The burst appendix didn’t kill me. Nothing seemed all that different to me the first hours after surgery, other than my drugged grogginess and a pinching sensation along my side and the longing to see my wife so she would know I was alive. The operation should have taken no more than an hour. How long, exactly, it had taken, I wasn’t sure, but it was longer than an hour. My surgeon later explained fecal matter had stopped up the open end of my appendix, and that crappy road block had calcified, had caused pus and other goo to build up inside my appendix, and that buildup made the appendix swell, burst, and make me seek the comfort of tortilla chips, Coke, and painkillers at four in the morning. The goo and pus complicated the surgery. My surgeon had to wallow around my insides and chase after the meaty pulp that was my appendix. And that took time.
Nothing seemed all that different to me the first few days in the hospital, other than stomach spasms trying to force extra gas from my body and piercing pinches at my side anytime I moved, especially when I walked. Nothing seemed all that different to me toward the end of week, other than I could walk with less pain and didn’t have to be attached to the IV’s umbilical, the stomach spasms had passed, and I was eating solid food. I was reading, and had made some notes in my journal about the surgery. And one night, just before drifting off to sleep, I resolved to write an essay about my first significant hospital experience. No life-altering changes seemed to have amended me, nothing significant enough to temper the me that was thought and personality. I had only been subject to one of the many thousands of inherited defibrillations Hamlet speaks of as natural to all of us.
At home the first few days after release from the hospital nothing seemed all that different, no aftereffects felt from the surgery. I slept late — since I was off from work — took antibiotics regularly and painkillers when needed, and started taking the antidepressants, even though I didn’t feel depressed or anxious and had just a few problems sleeping, all of which seemed physical — I could only sleep on my back and was only comfortable when my legs were elevated.
By Saturday, I felt ready to write. I set a schedule for my hospital-experience essay similar to the one I set for my novel. Three two-hour sessions, a minimum of 350 words. Sunday morning at 609 words, and in the middle of a sentence about my wedding plans, I stopped writing. I was tired. My wife and I had stayed up late Saturday night watching the Comedy Channel. Sleep tugged me. So I would sleep and then get up and finish my work. When I woke up, I didn’t go back to work on the essay. Instead, I went out to the backyard and started cleaning the midden of rubber balls, bricks, soggy blankets and crumbling chunks of sidewalk chalk left to litter the area after one of the many recent sleepovers my stepdaughters had held. As I sorted through the heap something undetermined nagged my mind, irritating me. All the rest of the day this amorphous jellyfish of a mood stung me.
Monday morning something was wrong. Not an aftereffect of the surgery. Not physically at least, so it seemed, but an alteration of mood. I hadn’t slept well, maybe three or four hours. The irritability of the previous day had accompanied me to bed and didn’t have the courtesy to leave during the night when it was done with me. Accompanying the irritability was a malaise that had nothing do with missing my daily dose of coffee. I had no interest in any part of my morning routine — no reading, no coffee. All I wanted to do was cover up and sleep. The mood continued through the day at work. I passed the mood off as a response to my increasing bout – a fight of almost five months — with dissatisfaction over my job. Even the next day, when it hadn’t gone away, I assumed the depression was solely due to the job.
Moreover, I was crabby with my wife, and yet she had nothing to do with the mood. All the time we had been together, I don’t recall snipping at her. I didn’t like it. I assured her the pissy moodiness billowed from work. The mood evolved over the week into something different, a slipping away of personality. All I wanted was for the Paxil to kick in, and frustrated that it wasn’t taking effect soon enough. Everything was slipping away. I stopped reading in the mornings. I had no desire to write. The hours I spent at the computer were devoted to surfing the Web — mostly checking blog stats — and playing my favorite PC game. My life after surgery felt only somewhat like life, to paraphrase Larry McMurtry. Except, I never imagined what I felt had anything to do with the surgery.
(To be continued)