The Fire – Free At Last

Gotta smile through the pain, easier said than done,
Tired and battered but still I won’t give up,
Let it burn, Kid, can’t let this shit break you,
As long as your heart still beatin’ you still got a life worth livin’.


30 July 2018

Adrift in this peaceful calm without a soul in sight,
Deep in sleep in the still of the night,
Here I lie, recharging my batteries,
Sealed away from the bitter sting of reality,
Yearning to stay here forever, I don’t ever want to leave,
Wishes are for fairy tales, son, time to rise from your sleep.

I had no idea what time it was when I was suddenly woken by a nurse wishing to take my blood pressure yet again. I didn’t open my eyes to acknowledge her presence, preferring to stick my right arm out at any random direction, hoping that she would see it.

Man, y’all still want to do this in the middle of the fucking night!?

The room was rather dark, illuminated only by the lights in the hallway and the beeping sound of different machines in the room plus my roommates’ snoring only added to my aggravation. The nurse quickly checked my blood pressure reading before leaving and well, I guess I couldn’t begrudge her for it as she was merely performing her duties and had to work during this ungodly hour attending to different patients’ needs while my sick-ass got to lie on a bed, uncomfortable though it was.

You have people working overnight to nurse patients such as yourself back to good health and to make sure you are comfortable. Show some respect!

Anyway, I woke up the next morning once again at 7:30 with the sun shining on my face. A sudden shot of pain radiated from my right arm as I stretched, as though a rat had bitten me in the crook of my arm.

That fucking catheter!

For the past two days that damn thing stung whenever I moved my right arm, as though it were taunting me.
“Haha! Just try to move your arm again, Sucker!”
I had half a mind to yank that motherfucker right off and throw it out the window but I thought better of it and left it for the professionals. The last thing I needed was an infection.
I checked my phone as I ate breakfast and noticed that I had received a text message from my mother. She had taken the day off from work to keep me company in the morning before her doctor’s appointment during the afternoon and was on her way to see me. She arrived about half an hour later, carrying with her a bag with an extra change of pyjamas for me.


A nurse took my blood pressure again after I had taken a shower and changed clothes. It returned a positive result and so my mother asked her if it was alright for me to take a short walk outside to get some sunlight. I hadn’t had any sun exposure since my parents and I left Dr. G’s clinic two days prior and given my current condition, a dose of direct sunlight should do wonders for my recovery.
“That’s fine,” replied the nurse.
And so my mother and I walked out of my room, down the hall and took the elevator to the ground floor. We went into the parking lot where I walked around and filled my lungs with fresh air. Man, walking outside never felt SO good! I felt wild and free, but there was a catch. I still had to be careful even while walking as my haemoglobin levels were still dangerously low and any sudden spike in my heart rate could potentially send me face-down into a blackout.

Easy, Tiger. Don’t make a fool of yourself.

It took all of what limited strength I had to suppress the urge to break into a run or shadow boxing routine. But in the end, hard-won discipline overcame them, the chance to move around outside, even if it was just gentle walking, was a God-send.
My mother and I slowly made our way back to my hospital room after twenty minutes outside and my powers of resistance were further challenged when we walked through a path near the hospital’s main exit, where various cafes had already opened up for breakfast. The different aromas that wafted from them damn near made me drool and I would have easily murdered a plate of bacon, eggs and toast if I had it my way. I never wanted to see another cup of soup again!


Hospitals are dead as fuck during weekday mornings and the atmosphere was all but similar to that of a morgue. People work and study during the day and so visits are far and few in between and patients are left to their own devices. I was fortunate to have my mother to keep me company.
“Do you feel better?” she enquired.
“Yeah, much better. Thanks, Mom.”
“Rest for now.”
As I lay down resting I felt it again, that horrible fucking feeling.

Shit, here I go again.

