blogitto ergo sum

November 24, 2008

#139 – Not Yet Dead

Filed under: Uncategorized — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 11:47
Tags: , , , ,

Not Yet Dead [1-see comment at end]

This one is to Martin, Eran and Simon. And to the amazing, caring staff of the Karolinska University Hospital.


It wasn’t until Saturday noon, sitting at the airport with Eran, knowing I’m going home, that I allowed myself to break down and admit weakness and fear. The tears came as a total surprise though. Until that moment, others did all the worrying, while I was too busy being cool and tough.

2 AM – I am in Pain

Never thought of myself as a wimp, hence, when the first pain wave hit me around 2 am, I figured that it was nature’s response to a very rich dinner. As the hours moved on, nature was having fun. I was not! All I knew was that no matter how I lay, sat, rolled, hugged the pillow or bent, each wave of pain left me exhausted, with the naïve hope that soon enough it’ll stop. A hot bath didn’t help either. I started thinking of the HOUSE episode in which he breaks his finger to distract his mind from a bigger distress.

Around 7 AM I SMS-ed Simon and Martin, informing them that I won’t be able to join the day’s meeting. The idea of sitting, listening, responding and being patient [dah] was beyond me.

Reading the SMS, the two guys immediately shifted into “fix problem” mode. From that moment on, not an hour went by without at least one of them insisting I’d take action.

Phone consultation with a Doctor brought up terms like obstruction, stones and other terms I associate with people other than myself.

By 11 AM or so, I was ready to cry. 9 hours of pain, no sleep at all, in a hotel bed, tangled with the duvet, hugging a pillow, was not my idea of having a good time.

I obeyed Simon and called our dear AMEX support[2]. “We could get you a list of local doctors” she said. I said “yes, please”. A pathetic list of 3 items arrived more than 4-5 hours later.

Luckily, Martin and Simon were not about to let me stall. “Call the SOS line, NOW!!!” they ordered via SMS, Skype and phone.

And so I did.

There’s a light

A case manager, a medical case manager . . . suddenly I had a professional support team all working for me and my comfort. Within 10-15 minutes, I had an address and someone who’s sole task was to make sure that I’m being taken care of the best possible way. There was a bit of a competition there, between these guys and Martin & Simon, and later Eran, who could care more.

Checking in

For the first time in my life, I checked myself in, and not to a hotel or a flight. Once I paid SEK2000[3], things started moving fast. Blood, urine and descriptions were collected carefully, followed by a CT.

Having to remove everything containing metal turned out to be a challenge – I already had the instrument for liquid injection in my arm, and movement was limited. I had to swallow my “no thank you I can manage” rejection of help, and ask for it. Only to find myself thinking it’s the first time in my life I am helped removing my bra. “BY A WOMAN” was the bold angry message sent from my protesting brain and pleasure center. Yes, by a woman.

Martin, giving up an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of Stockholm, was with me, providing the support I was too blind and stubborn to admit I needed. Further, he recognized that talking work would be a good distraction. Can’t believe it, but it worked, almost as good as a pain killer.

It’s late afternoon and while the pain waves are not longer slicing me that often, not a single thought of food crosses my mind, and I don’t even notice.

While I’m offered a bed a couple of times, I keep going out to the waiting room to enjoy Martin’s company. Denial I call it now for what it was. Sick people need beds, not me.

Verdict, Little Kid and a Big Airplane

The Muslim doctor that was handling my case/me all afternoon is sitting me down for a serious talk. I can forget about getting on a plane tomorrow, I have gallstones and a couple other symptoms they are still investigating; my liver which may be infected, is inflamed, and flying with swollen organs, considering what air pressure does to balloons, is not recommended by the hospital. The SOS Dr. talks to Dr. Mahmud, and wanting a 3rd opinion I call Ruti, my very own family doctor and friend in Israel. They all agree that flying is a great way to add adventure and pain to my life, along with, most likely, an emergency landing.

  • — “You’d rather get it removed at home, right?” says the nice Doctor.
  • — “Well, I rather get it done HOME-HOME”, I say.
  • — “What do you mean, aren’t you an American?”
  • — “Don’t you have an ear for accents?”
  • I get a confused look in response.
  • — “You are an Arab, aren’t you?” I ask/state.
  • — “No, I’m a Kurd” is the immediate response, and I sense some offense in his tone.
  • — “Oh, I’m really sorry” I quickly say, “And I’m an Israeli”
  • — “You know, when I was a kid, and the Iraqi army was chasing us, and ended up in a camp near Turkey. . . me and all my family”
  • — “Yes and the Turks didn’t welcome you either, I remember” I’m proud to show off my knowledge of middle-east conflict history and erase the Arab thing. “How old were you?”
  • — “And I will never forget” he says, all emotional, “the first airplane that drooped us food was from Israel.”

I now have a friend at the hospital.

Next – checking in.


[1] SPAMALOT – lyrics @ or general @

[2] Amex called hours later to ask if i needed anything else. By that time, I already canceled my flight, which the caller wasn’t even aware of. Not sure i was polite. They didn’t deserve it anyway.

[3] Exchange rate was retrieved using WorldMate Live which I’ve been enjoying for the past few months, tracking my biz trips and now my gallbladder-related events.


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