Playing Dead In The Emergency Room

(I posted some of these pictures two years ago when I started my blog, but I never actually told the story behind one of my first NYC adventures, so here goes)

Within a couple months of moving to NYC, I found myself in the Queens Emergency room, getting a cat scan. The problem was sugar. I’d eaten some. No, I’m not diabetic. I had a parasite. Years ago I’d fallen out of my boat during a rapid when I was a raft guide and ended up swallowing a bunch of river water. In said water was a parasite called giarhdia that ruined my digestive system forever and took me five years to get rid of.

I should also probably mention that I’d been struggling with bulimic for about fifteen years and had systematically destroyed my insides to the point where they just couldn’t digest sugar and flour anymore (eating skittles for breakfast and barfing five times a day will do that to you, apparently). So add a parasite to all that nonsense and you’ve got yourself one sick-ass raft guide. One who’s uncontrolably barfing off the back of the raft after she yells “forward three,” who keeps jumping in the river because she’s crapping her pants, and who has to sit in a fetal position for days in the bottom of a canoe as her students on an outdoor education course paddle her down the river. The funny thing is that all of this happened only when I ate sugar or flour, meaning I had a very simple solution to my problem. So, duh, I quit eating sugar.

For awhile that is.

Then, a few years later, after I’d just finished working another Outward Bound course, I came back to the headquarters in Queens and thought to myself “I bet this yummy looking oatmeal mix doesn’t have sugar. Guess we’ll just have to see!”

Russian rhoulette with the gut is never a good idea.

Well, of course that oatmeal had sugar, as most things do, and it landed me in the emergency room. This was the worst pain I’d ever experienced in my life. Like someone stabbing me in the belly with a pineapple then twisting. As soon as the automatic electric doors to the hospital opened, I barfed all over their lobby floor. When I finally made it up to the counter and they finally got around to asking me what was wrong, I barfed again, but on the floor in front of them this time. That got their attention! Then, for dramatic effect perhaps, just as another sharp stabbing pain hit me, I peed myself. I was in so much pain I couldn’t even form words other than “morphine” and “please.”

Lucky me, though! These added touches landed me a bed right away, unlike all the poor bastards just sitting there in the waiting room, not grossing the staff out with puke and pee.

After three rounds of morphine, I was finally able to talk to the doctor. I tried telling him not to do anything drastic, that it was just an allergic reaction to sugar, but he, being mister smarty pants, insisted I had an appendecitise. He didn’t much care that I didn’t have insurance or that I knew exactly what was wrong with me and sent me on up to the xray people, but only after making me drink some nasty purple stuff that I barfed up three times before finally keeping down.

As much as I hated being in a hospital, this one was F-U-N, FUN! My cat scan lady was Jamaican and played reggaeton as she danced my bed down the hallway. I love reggaeton!

After the CAT scan came up negative for appendacitis, as I predicted, they took me back to my little space in a huge room full of beds. It being midnight on a Satruday, the drama started to unfold before me. The drunk man they rolled up next to my bed yelled all night long “I can’t believe my own brother shot me!” There were so many languages being spoken all around me that it felt like I was being pushed around the world in a hospital bed.

When my Outward Bound friends found out I was in the hospital, they came to visit. I, of course, suggested we take some photos, since that always lifted my spirits. I’m not sure if you’re actually allowed to take pictures in most emergency rooms, but this place didn’t seem to have any rules, so we did whatever we wanted.

We took your typical emergency room photos, you know, the kind you see in most living rooms, where everyone is super happy.

I was particularly delighted that I hadn’t barfed in awhile, so I decided my puke bucket would make a great party hat.

until Bill needed it that is.

I had my friends take a narcolepsy picture with me because that’s what I make everyone do.

And then one where they woke up and realized I was dead.

Then a nurse came in and ruined it. I told her “just kidding! I was only pretending to be dead.” Apparently, hospitals don’t like it when you play dead. Lesson learned.

The next morning, my doctor (or I should say my seventh doctor by this point) released me because he wasn’t sure what was wrong with me. Isn’t that comforting to know that’s what they do in emergency rooms? Release you out of apathy? I tried to tell him what it was, but he really wasn’t all that interested in hearing about my theories.

This little adventure ended up being the first time I realized I was a true sugar addict. Yet sugar wasn’t the real problem. Rather, it was my inability to leave it alone even when the consequences (like crapping my pants) greatly outweighed the benefit (two seconds of joy). What blew my mind even more was that the next weekend I ate that oatmeal crap AGAIN. I finally decided to take some action. It took me years and a lot of help from a 12 step group, but I finally got off the sugar and have been off of it and anything that resembles sugar (like honey, stevia, alcohol) for over four years now.

This was not, however, the last time I pretended to play dead in an inappropriate place. Nothing can stop me from that.

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