Aliens in the Apple

Stereotypes, monotony and pain

Franci 2 Dec 2010 Blogging Family

It all started on an adventurous Saturday, almost 2 weeks ago. I was excited and a little scared because I was going to be making my biggest driving trip yet — a half an hour drive to our pastor’s house in the south of Brooklyn for a ladies’ Bible study. And I did it, without any crazies crashing into me, and back too, up Flatbush Ave. If there’s one thing I can say about New York traffic, it’s that it has a bad attitude. But that’s not really this story. My stomach was hurting just a little, like it often does when I get stressed. I noticed, but didn’t pay attention… I made 2 more trips that day and thought that the tummy pain I had was just related to stress.

On Saturday night, Marica was sick three times, so it was an eventful night. My stomach was a little more unsettled, but I figured it was just because I had to be cleaning up, and still didn’t pay it too much attention. Sunday I stayed home with the kids while Ben went to church. Soon after lunch I started to pay attention to my stomach because it wasn’t impressed with its contents, and when Ben came home he was well into the throws of the tummy bug as well. Such fun and games when everyone’s sick! Everyone but Esther, thankfully. That Sunday night was an exercise in getting in and out of bed at least every hour, for both Ben and me. By the morning, Ben was starting to feel a bit better, but I kept feeling worse and the pain was getting crazier by the hour. I parked myself on the couch (closer to the bathroom) and waited for the pain to go away. It didn’t. By about lunchtime I thought seriously about seeing a doctor, and after a skype chat with my parents, I got myself an appointment.

What a blessing to stumble upon a very kind gastroenterologist who also does general medicine (we didn’t have a GP here yet!) who has an office right opposite the hospital! Dr Byrnes took about a minute of prodding to tell me that I had appendicitis and to go to the ER — one of his nurses wheeled me over in a wheelchair. To be honest, I struggled to believe him — come on, it’s just a tummy bug like the rest of the family, surely?

From there on, things get hazy. I got seen quickly, and was given anti-nausea medicine and morphine, which of course helps the pain but messes with your head. And I had to drink a litre of this foul-tasting contrast stuff for a CT scan, which I miraculously kept down. The CT scan was an adventure in itself — who would have thought I’d be allergic to the IV contrast? Hah — the minute they injected the stuff into me it felt as if someone had filled my eyes with pollen, my throat constricted, my nose blocked up, my tongue and throat itched and swelled up and I got some sort of asthma attack as well. I cannot imagine how ugly I must have looked with my face swelled up like a balloon and my eyes little watery slits. I gave the doctors a bit of a panic — I had five of them swarming around my bed poking me with needles and saying things like “Talk to me, miss Hoyt, your breathing should ease soon. Miss Hoyt, tell me how you’re feeling. Good, keep breathing.” That little episode distracted me quite a bit from the pain in my guts. They sorted me out good and within an hour I was breathing without masks and I could see out my eyes again, so I could focus again on the reason I was there — pain.

My silly head was slowly coming to terms with the fact that I might just not be having a bad tummy bug when the doctor came in and said “We suspected appendicitis when we got the blood results because your white blood count was very high, and now the CT scan has confirmed it. You will be with us for a while.” Which I was. Not long after I got wheeled through for surgery. I feel that I can say the whole world was represented in my medical care at that hospital! A Jewish doctor, a few Asian doctors, an African-American nurse, some white American doctors, a Polish anaesthetist and Indian surgeons. The post-op nurses came in all varieties too. Now, I don’t know how they do it in India, but after the laparoscopic surgery they didn’t even give me any stitches, they only glued me shut! I’m serious. I guess that leaves less of a scar.

On Tuesday we had another little adventure, this one featuring Ben. As he walked into my hospital room with Esther, he pretty much collapsed on the bed in intense abdominal pain, like I’ve never seen before. I was all hooked up to stuff and felt so helpless, but realised we needed to get him to a doctor! So I jumped on the phone and called our faithful pastor’s wife, Julie, who offered to look after the kids while Ben could see a doctor and while we waited for her, our dear friend Susanna came and took Esther. Ben headed off to the doctor once he could manage to walk, and it turned out that he might have had an infected bowel. As it turned out, the pain went away and he could return to normal!

In brief, what happened after that: I went home on Wednesday, but couldn’t keep much of anything down, on Friday I felt mildly better so we decided to make an overnight trip to visit the Braunings after all. They were so kind and hospitable and caring and we had a lovely time with them (not to mention the delicious food!), but I kept feeling worse and was having quite a bit of pain, so we came home and I went straight to the ER on the doctor’s orders. They did all sorts of tests, gave me another CT scan (minus the IV contrast this time) and kept me there for 2 nights for observation, but couldn’t find out what caused it. Was it the antibiotics? Was it a mild infection? Who knows.

