health care

I Am Gout

I have gout.

Maybe I could have come up with a better hook. Some quip or background story about the course and curse of my life. But nah. When your foot’s swelled up like a goddamned softball and the thought of walking fifteen feet to the bathroom brings on a bout of shakes and sweat like day three of a detox, necessitating a military-style gameplan complete with analysis of terrain and supposition of barriers and where-the-fuck-is-the-dog-because-as-soon-as-I-get-up-she’s-going-to-plop-herself-right-in-front-of-my-route, well, you learn to just keep it simple. I have gout.

Besides, it’s a phrase I have to repeat twenty times a fucking day when I’m having a flare-up. You get used to it.

“Why are you limping?”

“I have gout.”

“What happened?”

“I have gout.”

“Hey… Umm.. Are you…”

“Yes. I have gout. I am gout. I am Groot.”

Because nothing devolves into a one-line talking tree more quickly than a seemingly healthy forty-something hobbling around like Yoda in Return of the Jedi, right before his cloak withers around his flesh dissolving into the ether. Is that my best pop-culture old man reference? Yeah it is. What, should I have gone with Citizen Kane gasping out about his stupid sled? Well that movie sucked. I don’t care if it ranks #1 all-time. It was boring and can’t hold the jockstrap of Casablanca and The Godfather, the other two that it usually muscles out for the top spot. Yoda’s a better reference, because every Star Wars movie is better than Citizen Kane.

(Editor’s note: By “every Star Wars movie,” I mean episodes four through eight, and maybe Solo and Rogue One. The others don’t count.)

(Editor’s postscript: I can make editor’s notes that say “I” because the writer and the editor are the same person in this masturbatory act of self-publishing.)

My first bout with gout (hey, a rhyme) came in my mid-thirties. I was still single and living alone meaning, unlike now, I couldn’t ask my wife to take the trash can out to the curb just this once. Hoo boy. I remember that Lawrence of Arabia-esque trek toward the curb.

“Aqaba! From the land!”

“Trash can! To the curb!”

“You are mad, sir!”

BTW, Lawrence of Arabia is also a damn fine movie and should be hundreds of places higher than Citizen Kane.

The journey to the curb was bad enough, because at least I could use the trash can as a pseudo-walker. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Hobble, hobble, move the trash can six inches. Fifteen minutes later, I turned around with horror to see the wide open expanse of my driveway leading back to my front door. Nary a stabilizer nor support lay betwixt myself and my goal. The December ground was wet with light drizzle that was ongoing, yet still the prospect of getting down on all fours and crawling back into my abode seemed a perfectly viable alternative, and if my pants became shredded and knees bloody, it seemed a small price to pay. After all, I could always shower once I… wait, showering requires standing. Never mind, I guess I’ll just hobble back for twenty minutes and risk pneumonia. They hospitalize you for that, right? Bedridden for the next week sounds like an excellent gameplan during a flare-up.

That flare-up was a particularly bad one. It had started in one ankle, but after a few days of favoring the other foot while walking around, I now had two ankles the size of softballs. Walking around with one painful foot is difficult. Walking around with two painful feet is a simultaneous exercise in futility, frustration, and misfortune. I believe Chasing Amy refers to that as a Chinese finger trap.

That trash night was followed by my first ankle-related doctor visit. Which is saying something, because as a mid-thirties American male, I didn’t believe in going to the doctors for shit. There’s a reason any plan to make insurance affordable starts with making young men pay for it, because everyone knows they’ll never use it.

The doctor brought up this newfangled diagnosis called gout, but she was hesitant to classify my current condition as gout. First she had to run a thousand tests, which required my gimpy ass to drive all over town to different medical offices and hospitals, most of which had parking lots over a block away from the institution. I had to go to the x-ray guy to see if anything was broken, and the ultrasound guy to see if my leg was pregnant. Or maybe she was looking for a blood clot. Regardless, my leg was neither clotted, nor knocked up.

