I believe it all started on the night of September 1, 2007. We had decided as a family to get up at 3:00 am to watch a meteor shower. After Dawn Ann’s diagnosis of cancer, I decided to try and do as many fun things we could as a family, and together as a couple as we could before the mastectomy. Viewing the meteor shower was one of these activities. (Another was going to the State Fair as a family. And thirdly, we celebrated our wedding anniversary early by going to Johnson’s Mill bed and breakfast in Midway, Utah.)
We took some treats with us to nibble on as we watched the meteor shower. I remember getting some Red Vines, and a bag of caramel popcorn.
The popcorn, although it tasted pretty good, had a lot of unpopped kernels in it. I didn’t think a lot of it at the time, but that bag of caramel popcorn might have been my downfall. I believe that one of those popcorn kernels may have been the cause of another bout of diverticulitis.
A few days after the meteor shower, I felt some pain in my lower abdomen. I didn’t think much of it at the time, although I always worried that I might be having bowel trouble again. I have a history of diverticulitis, and I worried some that I may be having another problem. I had some mild abdominal pain that lasted a few days, and then went away, so I shrugged it off. I had more important things to worry about, with Dawn Ann’s breast cancer, and I needed to support her in the face if this monumental challenge.
A month went by, and I remember being in Dawn Ann’s hospital room (October 2-4th, 2007). She had made it through the surgery alright. I was focused on seeing to her needs, and comforting and supporting her in this ordeal. As I sat in her hospital room, I again felt a return of the abdominal pain. It was a little more intense than it was before, a month earlier. But I blocked it out of my mind as I focused on Dawn Ann. Now I believe that the pain I felt that first week of October was the manifestation of an abscess forming on my bowel.
We got Dawn Ann home from the hospital, and I stayed home with her for about a week and a half. I helped her though things that first week home from the hospital. I drove her to her doctor appointments, cooked meals, did laundry, took care of the house, drove the kids around to their appointments and classes and picked up the load of both parents, as best I could
On Monday, October 8th, I went to the Insta-care clinic. The abdominal pain was now manifesting itself with symptoms in my urinary tract. I had painful, burning urinations, and began to be convinced that I might have a urinary tract infection. I gave a urine sample, and the quick test did not reveal a urinary tract infection. They were to culture the urine specimen for three days to check for an infection. They did not give me any antibiotics at that time.
On Wednesday, October 10th, I returned to work for the first time since the surgery. The next day (Thursday) I again went to work, but the abdominal pain returned with a vengeance. I couldn’t make it through the work day because of pain. I felt like my prostate might be infected, because I had some pain and tenderness in that area.
I again returned to the Insta-care, complaining of a possible prostate infection. The doctor examined me, and after a digital exam decided that I might, indeed have a prostate infection, and gave me a prescription for Cipro. (Which has been successful in treating prostate infections in me before).
Thursday night was a nightmare! I couldn’t sleep all night because of pain. I found myself curled up into a fetal position in bed trying to get comfortable. Ibuprofen and Tylenol couldn’t touch the pain, and I could not sleep.
Friday morning, October 12th, I called my Internist, and told them of my situation. They told me to go to the Emergency Room. Dawn Ann had already determined that we were going to the ER anyway, regardless of what the doctor might have said.
At the ER, I told them of the pain I was experiencing, and also that I had a history of diverticulitis. They hooked me up to an IV, and had me start drinking my “favorite” cocktail – that wonderful mixture of raspberry crystal light, and Iodine. Mmm Mmm Mmm. A cup full every 15 minutes. It takes about an hour and a half to drink it all. This iodine drink is used to provide contrast in preparation for a CT scan.
I drank the whole liter of the iodine cocktail. They wanted me to urinate before they did the CT scan, but I couldn’t. I tried and tried, but it just wouldn’t come. Then came my worst nightmare – a catheter.
In all my life, this was something that I dreaded. When I was a little boy, about 6 or 7 years old, I had my tonsils out at the old Primary Children’s hospital. In the same room with me was a little boy who had prostate problems. They had a catheter in him – and he was in agony. I remember when I was young, that I had nightmares of having a catheter put in, and being in sheer agony -- like that little boy at the hospital.
Well, you might say that I had another dream (nightmare in this case) come true. They came into my little curtained-off cubicle at the ER, and put in the catheter. Without going into details, it was one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever experienced. My nightmares as a child were not misplaced! Not only was the catheter uncomfortable going in, but It continued to be uncomfortable for as long as it remained in place.
Finally, they did the CT scan. And the CT scan revealed that once again I had diverticulitis, with an abscess – just like before nearly two years previously. The abscess was in a different location this time, and was pressing on the bladder. This accounted for the painful urinary tract symptoms I had been experiencing, which had masked the real problem.
Unlike last time, they didn’t insert a percutaneous drain tube in me. They said the abscess was too close to the bladder, and as a result would be too risky to insert.
After the CT scan, I was admitted to the hospital. They put me on IV antibiotics, and left the catheter in for a couple of days.
I was in a great deal of pain physically, but the greatest pain of all was psychological. I was supposed to be taking care of my dear wife, who just had a mastectomy the week before. Now she was having to take care of me! This was a heavy burden for me to carry. I had been prepared to serve Dawn Ann in any way possible, and give my all to serve her. And now I could not do that. It was the first time in my life when there was a great need for me to fill, but I could not do it. And that hurt worst of all!