"My colon is not my friend"

This post is going to be longer than usual. And it’s not going to be about the usual fare. Which given the current state of things, may actually be a good thing. If you’re at all like me right now, you could use a break from the usual fare.

It’s also going to need a caveat or two. You should not be reading it while drinking or eating as doing so may be a spewing or choking hazard. Neither should you be reading this while in an area where laughing loudly is a problem. If any of those caveats apply, set this aside and come back to it when you’re better prepared to deal with the potential consequences. But do come back… or you’re going to miss out and big time.

This was sent to me by a guy I work with who constantly keeps me in stitches… and is a hoot to mess with (he tells me I keep him in stitches). So with all that as introduction, I give you Chris, who takes us back to 2005:


By now some of you have heard that I was hospitalized Saturday, January 21st. As I have often done, I thought it would be appropriate to author a little manifesto to provide the more curious among you the details of my adventure – please feel free to share this with those I may have left off distribution. I am still a little conflicted on what the title of this modern work should be – I am down to two: “How to loose 7 pounds in 6 days” or; “My colon is not my friend”. I think the second one is more me.

I was talking with my boss in his office when a cement mixer drove in and parked itself on my groin. When the pain did not go away, I had Karen drive me home. We called the on-call physician for our family practice. This man, who we will refer to as Dr. Quack, was obsessed with me providing him with an adjective for my pain – his diagnosis was gas. By then I had pain all across my groin, I was extremely nauseous, had been sick and was running a low grade fever. I could not pull myself up to a sitting position on my own. On his suggestion, I took a bath and tried to rest but did not sleep that night.

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In the morning, Karen called our family doctor at home and had a lengthy conversation describing my symptoms. At this point, it hurt to move, I could not stand up straight and I could hardly walk. He told Karen to take me to the ER immediately – so off we went. Let me stop here and say that on any given day Karen is a bit of an aggressive driver with our daily commutes being a cross between a NASCAR race and the video game “Pole Position”. For this trip however, Karen was driving very cautiously – I still felt every bump, lane change, pothole and piece of gravel on the trip to Riverside.

Karen’s father was there to meet us and had a wheel chair ready as I got out. He was going to watch Christopher (Eric and Olivia were with their dad) while we found out what was going on with me. While we were waiting, Christopher was intrigued with the wheelchair and could not be discouraged from pushing me around – mostly into furniture.

Unlike the national average of 12 hours, I was taken back to see the ER doctor within 20 minutes of arriving. The doctor checked me over (very very thoroughly), started an IV and ordered a CT scan. At this point in my life I had never had an IV or the opportunity to experience the lovely aftertaste of barium. Now for those of you who have never seen a CT scanner, they are way cool. It is a giant room sized machine that moves the patient back an forth through an opening while X-rays are used to take axial photos and then these are fed into a computer that makes a composite image – I am in negotiations with Karen to get one (I am almost certain it will also make popcorn). I signed a release for a copy of the results and have attached two photos: Grumpy Colon and Happy Colon. If you are interested I have more.

Within 10 minutes the diagnosis was in: I had Diverticulitis (think very angry colon) with a secondary Peritonitis infection – falling within the statistical 20% of folks who are hospitalized for this condition. What can I say I have always strived to be an over achiever. In short, I had a bacteria infection in my colon that spread to the membrane that lines the abdomen (peritoneum). The treatment is IV antibiotics and giving the colon a rest – translation, no food (Do you have any idea how many food commercials are on TV when you are not allowed to eat – it was cruel). They also put me on pepcid to soak up stomach acid that I would have used to digest food had I been allowed to eat. As you might expect, I was in extreme pain so they gave me a shot of morphine – it had no effect. So a while later they gave me another dose but like before, it had no effect. Then they gave me a shot of Dilaudid – after I got that I knew I was in pain but simply did not care.

Now I have never been admitted to a hospital so really did not know what to expect. My first observation was that the IV that the ER setup in the crook of my left arm was not ideal. Every time I moved my arm, the IV would pinch and what would come to be my constant companion, the IV pump, would alarm. It got so bad that the night nurse showed me what to look for on the display (“Occlusion Downstream”) and how to reset the machine – I do love a machine that beeps and has blinking lights. Not really sure why they did not fix the IV. I also noticed that a hospital is not really the place to get any rest as it is very noisy. I did not get much sleep the first night – I think it was the wheelchair bowling tournament that took place between 1am and 4am.

I awakened on my second day in the hospital at 5:30am by the vampire lady who took about 700 tubes of blood for lab work. Karen came by later in the morning and brought Christopher. He was intrigued with the hospital and began to explore my room and all the cool buttons on my bed. He made his way into the bathroom and came out a moment later. I did not give it a thought until I heard the stampede of folks coming from the nurse’s station. Apparently while in the bathroom, Christopher pulled the “Emergency Call” lever by the toilet. Never a dull moment with that boy.