So then the doctor gave me a pill that I had to take once every hour until one of two things happened. Either the pain would go away, meaning I have gout, or I’d get sick as hell. And how about another “Hoo Boy” for that one. I said “sick as hell” instead of “sick as shit” for a reason. Because all of a sudden I was spewing out of both ends like Old Faithful. And believe me when I say it was “all of a sudden.” I went from zero to a million in the time it took me to crawl the ten feet from the couch to the bathroom. What started as a vague sense of “something’s not right” quickly became a pinwheel spinning from ass on the seat to face in the seat to ass on the seat and praying that there would always remain a split second between the two phenomena. But as I kneeled next to the porcelain goddess after the seventh flush, I remember wiggling my toes and still feeling the pain and thinking, “well, at least I don’t have gout.”

It would take five years, and at least three doctors, before that “not gout” designation was reversed. And no, I wasn’t doctor shopping or anything, I was just going from one insurance plan to the next based on whichever one was cheaper. It’s not like I was going to use it, anyway. Although when the second doctor only diagnosed me with a case of “you walk funny, get some orthotics,” I decided to find something more permanent. Plus, I switched to Kaiser, because then if I had to go through another bout of tests, they’d at least all be in the same building,

So now, a decade later, I can just say I have gout. Well, sort of. Because my form of gout doesn’t fit any of the normal descriptions. The only thing that made me finally admit, begrudgingly, that I may in fact have this particular affliction is that gout medicine usually helps me get better.

Gout is a form of arthritis. A flare-up happens when there’s too much uric acid in your blood. The uric acid usually falls toward your foot, creating a dull pain in the toes. And there are a few times I feel that. It’s a deep discomfort, almost a stiffness, that appears in my toes. It makes walking more difficult, but it doesn’t necessarily get better or worse if I walk. It’s always there. And at those points, I think, “Yep, that’s what WebMD and Wikipedia tell me gout is.”

But those textbook gout feelings are rare. My usual modus operandi hits my ankles, not my toes, and causes them to swell up to the point that flip-flops are the only footwear that can contain them. Sometimes, but not always, this is accompanied by a sharp pain in the arch of my foot or my heel, like plantar fasciitis. But usually I chalk the arch and heel up to continuing to wear shoes, and oftentimes an ankle brace as well, which bruises my swollen foot.

Are you uncomfortable yet? Grab some Advil.

Gout is usually caused by diet, and a flare-up usually happens after eating something bad. But mine is usually caused by rolling my ankle. It can be slight or severe. Sometimes I step on a rock and my leg kicks out while my foot stays still, and I know that three or four  days later, my ankle’s going to be spherical in shape. Other times I feel the twinge and try to think back as to what I did over the last few days and can’t pinpoint what exactly I did. Even if I can’t pinpoint the incident, I don’t think it’s usually tied to food.

Except maybe salt. I’ve definitely noticed an increase in discomfort, and even an occasional outbreak, after I overindulge in salt. Whether it’s dinner at Panda Express or processed lunchmeat sandwiches or hitting the sunflower seeds too hard at a ballgame, you can bet I’ll be wearing an ankle brace the next few days.

Oddly enough, though, salt isn’t listed as one of the key ingredients that brings on gout. The magical elves at Wikipedia list red meat and shellfish as the cause. Do I like red meat and shellfish? Sure. Do I eat them a shit ton? Not really. Sure, I love me a hamburger, but my pasta sauce and homemade tacos are just as likely to have chicken or turkey. And while I’m definitely the guy at the crab feed that the organization doesn’t come out ahead on, I can’t afford to eat crab or scallops or shrimp more than once or twice a year. And the type of red meat they they usually reference on the gout sites are the nasty shit – livers and kidneys. And sweetmeats, which I’m pretty sure are fucking brains. Eww. Never ate that shit and probably never will. Definitely never will, now that I know it’ll inflame my gout.

What’s that? Beer is also listed as one of the irritants? Because of the yeast? Why are you bringing that up? Seems completely irrelevant…

So let’s go down the checklist.

Dull ache in my toes? Nope.

Eat a lot of cow brain? Nope.

Discoloration of the gap between tiles? Oh sorry, that’s grout.

