“You can’t keep popping antibiotics to cure your diverticulitis,” Mrs. WhiteCoat told me.
Yeah, yeah. I know. That’s why I grudgingly went to see a surgeon.
Then I started wondering to myself. Aside from those neurologic complications and the increased incidence of tendon ruptures, why can’t I just take Cipro and Flagyl every few months?
Actually, I was more worried about long-term complications from repeated episodes of diverticulitis. Inflammation from diverticulitis can cause strictures, adhesions, fistulas, obstructions, and other badness that I didn’t want to have to deal with later in life.
So … I may as well get this diseased colon of mine removed while I’m still “healthy.”
We decided to stick with a surgeon that we’ve known for a long time. I had seen him a couple of years prior when I had to stay in the hospital for another episode of diverticulitis. He has lots of experience doing colon surgery, plus he’s a good guy. I requested a month off of work, figuring that I would hopefully be back to normal a few weeks after the surgery.
A week before surgery, I got an e-mail with preoperative instructions from the nurse. Had to make sure that I was “cleaned out” before the surgery, so the day before surgery involved drinking lots of laxatives. I decided I wanted to go even one step further. I pretty much only drank liquids for the two days prior to surgery. I didn’t want there being any chance of extra stool in my colon that could contaminate the surgical site.
We had to be at the hospital at 6:00 AM on the day of surgery. That meant getting up about 4:30 in the morning. No problem, I figured, I’ll be sleeping most of the day. I just felt bad for my wife.
While we were getting dressed, she looked at me and said “I could hardly sleep last night. Aren’t you worried?”
I really wasn’t, except for one thing that kept running through the back of my head. It was almost like a bad omen.
One of the last patients that I had seen in my last emergency department shift was a gentleman who was 50-ish and who had been in a nursing home for the prior 4 months. He suffered a relatively straightforward injury. He was shoveling snow when he slipped and fell, breaking his hip. He had a standard hip replacement performed, but that’s when his troubles began. First, his surgical wound got infected. They had to open up and debride some of the infected tissue. Then, the hip prosthesis became infected. He was on intravenous antibiotics for a month. The organisms were unfortunately resistant to most antibiotics, and the infection persisted, so the surgeons had to remove his entire hip prosthesis. Then he was on more antibiotics to try to cure the remaining infections in the tissues. Since he did not have a hip joint, he was unable to walk and was relegated to a bed. Then he began to develop bed sores. He came to the emergency department because his hip was getting more red and was draining pus … again.
When I looked at him, I felt such pity because you could tell that he was a strong, proud man who was beaten down by a bunch of superbugs and wouldn’t even have existed if it weren’t for all these patients thinking that their runny noses and coughs need antibiotics.
Yep, fate being what it is, I could just see myself getting infected by one of these multiply drug-resistant organisms that I complain about on my blog so much. If I had had a temporary colostomy bag, I could deal with it. Postoperative pain, no problem. Infections… now those worried me. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it.
I packed up a couple sets of scrubs and a couple packs of gum, since I knew that I wouldn’t be able to eat for a while after surgery. I put a computer and an MP3 player in the backpack. I also took my phone and an extra battery just in case. Anything else, I figured someone could bring me later if I needed it.
With that, I gave each of the kids a kiss on the forehead while they were sleeping, then my wife and I walked out of the house hand-in-hand.
“I’M driving,” she said.
“Fine, I’m sure they’ll have some nausea medicine there for me when we arrive,” I joked.
On the way to the hospital, my wife kept looking over at me with tears in her eyes while she was driving. “Cripes, it’s colon surgery,” I thought to myself, “it’s not like they’re doing a heart transplant or something.”
I just smiled back at her.