I had a kind nurse who boasted that he always gets blood the first time on patients. I was glad to hear that, because I have very thin veins. I’m afraid I ruined his reputation. It’s also interesting to note that when you’re lying down looking up at someone, you can observe a person’s nostrils quite well. Mike had exceedingly long ones, 3cm at least.

Once admitted for a second time, I shared a room with a very sweet woman. In the hospital they always call all females ‘miss’ and she was Miss China. I kept having a sick feeling on my stomach when I would be woken up by a nurse in the middle of the night asking, “How are you doing, Miss China?”, having some premonition that the bikini contest would soon be up and that I might be asked to take part. But then my head would clear, and I’d realise we’re not taking part in Miss Universe and that the sick feeling was just the same one that was still there.

In that ward, we had quite a number of classic hospital stereotypes. The wailing woman across the corridor: “AAAAAHHHH! OOOOHHHH! uuuuggghhh!” like a broken record, the old guy with a guard who would repeatedly yell at the top of his lungs: “Can I poop now?!” alternated with “NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOOO!” Then there was the old guy with greasy long grey hair who’d flirt with the nurses, hang around their station, bring them his food tray himself “just to catch a glimpse of you again my dear”. There was a surprising number of male nurses, but only one of them fit the loose-wrist stereotype.

I soon felt better and did a good amount of knitting and reading to pass the time. I was so ready to go home on Sunday, but they wanted to keep me in for another night. I seriously considered escaping, but that would look bad on the medical insurance, so I stayed. I probably needed the rest anyway. Now I’m home, trying to do as much as I can get away with without doing too much. :-) It can be frustrating to be limited, but I’m trying to take it easy.

Allow me, just before finishing, to boast about my amazing husband. This whole last week and a half of topsy-turviness he has been our firm anchor, running the show — feeding the kids, dressing them, entertaining them, changing nappies, getting up in the night for Esther, cooking, cleaning, visiting me, packing, organising — doing the job of 2 adults without ever a word or complaint, or even a hint of resentment in his body language. I am one blessed girl.

So, here ends my long missive. Sorry for the long ego-centric post, but a number of you had asked for “The Full Story”, so I have delivered. Thank you for all your prayers, for those of you who have given help in many forms, for your phone calls and emails. We’ve really appreciated them!

Expect blog posts to be sporadic for a while yet. I’ll get back in the groove of things when I’m well, back in the groove of things. Until then, adios.

Comments (10)

Anna Banana 2 Dec 2010 at 3:29pm

I am so glad you are all ok and on the road to recovery! I love you all so much, and I am grateful to have you as friends! Please continue to grow in health and strength in Christ! See you soon!

Liana Havelaar 2 Dec 2010 at 3:34pm

Wow, what a story Franci! (including the humour :-) ) We hope that things settle down for your family SOON!

Hannah 2 Dec 2010 at 5:58pm

Wow. We’ve already thought you were having an eventful time in NYC, but don’t overdo it! So glad you had wise help, good friends, a sweet roommate, and supportive husband during such a crazy week. And now a sister-in-law to help, laugh and share life with you, and bring a bit of NZ to your family! :) Much love…

Susanna 2 Dec 2010 at 9:39pm

So glad to see you today and you are doing great despite all you have been through! God has been good!:)

Aunt Bekky 2 Dec 2010 at 9:52pm

Franci, I had no idea about some of this stuff. Thank you for laying it all out for us. So sorry you had to go through all of that (and the fam) but very, very glad and extremely thankful to God that you are better!

Veronica Hoyt 2 Dec 2010 at 11:41pm

I had no idea, either! Thanks for the update, Franci, and I do hope that you’re well on the way to full recovery, now!

Lois Hoyt 5 Dec 2010 at 5:13am

It is great to know Benjamin has taken over running the family so well. I bet he is also responding with one big thankful heart: not only was your appendicitis caught just in time but also you had such good care following the very serious reaction to the IV solution. We are very thankful too, even more so having heard the whole story - and thanks for writing it. (All your international lineup lacked was the Sudanese admittance administrator.)

Now as for Ben’s abdominal pain, well, I’ve heard of men experiencing vicarious labour pains when their wives give birth; this was in some Pacific culture, I think. Maybe his was that kind of “sympathetic appendicitis pain”.

Did he take time off work and/or sick leave to care for the family?

Franci 5 Dec 2010 at 8:53am

Ben is skeptical about the sympathetic pain. :-) Yes, he took 4 days off work to look after us!

Julie Murphy 6 Dec 2010 at 8:27pm

I thought I knew just about everything to this story (even as it was happening, I couldn’t believe all the turns of events). The allergic reaction to the IV contrast is yet another “Wow, you’re kidding” moment within your wild Thanksgiving weekend! God be praised that you are well and we could all be in worship together yesterday!

Hannah 8 Dec 2010 at 5:36pm

Kidneys now, too? So sorry!