After years of reading all of the descriptions of gout and thinking, “that’s not what I’ve got going on,” someone saw me hobbling along and asked if I had bursitis. I said, “No, I have gout,” then immediately looked up bursitis. Well, not immediately, because it probably took me ten minutes to go the fifteen yards to a computer. But “immediately” in gout world.

Bursitis is the swelling of the bursae fluid sacs at the joints. Symptoms include a stiff ankle, swelling of the heel, hot skin, red skin, veins popping out, pain when wearing shoes.  Ding, ding, ding! Winner, winner! I mean, not really a winner, because it’s not exactly a prize, but at least the symptoms sounded a lot closer to what I had experienced off and on for years. Why the hell does everyone want to diagnose it as gout when it’s clearly bursitis?

Hold on, let me read a little further. Causes of bursitis may include… gout. Well, fuck a duck. They might want to add that little footnote to all of the gout descriptions that say it’ll hit your toes first.

I also got it in my knee once. That was fun. While curling (actually, while sweeping), my lower leg went the wrong direction, and three days later, I could barely put on pants. The left knee is still a little bit tender, but at least it has the decency to confine itself to one side of my body, a concession my ankles rarely make. Still, nothing makes me feel quite so alive as those days that I’m wearing two ankle braces and one knee brace. I’m like Cyborg or Robocop, mostly machine with only a trace of humanity remaining.

I’ve become more adept at predicting when these outbreaks will occur. I’ve even been able to avoid a few major flare-ups. I usually feel a twinge in one or both of my ankles, and I immediately cut down on its usage. Sleep on the couch with my foot propped up above my heart for a couple nights, maybe a little ibuprofen and some ice, and a few days later, I’m fine. The acronym for a hurt ankle is RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. I repeat it over and over like the episode of Family Ties where Mallory learns the acronym for SCUBA.

If the twinge is a little bit worse, I can take my indomethacin prescription pills for a couple days. But not more than a couple days. Because if I have to get a refill more than once every two years or so, my doctor might want me to come back in for a closer look. And while I’m now in my mid-forties, I’m still male. Besides, you can’t drink alcohol with these pills. And it’s not just a suggestion, it’s a vomit-fest.

But whenever that happens, whenever I feel the gout coming and can avoid it with a little bit of precaution, I think to myself, “Whew, I’ve finally nipped this thing.”

Then the gout responds, “Oh yeah? You think you’ve got me under control? I hope you weren’t planning on going upstairs anytime soon. And have fun honing your cruise control skills.”

Because if I’m distracted or unable to take it easy for a few days, the gout hits a tipping point, and then it’s going to take a week of indomethacin and ibuprofen, not a day. Or longer. My current discomfort’s been going on for a few weeks. I thought I was getting better after four days and quit the pills for a day or two. Oops.

The last major incident before my current stroll down no-stroll lane came last February. It was the week of the Mock Trial competition at my school. I am the Mock Trial coach. Not much I can do to avoid being out and about for fifteen hours a day. Oh, and the parking garage is a block away from the courthouse, because they used the same ableist, piece-of-shit civil engineer as the hospital. I resorted to using my wife’s grandfather’s cane. Nothing says hip, with-it, and in control of one’s faculties quite like a circa 1970s wooden cane that looks straight from a Tijuana street vendor. Can I get a pimp cane to go with my pimp walk?

What made it even more sublime was that the Mock Trial case involved the defendant’s walking stick being used to bludgeon the victim. Some of the opposing teams joked that I was bringing in an inadmissible prop. Until they saw me walk. Then they asked me what was wrong.

“I have gout.”

But the cane did little to help me walk. It helps when I’m standing in front of the classroom, because then I can lean on it. But when I’m walking, it does virtually nothing to alleviate the basic problem of moving my foot through the air and placing it upon the ground. The amount of weight I put on the foot might doesn’t really affect the amount of discomfort. If anything, the cane makes it a little worse,  because in addition to pain, my foot also lacks strength. The cane fixes the latter, meaning I can walk faster, but does nothing to alleviate the pain, which is now happening more often. I’m sure, with more experience, I could be more effective with the cane, but at this point, I’m still a neophyte. Hell, I can’t even figure out if I’m supposed to use it in the hand that’s on the hurting side or the strong side.

