Marathon #5 – 26.2 for Karen
One Day in My Life with Colitis
This is the story that I tell when people ask why I spend so much time fundraising and training for races with Team Challenge. One day, I went to bed early with some abdominal pain – nothing out of the ordinary for an IBD patient. By early morning, I was having difficulty coping with the pain and, after talking to my gastroenterologist, I took a cab to the ER. The ER doc did an initial evaluation and then turned his attention to more pressing concerns with other patients.
I’m kind of quiet to begin with, but when I am in severe pain, I become even quieter. So I just silently lay there. Several hours later, a nurse left one of those barium shakes for me to drink. I drank it but wasn’t able to keep it down and then, almost immediately, started to drift in and out of consciousness. At one point, I became conscious enough to note that an intern was anxiously consulting with an older doc I didn’t recognize, who muttered “use an NG tube”. Now, I have tons of experience with NG tubes. This jolted me into consciousness. I asked for a tranquilizer and started to explain that I have panic attacks and fight like a bear when they start threading tubes up my nose and down my throat. The older doc looked at me with a great deal of compassion and just nodded. I was out again before they could give me a sedative, so it really didn’t matter anyway. But I really appreciate the compassion in that unknown doctor’s eyes.
When I came to, I saw my surgeon standing at the foot of my ER cot. Like most IBD patients, I have a long-term relationship with my surgeon. He was on his cell phone speaking to my husband saying “No, John. I have to operate now. She won’t last the night.” I had just overheard my doctor telling my husband that I was going to die. I wasn’t scared, or even surprised. I was too focused on my doctor’s appearance. From my perspective, my surgeon’s skin was gray and orange spotted and he had devil horns coming out of his head. All I could think was “oh man, the years have not been kind to Dr. Mowschenson.” With that thought, I realized that people normally don’t have devil horns and polka dots. Then all I could think was, “cool – I’m hallucinating.” As an aside, let me say that I thank God for small mercies like a very well-timed hallucination that kept me from being scared out of my mind.
I woke up for real the next morning. The team of rounding docs told me that strings of scar tissue had knotted around my intestine and they had to operate on me. One doc started chuckling, so they clarified that actually only Dr. Mowschenson had operated on me. He was in such a hurry to save me that he had performed the entire operation unassisted and was sewing me closed while the rest of the surgical team was still scrubbing down. I really appreciate Dr. Mowschenson. That man is a real life-saver.
Weeks later, I was telling my husband this story. I asked my husband if my memory of the telephone conversation between him and Dr. Mowschenson was accurate or did I imagine the whole thing. He confirmed that my memory was true and accurate, and then he added a detail. He was driving to the hospital while on the phone with the doc. When Mowschenson told him that I wouldn’t last the night, my husband became so upset he crashed into the car in front of him and said “Oh $#!+. I just rear-ended someone. Gotta hang up.”
You can’t make stuff like this up. Every time we stroll down memory lane and get to that day, we laugh and are grateful that everything turned out okay. But the memory of this day is also one of the many reasons that I support the Crohns & Colitis Foundation and participate in Team Challenge. Everything turned out ok only because of a dedicated specialist surgeon who knew exactly what to do. This is why the Crohns & Colitis Foundation’s mission is so important.
Running 26.2 for Karen!
Marathon 5 – Recap