OK, so obviously I didn't die. I didn't even see the light at the end of the tunnel -- though I didn't see any lights or tunnels after the car accident, either, when my spleen burst on the operating table and my lung collapsed and my blood pressure crashed and my heart actually did stop beating. No lights, no tunnels. Just a warm, lovely feeling like dozing under blankets on a cold morning, when staying in bed and falling back asleep is the best idea in the world except the alarm is going off all obnoxious and loud and you can't turn it off and roll over because it's algebra-test morning and you must wake up. So you wake up in a nest of tubes and wires.
C. and I were supposed to be having an easy day. He'd nearly been hospitalized for dehydration in the Black Canyon the day before, so we were going to have a day or two where we didn't break a sweat, just drove an easy stretch up the road, found a camp spot, and hung around the van all day drinking water and doing some of our more fanciful campfire cookery.
The first part of the plan went swimmingly and we were kicking into the second part of the plan -- taking 'er easy for the rest of the day -- when my stomach cramped, suddenly and visciously.
There was no ignoring it, though because I am stupid, I tried. And there was no pretending it was diarhea, or PMS, or food poisoning, or anything normal like that. The only possible explanation was that an alien fetus was about to burst out of my abdomen, raging for food. C. tried to comfort me while we waited to see if maybe it would all just go away. "I best your just going to pass the mother of all farts, and that'll be that," C. said hopefully, holding me and patting my back like a colicy baby.
Then I threw up all over everything in the van. This is the unmistakeable signal that it is time to stop toughing things out and drive to the nearest hospital. Only we were in the fucking wilderness in fucking Colorado and the van wouldn't start. Sometimes it just doesn't. Then we have to get out and push her to a head of speed and jump back in and pop the clutch, which is fine when you have two healthy adults to push. Only I couldn't even stand up straight so I wasn't a very effective pusher, and C. couldn't do it alone. Oh, and it was almost dark.
Which was good, as it turned out, because it brought the park ranger around in his little golf cart to see if we had a permit to camp where we were camping, and he helped us push the van out of it's spot and into starting position. From there, it was literally downhill all the way to the one-and-a-half horse town that is the county seat of that sparsely settled part of the world, where the ranger told us there was a hospital. It was about a forty minute drive, but felt longer. I started speculating out loud that I might have ebola, the only disease I could think of where your guts turn to mush and leak out through your pores.
In town at last, we located the hospital with the sixth sense of desperation and staggered into the emergency room barefoot, like the last survivors of a terrible battle. The ER was abandoned. This was a quiet town. A nurse took me into the back, and gently tapped away at me with swabs and scopes and listening devices. Meekly and with relief, I surrendered my body into the hands of Science.
They X-rayed me once, then twice, then made me drink a hideous potion with barium in it and wheeled me down the hall and fed my body into the CT scanner. After that they shot me full of something that stung my whole arm like a jellyfish as it went it and was supposed to stop the vomitting, which by then was constant. Finally they took mercy on me and pumped me full of Delotid and I went down, down, down.
I woke up surrounded by beeping machines, with an IV in the crook of my arm, a tube up my hoo, and a device stuck down my nose into my stomach, which scratched my throat and whirred softly as it sucked great gobbets of black and yellow bile into a bucket beside the bed. C. was there, thank God. They gave him a cot so he could sleep in my room, which was kind.
Presently a doctor with a ponytail came in and explained it all to us. My old scar, the zipper, had gone all nutty on the inside, growing knots of scar tissue in and around and through my organs, particularly the small intestine. Perhaps randomly, perhaps stimulated by the previous day's over-exertion in the canyon, the scar tissue had chosen that golden afternoon up on Grand Mesa to squeeze shut like a fist. The pain and vomitting and wierd taste in my mouth were what organ failure feels like.
By the time I woke up, the scar tissue had released it's grip on everything but my intestines. The doctor with the ponytail told us my guts might or might take care of themselves on their own, and that if I shat myself it would be a good sign. With that he left me to twiddle my thumbs and get better or not.
I did not get better. I got worse. Timed passed weirdly. Every few hours a nurse would come and put Delotid in my IV, and afternoons and evenings went by like a tape on fastforward. Other times I woke up and watched the clock in a stupor while the second hand made it's interminable way around. When I slept, my dreams were so painfully vivid that I woke up exhausted.
On the evening of the third day Dr. Ponytail told us I wasn't getting any better and he was going to operate in the morning, before my intestines strangled and turned gangrenous. Waiting to be operated on is a strange thing. When I was in the accident, I woke up in the hospital smashed to bits, with no memory of the recent past. In some ways, that is easier. I tried to think good things about being cut open in the morning, like how healthy I am, and how I was glad I was going to have the operation and get the scar tissue removed and that would be that, and how my doctor seemed like an intelligent person, and at least I wasn't in Mexico.
Long story short, they cut me open the next morning. A nurse told me later they took half a pound of scar tissue out of my tum, but they didn't save it for me in a jar liked I asked. The doctor stitched me up very nicely, with 53 tiny little staples, instead of the 19 economy-sized hardware staples they used the first time. The line of the scar is thinner and straighter than it was before. So, good.
They couldn't have been sweeter to me in the ICU. And on the third day after the operation I took a shit. And it was good.