The cycle begins. Hour one. The first flutter of nausea starts to grow, stretching its angry wings within. Something will soon be very wrong as the body prepares to void. An application of heat to a tender set of intestines, lends hope that the wave of retching will be absolved. The trash can a holy chalice in which to spit. Hour two. Antiemetic drugs like children’s Tylenol for an elephants pain. Any attempt to stop the Dragon is thwarted. The purge begins.
Hour three. Denial still floats the boat. The stomach now an empty quivering cavern. Maybe this time will be the last time vomit is induced. There are no more nutrients to lose. Trying to utilize the power of breath but ceaselessly failing. I am stronger than this hateful beast. Hour four.Never mind. Call for help. First from my own flesh, then from an ambulance. Into focus comes two pairs of black boots with no faces, asking the same questions. Don’t they have a file by now? What is your name, your birthdate, your medications, your problem? A blood pressure cuff grips a limp arm, sounding a high alarm. Hoisted up from the chilled tile floor, it’s time to go for a bumpy ride, buckled up tight with the sickness that never subsides.
Hour five sees a backup in the emergency department. So many emergencies with so little sense of urgency. Already failed antiemetic drugs are repeated. Bile burns the back of my throat, as it bubbles up through flared nostrils. Stomach contractions clench at dangling sanity. The door stands open, but no one enters. So busy, but so quiet? Alone again with the retching. Hour six. Hour seven.
Pleading for someone to care, to hear, to help. Only met with glances of contempt. The title “Junkie” apparently branded on my chart. Narcotics the only thing to assist, the only thing kept out of reach. Just a nuisance that can’t stop begging for help in between moans. No pharmaceuticals. No fluids. No compassion.
Hour eight. I give up the torture chair that is forever at an odd, uncomfortable tilt, and take up residence on the cold, unkempt floor of triage room #5. Wishing for death or the attention that was needed hours ago, whichever comes first. Hour nine. A picture hanging above my head asks which number rates my pain.
A laminated poster full of the various emotions of smiley faces, mockingly asks what a nurse does not. I request a blanket to huddle under, hoping to hide from the pain and am met with an eye roll of irritation. Hour ten. How much longer? There is a six hour delay and you’ve already jumped in line, go back to the waiting room if you can’t stop the whine. And besides, it’s shift change on the busiest day of the year. The Dragon drags on, dragging me down to drown in my own tears, bile, and fears.
The eleventh hour. Still choking on my own fluids, a once pretty face is haggard, mottled with broken blood vessels. The taste of rancid digestive juices linger on the breath. Where does the mucus end and saliva begin? Fluid just leaks. The limits of human endurance are tested over and over until there are no more tears.
A brief interlude. A moment of sweet spontaneous relief as I pass out from the exhaustion. Hour twelve. The man with a mission speeds in with his sword drawn high. He will be the savior. Three minutes in the room and he’s gone. How can there be a six hour wait if the doctor barely even looks at one patient before he’s on to the next? It’s an assembly line of absurdity. Scans are ordered before the cycle takes over again. The brief reprieve was only a tease. Hour thirteen creeps in with an admittance, acceptance that this girl needs some help.
Hour fourteen. The correct drugs are finally administered and the cyclic vomiting abruptly stops. The scan, of course, shows nothing. Just a bug, they say. Here are some unnecessary prescriptions, they say. How would you like to pay, they say. With a fistful of middle fingers and enough curses to make Blackbeard blush.
Hour fifteen brings a dark ride home. A body beaten into submission by itself. Sips of ginger ale the nectar of that fairytale some call heaven. Another test of endurance ends with me as the victor. The Dragon slain, if just for today. What happens next is a waiting game. Crohn’s Disease lives and breathes on the exquisite pain.