It was also the first day that I began the social experiment that is known as hospital roommates. I got my first roommate, a man in his mid fifties in for treatment for a 4mm kidney stone. What I found unusual about him was during the patient assessment when the nurse asked him if he had ever used crack cocaine – his reply was “no more than anyone else”. He was discharged the next day

The highlight of Monday was me brushing my teeth and getting a shower. I was scheduled to have a CT on Tuesday so the nurse brought me a pamphlet describing the procedure. As she was administering my meds I told her that I did not think I was a candidate for the scan because I thought I might be pregnant. Let’s just say she did not have much of a sense of humor.

I also got my second roommate, a middle aged man recovering from a thyroidectomy. He was an unobtrusive roomie that spent his time sleeping – he too was discharged the next day.

I had my 2nd CT scan and with it the opportunity to revisit my old pal the barium milkshake. As I was being placed into the scanner the nurse administered a contrasting solution via my IV. She noticed that my left bicep had a red streak in it – phlebitis (think very angry vein). I learned that IV’s should not be kept in the same location for more that 3 days. I was on day 4. The vein becomes irritated and medicine passes through the wall of the vein and gets deposited in the surrounding tissue. It felt like a combination of sunburn and badly pulled muscle. The good news was that the pain from the diverticulitis had diminished greatly – I only felt discomfort if I tried to move. I was able to sit up without help. I also started to get a serious craving for steak. I tried to get several of my nurses to run to Outback and bring me a prime rib to no avail.

When I returned to the room I called for my nurse who sent an IV therapist in to relocate the IV. IV therapist #1 moved it to my right forearm. She had to dig for the vein – it would have less painful if she had used a dull steak knife. After she left I felt a bad pinch at the site that did not go away. So once again I called for my nurse who called for the IV therapist. Fortunately for me there was a shift change and I got IV therapist #2. She moved the IV from my right forearm to the crook of my right arm and used a longer insert so it would not pinch and set off the pump alarm every time I moved. The second worse pain I experienced that morning was when they removed the tape that held the IV’s. I think the adhesive they used on that tape was a form of krazy glue that is designed to bond at the molecular level to the hair and skin on my arms.

Being in the profession, I could not help but notice that Riverside was in the process of implementing a new computer system. They pushed a cart around that had a computer and integrated scanner (I looked like the same thing grocery stores used to check their inventory – I suppose I was the inventory). They would scan the barcode on my wrist band then use the scanner to verify my meds. Unfortunately several of my nurses were technology challenged. I had to show one guy how to use the mouse to select a dialog box and what a drop down list was.

My third roommate was an 18 year old gunshot victim. For those of you watching the news, he was the bagboy at the Food Lion on Nickerson Road in Hampton who was shot from behind when it was being robbed – the bullet passed right through his shoulder. I got to listen to this kid give his statement to the police then we watched the news and saw the story on the robbery. It was eerie. Like my previous two roommates – he was discharged the next day. At this point I was having serious doubts about my getting out of the hospital.

As I noted above, my treatment was IV antibiotics and sending the colon on a vacation. In order for me to get discharged I needed to get something called a PICC (Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter) installed into my arm. This is just like an IV except the tube that gets inserted in your vein is much longer and can be used to administer medicine in the comfort of your home. Mine is 48cm (19″) and was threaded from my right bicep, through my shoulder and into my chest. To hold it in place they have a fitting that is actually stitched to you. All this is done with local anesthetic only.

As you might imagine I was very very apprehensive about this procedure. Up to this point the most medically complex procedure I experienced was to have my wisdom teeth removed. I was prepped and taken to the 1 day surgery department. As I was waiting the surgeon walked by, looked at me and said “what are you doing here”. I recognized him as one of my neighbors – his kids play with our kids almost every day. What are the odds? My knowing the physician went along way to relieving my anxiety. I told him as they wheeled me into the operating room that if I felt no pain I would fix his fence (which needs some serious work).

Just above the operating table there were 3 monitors, one with my name on it, the other had my vital signs (during the procedure my pulse rocketed to over 100) and the last was a real-time display that allowed them to thread the catheter along. The first vein they tried on the inside of my right arm collapsed on them so they had to pull out the catheter and move to the outside. My left arm was not a candidate for the procedure because of the phlebitis. On the second attempt they had no trouble getting the catheter in. Just as soon as they finished inserting it, the breaker tripped in OR and the power went out. Nice. Fortunately all they had to do at this point was to stitch it to my arm so the catheter would not inadvertently come out. Consistent with my luck, the local anesthetic had worn off just as they finished up. Getting the stitches freakin hurt – I may have shouted several bad words I learned from my wife. I then told my neighbor that I was only going to fix part of his fence.

