Friday, November 09, 2012

First Tuesday in November

I had the luxury of three days off in a row over the weekend. We didn't plan anything special it was just good to relax and spend some time with the family.
We did have a celebratory meal on Sunday night, the first chance we'd had to mark Spike's 21st birthday which happened a couple of weeks ago. The Heir and his girlfriend were headed for Lorne for a couple of days so they couldn't join us but the rest of us ordered Chinese takeaway and had a lovely night sitting on the back verandah, laughing, eating, telling stories and reminiscing. The weather was good and a great time was had by all.
It is two years since we moved from Busselton and we agreed that while the time had gone quickly, a great deal has happened  since we moved to Victoria.
On Monday Mrs Holt Press and I went up to Melblourne to see her old school friend Tracey who is an art curator at the Gasworks Gallery complex in South Melbourne to discuss the possibility of me having an exhibition there next year. She was very encouraging and keen to see it happen which was very affirming. From there we went to Ikea to buy a few frames to see how some of my drawings would look framed. We ate at the Ikea cafeteria. I had the meatballs.

The first Tuesday in November will be memorable for three reasons. Australia stopped for the Melbourne Cup. Barack Obama went to the polls and emerged victorious and won a second term as President of the USA. And I was in hospital!

It started on Monday night. We went to bed early as I was due back at work at 6.22 Tuesday morning.
However, neither of us could sleep. Sleep is not normally a problem for me but after two hours laying in bed and Mrs Holt Press tossing and turning in shared frustration, I got up and sat in my recliner chair, hoping a change of setting might do the trick.
Instead over the following hour I started getting stomach pains which intensified with every minute.
I took some Nurofen but that didn't help.
I moved to the futon couch but sleep eluded me and the pain just got worse.Added to the pain I had the worst case of explosive belching and burping I've ever experienced.Not normal burps, not even the kind brought on by Coca-Cola. Relentless deep rumbling gaseous eruptions . Did I have food poisoning? Were the meatballs wreaking a terrible revenge? There's been a gastro bug going around? Was I the latest victim?
I tried going to the toilet but there was no tell-tale diarrhea, in fact there was nothing at all.
Then I vomited.
Not much sadly. I'm a believer in the theory that the sooner you get it all out the quicker you feel better.
That was not to be my fate.

By 5.00am I was in desperate straits.
I rang work to let them know I was sick and couldn't come to work.

By 5.30 I had no choice but to wake up Mrs HP who had at least fallen asleep some time earlier.
"I'm sorry to do this but I'm really sick. I've had terrible stomach pains for the last 4 hours and have just thrown up"
She was very sympathetic and supportive, administered paracetomol and offered to take me to the hospital.

We delayed that until she'd gotten Sport Boy up and on the way to school at 7.30.
Before that I suffered the sort of gut-wrenching vomiting that starts at the toenails and grabs everything in its path and forces it upwards and outwards in excruciating heaving waves of pain. By this stage, all that came up was liquid and bitter tasting bile. I was a mess.

The drive to the hospital was awful. Every bump, every breath, every movement sent pain shuddering through me. We had to stop enroute as I feared another vomiting attack but it mercifully subsided.

I literally staggered into the emergency dept and told my sad tale of woe to the duty nurse.
They swiftly took me into emergency and began assessing and assisting me.
First priority was getting the pain under control.
Bring on the morphine.

"How is it now Mr Holt?"

A bit better...

"I'll give you a bit more...don't want to knock you out..."
 Three doses finally did the trick.


Next came "the champagne of anti-nausea drugs", "just let this dissolve under your tongue Mr Holt"

OK, I no longer felt like throwing up. Instead my mouth felt like a dried up dingo dropping on a December day in the Simpson.

Can I have some water please?

"Sorry Mr Holt, but I'll get you some ice chips"

This wasn't exactly a lie, he just waited a further two hours to deliver!!
In the meantime...
Over the next few hours they tested me for a variety of things, ruling out the worst systematically.

Chest and abdominal x-rays. All clear.

CT scan. All clear. (In a classic case of the sublime to the ridiculous I was forced to drink a litre and a half of aniseed flavoured liquid in the 45 minutes prior to the CT scan. CT stands for Computer Tomography by the way. I asked Bruce the radiologist)

"Mr Holt, we're going to do a gastroscopy and have a closer look for the problem"

"We'll just spray some local anaesthetic down the back of your throat and some general to knock you out. Open wide please..."

"Mr Holt, wake up Mr Holt, you're in recovery..."

"We're admitting you now Mr Holt, the orderly will take you up to the ward..."

It was about 4 o'clock by this stage and Mrs HP had moved the car three times. She went home to check on the family and fetch me a few things.

I slept on and off for the next few hours.

I was allowed to drink but no food!

Mrs HP returned with various items and some TLC. She was wonderful throughout my whole ordeal. Tender, concerned, supportive, helpful, loving, patient and kind. I realized again why I love her and told her so.

I should say, in case anything is misconstrued that the staff at the hospital were fantastic throughout. Every nurse, orderly, doctor, med student, specialist and ward staff who dealt with me was wonderful. I felt very well cared for.

There were three other blokes in the ward but none of us were up for any conversation.

I slept for 2-3 hours at a time throughout the night, a couple of panadol all that was necessary to keep the pain at bay.

Next morning the doctor informed me that the gastroscopy had revealed small ulcers on my osophagus, signs of Reflux Disease. They were giving me Nexium through the IV.

Still no food, just water and apple juice.

By mid-morning my signs were all significatly improved.

Food was back on the menu. woohoo!

Sadly hospital food maintained its underwhelming reputation but at least it was something to stave off the hunger.

"How are you feeling now Mr Holt?"

A lot better than I was yesterday

"OK, you've manged some food without further problems, I think we can let you go home this afternoon"

A couple of hours, some paperwork and a prescription later they were true to their word.

Mrs HP collected me at about 3.00pm, just in time to see on a TV monitor that the President had been re-elected. More good news.

Thursday was a rostered day off so I spent the day recovering and resting. Most of the pain has gone. The tablets are working. I felt a bit tender and washed out  but otherwise not too bad.

So much so that I returned to work this morning. (5.30 start!!) and got through the day in one piece.