One heck of a vacation.

Now, let’s see… where was I?

That’s right… I was supposed to go on vacation, a total of ten days off of work, and a chance to spend time away with The Great Spousal Unit for the first time since last November.

By now, you may have heard that I had surgery on Friday, September 8th. An emergency appendectomy. Here’s what happened:

Wednesday, I felt a little discomfort in my midsection. By Thursday night, it had intensified, and I decided that if I felt the same way Friday morning (my first day of vacation), I would try to get in to see the doctor. As luck would have it, my doctor was out sick Friday, so I went to a doc-in-the-box. They were swamped with patients, so I decided to go to the emergency room. I was convinced that because the pain I felt included significant pain in my lower back, it was a kidney infection.

So I spent some time being checked out in the ER, including a contrast test (too long to explain), after which, to my great surprise, I was told that I had acute appendicitis and I needed surgery right away. Maureen hadn’t even finished work yet.

She did make it though, about half an hour later, and boy, was I messed up. In fact, the surgeon told me at my post-op follow-up visit that the appendix was in bad shape, distended, and the moment he went to grab it, it burst. It’s a small organ, but what was inside, all of the bacteria, spilled into my gut, and there was really no way at that point to get it back.

Sorry to be so gross. I’m writing this in part so I don’t have to remember it later. And the worst part didn’t even happen yet.

One of the anaesthesia drugs I was given is supposed to relax my muscles. Instead, my muscles tensed up, and my body temperature went through the roof. The surgical team had trouble waking me.

It turns out I experienced something that only one out of every 20,000 patients experience. Officially, it’s called Malignant Hyperthermia. It’s caused by an allergy to a drug that was in my anaesthesia cocktail. We’re not sure which drug yet, but I hope to be tested soon, in part because it’s hereditary, so the fact that I have this problem indicates that my siblings and one or both of my parents might also.

I’m convinced that the hospital’s Chief Anaesthesiologist saved my life. The surgeon told me he was astonished that as soon as she went to work, my temperature went from 39.9 Celsius (103.82 Fahrenheit) to 39.2 (102.56) to something around 37.2 (99). I sure am glad she wasn’t on vacation.

To put it mildly, I had been through an ordeal already. I awoke to an operating room in mild chaos. It seemed everyone, about a dozen people, were all talking. There were five people surrounding me, and three of them were asking questions, all at the same time. I was still intubated, and they weren’t asking Yes or No questions.

I didn’t know I was intubated at first… it just felt like I had something stuck in my throat (which I did). I coughed hard, and it came partially out, and then I reached up and pulled it out the rest of the way. Those things come out pretty easily, it turns out. But I still freaked out those asking the questions. I reached out and grabbed one of the doctors, who, it turns out, is a great guy, and said “Stop calling me Boss, goddamn it!”. I guess that’s the funniest part of the story.

Then, a night in the Intensive Care Unit. Then, two more nights of hell where I couldn’t keep food down, and ate nearly nothing. By Monday morning, I was wondering what it would take to feel better, because every day since Friday had seemed to be worse than the day before.

But Monday came, and I felt much better, and I was able to stand up for more than a few seconds at a time. I got a chance to walk a little. Was I getting better?

Tuesday lunch, they finally switched me off of the dreaded clear liquid diet (think broth and jello for every meal), and I ate solid food for the first time in four days. By late Wednesday afternoon, I was finally released from the hospital.

I’m sure I left out a lot of the story, but that’s most of it anyway. Now, a few random thoughts now that I’m about ten days after surgery.

– Diabetes… that’s right, this is a diabetes blog! I managed as best I could. I talked it over with the attending physician the day after surgery. I was adamant about keeping my pump on, and managing diabetes myself. He suggested that I run a little high until I could get my diet and movement more normal, so we could avoid any late-night lows when my energy level was already low to begin with. I thought that was a good idea, and that’s what I did.

– The hospital used a non-reusable lancet when performing glucose checks. I would have preferred to just use my own meter and lancets, but the first few days, there’s no way I could have handled that. I was too weak. I know they’re supposed to use non-reusable lancets, but it’s nice to know they’re doing it.

– My appetite hasn’t completely returned, but I’m not nearly as active, so I’m okay with that. I’m basically eating about half of what I normally do. Don’t expect to see me and see a significant reduction in weight, though I really wish that would be the case.

– The surgeon is telling me to take one more week off of work. In addition, I can’t lift anything over ten pounds for four weeks. So much for autumn yard work.

– Some things taste different. It’s really strange. For instance, coffee doesn’t taste anything nearly like what it tasted like before the surgery. I don’t think this is necessarily bad. Mostly, I’m curious to know what causes this. I think it’s interesting.

– I received exceptional care from the nursing staff at the hospital. I was cared for by white, African-American, Hispanic, and middle eastern Muslim nurses and technicians, and they were all great. Spectacular, even. I will be forever grateful.

One final thing: I’ve read about many experiences like mine over the years, where people are brought back from the brink of death, and they are convinced that now their lives are destined for some “higher purpose”. The first part of that is true… I could have died on the table in the operating room.

But I already believe I had a purpose before this episode. I still have a purpose, and that’s great. I want to be the best person, the most helpful person I can be. I want to do the most I can for those living with and affected by diabetes. That was true yesterday, it’s true today, and it will be true tomorrow. Why do we need a near-catastrophe to convince us that we are here for a higher purpose?

Our purpose is before us already. Seek it. Live your purpose.

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  • kelly2k  On September 18, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    Stephen –
    You’ve been through the wringer and I’m so glad you’re OK!
    Thank God for the Chief Anesthesiologist and the amazing staff who took care of you.
    One day at a time and rest equals healing. Allow yourself to rest because your body, mind, and spirit needs to heal.
    Re: food tasting different – that’s normal. When I came back home from being in ICU with DKA in college, it took a few weeks for my tastebuds to get back to normal.
    RE: your purpose – you are inspiring and as people with diabetes, we are so damn lucky that you have our backs!
    Love you my friend – and I promise never to call you “Boss.”

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kim  On September 18, 2017 at 4:49 pm

    Oh, Stephen. I am so glad you are okay. What a story!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Karen  On September 18, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Wow, obviously I know some of this but these details!!! OMG!! I’m so glad you are here to tell the story. Take it very slowly and very easy and take extra good care of yourself, because we need you around!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Rick Phillips  On September 18, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Stephen, my daughter in law has this and I appreciate it so dangerous. I am glad you are feeling better. I can only imagine how scary it must have been. Thankfully you are on the mend. Take care, my friend.


  • Lucia Maya  On September 18, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    So glad you’re recovering and getting stronger each day!



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