So on Thursday night I started to feel a pain in my lower right abdomen.
I assumed it was just gas, a side-effect of the Metamucil-rich diet Doc Rubberglove insists I partake of, but it didn't stop on Friday, it just got steadily worse until I called Doc Rubberglove's office and begged to be seen.
The trip back onto the island was pure hell, made infinitely worse by the LIRR calling for me to switch trains at Jamaica onto one which started at Penn Station loaded to 150% of its seating capacity. By the time I got to Wyandanch station I was almost in tears.
Doc Rubberglove took one look, gave a grunt of surprise, said "you look really ill, does it hurt when I do this?"
When his hearing had returned somewhat he yelled "It might be appendicitis!", took a quick look at his inch-thick liability insurance policy, hustled me into his own car and drove me to the Emergency Room thereby cutting through about four hours of red tape and getting me to someone with needles and blood-drawing gear in about half an hour. Mrs Stevie hove into theater during the lengthy triage process.
There a man who told me he used to be an electrician but found that people wouldn't pay him on time attempted to mount a hep-lock in the back of my hand and use it to draw blood. The pain of this process was enough to drive the pain coming from my lower bowel from my head and cause me to pass out for a few seconds. While I was out, Mrs Stevie used the opportunity to tell everyone how I'd passed out some years ago when giving blood.
This was a base calumny. I had not passed out. I had told the staff to hide from my sight the bottle steadily filling with my blood as it rocked back and forth on a small device to mix anticoagulants into it, because I thought I might faint. The two other guys I was with had laughed at my squeamishness and called me names. Then with perfect timing one of them took a good look at his rocking bottle o' blood, let out a quavering moan and passed out. Then his muscles relaxed in such a fashion that it took the staff about thirty minutes to clean up the place and he was disinvited from giving blood there ever again. While I and the other guy were waiting for him to regain enough strength to start attempting the commute from the World Trade Center to Penn Station we discussed the problems of navigating a partially disabled person with questionable control of his sphincter musculature through the public transportation system of Manhattan during rush hour. As we pondered the best course of action, a thin, wavering, reedy voice came from behind a screen: "You go on, lads. I'll be alright." I waited about a microsecond for him to request a service revolver and one round before we left, then burst into gales of helpless laughter.
That is what happened that day.
When I woke up the hep-lock agonizer said "So, I hear you fainted the last time you gave blood."
"What? No! It was the other guy who fainted!" I yelled, then screamed as the reflex to sit up to make my point had induced the original reason for my being there.
Doc Rubberglove hove into view. "Does it still hurt when I do this?" he asked, and there followed a couple of minutes of nurses, doctors and patients staggering around clutching their bleeding ears and moaning quietly.
I was made to pee in a jar, then to carry the jar around with me for an hour or so as I was moved hither and yon, ending up in a rather nice, quiet abdominal ER with three patients and about six nursing staff in it.
A very attractive nurse gave me a cup of ice and a bottle of contrast fluid, told me to drink it as quickly as I could and remarked in passing "So, you fainted when you last gave blood?"
"What? No! It was the other guy! I didn't faint!" I yelled as she injected my IV line with something that began with "Z", had four syllables and made my head feel like I'd drunk a pint of Bacardi white rum.
A doctor hove into view. "You don't want to chug that" he said. "Drink it slowly so it spreads out. So, I hear you faint when you give blood."
"Whu? Nnnw. Wuz ovva guy whut fainted." I was having trouble getting my eyes to point in the same direction by then.
"He doesn't give blood anyway" sniffed Mrs Stevie. "He has Mad Cow disease."
"D'n't! Tha's lie! 've g't Prius. Mebbe!" now the stuff that began with "Z" had reduced the pain in my bowels to tolerable levels, everyone around me was attempting to induce a pain a bit lower down. It was all very trying.
"Have you finished that drink yet?" asked the nice nurse who had given me the stuff that started with "Z".
"Doc told me to slow down" I replied.
"Well, the faster you finish the faster we get you into the cat scan and figure out what the hell is wrong with you" she said.
So I chugged it down
Meanwhile, Doc Rubberglove (who has privileges at this hospital) was dictating his notes on my case into a small recording device. I only caught part of it. The part that went "...fainted when giving blood some years before".
Damn that woman!
Another nurse, this one a male biker with a mohawk and tattoos hove into view and demanded more blood. As he was inserting the needle in my arm (the hep-lock was in use) he said "You're the fainter, yeah?"
"B'g p'dun?" I mumbled, attempting to make sense of the world through stuff-that-starts-with-Z-addled senses.
"You faint when you give blood. Everyone says so"
"Whut? No! Wuz other guy!"
"Nope, it was you. I was there" said the ex-electrician as he walked by.
"No! Other time! Not me!"
"I think he's having a reaction to the stuff that starts with "Z"" opined the biker, drawing the thirteenth test-tube full of blood.
Eventually, just as the stuff that begins with "Z" was wearing off I was wheeled down to two guys dressed in black who ran the Cat Scanner. They made me pull down my trousers and lie on a table with my hands on my head, then, just as they were about to start the machine one said "So, I hear you fainted when you gave blood"
"Which time?" I demanded. "Yes I fainted this evening because of all the agony I'm experiencing but no I didn't when I gave blood. That was the other guy!"
The noise of the cat scanner's recorded voice drowned out the last part of my outraged cries but not the unseemly sniggers of the two goths in the control room.
I'd been back in the ER about ten minutes when the nice nurse who gave me the stuff that starts with "Z" told me I was going home because I didn't have appendicitis. This she relayed as "good news". No, what I had was something called "Epiploic Appendagitis" which feels as bad as appendicitis but instead of being susceptible to surgery and quick pain relief it is what doctors call "self-limiting", which is a fifty dollar phrase for "gets better on its own" over an indeterminate number of days but so far longer than four.
Good news indeed, just not for me.