The surprise manscaping was a nice bonus.


I wasn’t 100% in the morning but there are many mornings that I am not 100%. Could have been the birthday weekend with the boys in Squaw Valley, could have been the snowboarding fall on Sunday which had me thinking maybe it’s time to stick with two skis instead of one, could have been the two nights sleeping on the couch since the birthday weekend with the boys in Squaw Valley, whatever, it even could have been the bowl of old blueberries for breakfast. Anyway I played through as any good golf coach would.


Something was just off. Not sick-off like a few months ago, things just didn’t feel right. I made it through Geometry where the students did the week’s vocabulary then worked in groups building wooden bridges. I was engaged but not fully engaged (as were my students, not too surprising how that works out).


Then during PE I opted to lie on the grass and watch students play basketball rather than my normal role of player/coach/ref/cheerleader and snarky comment maker. I rationalized it by thinking I am teaching students how to organize and play well with others without an adult always butting in, part of my real-life curriculum. Right.


When we got back to class I knew things were not going in the right direction. I spent the 10-minute break wandering around like I had lost something very important. I got that old can-I-make-it-through-Art-class fear which was much more common back in the drinking days. It was the second day of preparing and painting flags in class so I did a two-minute explanation then realized that I was done.


Unfortunately 30 students were coming to visit as potential transfers for next year so my principal and counselor were busy with the group and couldn’t cover my classes. I went to go throw up in the bathroom then picked up my bag and jacket and headed for the door.


My wise office manager saw the shade of white that I had turned and said, “Don’t worry, get better.” I drove home twisted over the center console because it was the only comfortable position I could manage. I was betting on the idea that I just need to lie down and the pain would subside. I would lose that bet.


Pain is a weird thing. People react differently to how their nerve endings and pain receptors interpret stimulus and, by this logic, pain is all in the brain. I usually have pretty good pain strategies (breathe slow and deep, meditate, think about my happy place) but not this time. I made it home and inside the house but couldn’t lie down; I kneeled on the floor next to the bed in my daughter’s room and realized that since I couldn’t control my short labored breaths, it was time to call for help.


EMS arrived in exactly 7 minutes. I know this cause I was staring at my phone thinking it was about 70 minutes. I had crawled into the living room and was in front of the fireplace with my pants halfway off  (unbuttoned them when I came home, when will I learn skinny jeans are for the kids?). They asked if my dog Sam was friendly and a few other questions I can’t remember then put me on a backboard then on the gurney then into the rig.


“I’m giving you some Fentanyl for the pain.” This was the best news I had gotten all day and within a minute my clenched up body relaxed and my labored breathing slowed. I rode to the hospital thinking how glad I am that we have a Sonoma Valley Hospital still to go to.


I had been pressing on my stomach periodically throughout the day as my limited medical training had convinced me that my ailment was appendicitis. As a professional Internet doctor I knew that pushing on the appendix then feeling pain when it released was the sign that my diagnosis was right. As is the case with many ailments this kinda was true but not every time.


In the ER they gave me morphine and I flashed on Lil Peep and Prince and Freud and Gauguin and how much I didn’t want to be on the cool kid overdose list (this is how my ADD brain rolls especially in crisis). It was now about 12:30 and I was entering stage 2 of “What the hell is wrong with me?”


Relief was outstanding. I get why people love fentanyl and morphine, they check you out pure and simple. One moment doubled over in pain having trouble breathing, the next all cozy and chatty in an ER bed awaiting an MRI. My team had now increased to 6 (3 EMT’s, 2 nurses, 1 MRI tech) as I breathed in and held while pictures of my insides were taken.


Within 30 minutes the doctor appeared and explained that I have a textbook appendicitis and the best option is to take the little finger sized thing out. Nobody knows what the appendix is for but if it causes pain like this, I say buh bye. She scheduled the surgery for 3 and I feel crazy relieved for the first time all day.


I talked with the anesthesiologist because they have to put me under to do the surgery so my belly doesn’t move. The doctor, a recent transplant from Oregon, seems amazingly competent. “We make three small incisions, pump in a little CO2, extract the appendix and you’re good to go.”


In the OR my team grows by 4 (doctor, anesthesiologist, 2 more nurses), I am again so happy that all this is happening at Sonoma Valley Hospital but I start to wonder what the bill will be, will Kaiser cover everything? Kinda doubt it; kinda don’t care at this point. My wife reassures me with a kiss and my next memory is back in the ER.


I have three small incisions and a freshly shaven pelvic area, I say the above line about free manscaping to my doctor and she laughs. I’m home by dinnertime and ready to go to work the next day (this is the medication talking-I take three days off). Thursday I can’t lift my right arm above my head and read that this is normal as the CO2 works its way out of my body. I take one of the 30 prescribed 50 mg Opioids Tramadol and think, that’s enough. I’ll be fine with Aleve.





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