With the exception of some dusky light streaming in through the window, the room was mostly dark. Boiled cabbage was cooling on my neck, chest, back, and legs. I took off my glasses, paused Orphan Black, and closed my eyes to see if i could sneak in a quick nap.
I awoke to the feeling of Botas scampering across my chest. In hindsight, that 4-pound ball of cuteness probably barely grazed me, but in this moment it felt like someone dropped him from the ceiling straight onto my windpipe. A ripple of searing pain coursed through my entire chest. I’m used to abdominal cramping at this point, so i ripped the cabbage wrapping off my body and headed to the bathroom… but the second i sat on the toilet, i knew that wasn’t the problem. The pain went from 2 to 8 in a matter of seconds. It felt like something had exploded inside me, and it was becoming increasingly harder to breathe.
Is it my gall bladder? No, that’s to the right.
My appendix?? No, that’s further down.
Where is my small intestine? Did it rupture?
Is this what an ulcer feels like? Did i suddenly develop an ulcer?
I wasn’t sure, but the pain was continuing to build, and i went into panic mode. I reached for the intercom.
“I need a doctor in here.”
Every step i took made the pain worse. I leaned over the bed and grunted out breaths and obnoxious noises, waiting for staff. I called for a doctor again on the intercom and pushed the buzzer for assistance, in case no one was in the nursing station when i first called for help.
By the time Nahaliel arrived (which was probably only two minutes later), i was at a full-on 10-level pain, positioned on all fours on the bed, crying, and drooling. I tried to explain the stomach pain to him, but his spotty English and my seering pain made our conversation unfruitful… and i lost my temper when he told me to relax.
“I can’t relax. I’m in a lot of fucking pain!”
“I know,” he said. I’ll be apologizing to him later for cursing at him.
Over the course of the next half hour, staff brought a series of pain meds via shots, drip bags, pills, and oral liquids. I didn’t even ask what they gave me, just took all of it. Most of it barely seemed to have any impact. There weren’t any doctors on site during this time, either, so they had to keep calling Dr. Rubio, Sr. at home for guidance and clearance. It took almost two hours for the pain to get down to a 5. Luckily, one of the meds was making me drowsy, so i was looking forward to sleeping through the rest of the pain … but then, almost as soon as i started to feel legitimate relief, the rupturing screams inside my stomach began building again.
By this time, it was after 8:00. I rang for assistance and asked Nurse Paulina if i could talk to Dr. Smith.
“Dr. Smith, something is wrong. I think something ruptured inside my stomach.”
She asked me a series of questions and checked my stomach with her stethoscope. More pain meds in drip bags, more crying on my end, more phone calls to Dr. Rubio Sr, and then Dr. Smith came back with Dr. Campo, the surgeon i hadn’t seen since the first day at the clinic, when he put in my port.
“Tarah, we’d like you to go get some x-rays and a CT scan.”
My first thought was, fuck, how much is this gonna cost me? I was immediately pissed at myself for even caring about that, when clearly there was a bigger issue here.
“Can i go tonight?”
They called Mario, one of the bilingual drivers, to come to the clinic and take me to Imagen Radiologica Integral. I didn’t even change – just threw my robe on over my shirt and shorts that still smelled like boiled cabbage, and added slippers to my socks. Pink shirt, black shorts with a purple stripe, blue robe, red and white socks, blue and gray house shoes, a red/yellow/green Jamaican hat. Not a single thing matched, so you KNOW i was consumed with pain if i was letting anyone take me out in public like that. Getting in and out of the car was brutal; every time i had to move my stomach in any direction, stabbing pains coursed throughout the area. Every pot hole, every speed bump caused similar agony, and i cried the entire ride. The crying made it even harder to breathe, and at one point, i think i started to hyperventilate. When we walked up to the imaging place, and i saw the line, i REALLY started to cry. We were going to be there a while.
It was almost midnight when we returned to the clinic. I don’t want to go to sleep. What if i don’t wake up? I assumed no one would even look at the x-ray results until the next morning, and i was prepared to stay up all night until Dr. Godinez arrived to work between 7-8, so imagine my surprise when Dr. Smith opened my door just five minutes later.
“You have a perforation in your abdomen.” “You’re gonna need a laparoscopy. ” “Emergency surgery.” “Do you have insurance?” “Dr. V, from the lab, loves cats. She’s going to take Botas while you’re gone, so you don’t have to worry about him.”
She said other things, but this was what i heard and remembered. I requested to go to a hospital in San Diego instead of Mexico, for financial reasons, and she said that could be arranged. They called Adrian, the clinic’s main chauffeur, and i quickly packed a bag while waiting. Poor Botas. He knew something was up. When Paulina came to help me pack and change, we both watched Botas scale the entire shower curtain, then remain up at the top, staring down at us. “Botas, come down from there. Your foster mom is going to be okay; you don’t need to stress. Yo te amo.” I think he understood because he scooted down the curtain and headed for his food, while i headed out the door.
* * *
It is now 4:25am. I have been at this hospital in San Diego for over three hours. Morphine and fluids are infiltrating my system, and i just got back from a CT scan, which showed a perforation in my bowels that is causing free air to circulate all around my abdomen. They are making arrangements to prep me for surgery later this morning. It’s an inpatient procedure, so i will be here for several days. Kyana is my emergency contact, so she’ll have details about my surgery results before i even will. It might be a day or two before i am capable of providing an update myself, but I’ll do my best to keep you all posted.