I hopped out of bed and once again prepared for that lonely march towards the toilet. Each trip to the toilet, at this point, felt like a condemned prisoner’s walk to the gallows. I felt like John Coffey walking that last mile to meet his end through Old Sparky.
“Be right back,” I told Mom.
I walked to the toilet and locked the door. The result was depressing.

Nothing but blood.

I guess the last of the solid food I’d eaten over the past couple of days had long been expelled and now I had just lost some more of the blood that they had pumped into me. What a waste, no pun intended. Upon exiting, I was approached by a passing nurse that looked at me as though she had known me her entire life. She must be one of the nurses that were privy to my symptoms.
“Are you the one with the bloody stools?” she asked, a thick Filipino accent wrapped around her words.
“Did you defecate again just then?”
Wow, she wasn’t holding back at all.
“Ok,” she replied, “next time you go, I want you to call me over before you clean up so I can see how much blood there is in your stools.”
Was she serious!? The idea of dropping off a stool sample to a pathology clinic was embarrassing for me, now I have to literally show someone my shit, especially when it looked as though someone had spilled cranberry juice in the damn bowl!?

Geez, Lady. I don’t think you’re gonna want to see that.

“Ok,” I replied reluctantly.
“There is a special button close to the toilet seat that will summon a nurse,” she instructed, “I want you to press it after you’re done.”
I returned to my room and climbed back into bed in an attempt to nap while Mom read the daily news on her phone. My roommates were all in their own little worlds, passing the time the only way they knew how. Mr. Funny pants had fallen back asleep, the King Of Samoa was watching some mid-day show on his bedside screen, his countenance still stuck on its default ‘stone-face’ setting and the guy with the leg was playing around on his phone, probably chatting to his wife. We must have looked like a bunch of college roommates chilling in our dorm room.
After a while, my mother stood up and stretched. It was almost 10am.
“I have to go to my doctor’s appointment now,” she said, “your father and I will be back later tonight.”
“Ok, Mom.”
“Hopefully you can go home tonight.”
“Yeah, I hope so too,” I chuckled.
She kissed me good bye before heading out of the room.


Following another blood pressure test the nurse also informed me that my blood test from the previous day returned a haemoglobin count in the early-seventies.


Looks like I wasn’t spilling that much blood during the last couple of times that I went to take a shit. The nurse also reminded me that another doctor would come to speak to me later in the afternoon, the one that the group of young docs that interviewed me the previous day had mentioned.
“Ok, cool,” I replied, “I look forward to it.”
“Just rest for now, ok sir?”
“Yes, ma’am.”
I laid back on my bed, relief washing over me like gentle waves on the seashore. That higher haemoglobin count wasn’t exactly a massive gain from sixty-nine but when you’re in the kind of situation that I was in, even the smallest victories are worthy of a party that eclipsed anything that Hollywood could conjure.
And then I was suddenly brought crashing back down to harsh reality, like a military aircraft shot down by enemy fire while flying over hostile territory.


And so once again, I trekked down the hall and into the toilet for another round of business. I was just about to flush when I suddenly remembered the nurse’s earlier request.

Wow, that was close!

And so I pressed the button near that toilet seat, quickly cleaned up and took a peek out the door. I saw her approaching down the hall.
“Ah, emptied the bowels again, I see?”
Lady, you are very perceptive.
“Let’s take a look, shall we?”
I reluctantly opened the toilet bowl and allowed her to take a peek. Man, talk about awkward! She briefly examined the aftermath of the carnage while I stood by, arms crossed and ashamed. My face would have been beet-red with embarrassment if I had a higher blood count, I hope she wasn’t looking forward to a tall glass of cranberry juice or red wine that day.
“Is this what it looks like all the time?” she asked.
“For the last few weeks, yes.”
“Because that’s a lot of blood.”
Not exactly what I wanted to hear. That was her gentle way of stating that my bowels were fucked up. I tried to downplay the severity of the situation.
“Well, I don’t hear blood spilling out of me like a waterfall,” I reasoned, “it comes out more of like drops that I think spreads itself out over the water or something.”
Boy, that was lame! And she didn’t buy it.
“Ok,” she responded, “but that still looks like a lot of blood. You probably have some form of IBD in there.”
IBD as in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Someone take me out to pasture and shoot me.
“I’m scheduled for a consultation with a gastroenterologist this coming Thursday,” I revealed, “a colonoscopy will probably happen shortly afterwards.”
“Ok, that’s good to know,” she replied and then added, “thanks for showing me.”


