I arrived at the hospital emergency room at midnight and was ushered directly into a curtained exam cubical where I was diagnosed with appendicitis. They moved me from an exam cubicle to a longer-term bed still in the ER while the doctors tried to get permission from my insurance company to do surgery. I asked them to let my friend know that she could leave. She had work in the morning.
Permission from the insurance company turned out to be a problem. The hospital’s MRI machine was broken and the insurance company insisted on an MRI before they would allow me to be admitted for surgery. Meanwhile, I was curled on my side in the ER being pumped full of antibiotics and pain medication. This is another weird thing you’re going to have to believe. In the ER in Abu Dhabi, you have to pay for medication out of pocket. Once you’re admitted, insurance covered everything, but every time the nurse came to give me a shot in the ER, she brought a bill. Fortunately for me, as soon as my friend arrived at school and told my principal where I was, she was sent to sit with me. She took charge of my wallet. While we waited, we listened to the doctor on duty make angry phone calls on my behalf and I made jokes about taking the appendix out with a spoon if someone would get me one.
At 7 that day, 27 hours after I first got ill, I was taken down to the MRI machine. When the nurse wheeled me into the MRI room, there was a big chunk of machinery in the bed. My nurse said, “I hope you don’t expect me to know where that goes.” He and the tech looked at me and I said, “l don’t know either.” Twenty-seven hours of excruciating pain and I was no longer at my witty best. They sorted it out, the MRI was done, and I was admitted. At 9, the nurse came in and announced that they needed to prepare me for surgery. My friends, who had been sitting vigil with me all day, were kicked out of the room so I could be prepared. To be honest, I don’t remember a lot about this. I think the relief that it was nearly over caused me to blank out a little. I do remember being wheeled through a warren of tile hallways by my friendly Filipino nurse and parked outside the operating room. The surgeon hollered out that he would start soon and for some reason I said, “okay, I trust you.” At that point witty was just a memory.
The next thing I remember, I was being delivered back to my room. Two of my friends had waited and I could hear them talking to the two nurses in the room. I heard one of my friends say, “what’s this?” I looked because she happened to close to my head. She was holding a bag with what looked like a hot dog in it.
The nurse said, “that’s her appendix.”
My friend made a horrified noise, but I lost track of the location of the bag. My friendly Filipino nurse poked his head in and asked if I remembered who he was. I would remember that guy if i bumped into him today. He made a really awful experience much more bearable.
More next week.