Monday, October 31, 2016

Not All Adventures Are Fun

The calm before the storm.  Stoller Winery
with Victor Pancichkul, Kathy, Charles Price,
Steve & Christina Martin, and Larry Gray
One week ago, Kathy and I enjoyed a fun Sunday afternoon at Stoller Winery with friends.  Later that night, following extreme stomach cramps, I had emergency surgery for a twisted bowel (known in medical terms as a cecal volvulus).   I thought my gut was going to explode! The surgeons removed about three inches of my small intestine and about six inches of my colon, then connected them together.   I got my appendix removed as well.
The large black lines were the incision
points, later sewn together.
According to the Internet Machine, these are sudden, random and very rare, with about 200,000 cases per year, and most are not as severe or require surgery.
3 days post surgery,
before the drains
were inserted.

A typical daily agenda, minus
 listings of the many other
non-pain medications,
injections, and antibiotics.
Thanks to all of you for you kind wishes and inquiries.  I was too sick and drugged up to accept visitors or even phone calls.  And I can't risk an infection, especially one that makes me cough.  I will be discharged from Salem Hospital later today after my last IV antibiotic course is finished.
Turns out I was allergic to tape, so
 the area surrounding my 9" incision
 is highly inflamed and itchy.

I am lucky!  It happened out of the blue at the right time and place before internal bleeding or
gangrene.   The attack and the post-surgery recovery are the most painful things I have ever experienced.  We had just returned from our Desert Trip rock concert Indo, CA, and we were starting to pack for our bicycle tour of Cuba, departing November 1.  Had this happened during these trips things would have turned out much worse.

It turns out that we wouldn't have been able to go to Cuba after all, because Kathy's mom was rushed to the ER on Saturday for a urinary tract infection and a wildly fluctuating heart beat.  (Poor Kathy--dealing with both of us in the hospital at the same time!) We couldn't have left with a clear conscience with no support for her locally.  I got some good doctor-ordered walks going to visit her in the CV unit in the other building.  She's back at Dallas Retirement Village and apparently feeling much better then I do.

I was also lucky to have this happen in 2016 instead of 1966 or earlier.  The medications and the diagnostic tools truly are a marvel.  I dread getting the bill for all of this.  My guess is about $50,000+  but I'm lucky again to have insurance to cover most of it.  This experience would  have been much more stressful wondering if I could afford any of it.

View from my window
The hard-working nursing and support staff  Salem Hospital were models of kindness, attentiveness, and professionalism.  Indeed, visiting with them many times of day and night over they past week as they took care of me was the highlight of the whole experience.  I gained a lot of insight about what it's like to work in a hospital and juggle their home lives around three 12-hour shifts per week.  It's a stressful and physically-demanding job.  I now have a HUGE appreciation for daughter Feruza, a nurse in New York in a ward similar to mine.

I generated about 3 of these a day,
and much more during my surgery.
(Sorry, planet.)
I can resume a normal diet, but I don't have an appetite or stomach capacity to eat much.  Those of you who know me well know that I usually don't have any trouble passing gas.  Part of my condition of going home was being able to have a few big farts, and at least one bowel movement.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, but I still have much more to do so that my stomach isn't the first thing entering a room.  The hardest part of my recovery is waiting 5-6 weeks before I can resume exercising, and probably much longer to get back to where I was two weeks ago.

As the title says, not  all adventures are fun. This was one of them, but it was a good opportunity to reflect upon how things can change in an instant, the nature of pain, and to appreciate good health and all of the people in my life.


  1. Glad to hear you are doing better! Thanks for the report -- it's interesting to hear how that all works and glad that you have had a positive experience overall (as much as one can in these situations).

  2. Boy, Ron, you're such a good writer that you even make major surgery sound interesting! That is definitely NOT one of your adventures that I want to add to our bucket list. Best wishes for a swift recovery.
    Lani & Jim

    1. Thanks, Lani. I'm doing better, but progress is slow.

  3. Allergic to tape? Jeesh, this is not the way to find out! Keep healing, my friend.

  4. Hey Ron, I'm thinking Mt. Jefferson Park in August wouldn't have been a good place to start your "adventure." What in the heck would we have done? Darn good thing you picked a better time and place for this. Glad you're back home and healing up. kvo

    1. That was one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind on the way to the hospital. It could have also been bad, but not quite as much, in the back country of Joshua Tree three weeks ago.