Thursday, November 13, 2008

Return Me To My Ship

Chapter 20 (I think) I can't do this by myself no more

I woke up in my hospital bed and I experienced somethin' I had never experienced before. It felt like my bladder was gonna burst. I'm not talkin' about drinkin' too much grog and havin' to wait for an empty urinal at a bar kinda burst, I'm talkin' about a literally gonna blow-up.
I checked the urine bag, as I was sporting a catheter and there was nothin' in there.
Hmm. Nothin' sine yesterday at around noon, when the visiting nurse had changed it.
Not good, I thought. Damn, this hurts!

I looked at the clock and it read 0930. My eyes turned towards the kitchen, where my wife was fixin' coffee.

"Good morning," She said, cheerfully. "How do you feel?" Patti asked.

"Well, okay, except it feels likew my bladder is gonna burst," I said, smilin' grimly.

Patti walked in and looked at my urine bag, concern etched on her lovely face.

"You might have a bladder infection," she said, checking the connection to the tube and checking for leaks.

I remembered when several weeks ago, the visiting nurse insered the catheter. I must've been red with embarrassment, and, thankfully, it was quick. I prayed the entire time, because I was afraid of gettin' aroused.
I know, it's funny, but I was terrified that would happen. I thanked God when it didn't.

"This will hurt," the nurse had said.

But it was nothin' compared to everything else that was attacking my body. In fact, it was more a relief.

"The nurse should be here soon. Let's see what she says," I offered.

"Okay, but if it gets to bad you're going to have to go to the E.R.," She said, looking at me, as if I would decline and she would brook no protest.

Like most folks, I reckon, I hated goin' to the doc unless it was absolutely necessary. I liked my doc, but I didn't enjoy the long trip or most of the tests I had to take. Because most of the tests were invasive.
Besides, in this case I would hafta go to MAMC, Madigan Army Medical Center, and not the VA. 'Cause this, I was sure, was an emergency. I would hafta see a different doc, a long wait (longer than the VA), and someone not familiar with my history (although they could read the three inch think record (vol. 1) and the equally thick vol. 2. Yeah, that shouldn't take long, I thought.

"No...problemo," I said, wincing from the building pain.

Patti looked at me with more concern. She knew it must be bad if I agreed so readily.

A half hour later the visiting nurse showed up and Patti told her my symptons, pointing to the empty urine bag.

The nurse checked the connections, like Patti had done.

"Are you in pain?" She asked.

Does a bear sh*t in the woods? I almost said.

"Yeah. A lot," I said.

"Where does it hurt?" She asked.

"Right here," I said, pointing to my bladder.

She pushed on my bladder and I clenched my fists, resisting the urge to punch her lights out and scream.

"What...part you not...understand?" I rasped.

"I think you should see a doctor," the nurse said, ignoring my question.

Gee, ya think? I wanted to say.

So it was decided. Patti helped me get up and put my clothes on, which was harder than I thought with the stupid urine bag. Plus, moving made the pain worse.
I was still very weak, weighing only 118 pounds. More than 50 pounds less than my usual weight.

I had been exercising since my brush with death, but recovery was slow. Real slow.
Gainin' weight for me had always been difficult. It was even harder when my tastebuds were covered with candida, everything tasted bad, and mild to severe nausea from the dozen or so pills I was takin'.

Huh. The pills. There is a story behind that. You see, I had a problem takin' pills.
Especially the AIDS pills. Time after time I would try them, everytime new ones came out.
And time after time I would get sick as a dog who ate bad fish. Then I would refuse to take 'em.

When I was gettin' close to death my doc had a talk with me.

"Damnit, Ben you have to take the AIDS meds or you will die!" Doc exclaimed, angrily. "This isn't a game, you will die! Do you understand?" Doc continued, a deep concern in his eyes.

"Y-yeah, I read you Doc," I said, stunned.

I had thought my faith in God would sustain me. I really believed. Is there somethin' wrong with my faith? I wondered. I didn't believe in the 'name it claim it' preachin', but I did believe that God could heal us if we had enough faith.
I still believe God can heal, for he has healed me. Just not in ways I might want, but spiritually...yes, I am healed.

"Look, I know this stuff makes you sick, but you got to tough it out, Ben. The alternative is death, and I don't want to see you die," Doc said.

