BREAKING MY SILENCE - My Fear of Doctors, part 2
It has taken some time to digest things in my life that has happened. For so many years experiencing bullying, anger, abuse, low self esteem, grief, resentments and fear, I didn’t know how to handle them all. To cope, I stuffed them with food and hid …but it didn’t take care of the pain I experienced.
In stuffing any of my emotions , I became a pro in being able to handle a fair bit of pain. Some may call it a high pain threshold. Pain, however unfavorable, is an important factor to have so it can alert us to potential harm.
It was in the spring of 1986, a Sunday I vividly remember.
It was shortly after the birth of my son, that I started feeling a bit under the weather. With my receptors turned off, I laid in bed oblivious of what was going on within me. Curtis was at work.
It was hard to describe how I felt. I had stuffed my emotions for so many years, understanding anything different was difficult. I don’t remember any severe pain but I knew something was definitely wrong. My neighbor being a nurse, had checked in on me and in hindsight, I am so glad she did. After taking my temperature and examining me, she felt I had better get to emerge. Seeing the grave concern on her face, I listened. When Curtis got home we went into Emergency.
In seeing the doctor on call, he was very kind. After examining me & blood work results back, he told me that he felt my appendix had ruptured. He however was going to get the chief of surgeon to take a look at me and more than likely I would be up in surgery by evening.
Well, the chief of surgery came in, examined me and left. Before long I was admitted and put on the surgical 3rd floor. An intravenous was hooked up and meds n fluids began to flow through me. I waited & wondered when I would be going to surgery. That was Sunday evening. Always feeling a doctor knew best since he had a degree, I waited patiently, never questioning.
Each day I grew weaker and chills coursed through me. At one point they stripped me down and soaked me with alcohol. I shook violently from being so cold. I felt I was going out of my head, begging for a sheet or a blanket which they had taken from me…. but no, apparently my fever was too high and I had to suffer to get well.
It was early Thursday morning. All of a sudden there was an immediate rush to get what meds that were hung intravenously to be pushed through. Soon my arm started to swell and pain. In alerting the nurses, they said the needle must have popped out of my vein, but said they would leave it be for they needed to get the meds into me. So they left it. My arm doubled in sized while it emptied into my arm. I laid in agony sucking it in, what else could I do?
I was then taken into surgery. 4 days after being told my appendix had ruptured.
I awoke in recovery with a breathing tube down my throat. I felt panicked. The nurse told me I need to breath with the machine, that she was waiting for the anesthesiologist to get out of surgery so he could assess me and take the tubes out. As the minutes ticked on the aggravation of breathing with the machine grew. Many times the nurse checked and tried to calm me. Soon the anesthesiologist arrived. He disconnected the machine and tested my breathing to see if it was time to remove the tubes down my throat. As the nurse looked on, he calmly said to me, “OK Mrs Bates, we are going to let you pull the tubes yourself.
Immediately I put my hand on the contraption at my mouth and yanked as fast as I could. Spit flew through the air as I threw the 1st tube between him and the nurse. Then immediately grabbing the second one, I flung it through the air. As I looked at the anesthesiologist and nurse with their eyes wide and mouths gaped, I hoarsely said with a big gasp of air,”thank-you”. I then fell asleep.
I am not sure when I got back to my room. The fogginess of all details are sparse but I do remember that intense pain of getting up after surgery. It was dark. I had rung my buzzer to alert them I had to pee. By the time I sat on the toilet, the moans out of me must have been waking the dead. I can remember moving my head around and round round in agony. The nurse immediately grabbed a hold of my head between her both hands and sternly said, “Melanie, you I need to stop. The pain medication you’ve been given will be all used up. You you need to stop”. In silence I sucked up the pain.
When I finally seen the head of surgery a few days later, he told me that when they opened me up, I was so abscessed there was nothing they could do but put in a drain and close me up. That in 6 months I would have to come back for a second surgery to get my appendix out. Daily they changed the gookie yellow green discharged pads and added new.
A nurse came in and sat beside me one day after I had just finished eating a semi fluid lunch. She looked at me and said, “you don’t remember me?”
Puzzled I said, “No, I can’t say I do”.
She said, “I was one of your nurses when you came back from surgery. We were really worried about you that night. We thought you might not make it.”Her words still linger in my memory. I nearly died? I was truly naive of the whole situation.
Before long the Head of Surgery announced he was going on vacation and that another surgeon would be tending to me in his absence. He pulled the drain before he left. It looked like an old wet deflated rubber hose as it slipped out of me.
That night my fever shot up. I felt sick and was throwing up.
The next morning the surgeon came in to check on me saying, “I hear you had a rough night.”. As he pushed on my abdomen. A fountain out of the bowls hell, came a gushing; a yellow-green curdled mess. It shot up about a foot just missing the surgeon’s face. With a surprised look exclaimed, “I guess you still have some infection. More antibiotics were ordered.
I was in the hospital for quite a while that spring. Once home I recovered enough that by September a new date was scheduled to have an appendectomy.
The chief of surgery came in before surgery to check me over. Before leaving he said. “I think you really need to lose weight….”
I replied with an astounding plea for help, “Yes I know I do. I really don’t know what to do. I have tried so many diets and nothing seems to work for me???? With a grunt, out the door he left.
I felt very defeated and alone. No one understood my addiction. Shame and guilt filled me.
Laying in the surgical room with nurses gowned and Doctor waiting, the cool feeling grew up my arm as sleep quickly came upon me. Someone said something to the chief, I strained to hear. With his finger to his lips he said, “shhhh” and then I was out.
With an 18 inch incision, I went home to recover. It looked like a railway track through me that bulged on either side. In going to my 6 week check, all was good and sent on my way.
A few weeks later, My brother came home from having supper at his friends house. He told my Mother how much I weighed and how the doctor told me I needed to lose weight. Apparently I had told the chief of surgery I loved food too much to stop.
I guess his friends mother was a surgical nurse and I was the topic of conversation around supper table that night.
When I heard this, I was appalled. I felt violated. I had never told anyone ever how much I weighed. I knew I was fat. Being weighed on the hospital laundry scales in the basement because no other scale would weigh me was humiliating enough. Now my family knew my exact weight. Feelings of shame and guilt overwhelmed me.
Then anger set in. I didn’t know what to do. I felt wronged. I felt alone, unsupported and no one cared. So, I wrote the hospital to tell of it all. I waited weeks for a reply but never received anything.
As usual, I felt it was my fault. I deserved what I got because I was fat. In defeat I again, turned to food for comfort. I hated surgeons, doctors, the Truro Hospital and anyone. Trust was low with any in the professional.
And most of all, I hated me.
This was the second time dealing with negative occurrences with Doctors. The pain I felt and absorbed amazes me when I look back. Some things done were NOT RIGHT. With each occurrence, it cemented in my mind the false truths I had formed about myself. So I stayed away from doctors as much as possible… but that too did me so much harm. I have learned over time avoiding my health only hurts me…. and most importantly, I am worthy to be treated with respect regardless of my size.
Still there was more I needed to learn….
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