Friday, November 5, 2010

My worst week ever - Part 3

This is the third installment of my long-form story of my worst week ever. Prior installments here and here, respectively.

If by Tuesday evening, my week looked dark, I at least had a nice weekend event coming up. Perhaps a reversal of fortune was in the offing.

As you may or may not know, I grew up the son of Salvation Army pastors. Many people know the Salvation Army best through the red kettles the organization uses to collect money during the Christmas season. What you may not know is that Salvation Army officers like my parents essentially have their workload doubled throughout the Christmas season. In addition to pastoring a church and running a robust social service operation, they also have to oversee a very physically demanding fundraising operation that depends heavily on the economy, the weather and a less-than-dependable workforce.

Because of the stresses of the Christmas season, the Salvation Army had started by the time I was a teenager holding retreats for officers and their families in November. Back then, I didn't think much of the timing. Now,I can see in it a message that the higher-ups knew a tough time was coming for these families, and it would be good for them to take a breath before life changed radically for the almost two months running right up to Christmas Eve (a very lucrative day to raise money via red kettles at stores in the days before e-commerce.) The retreat weekend featured a Chri
stmas party, which called for a new outfit.

After my mom picked me up from my election day door-knocking, we probably grabbed dinner at Wendy's or Napoli Pizza in Bridgeville, south of Pittsburgh. We shopped in Bridgeville because it had both a TJ Maxx and a Marshall's. What more does the thrify, fashion-conscious teenager need?

This was at the tail end of my gray phase. In about sixth grade, I'd decided that gray the safest clothing color for me. I especially liked gray pants. That night at Marshall's, I remember scoring a rugby shirt with wide black and white stripes that a) never fit me right but b) was inexpensive. Mainly, though, we were there for my brother and me to acquire outfits for the Christma
s party that coming weekend. I chose some gray pants with more than the traditional number of pockets and the gray sweater pictured here. Yes, I still own this sweater, though I honestly have no idea why. I would like to say that I knew that ugly sweater parties were going to become de rigeur ironic hipster fixtures of the new millennium, but I would be lying. It's closer to the truth to say that I'm a sentimental pack rat and this sweater is in my sacred bundle.

While I was pleased to have new clothes to show off on the weekend, I couldn't help but notice that as we were leaving Marshall's, I had an intense, tingly pain in my right leg. In fact, I didn't feel great in general. Having hiked through public housing all day for Dukakis, I attributed the leg pain to fatigue and the flu-like symptoms to the rhythm of November cold outside and blasting heat inside the apartment entryways.

When I awoke on Wednesday, the pain was still there and the flu symptoms were worse. I had a test in computer math that I decided I couldn't miss, so I went to school. My school bus route ran through hilly first-ring suburbs, and we traversed many of those hills on brick streets. I recall that the school buses already had their chains on the tires for winter. The bus bouncing on those brick streets plus the chains on the tires assaulted the pain that had moved from my right leg to settle in my right lower abdomen. That was the worst school bus ride ever in which I was not getting beat up (another story or series of stories).

Mercifully, my computer math class was second period, so I didn't have to endure too long before taking the test. The test passed in a blur of pain and nausea. Right after computer math, I reported my desperately sick state to someone and discovered that the school district doctor visited the high school on Wednesdays. He checked me out, palpated the right side of my abdomen and declared my symptoms viral. One of my parents picked me up, and I laid up at home.

Thursday, I awoke to find the flu symptoms gone but the pain persisting. It felt like a lot less to contend with, and the nerd in me (Who am I kidding? "Nerd" and "me" were synonyms.) hated to miss school. Back over the washboard streets to school. I don't remember much about that school day, but I do remember deciding I had to get more medical attention while bouncing over the brick streets on the way home. My mom called the doctor, and she could fit us in that evening. I had a quick dinner, and we went for a 6:00 appointment. The dinner would prove to be an agony-prolonging mistake.

As my wife and children can attest, I don't have the most air-tight memory. Certain events, though, heighten the senses and seal in the memories. That night at my regular doctor's office, my symptoms called for the first rectal exam of my life and - amazingly - not the only one that evening. I won't dwell, but suffice it to say that if I had thought this ailment was going to go away quietly and leave me to enjoy the weekend, this unwelcome turn of events disabused me of that notion.

As she snapped off the rubber glove, she explained that the exam confirmed her guess: appendicitis. Although my appendix had not ruptured, it was dangerously close. This called for an immediate departure to Children's Hospital.

This is not the end of the story. One more installment should wrap it up.

1 comment:

Anne H. said...

What the...? I want to know if you survived! You left me hanging!