Stress, diarrhoea and other stuff you shouldn't read about

Written by Jeff Coleman

Oh baby, I'm high on Tylenol 3s. Mmmmmmm. Very OK. Feeling horny even. Yummy!

Seems like the late nights, Advil popping for my back pain (I'd taken my sons to Florida for Disney World and carried the youngest on my shoulders pinching my sciatic nerve), the tonnage of wine, a wee impotence, lack of exercise, overwork, and numerous other stresses (you can imagine!) all contributed to put a big hole in my upper intestine. It exposed a capillary and well, anyway I was bleeding but not really paying much attention to my stool (uhm, are we talking about my chair?). I mean, who gets down on their hands and knees and examines their shit? Sorry, but I don't. Well, Sunday I basically had an anxiety attack. I was freaking. You know, going back into the class room... and I'd been reviewing student evaluations for the first time and some of them were really awful ("From 1 to 10 how would you rate the teacher?": 1 -- yes, they came from four of the worst students, two who I failed but I really put a lot of work into giving them what I felt was GOLD).

The Old Fort William Game CD-ROM programming project was going badly and I'd lost a lot of time during the holidays making simple repairs (instead of programming the major components). The project management, design and programming was all on my shoulders. Programming it was quite complex (and I had lost the programmer who was assisting me). For maybe the second time in my programming life I realized I'd bitten off more than I could chew (I had the capability just not the bodies nor the time to finish it).

Despite my anxiety, I decided to continue working and eat some pizza. MMMMmmmmmm. Yeah, like lactose-intolerance was the least of my problems. So about two or three AM I'm groaning and kicking myself (but sometimes I can eat a lot of pizza and nooooo problemos). Any who, I'm groaning and moaning and trying to get all the sympathy I can and suddenly the pain goes way beyond a foolish cramp. Stop reading because it gets worse. I suddenly feel as though I'm dying. Not exactly a bad idea I was thinking but the pain is bad. I can't move and my body breaks out in a series of these cold sweats. It lasts too long for anything routine like the flu (which maybe visits once a year).

This is new, and bad. After minutes, hours? it goes away and I go the bathroom. Out comes a bucket'o'black stuff. It's over in seconds. It comes out too quickly and I feel light-headed. Again, more cold sweats while I'm relieving myself. This is not, you'll excuse me, diarrhea. This is completely new. Black tar is the best way to describe it. So I try and tell the world, go back to bed and in the morning I repeat this. Jools (my wife) suggests the hospital but I'm telling her that I'm the boss, etc., and in the morning while she's getting her hair cut I continue my insanity. When she returns I offer her a look (not that I want to, but a part of me is freaking out) and then I'm off to emergency whether I like it or not. She's furious and I'm beginning to clue in the possibility that I'm NOT immortal. Hey wait, you mean, this is serious? In emergency I try apologizing for her -- "You see, doctor, she's a nurse and thinks I have an ulcer or something!" I blather on about possible haemorrhoids (which I don't have) and lactose intolerance as the correct diagnosis! until, that is, I have to go again! The doctor insists on taking a look (ewwww! NO WAY) but this time I've got to in a special big, plastic basin. I fight the process but even the nurses are willing to punch me in the face. It's all stupid until I get up and realize I've just filled this plastic thingy with old blood. O H B O Y. I move out slowly and I'm no longer the smart-ass. I ask the Doctor his take. Suddenly I'm on a gurney and being RUSHED upstairs.

Hmmmmm. They used this cool black scope and went down my throat to watch my guts on colour television. They made the mistake of letting me see it before going in and I swear it looked like something from Alien. Had a kind of organic quality to it and appeared multi-jointed (she carried it heavy, come to think of it, like it was a section of MY intestine -- like you'd carry a garden hose, all coiled up and dripping). Using the same scope (it was equipped to do a host of things) they injected the area to stop the bleeding and I think tried to cauterize the area as well. I was awake for this but I'd been given a heavy dose of IV Valium not only relaxing me but made me quite forgetful. I DO remember it wearing off in the hallway some three or four hours later as I'm farting blood. This sounds so gross and it was soooooo embarrassing. Damnit, I told you to stop reading!

I spent most of my time in ICU with a Mr. McFarland. He was a good roomy because he kept quiet and read lots of Arthur Conan Doyle (a short story anthology -- must have been heavy on his legs) and Clive Cussler. The only time he weirded me out was when he chewed and I swear it sounded like he had two sets of teeth. We didn't get much sleep because my blood pressure was too weak and they thought maybe he needed a pace maker so both our monitors kept going off and we kept waking each other up. I began to suspect toward the end it was all about breathing, something I was never able to prove. I just wished each of us had our own tone (you know, a sound that made our monitors unique) and then we could have slept better instead of wondering which of us was having the heart attack. I knew I'd watched too much teevee when air bubbles started creeping around my IV tube (where they'd injected the Zantac) and, you see, I tried telling the nurse. But she just tut-tutted me. Finally, I freaked. I hadn't been paying attention and this this HUGE bubble started moving toward my arm and I was slapping it and waving my wrist like I had a spider on me, causing Mr. McFarland to choke a little on his Turkey dinner. The nurse patted my arm like I was a child and told me "The whole tube would have to be filled with air to do you any harm!" Had she seen the same programs I had?! I wondered. Mr. McFarland ate with his back to me from then on. But I didn't relax until I heard the same story from two or three of the nurses. I'm almost ashamed to say this now, but I wrote my wife a secret message giving her the details of my paranoia! Only I can't find it now. Not sure what that means ...

Well, my hemoglobin dropped to 91 -- a lot less than what I'm suppose to have, which I'm told is suppose to be about 140-- about 33% of my blood volume.

Doctor says that if I start bleeding again I could die. The feeling of dying is terrible -- horrifying. It's bad mojo, it's pain, and it's overwhelming nausea. It is the horror, the knowledge that what is happening to you is so serious, that either the knowing, the pain, or some chemical released by either immobilizes your body. As you break over one mountain of pain your body soaks the bed and everything with WATER. Not sweat but water from every pore. You continue to climb a series of mountains of pain and somehow, eventually, it stops (and I remember gasping in relief). That I couldn't move (literally could not move) meant for me that life was withdrawing from me. And as stupid as this is going to sound that's really cool.

Well, now I'm taking Losec to close the hole and Tylenol 3s.

It's dizzying and it makes me ... well, horny... but it's better than the headaches I seem to wake up with.