This week, I finally broke down and bought one of those knee scooters. You know the one? You cock your leg and rest the lower half on a raised scooter. Totally fancy, and even moreso, it allows my infected foot to never touch the ground. Of course, it also puts pressure on my knee and must do something wonky with my bloodflow, because when I do finally put the infected foot down, it’s a dazzling shock to the system. A sharp pain from an appendage that thought it was getting the day off.

Oh, and the knee scooter doesn’t help with stairs.

Oh, and it looks really silly. I know, I know. That totally shouldn’t matter. If I’m already gimping around, why am I worried about appearances? Because I’m a vain motherfucker. And generations of badasses from John Wayne to John McClain to John… umm… McCain? have told me that walking with a limp can be manly. Swagger! But only pussies would ride around on a scooter.

Wait, Fonzie drove a motorcycle, right? So all I need to do is invest in a leather jacket! Unfortunately, I just bought a knee scooter, so there’s no fucking way I can afford a leather jacket.

I’ve had a few other flare-ups at bad times. They always seem to happen at bad times, because if it’s a time where it’s convenient for me to slow down, it doesn’t go into Full Gout Mode. They also tend to happen when I’m distracted. When I can feel the twinge and think, “Oh, that’s not the gout. It must just be the…”

One time was in England. I blamed it on all of the traffic circles, because driving a stick-shift on the wrong side of the car is bad enough, but needing to slam out the clutch to go from zero to fifty in a half-second in order to negotiate the two-yard gap in a continuously streaming cross-traffic is not beneficial for somebody with traditionally wonky ankles.

Sorry. Two-meter gap. Yards are outlawed in Europe.

It coulda been the salty Nando’s, too. Mmm… Nando’s. I’d chop off my ankles if it meant I could get a Nando’s here on the west coast.

The ankle got worse and worse, and by the night before we left, it was horrible. And the Bristol airport puts their rental car lot even further away from their terminal than do northern California hospitals.

When we got to the counter, my wife told me to ask for a wheel chair. I was very reticent for the same reasons I don’t want to use my knee scooter. I hate looking like an invalid. I hate needing others to push me around. I’d rather have to let little old ladies pass me than to throw in the towel. Because if I’m in a wheel chair, people will avoid eye contact with me. But if I’m limping, they’ll ask me what’s wrong.

“I have gout.”

But Wife insisted, and there I was, being pushed around by my wife, who was four-weeks pregnant at the time. And a little bit hungover, because we didn’t know she was four-weeks pregnant at the time. Makes me feel like an abusive husband. Barefoot, pregnant, and pushing my ass around an airport.

But it’s a good thing we did that. Because the airport staffers called ahead and when we got off the plane in Atlanta, there was a wheelchair waiting for me. This time it was pushed by an airport employee, because evidently capitalist America hires people for those roles, whereas socialist Britain tells you to do it your own fucking self. The wheelchair pusher had some clout. He pushed me past the milieu and, most importantly, to the front of the customs line. Holy shit, I should ask for a wheelchair more often. Then he took me out of the international terminal onto a tram and all the way to my domestic gate. Had I attempted this journey by myself, it would have taken me three hours. I would have missed my connecting flight. So fuck you, John McClain. If you missed your connecting flight, then Hans Gruber wins. And if Hans Gruber wins, then there’s no incentive for him to get a job at a wizarding school and not one, but two movie franchises are ruined.

“You feel that, Butch? That’s pride fucking with you. Fuck pride.”

Did I just go full Bruce Willis circle on that? I did!

My other experience with wheelchairs came two summers ago when the gout stuck while we were vacationing in San Diego. San Diego in summer. Totally the time one would expect to get hit with a form of arthritis that is exacerbated by the cold. And there’s not even any cow brain on the menu there!

