Ill and Alone

My friend, Myra, wound up in a Lexington, Kentucky hospital emergency room yesterday. I don’t know just what led her there, aside from intense pain. I spoke with her last night from her hospital bed (the hospital admitted her) after learning of her mishap from her daughter’s Facebook posting; her daughter gave me a phone number where I could reach her. Myra assured me she was doing much better, having adapted nicely to pain medications; friends were on the way to drive her and her car home, presumably today.

Finding oneself hospitalized in a strange place with no friends or family close by can be terrifying; I can attest to that from experience. My first such experience was in Toledo, Ohio, where I was attending a business meeting. I experienced intense intestinal pain, courtesy of Crohn’s disease; it was so intense that I asked to be taken to the hospital. The doctors were confident acute appendicitis caused the pain, so they took me to the operating room to remove my appendix; instead, they found and removed several feet of badly damaged intestines. They removed the appendix, as well. When I awoke, my wife was at my bedside; she had flown to Toledo from Chicago to be there for me.  Had I awoken to only nurses and doctors, I am sure the experience would have been even more terrifying. Other people who attended the meeting visited me, but it wasn’t like having friends or family; I appreciated their presence, of course, but having someone at one’s side, someone with whom one has an emotional attachment, is healing.

A similar situation arose several years later when I flew to Vienna to attend a meeting for another organization. Again, the intense pain caused by Crohn’s disease prompted me to ask the hotel to have a taxi take me to a hospital. I did call for a taxi, though, until I had first called my wife to tell her that I was ill and asked her to call my gastroenterologist to ask him what to do; naturally, he told her I should immediately go a hospital emergency room. That experience was a bit odd, in that the taxi driver first took me to a hospital that turned me away because it accepted only people who were injured, not people who were ill; the second hospital took me in. Fortunately, I did not have to undergo surgery, but I was kept in the hospital for a few days before being allowed to leave. I did not return to the meeting but, instead, went to the airport. My seat on the plane home was not assured until I spoke to the pilot; he would not allow me to take a seat until he spoke to me and felt confident I was well enough to travel. During my hospital stay, the frequent presence of a representative of the Vienna convention bureau, who was hosting the meeting I was to attend, comforted me. He also kept in close contact with my wife.

There was at least one other time when I fell ill while traveling (possibly more, but memory begins to blur at my advanced age). I believe I was in Las Vegas, but it might have been Palm Springs, when late one evening I again experienced the intense pain of Crohn’s. I was able to call a taxi myself and asked the driver to take me to the hospital. I spent several hours in the emergency room, during which time the pain eased dramatically. Just before dawn, I was allowed to leave. As the taxi dropped me off at the front of the hotel, the chief volunteer leader of the association I managed at the time walked out the front door on his way to take a walk; we had an interesting conversation as I explained that, no, I had not been out on a “night on the town.”

I suspect I could, if I challenged myself to do it, write a longer, more intriguing story of my experiences traveling ill and alone. But for now, I hope Myra will take time to write of her experiences while they are fresh and clear. I wish I had written about mine while they were new and I could recall more of the detail that surrounded my experiences. Wishes. More wishes. Damn it. Stop with the wishing.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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One Response to Ill and Alone

  1. König der Thron says:

    Remind me to tell you the story of traveling through Germany for a week with a case of amoebic dysentery that I picked up in Pakistan…

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