Nearly Dying

August 2012.

I had been sick since May. I told only a few close friends and people that had seen me sick. I kept my sickness off of Facebook or Twitter. I was too private to complain about my health on social media and I did not seek sympathy. Having been violently attacked four times in life, everything that happened growing up, broken bones, permanent nerve damage in my face, being called every name in the book in multiple languages, witnessing so many horrific events in person and going through so many shocking incidents - this illness seemed minor by comparison, at the time.

I was not showing signs of illness all the time, just at certain times and sometimes I appeared to be doing better. Yet, when I looked in the mirror or at photos or stood on the weight scales I knew I was sick. The only constant was the weight loss, especially in my face. I attributed that weight loss to my daily swimming laps. My clothes hung off me and my belts did not have enough holes in them.

The initial diagnosis was gastritis (an inflammation of the stomach lining) and indeed that was the case or at least part of the problem. I took the medications for it, changed my already healthy diet and reduced my coffee intake from ten cups a day down to one; that was a serious change for me.

At times I was okay, other times I was vomiting, tired, having extreme pain, but then it would go away again. It was presenting itself like chronic gastritis would normally present itself so I thought over time this would improve and never get worse.

Then on August 22 everything changed. I was sitting at my desk and I got a stomach cramp and went to lie down on the bed. As soon as I laid down, the pain was so intense on the right side of my abdomen that I jumped off the bed and screamed. The pain was like a hot knife tearing through my body. It was the worst pain I have ever experienced, I began to sweat intensely and the pain grew so strong that I vomited.

I thought I was going to die.

I  knelt in the floor next to my bed and kept repeating over and over that I did not want to die. I was doing this to control panic from taking me over and from making the situation worse. I had my cell phone and I called a friend.

He was working until the next morning and it was already late so there was no one else to call to take me to the hospital.

I contemplated calling 911, but then I did not know how I could get downstairs to let the paramedics in the gate or inside the house. I was stuck in the floor upstairs. I knew I would have to wait until the next morning for my friend and hope that I did not die in the meantime.

For ten hours, I sat in one position without moving until my friend arrived. His initial diagnosis was a ruptured appendix and that I immediately needed to go to the hospital.

At the emergency room, their diagnosis was also a ruptured appendix. They said I would have surgery later that afternoon. Then things changed. More and more doctors came to see me, more and more tests were done. I began to sense that this was not something as routine as a ruptured appendix.

Finally the chief surgeon came with a serious look and showed me an x-ray of my abdominal region. It showed that air was leaking out of my intestines into my stomach cavity and he said they had no idea why it was happening. He told me that I needed emergency exploratory surgery and I needed it right then, there would be no waiting.

I signed a paper or two, had it explained to me that this was life threatening, that without surgery I would die and even with surgery, I could still die. I stared at the ceiling and thought my life was over at thirty-nine. I had no time to prepare and moments later I was in an operating room under the bright lights.

Several hours later I woke up in recovery from surgery. I had no idea what had happened or whether I was going to live or die.

There were tubes coming out of me from everywhere. At least I knew I was not in I.C.U., which I was told prior to surgery would be likely.

A doctor would come by and tell me that I had an ulcer that burst and tore a hole through my stomach. He said that if I had waited much longer to come to the hospital I would have died. He said the last patient he had operated on for the same thing died during surgery because his body had become too weak.

Days later, a doctor would tell me that it was caused by a bacteria due to the type of ulcer that I had. I would be treated for that bacteria as well, which was Helicobacter pylori.

August 2012.

Nine days I was in the hospital. I stared at the Atlanta skyline out my window and drifted in and out of drug induced sleep. Since the surgery was to my stomach I ingested no liquids or food until the eighth day.

My prognosis is good. I will make a full recovery physically despite having a substantial scar forever. The surgeons cut me open from my sternum to down below my belly button and that is where I am currently growing back together. The wound is mostly closed now, but it looks horrible and it may always look that way. It hurts and it is depressing to look at it. It gives me pain all the time as it grows back together but eventually the pain will go away I hope and I can resume a full life they tell me.

Thursday it will have been a month since my surgery, but I still can not do much of anything. I can walk now and get around. However, I cannot bend over, lift anything or strain or clean or do much else, but eventually I will get around like before they say.

I will never look the same ever again and that hurts. I lost 30 pounds from being sick, dropping me to 130 pounds, most of which was muscle mass. I hope to be stronger than I ever was before.