I had another nap before lunchtime and shortly after waking a nurse handed me a large tray, along with a slice of bread, dessert, a cup of orange juice and water.
Well, this is different.
“Enjoy your meal, sir!”
“Thank you.”
I was greeted by a pleasant surprise when I lifted the cover from the tray. In fact, I think I almost wept tears of joy. In the tray were two large pieces of beef with gravy, some mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables. I could have stood up and danced around the room like Tom Cruise in Risky Business if no one was around. Finally, I was given the all-clear to eat real food!


I didn’t hold back. After being deprived of food I damn near went primal on my meal, devoured my meal with the ferocity of a hungry lion. Meanwhile, my roommates were carrying on a conversation about something that they had heard the previous night which I, fortunately, had slept through.
“Did you fellas hear that lady screaming last night?” asked Mr. Funny pants.
“Yeah,” answered the King Of Samoa, in a rare break from his brooding, “very loud.”
Apparently, a patient from a room down the hall suffering from dementia had been screaming on and off during the night, causing a commotion on our floor and disturbing my companions’ sleep patterns. These poor guys must have felt as though they were trapped in a horror film, being woken up repeatedly like that in the dark by incessant screaming and I can only imagine how the nurses felt trying to appease that poor patient.
I sat down on my bed following that meal and rested. It wasn’t exactly special taste-wise but it sure did feel good to finally eat solids again after being deprived during the last couple of days. A few hours later, however, I would learn that victory and reward comes at a very hefty price.

Oh no!

It appears that all that food shocked my bowel into wanting to make another blood donation. I think by now you know what’s coming. And so once again, I hopped off the bed, made my way down the hallway and……fill in the blanks.


A nurse dropped by later that afternoon to ask me what I wanted for dinner and I was immediately taken aback.
Dinner? So does this mean I’m not going home yet?
I guess not. They wouldn’t ask a home-bound patient what they wanted for dinner unless they had every intention of delivering it to my house later.


I made my request before slumping back down my bed, totally dejected. I began to wonder if I was going to have to spend a whole week in this damn place with its lifeless, white walls, stuffy air that smelled of medication and God knows what else, noisy machines and the sounds (and sights) of people in various stages of illness and agony. In the mindset that I was in they might as well had thrown me into solitary confinement in a dark, rat-infested cell fit for the scum buckets of society.
But then I remembered that I was expecting a visit from another doctor today, maybe they would have some good news for me. But I wasn’t getting my hopes up.


The doctor arrived later that afternoon, at around three if I remember correctly. She was probably about my age if not slightly older and looked to be of mixed Caucasian and Asian heritage. I’m not going to lie, Dear Reader, she was pretty cute! I hopped off the bed and shook her hand, my grip still rather weak due to my illness.
“Good afternoon, sir,” she greeted.
“Good afternoon, Doctor.”
“How are you today?”
“I’m ok,” I lied, “how are you?”
“Just fine, thank you!”
She took a vacant chair that divided the space between my bed and Mr. Funny Pants’ bed and sat opposite me. I sat on a bedside chair, with the table that I used for meals behind me. Man, why did she have to meet a severely depleted, almost skeletal version of me!? Why couldn’t I have crossed paths with her at my athletic peak? Ah well, I digress, back to the story!
“I was informed of your symptoms and would like to discuss them with you.”
“Ok, sure,” I replied.
She proceeded to repeat the symptoms that I had disclosed to the group of doctors the previous day while I nodded and listened.
“At this point we still can’t give a proper diagnosis….”