The two places we wanted to take our child in San Diego were the zoo and Legoland, two places not known as favorites of the immobiles. Wife again insisted I get a wheelchair at both places. And good God, y’all, did you know they have hills in San Diego? The San Diego Zoo must have at least ten different elevation changes of a thousand feet or more. The polar bear exhibit is halfway down a hill that is approximately a mile long and at a seventy percent incline (I’m not a geometrist), so if I wanted to see them, my options were either to start at the bottom of the hill and relive the story of Sisyphus or else start at the top of the hill and run some fun experiments on terminal velocity.

And then there was that whole pride thing, again. I didn’t want to make the bus stop for me and take the time to load and unload my wheelchair. I didn’t want to ask for help from strangers, and Wife was busy single-parenting a three-year old who wants to see all the animals at the same time. So there I was, going up a steep incline using the poles of an iron fence to pull myself up, which I had quickly realized was much easier than pushing the wheels uphill. So yay for leveling up in wheelchair faster than I did in cane. But holy crap, if I had to be in a wheelchair every day, I’m pretty sure my upper torso would look like Rambo’s.

The following day, we went to Legoland. Again, we rented a wheelchair. There are fewer steep hills at Legoland, but it seems like the whole damn place is on a slight slope. There were very few places that I felt comfortable taking my hands off the wheels without worrying about gravity pulling me slowly away from my family.

But I did find out one pretty cool thing. Most Legoland rides have a separate line for disabled people. I don’t know if I technically counted as disabled, but I was definitely mobility-impaired, which was the main thing they were concerned with. Or maybe they just felt that since I paid $50 to rent the wheelchair equivalent of rental skis, I shouldn’t have to stand for long periods of time in line.

So I got to go to the super secret disabled entrances to rides, which aren’t really all that secret, but are very, very super. For most of them, you go the then end of the line or the end of the ride, where people get off the ride. And then, just like customs at Hartsfield-Jackson, you’re magically next in line. There were a few rides at Legoland that had a Fastpass-style disabled entrance, where you’d sign up for a time to come back. But unlike the real Fastpass, the time is twenty minutes from now, not two hours. And twenty minutes turns out to be just enough time to skip the line at the ride next door and come back.

Hey, wait a second. We’re taking our kid to Disneyland in March. Maybe I can rent me a wheelchair and become Dad of the Year. I remember all those stories a few years ago that wealthy families were hiring disabled people to skip the lines for them. Can I hire myself out? I assume Disneyland is a bit more scrutinizing than Legoland, but I’ve gotten the royal treatment once before.

Then again, at the rate my last week has gone, it might be wiser for my family to keep me at the hotel. Or leave me at home.

I guess in the meantime, I’ll do what I do best at times like this. Sit in pain and wait for the drugs to go into effect.

Say it with me: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus.

Happy Hospital Hell

I always assumed we were pretty far along the historical spectrum of medical knowledge. Long gone are the days of leeches and bleeding and humors. Can the days of Star Trek scanners and nanobots be that far away?

Then my wife went into the hospital six times over a four-month span. And I now realize that, while we might have progressed beyond whiskey as the primary antiseptic and painkilling tool, we’re still a long way from holographic doctors phasing through your body to grab the kidney stone before solidifying to pat your ass on the way out the door.

I’m going to try very hard to not turn the Happy Wombat blog into vitriol. Let’s see how good my fiction-writing abilities are.

Prior to the 1:00 AM wake-up call my daughter gave us a week before the agreed-upon arrival time (“Hey, what’s all this water doing in my way? Push!”), my wife had never been in a hospital. Other than “just visiting.”  And really, Monopoly needs to change the jail to a hospital. And what the player needs to roll to get out should change every turn.  “Oh, I know yesterday we were paying very close attention to the doubles, but these test results indicate that dice adding up to seven will put you back on the path to Marvin Gardens this turn.” Besides, how many people really visit jail?

The delivery went fine. An hour after they gave her some Pitocin, she was pushing, and an hour later, we had a healthy six-and-a-half pound daughter. The baby, thankfully, has been the picture of health. But once she was out of her mom, things went a little sideways.

