Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Devil's mark

Maybe this is gross. But it is real. And it is part of my life.

Back in 2004, I went to the Emergency Room in Atlanta, GA, after having horrible pains in my abdomen for three straight days. I thought I'd pulled a muscle or something. After the ER doctor found blood in an area that isn't supposed to be bloody, it turned out to be diverticulitis. But to confirm that diagnosis, I had to get a colonoscopy. That procedure indeed found a couple of inflamed diverticula, but it also revealed several pre-cancerous polyps. Those were removed, but according to my doctor, "it could have been six months, six years, or sixteen years, but they would have become cancerous."

All this at the age of 32. Not very common. Not the least bit pleasant to go through. And not something that sits lightly in the back of my mind.

As a result, I was supposed to get "checked" every couple of years. However, moving to the Coast and recovering from Katrina put a crimp in my chain, and I "accidentally" (yeah, right!) neglected to reschedule another "exam."

Until this week.

Yesterday, I finished "prep-ing" (gory details retracted) and rolled into the doctor's office at 0630. It was cold. It was dark. I hadn't eaten in 36+ hours. And I was weak as a kitten from the preparations. But, honestly, it was a breeze. The worst part was the IV, but even that was tolerable.

Once I was in the OR, the Nurse anesthetist injected some magic into my IV and said, "Roll onto your left side, and make yourself comfortable."

I rolled over, compressed the pillow under my head and sighed. I heard the doctor roll up to the table. Somebody fumbled with my gown. I thought about saying, "Hey now! Not on the first date," but I blinked first.

And Cindy was there. By "there," I mean the recovery room that had unfolded around me after I opened my eyes. No doctor. No nurses. Just my bride.

"Well, that's disorienting," I said.

"What is?" she asked quietly.

"I was just in the OR."

"That was half an hour ago." she said.

"I just lost half an hour of my life. This must be what an alien abduction feels like. "

"How do you feel?" she asked, touching my face, handing me my glasses.

"Pretty good." I eased into a sitting position. "Thirty minutes?"

"Yeah. Wanna get dressed? Let's get some pancakes. Hey..." she closes the gap between us and holds my hand. "What's this?" She turns my wrist, shows me my own forearm.

There's some kind of abrasion. The skin is reddened. It looks like like the letter "D" has been lightly branded onto my arm.

"I dunno," I say. "I think it's a devil mark."

"A what?"

"Devil mark. Sigillum diaboli. Like a witch gets when she partners up with Satan."

Cindy sighs. Gives me the stink eye. She doesn't like when I'm trying (ie: failing miserably) to be clever.

"It's not a devil mark. It's probably from an EKG pad. Or some tape to hold the IV," says my wife, the nurse.

"Okay. Okay," I say. (Nurses take the fun out of things like devil marks.) "Let me get dressed. Any IHOPs get rebuilt around here, yet?"

"Yup." And she walks out, leaving me and my gown to ourselves.

But the doctor says he found "three small polyps." He didn't think they were anything to worry about.

Until he gets the biopsy results, I'm going to worry, anyway.

At least we had a good breakfast.
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