A bayonet in the guts—for twelve hours
November 13, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
I have gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. It causes the worst physical pain I’ve ever felt. The closest analogy is a bayonet in the guts. With me, it lasts eight to twelve hours. I woke up this morning at four, in the early stages of a gastritis attack. As I figured it would, the pain stuck around for the full twelve hours, leaving behind a dull ache that I still feel.
It’s my own fault. I’ve been drinking a lot of coffee lately. As my friend Jessica wrote, “You’re not supposed to have coffee!”
That’s true. It can trigger a rotational vertigo attack, courtesy of Meniere’s disease. But I haven’t had one of those in ages. So I’ve been drinking twenty-ounce (591 mL) cups of coffee.
I told Jessica, “I know I’m not supposed to drink coffee, but I have to right now.”
She replied with a portrait of me.
I’m wearing a tinfoil hat in that beautiful sketch. So I sent her a picture of me with my usual headgear.
In a pinch, I could serve as a house or a missile for the Iron Dome.
Jessica, you’re right. No more coffee. This was the worst gastritis attack I’ve ever had. The pain itself is bad enough, but there are two psychological aspects that make it almost unendurable. First of all, the pain comes on slowly. When that initial twinge hits, you know that in about an hour, you’re going to be in agony. Secondly, you know it’s going to continue without letup for eight to twelve hours.
There’s no point in going to the hospital emergency room, because the wait is always eight to twelve hours. In California most of the people who are here illegally have a cultural tradition of going to the emergency room for everything. Headache, the sniffles, diarrhea, a cold. Under California law, they have to be treated, even though they don’t pay their bills. So I get to pay for them to be treated for free, and I also get to wait with a bayonet in my guts for eight to twelve hours before I’m seen.
Stop that! We’re very moral and kind in California.
When Tim had an umbilical hernia repaired, the doctor accidentally punctured his bowel. Tim began experiencing abdominal pain in the afternoon, so we went the emergency room. It was a six-hour wait. They admitted people with headaches, constipation, and colds while they kept Tim waiting. They also didn’t call his surgeon. After six hours I told Tim to brace himself, because I was about to do this.
A nurse saw my face, went sheet white, and admitted us.
By that time Tim had a systemic infection. He was hallucinating and had a high fever. When I visited him, he’d tell me that they were filming cooking shows down the hall, recording radio talk shows, and patrolling with US Air Force guards and German shepherds.
He almost died. They tried every antibiotic and were down to the last two when they finally got the infection under control. He spent two weeks in the hospital. I learned that it’s possible to think that someone will die and not show it at all. Tim said I was always cheerful and calm, and that my visits saved his life.
The first time I had a gastritis attack was in 2009. I endured it for about four hours, pacing in my house, and then at 7:00 a.m. I heard my father running his power tools in his shop next door.
I staggered over and said, “I’m in unbelievable pain. I have to go to the emergency room.”
For maybe the sixth time in my life, I saw him run. He charged into his house, got his keys, unlocked the car, and let me in. Then we drove to the emergency room at 120 miles per hour (193 km per hour). I watched the speedometer. My father was a horrible driver; I was glad he was going so fast. We’d crash and be killed, and the pain would stop.
We went through every intersection without slowing down, running at least fifteen red lights, and when we arrived at the emergency room, they made me wait twelve hours, almost to the minute. They saw me at 7:00 p.m. By that time most of the pain had stopped.
It happened twice more, and each time I went to the emergency room and waited eight to twelve hours in pain that I thought would drive me insane. Finally my gastroenterologist scheduled me for an endoscopy. In the procedure room, they gave me a sedative that made me not care what was happening. My doctor ran a couple of tubes down my throat and into my stomach. He “harvested” polyps by burning them off. I belched smoke that tasted exactly like a McDonald’s Big Mac.
I didn’t care that I was tasting my own cooked flesh. I’m yummy, I discovered. If we ever end up on a desert island together, and you have to eat me, you’re in for a treat.
After the procedure, my doctor told me that my entire stomach was as red as a tomato. He said I had to change my life, which I did. I had no more gastritis attacks until my parents died in 2013 and fake book publicists Mike Albee and Lura Dold stole my life’s savings. From October 13, 2014, to April of 2014, I had the bayonet in my guts four times. I never went to the hospital because there was no point. What I did was pace through my house, praying, listening to the radio, and waiting for the pain to end.
See, now I know it’ll end, so I can tolerate it. That’s the upside.
This attack was brought on by coffee and Diet Coke. They’re now excommunicated. I’ll be stupid and have a headache for a few days, but I’m done with the bayonet in my guts. Jessica had me pegged with her tinfoil-hat portrait. I’ll also have to go on a liquid and baby-food diet for the next week.
But the pain’s gone! Isn’t that great? No pain. Another reason I don’t feel angry that I had a visit from the bayonet is that I recently made an Israeli friend. After I recovered from this attack, I looked at my e-mail. He’d sent me a message: “Thomas, are you all right? Please let me know.”
It arrived an hour into my bout with the bayonet.
See, I keep telling the world that Israelis are special. When I bought my liquid lunches today, I also purchased something else.
I’m going to wear it all year round, I think.
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