My wife had a massive fibroid that we found during the pregnancy. “Massive” must be a medical term, because every nurse, doctor, and ultrasound tech who saw it said, “Wow, that’s a massive fibroid.” Or “I’m surprised you could get pregnant with that massive fibroid.” Or “Seriously, it’s blocking a fallopian tube, so your eggs weren’t even making it to the uterus half of the time.”

This information might have been useful when we were trying to get pregnant. Instead, I had the pleasure of, um, pleasuring myself into a cup. With that came an affidavit that probably made the last Pope resign – “I, the undersigned, promise I masturbated to produce this sample.” The rest of the rules were extensive and comical: do not collect specimen into anything other than the cup, do not put in your pocket, do not expose to light, do not pass Go!, do not slow down for any yellow lights, do not make eye contact with the tech you deliver it to.

So we knew there might be some issues because of the Massive Fibroid (trademark pending), primarily a risk of excessive bleeding. There was supposed to be extra blood on hand, but it never showed up. The baby’s fault for showing up on a Saturday when the main OB/GYN was not on call. What we didn’t foresee, which in retrospect we or someone with a day or two of medical experience should have, was that perhaps the fibroid and the placenta might not play nicely with each other.

Nobody is sure what happened next.  Either my wife tried to deliver the fibroid, which we had been warned ahead of time would be bad, or the placenta was stuck to the fibroid. The result was lots of blood and no placenta. The placenta seemed to bother the OB the most, but everyone else was concerned that the blood wasn’t stopping. This was the moment I was very happy we were not still living with 19th century medical technology, because I’m sure my wife would have bled out.

But instead, I was being asked to make some momentous decisions. My wife was going to be separated from the baby, meaning that I was in charge of the half-hour-old. Because the law and the hospital and health insurance companies don’t know what to do at this point, I could either admit the baby as the patient or having her admitted as an abandon. Naturally I opted for the former.

Unbeknownst to me, this triggered a health insurance nightmare.  The plan had been to put the baby on my insurance, not my wife’s. But once the baby became a patient at the hospital, well-baby went out the window. This double my wife’s deductible, so we had the joy of paying for much of what happened next. As far as I can tell, the baby’s currently covered on both of our plans, but who the hell knows?

Because my daughter was the patient, my next twenty-four hours were spent in pediatrics, not post-partum. This meant sleeping in a toddler bed about three inches longer than my body. I was also wearing jeans, having thought that I would have time to go home and change after the birth. Add in the two hours of sleep I was operating on, plus quickly learning why it is called a mothering instinct, not a fathering instinct. One fun part, though, was seeing the nurses not quite sure how to deal with the father in charge. They kept asking me how I was feeling and if I wanted any Jell-o or water. “No, I’m fine, my body didn’t just suffer through a live birth. Do you have any beer?”

But my day was a piece of cake next to the recipe for my wife. A dash of ultrasound, a dollop of sedative, swirl in a little radiation, and set to baste in the ICU. The radiation lab stopped the bleeding. The ultrasound checked for both the fibroid and placenta. Turns out the ultrasound needs blood flowing to the region, so the results were inconclusive after the radiation. Probably should’ve done those two things in the opposite order. Oops. As for the ICU, nobody seemed sure why she was there. But where else would you put the woman who has been awake for twenty hours, recently gave birth, and is now beside herself because she can’t see her baby, other than right next to somebody that is up all night with paranoid delusions?

The next day, my wife was allowed to move to pediatrics to actually, you know, see the baby she had birthed. Three days later, mama and baby were released. I was at work, so I missed the whole thing. Had we known more than an hour in advance, I would’ve tried to be there. When a patient is going to be released is an amorphous target, but once it’s set in motion, it’s fast. “We want to keep you here, we’re going to keep monitoring you,” changes to “you’re released, now get the hell out of here because we need that bed” faster than a Denny’s waitress. Turn and burn, baby!

Two days later, she was back in the hospital.  Her body really wanted to deliver that fibroid! When it started coming out on the toilet, she freaked out a bit, but then calmly decided to go to the emergency room. At the emergency room, they asked her a whole bunch of questions based on her medical history (“so we notice your hemoglobin was a little low after delivering the baby”) but nobody seemed concerned with the bodily tissue dangling from her lady-parts.

