It Was Only A Sneeze Or How I Became Frightened Of Hospitals
It all started with a sneeze. One simple sneeze. Although, it did hurt like hell, but seriously. A sneeze?
The pain rose up through my lower abdomen and up into my chest, finally settling in the back of my throat. I was overwhelmed with the feeling to puke, but nothing was coming up. It's like when you get hit in the testicles and the pain is unbearable and you know it will end, so all you can do is hunch over, breathe deep breaths, and focus on something other than your testes retreating back into its prepubescent state.
I stood there, heeled over and in the shape of a right-angle when my mother came in. She was going through the list of things not to do while her and my father were out of town for the weekend. I was fading in and out, but seem to only remember her telling me not to have a party and no girls. Little did she know, I haven't had a girlfriend since 3rd grade. Sarah Cassleman. She was this really cute brunette with pigtails and glasses. We had only been 'dating' one month before she dumped me for Chad Hunter. God I hate that name; Chad. Who names their child Chad? Chad and Sarah were boyfriend and girlfriend for a couple months, until Sarah's family moved states when her father got a job at a massive refinery that just opened up a few months prior. That was the last time either of us saw her sweet face again. Since Sarah left, Chad and I haven't spoken. We exchange glares in the halls at school, but that's as far as our friendship goes.
I glance at the clock across the room, it's 7:55 and my bus comes at 8:00. I fight through the pain, go upstairs, grab my backpack, run down the stairs, kiss my mother's cheek, say goodbye, and race out the door to catch my bus.
I'm halfway to the street when I see the big yellow beast coming down the road, just in time to pick me up. The bus stops in front of me and the doors swing open. I'm greeted by the smiling face of Mr. Thompson, the jolly old man that's been driving the school bus for as long as I can remember. I lift my foot up to board the bus and that's when I'm struck with a second wave of pain, this time it's under he right side of my rib cage. The feeling of a dagger, slow and sharp, piercing into my lung as I struggle to say good morning to Mr. Thompson. All that comes out is a pathetic whimper of a wounded animal. He grabs my arm and helps me on to the bus and asks me if I'm okay. I shake him off and head towards the back of the bus where I can sit alone and hope the pain subsides by the time I get to school.
It wasn't too long before we arrived at school when I was able to start thinking clearly and the dagger that had been lodged in my chest was slowly being pulled out. The bus pulled up to the front of the school, the doors opened and the troves of children unloaded off the bus. I waited until the last kid exited before I got up and started the long and treacherous walk to the front doors of the school. I approached the front of the bus and the gaze of Mr. Thompson.
"Are you okay, son?" He asked, "I noticed you were in a great deal of pain as you entered the bus"
"Yeah," I groaned. "I think it's a bit of indigestion. Mom made her famous casserole last night."
"Right. Well, if it gets any worse I'd suggest you go to the school nurse." He replied skeptically.
I stumbled down the stairs off the bus and staggered towards the front doors of the school. I made it to my seat in biology class with a minute to spare before the homeroom bell sounded, signalling the start of the school day.
The first hour was like any other, we were learning about mitochondria and the role they play inside a cell, that's when the curved blade of the shiv began to pierce my skin, plunging deeper and deeper into my chest. I had to pinch my leg to prevent myself from fainting and falling on the floor writhing in pain from the most recent stab wound.
"Ms. Stenner," I squeaked, "May I be excused? "
"What seems to be the matter?" She inquired.
I pleaded, "I think I ate something funky this morning and need to get a drink of water."
"It's 10 minutes to morning break, I think you can wait." She croaked.
The next 10 minutes were the longest 10 minutes of my life. I sat there using the desk to support my weight as the time slowly ticked by, watching the clock make its rounds, only 3 more revolutions to go.
Brrrrrring The bell went as I clawed my way through the kids and dashed towards the nurse's office to get a diagnoses on my current sate. When I entered the office she was sitting there enjoying her coffee and reading the paper. As the door swung open I fell to the floor and let out an excruciating whine and her eyes lifted up from the daily news.
"Are you okay?" She asked, "Here, get up on the table."
As I lay upon the table she begins to ask me what' seems to be the matter.
"Sharp pain. Chest." I manage to say.
She moves my hand out of the way and rests her's directly where I was holding. As she starts to rub it, trying to diagnose what seems to be giving me such surmounting pain I let out a yelp to which she jumps back and apologetically touches my arm and makes her way to the phone.
"I'm calling the hospital, I'm not equipped to deal with this and you seem to be in a lot of pain!" She exclaimed.
"No... I'll be okay." I protested, "See? I'm ready to go back to class."
I dropped down off the table and immediately collapsed onto the ground as Ms. Stenner grabbed my arm and helped me back up into a seated position on the exam room table as I drifted into a pain induced sleep.
I woke up as they were unloading me from the ambulance, a paramedic on either side of me, rolling me through the emergency room doors on a stretcher. They stopped me in the hallway with a couple other patients, laying just as helplessly on stretchers of their own, and told me to stay here until the doctor comes out.
Fifteen minutes later the doctor came out, put her glasses on, examined my chart and told the nurse to bring me upstairs.
"What's going on?" I asked, as she rolled me into the elevator. "I need to get back to class. We're learning about the mitochondria."
"It seems that the school nurse said you were having serious chest pain that you subsequently fainted from in her office." She replied.
"I think I ate something weird this morning or last night. My mom made this really strange casserole and it's giving me a bit of indigestion." I stated.
