THE TIME I ALMOST DIED 🌵💉

Inspired by @ListPrompts and @tombatten
  1. The spring of my junior year in college, I was having a lot of low-level but persistent abdominal pain. I dismissed it for a couple weeks and managed it with lots of Advil.
  2. I eventually went to the University Health Center. The NP who saw me palpated my abdomen, and said it was probably just a symptom of my anxiety disorder. When I questioned her, she said I *could* pay $400 for an ultrasound, but that would be kind of silly just to soothe my anxiety, now wouldn't it?
  3. So, a few weeks later, I flew to Mexico for a summer study abroad. All I remember from the flight was some intense pain and a young boy named Diego who sat next to me and helpfully informed me that I'd slept through everything for nine hours.
  4. I took a three-hour bus ride through the countryside, and again couldn't keep from falling asleep for the whole thing.
  5. After a couple nights in a hostel and then just five nights with my host family, I awoke in the middle of the night and knew something was really wrong. I woke up my host parents and they called my professor, Pedro.
  6. Pedro took me to the hospital. They wouldn't let him come into the ER with me.
    By that point, I was running a high fever. I was freezing, but where I was in Mexico, you had to bring your own blankets to the hospital. So no blankets, but I had brought my own needles (standard rec for traveling to that area, where needles were often reused). That was good.
  7. I stayed the night there. The staff called me La Americana. I watched the young boy next to me get his stomach pumped for alcohol poisoning. There were no privacy curtains.
  8. At one point, a man came into the ER waving a gun. He had stapled the palm of his hand several times, on purpose. He threatened to shoot if he didn't receive treatment. A nurse said, "Ignore him. He's always here." And then said to him, "We can't help you here. You need psychological help." He left.
  9. At some point, Pedro talked his way in. I got x-rays. More palpation. Diagnosis? "Gastritis, probably from adjusting to the food." I was discharged, went back "home," and spent another night. So much sleeping.
  10. The next morning I said, "I'm not OK. Something is still really wrong."
  11. Pedro didn't really believe me (he admitted this later), but dutifully took me to a private clinic after I said I would NOT go back to the hospital.
    Looking back, this was a remarkable moment. I was a people-pleaser to the extreme, and had no sense of entitlement regarding the superficial aspects of care (blankets, privacy curtains, etc.). I just knew that I needed somewhere where someone would believe me. A little late in the game to discover my powers of self-advocacy, but I'm so glad I did!
  12. The doctor at the clinic barely touched my stomach before he said, "You need to go to a hospital immediately." I called my dad from a pay phone in the lobby while Pedro called a taxi.
    "Hello, Dad? I'm going to the hospital. I'll let you know what happens."
  13. At the hospital, a new doctor performed an ultrasound. "Something is wrong and you need surgery right away," he said. "We think you may have had an ectopic pregnancy."
  14. "No!" I said. "Soy virgen...no es posible."
    (Is everyone doing the math to find out how old I was? 'Kay.)
  15. "Ah! You are a noble woman," said the doctor (?!). "But we still must perform surgery."
  16. "May I call my parents?" I said.
  17. "No, there is absolutely no time."
  18. And then I got stuck in a manually operated elevator, going down to the basement to get surgery. And the whole time the elevator was stuck, I kept thinking, "Oh my god. I didn't have time to call my parents - there cannot possibly be time for this."
  19. Went I got to the OR, the surgical instruments were soaking in a dark green sterilizing liquid in a giant, see-through basin against one wall. I lay on the table...
  20. ...and kept laying there, because the anesthesiologist was at a party and still hadn't arrived. When he got there, he said, "I was at a party! But don't worry, I didn't drink too much."
  21. And then I woke up, in a hospital bed, with Pedro sleeping on a bench beside me. He said, "Carolyn. They had to remove your appendix and your Fallopian tube, and repair your intestine, which had all been eaten away by a massive abdominal infection. They showed us the appendix and Fallopian tube and they were SO gross - all dead, infected tissue."
    I asked if I could see them, but alas, they were already gone. Over the next year, I took a few classes with Pedro and his wife, both of whom had seen part of my reproductive organs.
  22. Somehow, I talked to my parents. They were crying so much. I was still too stunned to feel much (plus I was a little drugged).
  23. The next day, I discovered I had a shunt in my abdomen. The infection was too large; they had to leave an opening to continue to monitor my internal body fluids and drain more infection.
  24. Turns out, my appendix had probably burst on the plane, over a week prior to my surgery.
  25. The doctor said that it was CRAZY that I was alive. And also that I probably had my German constitution to thank for my survival. (Thanks, great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpa Christof.)
  26. Anyway, there's more to the post-surgery story, but that's enough for now - it's the story of how I almost died (but did not!).