They also asked if she felt safe in her home. I assume this question is required by law, and that is a good thing.  However, they asked her that question with me sitting right next to her. This certainly violates the point of the question, if not the letter of the law. The comedian in me wanted to crack my knuckles, look menacingly at her, and say “Oh, you feel safe.” Fortunately, right brain convinced left brain to save it for the re-telling.

Once admitted, we stood around waiting for her OB (her actual one this time, not the on-call one) to finish office hours. One tech did take an ultrasound – a vaginal ultrasound five days after giving birth. It showed nothing, probably because the thing it was looking for was HANGING OUT OF HER. I could see it, one of the nurses could see it, but somehow the tech who stuck a wand up past it didn’t notice.

By the time the doctor showed up, we had been in the emergency room for five hours. She then, still without looking at the area in question, assumed it was the placenta and began making plans to admit my wife to the hospital for placenta accreta. Then she looked at it. Oops, turns out it’s not the placenta, it’s the fibroid, something we silly non-medical types had assumed a while ago. The doctor then decided she needed more time to figure out what she’s going to do, so she put the fibroid, which had been hanging between my wife’s thighs for a quarter of a day, back inside her. I wondered if this was the most sanitary thing to do, but again, figured I should just keep my stupid plebeian thoughts to myself.

Around midnight that night, they removed the fibroid without much problem. Bear in mind this was something we were told repeatedly, both during the pregnancy and the delivery, could not happen without so much blood loss as to potentially kill my wife. Everything we had been through that week was to keep that fibroid from coming out. And now it was out, as if nature and the human body knew better than medical professionals.

But we still weren’t done. She kept having fevers after coming home from the fibroid procedure, so she returned.  This was the only time out of the five post-partum trips to the hospital when we didn’t have to go through the emergency room. I had assumed the emergency room was for, I don’t know, emergencies.  You don’t call 911 because of a jaywalker, right? But the emergency room isn’t 911. Most of the doctors cannot admit people to the hospital. So they send you to the emergency room. And the person that’s there for a legitimate emergency, like a fibroid hanging from her hoo-ha, is just going to have to wait because Dr. Not-in-Network really wants a temperature check.

This trip, the OB decided to bring in an Infectious Disease (ID) doctor. Over the next five days, he put her on about fifty thousand different antibiotics. Thus began the hospital procedure we’ve come to know, and why I’m convinced the medical profession still doesn’t know shit. The phlebotomists come in to take your blood about 4:00 in the morning, the doctor comes in at 7:00, looks at the results, says “well that didn’t work,” changes one thing (Antibiotic #6 for Antibiotic #5), then waits twenty-one hours to see if that magically worked. If it didn’t, they change one thing and wait until the next day. Of course, they hadn’t diagnosed her with anything other than fevers. Nothing was in her bloodstream, but why should that stop them from randomly prescribing antibiotics? He’s an ID doctor, so he will use the ID treatment regardless of whether or not the patient has an ID. We don’t ask running backs to pass the football, do we?

After a few days of this, the OB went back into the uterus to make sure there was no lingering fibroid or placenta. Neither of them was there, but afterward my wife’s fever went down. While the doctor was checking around, she cleaned up the uterus with an antibiotic spray. She later explained that the uterus is, understandably, sealed off from the rest of the body. So unlike, say, the kidney or the liver, where bacteria or other contagions would enter the bloodstream and be seen in the daily blood draws, if they were in the uterus, they would stay there. This also means that no amount of antibiotic delivered through an IV would reach and cleanse the uterus. I guess the ID doctor didn’t know that. Or maybe he just thought there’d be no reason for a uterus to be infected just because it had a fibroid that had been hanging out in the open for six hours put back inside. He’s an infectious diseases dude. You wouldn’t expect a Senator from California to pay attention to what happens in Nevada, would you?

