Archive for november, 2002

Mr. Coward, my appendix and me

onsdag, november 20th, 2002
You win some, you lose some.

I had to leave work Friday morning because I could barely sit upright from pains in my stomach. Twenty minutes later I was flat out on my sofa sleeping. That afternoon all weekend plans were called off and I settled down for a few days in a feverish haze.

In the catbox, noone knows you are knocked out from the massive offensive mounted by millions and millions and millions of Macrophages, brutally hammering the bad guys somewhere in the lower abdomen battlefields.

Sunday afternoon I went to see the doctor on a whim. He drained me of some blood and ordered me to take a piss in a plastic cup.

Four hours later I woke up having glimpses of a smiling nurse’s face. She told me her name (which I immediately forgot) and that I was going to stay here for a few hours until the narcosis wore off. Both of my hands and my chest were moored to various instruments, giving me flashbacks to the final moments of Bishop the android.

Apparently my intestines had undergone a small amputation. You see, somewhere a little above and to the right of your hip is a completely useless piece of biology. This thing goes by many names depending on language and culture. I grew up where it’s called blindtarm, but english speaking people (and indeed Latin speaking ones) calls it something else.

They took my appendix without asking.

How rude.

Monday morning I was rolled into room 890, ordered to remove my boxers and slip into something that would only look good on say, Hilary Swank. Pyjamas and robe, hospital issue, obviously isn’t for swanking, but for being sick in. I let go since I was sick.

Then Mr. Coward presented himself. He was the only other person in the 5-bed room. At the age of 83 he had outlived most of his family despite twenty-odd years of alcoholism, arrests by Gestapo during the war and had nearly gone overboard during a North Atlantic crossing in the 1930’s.

He was brought up in a very strict missionary family where his mother rarely had any kind words to offer him and his two brothers. His father on the other hand was one of the kindest people he had ever known. How those two people came to love each other was a mystery he said he would never solve. He woed to never have anything to do with religion from the day he left home.

At the age of 17 he became an apprentice on an international merchantman, landing in places like Singapore, San Diego, Rio de Janeiro and Tokyo. During a particularly violent crossing of the North Atlantic he found himself on deck trying to make it to the machine room. A sudden wave washed him off his feet, treatening to throw him overboard. As it happened, he got hold of a ladder at the very last moment, avoiding the mid-winter Atlantic with the smallest margin possible.

During the war he had been a part of the Norwegian resistance, personally blowing up a German phone exchange inside the Bank of Norway in Oslo. Several days later he and his accomplice were arrested by Gestapo. Mr. Coward managed to lie himself out of it, but his friend was executed at dawn the following day.

After the war he studied to become a civil engineer, got married and had three sons. When his wife died he teamed up with the widow of one of his brothers. This turned out to be a bad move. She was an alcoholic, and following some intense years of drinking he had become one too. It took him over twenty years to break free from the confines of alcoholism and the self-loathing that comes with it. The only thing close to wine he drinks today is grape juice. He is convinced that’s what keeps him alive. I’m not so sure.

He had no hearing aid, had his own teeth and didn’t repeat any of his stories. Although his head wasn’t 83, his body was. In spite of his somewhat reduced ability to do anything useful, everything from the neck up was pristine.

That’s how far not whining can take you.

The following morning they let me go home with my pockets full of antibiotics. My stomach muscles would have relegated Brad Pitt directly to the gutter, and my walking style was eerily reminiscent of Mr. Coward’s. Too bad laughing felt like being George Foreman’s sparring partner.

My father would have told me that it was supposed to hurt, but since he’s no longer around, I must tell myself in a grown-up sort of way.

It’s supposed to hurt.