Monday, October 11, 2010


I can tell you exactly what I was doing this day a year ago. Well, I could if there wasn't so much shame and fear in the way.

I'll try to push past.

I was hungry. It had been two days since I had eaten. Barbara, the woman I paid to deliver my groceries, was due to make a delivery around 7:00 that night, and I had to distract myself from focusing on the food soon to be in my house. It was around $100 worth and it would have to last me for a month, which it would not quite, so next month I would hit another gap of no food. Following a month of food rationing. But tonight I would eat. I was particularly looking forward to the carton of deli spinach dip I would be getting free as part of my grocery's coupon deal, a rare treat.

However, I was also dreading the physical effort of getting those groceries put away. It would take me several trips, with a chair placed midway to rest. My back and stomach were hurting as they had been off and on for months.

I had decided it was a combination of recurring strain and maybe incipient gall bladder disease. I'd read up on the web about how to deal with the latter, since I had no insurance or means of getting help for any illness, and discovered I really wasn't eating things which should be causing the flares of pain I was having. Sometimes the pain lasted for hours, and it was bad enough to not just put me in bed but keep me from sleeping or resting.

During one severe prolonged episode, accompanied by vomiting, I had in despair decided to distract myself by creating the plot for a new novel, a sequel to my previous sci-fi book Skene. This new book, named Pya, became engrossing enough to occupy my concentration until I fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. I'd generally wake up with the pain gone. In July I had started writing the novel down.

This night, I would try to save myself repeated trips of hauling by carrying four or five bags at once, the perishable stuff. I made it as far as that half-way chair before the pain flared worse than ever. What I would days later find out is that I had ripped through my intestinal musculature, rupturing a double hernia. The shift in terrain finalized an intestinal blockage which had been slowly starving me, causing me to lose 85 lbs in the past year.

But I didn't know all that right away. Sweating and pulsing with increasing pain, I just knew I had to lie down. I grabbed the dip and some corn chips, a bottle of gatorade, and headed for bed.

I couldn't find a position that relieved the pain. After a while, I thought maybe some of it was from my stomach being empty so long. I took a couple of bites of chips and dip, along with gatorade. That's when the vomiting started.

I know the dates because it was a Sunday, I missed work that night, and because the grocery delivery is in my email. And I know the terminus, 2 a.m. on the 14th, because that's when I was admitted to the emergency room. So there are two days plus several hours between the final onset and the point where Lisa the ER nurse said "In 30 seconds, what I'm injecting into you IV right now will stop both your pain and your urge to vomit, I promise you." And it worked, an absolute miracle.

Therefore I spent over two days circling the drain toward death, days in which there must have been sunlight and thought, but I don't remember anything but darkness and puking and agony. Trying to ride it out because I didn't have even five bucks in the bank. Occasionally worrying about the food going bad on my floor, how would I eat next month, until a few minutes later the next wave of hurling made that thought a joke.

What I do remember is finally praying to my mama, begging her for help, sending it out into the night, and instantly the pain getting much, much worse. I took that as an answer -- "I can't help you this time, you have to ask elsewhere." There was no phone by my bed then, so somehow I got to the next room, to my desk, where I created an email with key information and mailed it to Jesse. Then I called 911, and then I called Jesse for 30 seconds before getting to the door. I had not been able to find my shoes or underwear, and the clothes I pulled on smelled of puke and piss, but I was mostly covered as I got to my patio railing, gasping and bent over, and the flashing red lights rolled up.

I remember the paramedic's face clearly, how she met my eyes and put her arm around me. I remember the fat guy in the ambulance, how kind and patient he was as I tried to remember my social security number, my allergies, my medical history. And then, at the ER, there was Lisa who spent the next few hours with me, stopping my torment, washing and changing me, figuring out ways to weigh me and get me x-rayed without adding to my burden. She used her cell phone to call Jesse and give the first diagnosis, announce the surgery planned for later in the week.

I'm still freaked about the lost time, humiliated that I ever reached that point, wanting to blame myself or, if it's not my fault, then whose fault is it? How can it get this bad? No wonder people die all around us, how can this be? My life has changed exponentially since then but I still don't feel safe. I wonder if I will ever feel safe again.

I am having trouble celebrating this anniversary. And I have decided to just let it be confused, not a clear spiritual lesson, what it is. Even faith reminds me of that long sojourn alone in the dark, and my belly tingles with the memory of it. Best I can do today.

Aside from telling, of course, the magic elixir of telling.


Margot said...

Oh my. A year. While of course I wish you had not had to go through all this, I also acknowledge that had you not, my life would have been the poorer. Thank you for your friendship.

Margot said...

The cosmos speaks: the next random set of verification characters is "belly"!

Blue said...

The Gods of Blog, Margot.

Maggie, I can not tell you how absolutely blessed I feel to have you in my life, to hear you tell and tell. You are a miracle of spirit.

Love you big. It's a year anniversary for us reconnecting, too. So, so grateful.

Anonymous said...

Way to tell, Maggie. Jain

Jesse Wendel said...

But we got through it all, didn't we? *hugs Maggie* Loves you, me.

Maggie Jochild said...

We sure did, Jesse, overwhelmingly thanks to you. Well, after me and my stubborn will.

And now I am daily having all the feelings I could not afford to feel then, chopping through them and trusting there is an end to it eventually. Tedious but on a good day like today I can see it's working. Love you back.

Jesse Wendel said...

Yep, got through it. How about that...

Now it's been years. I'm rereading GB which I do roughly once a year. Trying to figure out if there's a second version out there anywhere. Or if Bok Two ever went anywhere.

You know my email & phone.

And yeah, I (just now) read about your hospitalization coming up on a year ago.*sighs* Wow, do we have stories to share.