My religion at the time, Pentacostal, was basically shattered in my mind. Just like that. Not everything I had learned, but a lot of the basic concepts. I was shaken.
My faith was shaken, and I was at a crossroads I had tried to avoid...with my faith.
It was easy to believe that God would simply answer my way and everything would be hunkydory if I believed hard enough.

No, not by my power. In fact, I rarely prayed for myself. Your will not mine, Lord.
It was a paradox of my own creation. Heal. What's that really mean? I knew my soul was, in the process of healing. It depended on my choices. I had to work it out by what? By learnin' what God is really tellin' me?

Then a new thought occurred to me: my faith could not trump reality...the truth.
And this is reality, I thought. I will hafta reexamine my faith, my beliefs.
Bitterness and a denial or hatred of God was not an option. Any problems was my fault, not God's. And sometimes, sh*t just happened.
I'm runnin' outta churches to try, I mused. It wasn't...enough.

How nice it would be if I was merely satisfied with not enough. I mean, I was grateful, but I wasn't growin' no more. And I knew I ought to be growin'. I hungered for more truth. Truth is eternal, isn't it? Truth is God, and I should grow in God eternally, right? If I stop growin' I stop livin' and when I stop livin' I die.

All the churches I had been to, readin' the Bible several times, studyin' to know God's Word, prayer, Communion n' Eucharist, I still didn't know...I am a fool.
What am I doin' wrong? What am I missin'? I hadta find out. I would keep searchin' for the God, my God...the Truth I knew was there...where? Somewhere. It felt close.

"I'll take 'em Doc," I said, "come hell or highwater." And I'll keep searchin'.

"Thanks Ben," Doc smiled. "And we're going to work on getting you fattened up.
I know you can do this," Doc continued, starin' me in the eyes.

He believes in me, I thought. Damn, he's puttin' all the pressure on me! And...and what? I'm gonna whine about it? Hell no. I respected Doc. He was more than my Doc he was my friend. He saw reality, and he's tryin' to show it to me.

"Aye," I answered. "I can...I will do this, Doc." I smiled.

I had to. Life or death, ain't that hard to choose, I thought. Well, it was harder than I thought when death hit the fan, but I got the message.

"I'll take Dad," Crystal, my oldest daughter offered.

Patti hadn't been feelin' well, so I thought this was a good idea.

"Yeah, you stay home and rest," I said. "You need a break. I'll be okay," I smiled.

"You better call me if you have to stay," Patti said, givin' me a hug.

"No problemo," I answered. "I'll be back."

This was a new, I thought. The first time Crystal was takin' me to the doctor. I remembered all the times I took her to the ER or appointments as a child. Now she's all grown up and drivin' me. I smiled sadly and yet happily. They grow up so fast.

"Make sure you drive the speed limit," I said, spyin' the speedometer.

"Okay Dad," Crystal answered, slowin' down. "I'm just worried about you."

"I'll be fine," I said, tryin' to hide my pain...unsuccessfully. Damn, this hurts!

I could've gone to the closest hospital in Centralia, around 18 miles from our house, but they would know nothin' about my history, and the copay would be in the thousands of dollars.
So it was easy to pick Madigan, although it was 60 miles away.

When we arrived at the ER I slowky shuffled into the waiting room, using my cane and Crystals shoulders. It was the farthest I had walked in months so it was like a marathon. My bladder made it more grueling. Are we havin' fun yet?

I told the receptionist what my symptoms were and then we stood by the wall because all the seats were full.
Welcome to socialized medicine, I thought grimly. This sucks.

Oh screw this! I thought as I sat down on the floor. I was too tired and hurtin' too much to care about what everyone else thought. That was better. Crystal sat down beside me and I smiled, appreciating her kind gesture.

Fifteen minutes later: "there's an empty seat over there," snother patient pointed.

I noticed it was only one chair. "No thanks," I said. "Not without my daughter."

"I don't mind, Dad," Crystal said.

"I'd rather sit here with you," I repled, smiling. "Besides, it hurts too damn much to move," I chuckled, immediately regretting it.

A few hours later I finally got into the actual emergency room, which is faster than normal. I told the nurse what the problem was and she pressed on my bladder.

