8/9/2017 -- It was a hard year with illness in my husband Jack. He is an intensive care and emergency nurse and I am a family physician. I was at a writer’s and wellness retreat in Taos, New Mexico for Health Workers and the writer’s prompt was to write about a disease from several perspectives. This is what came after.
Diverticulitis- a disease’s perspective
I have set up shop in the sigmoid bowel
And I find it a very comfortable spot.
There are quiet pockets, out of the way,
And warm and I feel like I can grow here and
Really spread myself out.
My infectious power can become very strong
And it seems like this whole area
Is mine for the taking.
The stool stops,
I am some bad biota!
Unfortunately, when my host finds out
My time becomes short.
My cells start to have massive casualties
And I know the antibiotics have started.
The adhesions are left behind after the
Inflammatory tissue resorbs.
And I will come again,
I always do.
Diverticulitis- a wife and physician’s perspective
Poor Jack has been sick, and it is hard not to feel sorry for him. His pain has been chronic and nearly unrelenting. A sickness in his bowel. Recurrent infection and abscess. He has had this thing off and on for about 10 years from what I can tell. Last year it got really bad and during the first part of the year he was really sick—fever, pain, can’t move. His belly was swollen and tender. He was admitted to the hospital and nearly needed an operation then but improved after antibiotics. Now a year later he had another bout of it for many weeks and months. It started on his birthday this year in March. We had planned a special birthday trip to the Strater Hotel in Durango, CO. It was still lovely, but we had to get room service because he couldn’t walk downstairs without vomiting or passing out from the pain.
Then it just never got better really. For months and months he had pain, swelling, and occasional fevers. In June, the GI surgeon decided his sigmoid had to come out. We thought this would be a quick recovery but after the first hospital discharge Jack woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and pain in his belly. Red hot pepper belly swollen and painful worse than even before—back to the mother ship again. He couldn’t even lift his head to vomit. He couldn’t hold up his own pants to pee. I cried and I tried to be strong. I stayed up all night and day like I often do for work but this was much worse. My husband seemed to be dying, nearly septic and needed another operation to drain the pus. We waited for his surgeon afraid others may cut too deep and get into fascia when it seemed to be a superficial thing and not his anastomosis, thank God. They didn’t start antibiotics quite quick enough … some discussion of disrupting his newly growing biota … huh? Before he made it back to the OR his temperature was 39.4. The redness and swelling on his stomach up from his surgical wound was as big as a baby’s head. The “hematoma” below the skin seen on the second CT was actually a huge abscess.
The healing from this second surgery was much slower, and the pain was much greater. I hate pain. So hard to address in my role as a doctor and so much harder for me in my role as a wife. I feel like I am a terrible person. I am not compassionate. Compassion means to ”suffer with.” This is often very hard for me. Sadly, I have trouble hearing the moans and groans. I have trouble being loving in the face of suffering. I shy away. I feel judgmental. I am judgmental. It’s strange because I am so different in my approach to pain of labor and birth. I need a reframing and perhaps I can see this pain as productive as well. However, I want this pain to have an ending. That is what I want most. I want my pain free, strong, young husband back—but that is not how life works. Healing now but loving doctors and nurses less.