I returned to my room around 2pm in order to find a food tray waiting for me. It was the first food I had had since lunch on Friday. That 2 hour old spaghetti was some of the best tasting food I had ever had.

I asked Karen to tell folks not to visit me in the hospital. I was feeling miserable, could not shave and had not bathed. I just did not feel like entertaining. Karen came by later on and we, along with my IV pump, went for a walk. It turned out to be old home night on 5 East at Riverside – we bumped into a co-workers wife who was a nurse on the floor and the doctor that delivered Christopher.

After thinking about my roommates, I formulated this theory that my experiences may be building to a crescendo and wondered what would be next – I was not to be disappointed. Around 4pm they brought me my final roomie. This gentleman was being prepped for cancer surgery the next morning. He was an elderly man, weighing 110 pounds dripping wet, who on a good day seemed to suffer from dementia. He went to sleep around 6pm and I was optimistic that it would not be bad. The nursing staff came by around 10pm to administer meds – I got my antibiotics\pepcid mix and they woke my roommate up to give him a sleeping pill and a laxative. Now I admit that I am no medical professional (worse I am an engineer) but there were two things I did not understand: Why you would wake someone up and give him a sleeping pill?; What medical condition would require a combination of both a sleeping pill and a laxative? I had a bad feeling that no good could come from this.

After being medicated, my roomie woke up almost every hour to “go”. Twice I think he actually made it to the bathroom. Every time he woke up he would not know where he was or realize that he had an IV – each time the pump alarm would go off and confuse him further. The first few times I would push the nurse call button. However there was usually a few minutes delay before the troops arrived (it took at least two nurses to get him back in bed). The situation could not wait so I resorted to shouting for our nurse for the remaining “events”. On one occasion my disoriented roomie wandered into the hall pulling his IV out completely and did his business. I have been around livestock before but I promise you they are sweet smelling compared to what I experienced. As you read this I have no idea what you are thinking – I assure you it was much worse than that.

I did the wave when they came for my roomie around 8am for surgery. The cleaning lady came around 9am and spent the next 2 hours cleaning the floor, wall, equipment and furniture. Karen asked this poor women if she needed a power washer.

Later in the morning I had the dressing for my PICC line changed. Once again the tape had molecularly bonded to my skin and hair – it was extremely painful. Now one would think that you might clean the “site” with something like triple antibiotic ointment. Not so – they irrigated it with alcohol. To make this situation more unbearable, I am not supposed to shower while I have this thing – which is a bit easier than you might imagine.

Around 10:30am they brought my meds around and after I got them, I was discharged. Woo hoo. I have never been so happy to leave anywhere in my life.


There is much speculation on what the cause might have been for my condition given foods like nuts and seeds that do not digest properly can lead to diverticulitis. So I looked back during the 2 week window the admitting physician said was time when I might have eaten the catalyst for my condition. Two things come immediately to mind: The can of mixed nuts I have been snacking on that my boss gave me as a Christmas gift or the hot oil (with pepper seeds) that was at the new Mongolian restaurant that a co-worker took me too the week before. Clearly my co-worker is responsible.

My overall prognosis is good. My primary care physician seemed to think that this was more than likely a singular event but that I could minimize encore performances by moving to a high fiber diet (steering clear of nuts and seeds) as I can tolerate it. Karen and I went to see my admitting physician this past Wednesday. I will be on antibiotics (one IV and one oral) through next Tuesday and had a 3rd CT scan next Wednesday. After that a decisions will be made on if I need surgery (possible but unlikely), if I need to restart my antibiotics, and when I can return to work.

Of more importance to me is having the PICC line removed – I am not a fan of external plumbing. Of the two antibiotics, one gives me an upset stomach the other makes me dizzy (more so than usual). The IV antibiotic is administered with the help of my wife and a home nursing service. We have are very own red biohazard container in our living room – it goes surprisingly well with our crate furniture décor.

The sad irony of this situation is that I am in as much discomfort from the treatment as I am from the condition. Both of my arms are very sore (I have to eat with my left hand) from the IV’s, tape removal and the procedure(s) to have the PICC line installed. I also tire very easily. The good news is that I have lost 7 pounds.

The real hero of this tale has to be my wife. She visited me twice a day during my hospitalization still finding time to work and take care of our family. She has done an amazing job of taking care of me since I was discharged and is getting quite proficient and administering my medication through my external plumbing. Yes I will say it for the record, I am a lucky man.


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