"Aaaahhh!" I screamed. "You're gonna burst it! Take my word. It hurts," I hissed.

"Sorry," she said. "The doctor will be here soon."

"Hey kiddo," I said, "thanks for bein' here."

"Of course," Crystal smiled. "I'm glad I can help, Dad."

What a great daughter, I thought, fightin' the urge to bawl. I'm so proud of her.

The doctor showed up around fifteen minutes later, smiling.

"Hi, I'm doctor Hsu. You have bladder pain?" She asked.

Damn straight, it's freakin' gettin' ready to burst! I thought.

"Yes Ma'am," I replied. "Also, no urine since yesterday."

"We will get x-rays asap," she said. "Hold on, okay?"

"Thank you doctor," I said.

Around 30 minutes later a guy wheeled me to x-ray where I received torture and pic's of my bladder n' gut's. Then I was wheeled back to the ER.

Then the unexpected happened. And try as I might I couldn't stop it. The pain increased, exponentially it felt like, and crap came out.
I was so embarassed. Right in front of my daughter. Dear Lord, make me disappear, I pleaded. Unfortunately, I didn't vanish.

"I'm sorry hon," I said, not lookin' my daughter in the eyes. "Would you please tell the doc?"

"Sure Dad. It's okay," she said, then she was off to find the doc.

She soon returned with the doctor.

"I'm very sorry, doctor," I muttered. "I couldn't control it."

"Don't worry," she replied, cleaning up the mess. A doctor, cleanin' up crap? I thought. My respect for this doctor was now sky high. She wasn't too good to clean up the worst of messes. I was still embarassed though.

"Here, try to use this if you can," the doctor said, givin' me a tiny plastic bowl in the shape of a crescent moon.

"Um, okay," I said, lookin' at the small bowl doubtfully. Unfortunately there was no instructions on it.

I crapped three more times, and mostly got it in the little plastic thingy, and each time the doctor cleaned up the mess, and the mess on me. She treated me with nothin' but respect, like i was royalty or somethin'. If I ever needed a new doctor I would pick doctor Hsu.

Crystal was there the entire time, helpin' out whenever she could. Oddly enough it was a bonding experience, but one I would never like to repeat...not in that manner.
Nevertheless, I was both ashamed and very proud of my daughter.
She held me everytime my guts went into spasms, and waves of pain crashed into me.
I managed to suppress the screams to barely audible gasps. I didn't wanna disturb the other patients and...well, I sorta took pain as a challenge in a sense, and screamin', to me, meant I was losin'. So I was determined not to scream.
I was determined not to be a whinin' weenie in front of my daughter.
Like the Indians, I thought, recallin' all the westerns I had seen. I reckon you can call it a man thing. Ha ha ha!

Finally, the crap stopped comin' out and I lay there, my body wracked with pain.
It felt literally like someone sticking forks inside me and twisting.
My bladder was gonna burst any second! I just knew it!

I prayed, please God! Oh God! My God! I could no longer stop the tears from streaming, gushing from my eyes. A warrior doesn't cry, I thought, ashamed I was losing control. A warrior doesn't cry.
But I did. And there was nothin' else I could do but refuse to scream. I will not scream. I will not...Oh God!
I waited for my bladder to burst. Was I at the edge of my sanity or was I insane?

Can't...think. I kept seein' white flashes as the pain kept gettin' worse. It can't possibly get any worse, I thought, but surprise! It did. Eternal pain without end.
Surely, I couldn't take anymore. I was slippin'. Hell, I had already slipped into a total loss of control. This ship is goin' down. I'm sinkin'.

I won't scream. I won't...I...Father...

Everybody, listen to me,
And return me, my ship.
I'm your captain, I'm your captain,
though I'm feeling mighty sick.

I've been lost now, days uncounted,
And it's months since I've seen home.
Can you hear me, can you hear me,
Or am I all alone.

If you return me, to my home port,
I will kiss you mother earth.
Take me back now, take me back now,
To the port of my birth.

Am I in my cabin dreaming, or are you really scheming,
To take my ship away from me?

You'd better think about it, I just can't live without it.
So, please don't take my ship from me.
Yeah, yeah, yeah ...

I can feel the hand, of a stranger,
And it's tightening, around my throat.
Heaven help me, Heaven help me,
Take this stranger from my boat.