"We're going to run some tests because chest pains like these aren't to be taken lightly. " She said.
The elevator doors opened and I was rolled into an empty room where I was told to wait for the doctor once again. Everything was white, from the walls and floor, to the linens and drapes that separated the patient's beds. This was the first time I had been to the hospital as something other than a visitor. I lay there staring up at the ceiling, feeling completely embarrassed, thinking about what I was going to tell my parents. It's not like we had health insurance and hospital bills aren't exactly things we can afford. I'm going to be grounded for at least a year, I remember that time I went to a friend's house without telling anyone. I was only gone four hours, but when I returned they grounded me for two days, and this is much worse than that.
The doctor came in with my chart, flipping through the pages saying they want to run a couple tests on me to verify there isn't anything seriously wrong with my organs. He calls for the nurse to bring me in for a MRI scan and she wheels me to another room where they place me inside the massive overpowered magnet and tell me to lay still until the scan was complete. After the scan I was brought in for an ECG, and X-Ray before being brought back to the room to wait for the results to come back.
Another 20 minutes pass before I see the nurse again, this time she seems more stressed and a little on edge.
"Where are you taking me now?" I ask. "Is something wrong?"
"I need to take you to the operating room," she said " the doctor will explain everything to you before the operation."
I had so many questions that needed answering, but it was futile. She kept to her script and wouldn't give me any more information, assuring me the surgeon would have all the answers to my queries. The only thing she would tell me was my parents were contacted and they'll be here after I come out of surgery.
We're greeted by the surgeon and I immediately explode with my line of questioning.
"What's wrong with me? What surgery do you need to do? Am I going to be okay?" I ask worriedly.
"You have a portion of your liver that has developed a bit of necrosis. In order to prevent complete liver shutdown, we need to operate and remove the affected area." He replied. "It's a minimally-invasive procedure to remove a small area of dead cells located on the underside of your liver. The whole procedure should be finished in two hours."
"Am I going to have a big scar on my chest? " I inquired.
"Like I said, it's minimally-invasive. It's called laparoscopic surgery. The incisions are 0.5-1.5 cm in diameter and leave barely visible scars when it's completely healed. " He explained. "I know it's a lot to take in, but if you're done questioning me, I'd like to get started as we don't have a lot of time."
They rolled me into the operating room applied a mask to my face from which a gas drained into my mouth. I heard a voice coming from behind my head telling me to count backwards from 100.
"100. 99. 98. 97. 93.."
I awoke in the same plain white room I was in earlier only it was night time and there was the figure of a person sleeping in the chair across the room. My chest felt strange; Hollow and stiff. I pushed the sheets aside and lifted up my gown to inspect my newly-acquired scars. As the gown rose up past my bellybutton the beginning of a scar was revealed, stretching to my nipple and curving back down in the shape of an upside-down U. Not only was it a lot larger than the surgeon said, but it was already healed! How is this possible? How long have I been unconscious? The questions kept racing through my mind. What else did they take from me?
The figure stirred, looked over at me inspecting my torso, and raced over to the side of my bed. It was my mother, she was in tears and hugged me as if she hadn't seen me in a month.
"What happened, mom? The doctor said it wouldn't be an invasive procedure." I asked. "It looks like they took more than a part of my liver"
"Honey, when they started to scrape your liver they noticed that the organs in the surrounding area had been infected with gangrene." She explained. "They had to open you up and take part of your small and large intestine, spleen, and one kidney. You've been in a coma for 6 months! I thought you'd never wake up."
Six months. Six fucking months. How did this happen? Everything was perfectly fine before I was admitted to this hospital. It wasn't even a month prior that my mom made me go in for my annual check-up and the doctor gave me a clean bill of health.
"Stay here. I'm going to go call your father. We've been taking turns waiting for you to wake up. He's going to be so happy to hear the good news." She said as she ran out the door to the payphone.
I turn around and look out the window up at the stars in the night sky and wonder how all of this could have happened to me. I was a healthy kid, I was part of the football team and exercised regularly. Just then a doctor came in the room, walked around my bed and stood in front of me. There was something in his eyes that was unsettling to me.
"I see you've finally woken up. I was just talking with my bosses and they aren't happy with me. In order to appease them I'm going to have to extract at least one more organ from you." He said. "The last batch were sold and didn't fetch as much as they had hoped."
"What the fuck kind of hospital is this? I thought I was sick. I'm getting out of here before you do anything else to me!" I yelled.
"Your liver was infected and we did extract the affected area cleanly, but when we saw how healthy the rest of your organs were, we decided we could concoct a feasible reason to amputate something else to generate some revenue for the hospital." He explained. "And you're not going anywhere. My team is waiting for us in the operating room and I've already told my bosses what to expect."
He reaches over and buckles me into my bed and began to pull me out the door. As we got to the door I leaped for the frame and held on, screaming for help, expecting the nurses to come to my aid, but it was to no use, they were in on it as well. I look down the hall and see my mom running back towards me, telling the doctor to keep his hands off me when I see a nurse come out from behind her desk and hit my mom across the head. Her knees buckle and she collapses to the ground, a pool of blood surrounding her motionless body, and the nurse drags her out of sight. I look back to the doctor and he's moving towards me with a needle in his hand, he holds my arm down and prepares to pierce my skin with the clear liquid. I make one last ditch effort to yell at the top of my lungs to any passerby that may hear me wailing for help.
That's when I woke up, dripping in sweat, heart racing and sitting up straight in bed.
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