply a mild case of the flu. Now, at age 15, I was certain I had colon cancer. I’d told my mom I was experiencing chronic stomach aches and she’d tried to help with advice about drinking several liters of water every day and trying suppositories, but because of my evasions she had no idea of the seriousness of the problem. Overwhelmed with a long-term Y2K development project at work, she’d called my father during the holidays to arrange for him to get me in to see a doctor. Dad, being dad, was adamant about not forking over the $25 insurance co-pay for a scheduled doctor’s visit. His plan, admittedly clever, was to take me into the ER while having me theatrically play up my on-and-off pain and nausea, thus avoiding both the co-pay and the need to actually schedule an appointment.
Perhaps it was fate, or maybe just my foolish inability to resist the spicy sausage and pepper sandwich that had become a father-son tradition whenever we got together, but by the time we’d gotten into the ER lobby on the final day of the millennium I didn’t need to act. I was having a lot of trouble sitting up and I couldn’t decide which was worse, the shooting pains that were regularly attacking my stomach or the overriding feeling that I needed to vomit, but couldn’t.
We finally made it into an exam room and for the first time I went through the round of questions that, over the next decade, would become routine during my many visits to the ER. How would you describe the pain? In what quadrant of the abdomen is it located? Does it hurt when I press? What’s the frequency of your bowel movements? Consistency? Color? Any Blood? Taking any medications? Appetite and diet? Etc Etc…
Hours later I’m still in the ER, now in a private room, far removed from the chaos of triage. We’ve seen several nurses and the GI fellow on call, done all the routine checks and blood work and are now awaiting x-ray results. I’ve been feeling more and more ill the longer we’ve stayed and it’s now almost impossible for me to sit up. I’m watching countries halfway around the world break into the new millennium and Dad is sitting in the corner doing the crypto-quote puzzle in the newspaper.
As the TV cycles through images of New Year prep festivities the world over one of the attending nurses comes in with a sheaf of x-rays and a wide smile. He says bluntly, and not without a hint of amusement, “well Wes, they took a look at the x-rays and it’s pretty clear what the trouble is. You have got a lot of impacted feces in your intestines.”
I’m stunned. Not at this fact itself, but because of the sheer simplicity of the whole thing. All these months of pain and nausea, the skipped meals, the weight loss, my abject paranoid fear of a life threatening illness, all of it, in an instant, reduced to a wicked case of constipation. Seriously?
My dad, grinning, looks at me and deadpans, “you’re full of shit.” Hell yes I am, I think to myself, swimming in relief. Salvation. It’s all over, problem solved. I can finally put this whole thing behind me. My mind is already working. I figure we get out of here, hit up the CVS in the hospital lobby for some Immodium AD and I’ll be sitting painless and content on the couch by tomorrow, watching the New Year’s Day Three Stooges marathon and scarfing a leftover turkey sandwich with no fear of the consequences.
Not so fast.
“So I’m just going to give you an enema and that should start things moving right along” says the nurse, as casually as if he’d told me to take two aspirin and call them in the morning. “A what?” I ask, knowing damn well what he said and what it meant, but not wanting to believe that this was happening. “Yup, a glycerin enema. It should really help lubricate things in there and get you some relief. We’ll prescribe you some stool softeners and laxatives to continue taking on your own, but this should bring you some immediate relief.”
The nurse leaves to gather his fecal funbag and my dad just can’t contain himself. Our relationship has always been more joking and friendly than parental and this is no different. “Oooh wee, get ready boy, they’re about to rock your world in a minute!” he says between laughs, “you’d better get your shoes back on because that toilet is gonna be calling you, you might need to sprint.” I’m not at all looking forward to what’s coming. But between my relief at having an answer to the months of agony, my dad’s kidding, and my realization that yes, getting pumped full of shit-lube by a male nurse is how I’m going to close out this particular epoch of human history, I can’t help but cracking up myself.
The nurse comes back with a bag, a tube and a nozzle, and as he draws the curtain around the gurney he orders me to drop trou, face the wall and bring my knees as far up to my chest as possible.
I didn’t really think about it then, perhaps I was too busy contemplating the new prison vibe that had swept into the room, but now I can’t help but wonder why dad didn’t simply just step outside for a minute. That would have made sense. It’s not like I was your average patient at Children’s, some toddler who needed their parents there to calm them through every new trauma. I was fifteen, with a voice already past cracking and an embarrassing attempt at a mustache dotting my lip. Maybe he felt he should stay for support, maybe he was just too lazy to get up, or maybe he wanted to collect some material to rag on me later with, I really don’t know. But as the nurse began my less-than-gentle initiation into one of the key rites of my next decade of medical care, the only thing that separated dad and I was six feet and a flimsy cotton hanging.
Things were not going well. I was too tense. The nurse was getting frustrated. And the absurdity of the situation (spending the last few hours of the twentieth century getting anal probed by a dude with my father in the room) was lending a surreal quality to the proceedings.
I’m not sure, but I think I laughed first. It was all just too much. The months of fearing death, the intense sickness, weighing 77lbs in the tenth grade, sailing into the year 2000 with an oil spigot stuck up my ass, and my dad cracking jokes off-screen in the corner during the whole thing…I just broke down and started quaking in deep laughter, the nozzle bobbing up and down in rhythm with me.
This set dad over the edge too and before long, with glycerin still flooding my intestines and the sky exploding over Tokyo the Hazard men were both losing their shit in the ER in a fit of tearful laughter. We couldn’t see each other, but I’d never shared a laugh on that level with anyone before. The whole thing was a farce by now and even the nurse couldn’t help but chuckling some. “This isn’t the usual reaction to the procedure” he remarked as he finished up, smiling and looking at me like he couldn’t believe what he was in the middle of. I still didn’t have it together enough to respond.
Though it was awkward and not at all how I’d ever imagined ringing in the 21st century, and though my problem turned out to be much more severe than a bad case of being backed up, I have always cherished that experience. It’s a story I’ve got forever, it’s a worthy inaugural event to kick of my Crohn’s Disease timeline and (alongside his solemn bestowal of a Red Ryder BB gun to me in a Virginia field when I was twelve) it represents the closest and most genuine connection I ever shared with my father.
Have a Kickass 2014