Looks like I’ll still have to go through that colonoscopy after all. Darn it!

Call it wishful thinking but I was silently hoping that somehow those doctors would have come up with a plausible diagnosis, sparing me the pain of having to undergo a colonoscopy. But that sounded too good to be true.
The doctor continued; “but I was also told that your haemoglobin levels have gone up.”
“Yes, it has.”
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“Um…..I’m not sure if you were told,” I added, “but I’m booked for an appointment with the gastroenterologist this coming Thursday and will go for a colonoscopy not long afterwards.”
“Yes, I was told,” she replied, “that’s good to hear.”
“Um, not really, no,” I joked.
She laughed before adding “you will be alright, it’s not as bad as you think.”
Coming from her that was a relief. She then added the words that I had been waiting for what seemed like a lifetime to hear.
“Based on your results I feel that it is safe for you to go home tonight.”
I had to hold myself back from screaming ‘COME ON!!!!’ the way Lleyton Hewitt does whenever he wins a crucial point. That little moment right there was legitimately one of the happiest moments of my life.
“Ok, that sounds good, thank you!” I replied, my grin now up to ear-to-ear levels. Good God, I hope she didn’t think I looked like a creep!
Perhaps sensing my adrenaline rising, she brought me back down to earth. “But please remember that you are still anaemic and so you still must take it easy over the next few days,” she cautioned.
“Yes, of course.”
And then she closed the meeting. We both stood up and shook hands again.
“Thank you for your time and all the best with your health,” she said.
“Thank you, ma’am. Have a great day.”

My parole was officially granted at around 6pm that night, when a nurse came around to check my blood pressure for the umpteenth time. After another good reading, she said the magic words:
“Looks like you can go home now, Sir.”
“Thank you!”
And to make it official, she removed that catheter from my right arm. It left a rather ugly scar but my arm finally felt free.
“You may start packing your things now,” she said.
“Yes, thank you!”
Quick as a flash, I picked up my phone and texted my parents. My father immediately responded that he and my mother would be arriving within twenty to thirty minutes.
I quickly packed up my belongings and then sat on my bed awaiting my parents’ arrival. They turned up about twenty to thirty minutes after responding to my text and once we had gathered my things, we bade farewell to my roommates. I couldn’t shake hands with any of them as they were with their families and, well, in a hospital environment you had to be wary of infection.
“Take care, guys. It’s been fun.”
“Take care of yourself, young man,” replied the guy with the leg, assuming the role of spokesperson on behalf of the other two, “stay safe out there.”
The King Of Samoa and Funny Pants both smiled in agreement.
A few nurses were also present in the room and I made sure to thank them for their assistance over the past few days.
“Thank you for everything.”
I can’t say that my two and a half days in hospital were among the best in my life but it was, at least, made bearable by these kind people. I could have easily gone mad in there but in addition to my family’s support they kept me sane in an otherwise rather uncomfortable environment. Plus that blood transfusion did heal me somewhat, though I knew that the road to victory was still a long one that I had barely just started.

“Bye, everyone!”

And that was it. My parents and I walked down the hall before taking the elevator down to the ground floor, where the hospital exits were located. I took one last look at the window to my room, the one that overlooked the exit, before leaving and nodded towards it, a mark of humility over having overcome this little hurdle.


I promptly fell asleep when I lay on my bed that night, following a hearty meal two hours prior. To have a nice, home cooked meal and then to be in my own room and bed again…….it was fucking glorious and I savored every moment of it.
Before drifting off to sleep I thought about my upcoming colonoscopy. By now I had accepted that it needed to be done but don’t get me wrong. I was still not looking forward to it. But first, in three days’ time, I would be meeting the man that would be instrumental to my recovery, the legendary Dr. B.

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