I'm your captain, I'm your captain,
though I'm feeling mighty sick.
Everybody, listen to me,
And return me, my ship.

I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
I'm your captain, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...
Ohhhh ...

I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...
I'm getting closer to my home ...


walt said...

You know, these are not gettin' any easier to comment on ...

I'm thinking, well, if Ben can go through this and Crystal and Patti and the Doc can deal with it, then I can read it without cringing -- or with cringing, either way -- since Ben wants the light of day let in on this. But, damn!

It's been my experience that you just have to leave yer modesty at the door when you go to the hospital. But, good grief!

Did I mention that your stories are not getting easier to comment on?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Walt,
Well thanks for commentin' nonetheles, ha ha!

Yes, sometimes escapin' death (or would that be Death) (the kids would prolly call it the big "D") is like goin' from the fire to the fryin' pan.
Or somethin'. I dunno. Sometimes I ask myself, "now why did I wanna live again? Livin' can hurt, y'know?"

But that's just how I roll. Never a boring moment. :^)

walt said...

Great! Uh, good to hear yer not bored. (I think.)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

I also knew how much you like my hospital hijinks. Hee hee.

julie said...

"You know, these are not gettin' any easier to comment on ..."

Yep, it's true. I read this earlier today, and... just damn.

Still here, still listening, and still glad you've lived to tell another tale.

And also that you've decided to take your meds - I really, really, really (to the nth degree) hope 'n' pray they help.

mushroom said...

You are a warrior and you cried; therefore it's OK for warriors to cry.

Don't let anybody ever tell you that you are not a man of faith and power.

Thanks again, Ben.

Robin Starfish said...

Yeah, um, I must admit that this is the third time I've read this before I could calm down enough to comment.

Thanks for shouldering the heaviest load, soldier. At ease.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi Julie,
Thanks! Yes, they do! Although they can cause pancreatis. But that may or may not happen.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Mushroom,
Thanks! I'm not ashamed now, of course, but at that time I had some rather odd thoughts.

Or shall I say more odd. It's difficult to keep up with the oddometer. :^)

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, Robin, ha ha!
Come to think of it, I shoulda added some more comedy in this one, but since that wasn't flowin' (the humor) it may have really messed things up.

I purty sure there somethin' funny about the coonclusion of this Benhanger, however.
Or at least ironic.

QP said...

Ben, I'm in awe of your ability to describe the good, bad and ugly of reality. Your detailed stories always inspire and remind me that no test that comes our way is beyond the course of what others have had to face and all we need to remember is that God will never let us down; he'll never let us be pushed past our limit; he'll always be there to help us come through it.

I hope you're feeling better these days. How's your weight today?

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thanks, QP!
I cooncur! My weight was 170 a few months ago, but is now 140 due to the flu or whatever I had for a long spell. Amazing how fast the weight can plummet.
I'm workin' on gettin' it back up...again, it's been like a yo-yo, lol!
Thankfully, whatever caused the weight loss seems to be gone, now.

Van said...

Well... looks like it's up to me to say the obvious,

Oh Crap!

(ahem... sorry)

What always comes through in your stories, even when every damn solid steel object in the world somehow finds a way to slam into your bod, through the adventures or the pure nightmares you endure with aplomb... what especially sings out clearly above events which in other hands might seem gritty, is the Quality you find in the people in your stories - Dr. Hsu, Crystal, Pattie - and transmit right up and off of the page. Says alot about your own Quality Ben.

Best wishes!

jwm said...

Grand Funk Railroad.
Holy shit, Ben.

You're my hero.


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hey Van!
You know, I never even thought of that. That's a profound Vanservation that I couldn't see!
As you know, other than the bare facts I don't even know what I'm writin' til after I write it, so it's good to discover more about it than I thought I knew.

Thanks for pointin' that out, Van.
I reckon I ain't quite as self-centered as I thought I was, although my ego is still too big for it's britches (yeah, my ego wears britches...brief's I think). :^)

I really appreciate the insightful feedback. I can use this next time Patti and I don't get along so well, lol.

USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Hi John!
Thanks, man! You know, I would like to see you bloggin'! Your a damn good writer, and you write from your heart.
I always am blown away everytime you write of your past or present experiences! No sh*t, John. :^)

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