For the third time, she was released from the hospital and, this time, we actually felt like we were clear. Until she got a 104-degree fever accompanied by diarrhea and vomiting. This was new. But hey, at least we weren’t abusing the emergency room this time. And the good news didn’t stop there – this  was entirely unrelated to the pregnancy, the fibroid, and the uterus.  Woo-Hoo! Unfortunately,  it was C-Diff, which is potentially deadly. What is C-Diff? It’s when you overuse antibiotics, so you kill off all of the good bacteria in your system. Oops! Who could have guessed that randomly throwing medicine at an undiagnosed problem might have bad consequences? Well, you came in with a runny nose, so we amputated your foot. Hopefully you don’t mind.

Want to know what they use to treat a problem that was caused by overuse of antibiotics? If you answered more antibiotics, congratulations! You can be a 21st century doctor! If you answered whiskey, go back to 1860, you Neanderthal!

We earned almost a month of reprieve after the C-Diff joy. Since then, she’s been back twice. The first time was because her gall bladder was passing stones, which allegedly is common in new mothers. Something, something, when pregnant, the body does something, something, which causes the gall bladder to something, something stones. They needed to endoscope out the gallstones, then remove the gall bladder in a separate surgery.

But nobody would touch her because she was on blood thinners. Why was she on blood thinners? Oh, did I forget to mention she had a blood clot? She got it on the C-Diff trip when they put a picc line in, which is like a surge protector for multiple IV lines. She needed it because both arms were bruised from too many IV’s.

This was also where the proprietary bullshit between the different branches of medicine reared its ugly head again. The hematologist doesn’t want to take her off the blood thinner, the surgeon won’t touch her until the gallstones are already out, the internist won’t remove the gallstones until blah, blah, blah. And a new ID doctor’s wearing a trench coat in the corner, saying “Hey, I got some great antibiotics over here for ya.”

Meanwhile my wife is turning yellow enough to get a walk-on part in The Walking Dead because a gallstone is blocking her liver. And all anybody will do is wait until the next blood draw at 4:00 AM tomorrow

Somehow the magical Oracle brought the warring factions together to remove everything gall related, and nine days later she was back home, having already missed a quarter of her daughter’s life. But dammit, that jaundiced look didn’t go away. Why the heck isn’t the liver getting better now that the evil gall bladder that was bullying all the other poor organs was gone? It couldn’t be that they had just been guessing at why the liver was overproducing bilirubin like it was cornering the market on canary-colored crayons.

One more trip to the hospital for “observation.” Once again through the emergency room. Hey, she’s already missed Fourth of July, our anniversary, and our baby’s first day at daycare, what’s one more indefinite hospital visit?

As always, the true heroes of the medical profession, the nurses, provided an answer.  The off-hand remarks made by the people that actually spend their days in and out of the patient rooms are much more helpful and enlightening than the Almighty Edicts delivered from upon high by Hugh Laurie wannabes once a day.

“They’ve got you on Xarelto while you’re having liver problems?” one asked.

Why? Is that a bad thing? Yep, blood thinners can cause liver problems. Have I mentioned “oops” yet?  So the hematologist reluctantly takes her off of Xarelto and, magically, her liver gets better. So she is released with… Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?… Another blood thinner! This one, we promise, won’t affect the liver. But it did. And as a bonus, she also had to shoot this one directly into her stomach.  Fun stuff.

So she gave herself shots for two weeks and the yellow came back to her skin. No relation, whatsoever, the hematologist assured us. I’m sure a liver specialist would blame it on the nonexistent gall bladder. And the ID Doc would have some pure antibiotics straight off the boat from his guy in Thailand.

With family photos approaching, she tried something kookie-crazy and took herself off the shots for a few days. What do you know? Her skin color faded. The hematologist actually said there was no connection. Now, I might’ve hyperbolized a few things for storytelling purposes, but I guarantee you this is legit. When confronted with a clear pattern correlating blood thinner to skin color, she assured us that there was no causality whatsoever.

Uh huh, whatever you say. Just like your body can’t deliver a fibroid. And antibiotics cure everything. Thank God we’ve come so far in our medical knowledge.

So now my wife is just going to take some aspirin to keep the blood flowing, while hopefully giving the liver a chance to get better. If that works, she might be able to go back to normal. Maybe even knock back a little whiskey. I hear that cures everything.