A continuation of my faith journey with Crohns disease.
As I lay in the hospital bed, recovering from my first intestinal surgery, I finally began to understand the long physical struggle ahead of me. And keeping the mental health in check during that time was also a struggle. Even my first trip to the hospital in Indiana had not prepared me for the journey I was about to take.
Each day during the first week of recovery, things began to improve relatively quickly. I was up and walking in no time. I was doing my breathing exercises and my stomach was starting to wake up from the anesthesia. Things were looking good.
Then, one morning, I woke up and was excessively tired. I was wheeled down to x-ray for a standard intestinal x-ray. The technician said “Mr. Bauer, I need you to stand over here.” I tried to stand up, but couldn’t. I didn’t have any energy. I couldn’t move. “I’m sorry,” I said, “I can’t. I can’t stand up.” The technician then had me wheeled back to my room.
As I lay there, I found myself so weak that I couldn’t move or feel anything. I couldn’t move a muscle. They did a blood gas test, which is a very painful test, and I felt nothing. I couldn’t open my eyes. I couldn’t move my hands. I couldn’t speak. But, I was awake. And I could hear everything around me. I was completely aware.
I remember thinking, “if this is a coma, then this is hell, literally.” My parents came in and the doctors gave them some vague idea of my condition. I remember my mom saying, holding back the tears, that we had recently lost her oldest son Joe that past August to an aneurism… her voice trailed off. The doctor reassured her the best he could. I wanted so much to let my Mom and Dad know that I could hear them. That, on some level, I was okay. But I couldn’t do anything, couldn’t say anything.
I knew my wife was due for a visit and knew her reaction would not be calm. When she entered the room, I heard my Mom immediately say “It’s okay. Everything is going to be all right!” My wife immediately responded, “Of course everything is all right! Why wouldn’t it be all right?”
I felt so helpless. Everyone was concerned. I was concerned. And I prayed. What else could I do? God was the only one who could hear me.
Dr. Boyd came in later and personally wheeled me in my bed from one test to another. They thought it could be a blood clot in my lung. They thought it could be an infection at the surgery site. They weren’t sure and my fever was growing. They decided to pump me full of antibiotics and see if my body would respond.
Apparently word got out because most of my family came to the hospital that night. My wife sat next to me, running her hands through my sweat-saturated hair as the fever was in full force. And, what was weird, was that everyone was talking to me as if I were a baby. It irritated me. I’m not an infant! I just can’t move! I know they didn’t mean it, but it bothered me. And, in our typical family sense of humor, where the quality of the insult is the most valued commodity, my brother Charles told me that, if I didn’t get better, that maybe the hospital could fit me with a chair like Captain Pike on the original Star Trek series. One light for Yes, two lights for No. The quality of the joke was high, but in my state, was not appreciated by me.
I started to slip between consciousness and unconsciousness. I was so hot and thirsty that I kept having dreams of diving and swimming in a large, spring fed lake. I can still see the image so clearly in my head. And then I started having the cast of Friends in my dreams, like I was one of the people in the show. Weird.
The next night I listened to the San Francisco 49ers beat up on the San Diego Chargers in the Super Bowl… didn’t get to see it, but I did hear it. Eventually, the fever broke and, after another week in the hospital, I was finally discharged. The smell of the fresh air in the hospital parking lot never smelled so sweet.
And that’s the second time Crohns almost killed me. Anyone up for round three?
To be continued…