Early last week I was enjoying the fruits of my labor with the launch of Boxman Studios’ build for Google at TED, and the 11th birthday of our oldest daughter. It was going to be a great week. But on Wednesday, everything changed. Darkness encroached and embedded itself in my abdomen. Probably while I was sleeping. That’s usually when those things do that. As a result, I spent Wednesday in bed with a fever and severe abdominal cramps.

I’m a pretty healthy guy. Not that I deserve to be healthy, but I’ve got seriously good DNA that I’ve milked for years without an exercise routine or minding my diet. I get sick maybe once a year. Usually it’s a sinus thing as the result of living in an urban forest. So on Wednesday I accepted the illness and determined to sleep it off. Sometime in the middle of the morning on Thursday, my fever broke. So I woke up Thursday thinking that the worst was over and that life would get back to normal. I was busy at work. It was my daughter’s birthday. There was no time for being sick. After lunch that day, the abdominal pain returned. With a vengeance. And with blood. There was no sleep Thursday night, and on Friday when the pain worsened, I called my doctor. She told me to get to the Emergency Room. So I did.

I’ve never been a patient in an ER, but we did used to watch the show. The ER I was in on Friday was nothing like the show. I was the only white man in the waiting room and may have been the only person who didn’t live outside. After two hours to check in, be processed, and pay the emergency room fee of my insurance – I was beginning to think that I needed to find a new doctor. But my abdominal pain told me to shut the hell up and wait it out. So I did. Finally, a doctor arrived. He asked a battery of questions and then did a rectal exam that confirmed I was bleeding somewhere inside. A nurse showed up and gave me an IV with morphine to ease the pain. A couple of hours later I was wheeled through the hospital for a CT scan and an hour after that, another doctor arrived. He said that he suspected Colitis but needed to do some lab work, and that he was admitting me into the hospital. A couple more hours went by before I was on a bed in a room with a TV hanging from the ceiling. Nurses appeared with an array of needles and bags of drugs that they attached to the IV. They took blood samples, urine samples, and samples of other things. Then it occurred to me that I’d basically become an experiment. Who were these strangers and what exactly were they were injecting into my bloodstream? And why was I allowing this to happen? Was this an act of total acceptance on my part? An act of faith? Were their actions an example of man’s humanity to man, or was I just a cog in some scientific assembly line? Another side of beef to butchers? How much did they really care about me? The collateral plastered throughout the hospital reassured me that I was their number one priority, but I write copy for a living – so I was skeptical.

I decided to take a shower. Except, the gown I had on didn’t have arm snaps. So it was stuck on the IV line. I pushed the ‘call’ button and waited for a nurse. When the young nurse arrived, she saw me standing halfway in the bathroom with nothing on but skivvies and reacted with, “Oh…hello!” in a way that was so in appropriate, it was funny. I took a shower and the pain returned. I received more morphine just as 2001 A Space Odyssey started on TCM. I fell asleep to Stanley Kubrick and dreamed about flying apes.

I awoke today feeling the same. But sometime in the afternoon, the drugs kicked in and the tide turned. The bleeding stopped and the pain became less frequent. My clear liquid diet was lifted and I enjoyed what I think was a salisbury steak. I know I’m probably rushing this, because I’m not patient enough to be a model patient, but I’m ready to go home. Now. I have spent one night in a hospital for the first time since I was a child. Tonight makes two. I’ve rested enough. I’m ready to leave. I don’t like wearing the damn gown. And I want a cheeseburger.

Obviously I’m looking into the whole Colitis thing because I don’t want this to happen again. I’m sure I’ll change up my diet a bit, but don’t expect to become a vegan. It’s not like I eat that unhealthily. And because there’s no family history of this, the doctor seems to think this was an anomaly.

The worst part of this whole thing is the ego. I’m 47. It’s not like you get younger as you get older. Rather, you have to adapt to the changes that your body goes through. I’ve never had a problem with getting older – since the alternative pretty much sucks. But now I have what seems like an old guy thing on my record. Oh well, that’s life. And I’m grateful to have it. But I am ready to go home. Now.

Side Note: A few years ago when our dog Tucker died, I experienced the power of digital community for the first time. It was overwhelming – in a good way. When I started sharing about my situation on Friday, the outpouring was just as overwhelming. I received well-wishes and prayers from people all over the world whom I’ve never met in person. If you’re new to the medium and wonder whether or not digital community is real, I’m a living proof that it is. Friendships are friendships whether they’re in person or not. Digital media has advanced many things – though we tend to focus on information sharing and whether we can make a buck. But the real beauty of the digital age is the friendships we make here with people who we’d otherwise never know. But these friendships are real. And they’re the most important reason we share our short little lives here.

Thanks to everyone who reached out during this ordeal. It matters.


Jim Mitchem

32 Words

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.