Note: This post was originally written July 5, 2015 and added to this blog site two years later (because I have a blog now).
The setting of my “how I spent my summer” essay would start at Denton Regional Hospital in wee hours of morning on Thursday in late June. Going back to the previous weekend where I’d been at the Texas Association of School Board Conference co-presenting some of the remarkable things happening in Denton ISD, I’d been hurting in the gut. But since internal issues have been my norm for so long, I just went on. (I chew Pepto-Bismol like Bubblicious). In 1991, one week prior to my first (i.e. “practice”) wedding, I was admitted to a hospital for the same exact symptoms, intense abdominal pain that had me doubled-over. (It was a warning. I missed it.) I was kept overnight, given antibiotics, dismissed, and charged thousands of dollars. About 10 years later, it happened again. Doubled over with abdominal pain as before, I was admitted to the hospital, kept overnight, given antibiotics, dismissed, and charged thousands of dollars. So I’d be darned if I was going to drop a few grand on antibiotics. Instead, I’d ride it out. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, I work our typical 10-hour day although I went straight to bed from work. Sometime between 2 and 3 AM Thursday morning, I showered (foreshadowing) and had my wife, Tenille, take me to the emergency room.
Moments after an MRI, the attending staff said, “Appendix.” What was described by the attending surgeon as a 45-minute, “minor” and routine laparoscopic procedure turned into 3+ hour major surgery with an 8″ incision vertically (through which I could’ve delivered twins), a couple of smaller, 1″ incisions in two other spots, and a drain tube. Apparently, I’ve had [benign, noncancerous] tumors growing around my appendix for a number of years (and subsequently more than doubled the size of my appendix). The human body is quite adept at protecting itself, and mine formed not one, but two layers of protection to prevent rupture and contain infection over time. The size shocked the doc, and some major cutting, tugging and pulling ensued. Unfortunately, unavoidable major infection ensued once removed. On the bright side, this mass may have been the culprit creating all those other internal issues I’ve battled for years (which has been diagnosed as anything from Crohn’s to IBS). My stomach looks like Rocky punched me in the belly button about a hundred times although now that I can see where he had Bruce Lee assist by karate-chopping my love handles into a purplish equator, which has formed around my entire waistband.
I spent all last weekend in the hospital in recovery and was released Sunday afternoon. Although my surgeon was top notch (Thank you, Dr. Lester for your mad skills and great explanations!) and the nurses were first rate (Shout out to the Floor 5 team!), being home is far better. My wife and 17-year-old are exceptional caretakers, and my recliner is far more comfortable than the hospital’s Craftmatic adjustable bed.
Because I have a high pain tolerance (hence in part why the surgeon was shocked I’d not come earlier in the week), I’m a little sore, but it’s to be expected with you’ve got railroad tracks through your belly. Physically, I couldn’t outrun a biter from The Walking Dead, but I’m good. We’re three flights of stairs up, so I’m not going far.
Speaking of The Walking Dead, I had a little scare (BIG, actually) the other day. I spilled my guts. Literally. After showering and laying back down for a spell, I got up and was horrified to see an uncomfortable amount of squirting from my incision. In a flash, I envisioned all the movie and TV shows I’d seen where someone spills out. Within a half second, I planned on where I’d fall so my wife and daughter didn’t have to see the worst. I grabbed a towel and pressed it into my midsection and called for Tenille as white as a ghost.The one thing the doc forgot to tell me? This is not only normal, but “a good thing.” (Uh, yeah.)
The nurse at the office bandaged me, celebrated that I’d gone poo, which apparently is a kind of Forth of July-worthy celebration in the gastro community. (I immediately thought of the old Bill Cosby stand-up about new parents being in awe of their first child’s poo poo). She had another weapon of choice for combating my tummy leaks: a maxi pad. So at my official checkup the next day, I doubled up: maxi pad on my incision and a tampon in my belly button. She got a good laugh that I’d heeded her recommendation so inventively.
As of Thursday, I no longer wear my external drain bulb, which was a cross between a hand grenade and a juicy (not Couture) handbag. Having a foot long crazy-straw pulled from one side of your body to the next was a gnarly three-second ride. The surgeon reopened two of the incision points (ouch), squeezed me like a teenaged pimple (oooh) and stuffed me with a line of medicated gauze (or “wick”) similar to that of what the dentist stuffs into a wisdom tooth hole with dry socket (only much longer). I get to pull that today. (Yay!)
Six to eight weeks recovery is the doctor’s expectation. For me, a mandated shutdown is probably the best thing. I have a tendency to burn the candle at both ends (and now have a wick to prove it…although I’m thankful it’s only in one end). No swimming. (Darn.) No running. (As if.) No heavy lifting. (I can’t carry anything up the three flights of stairs other than myself, which is somewhat of a chore though not as bad as I anticipated.)
On a positive note, I met my summer weight loss goal within a week. I’ve shed 15 pounds (although I suspect the appendix and tumor might account for a significant portion). I’m practicing (and hopefully developing) a healthy pattern of portion control because my appetite has gone halfsies. I am a creature of deeply-rooted habits. I form deep mental grooves or ruts (depending on the vice). Charles Duhigg talks of these in The Power of Habit by specifically addressing what he terms the “habit loop.” Easy to understand. Difficult to do.
I started out so well this “summer.” (I work all summer long, 10 hours per day, 4 days per week, but it’s a different pace once it begins (which for me only began the week prior to the surgery). My wife and I were taking brisk-paced, two-mile walks in the morning and evening, and I even worked out (excessively…I’m still sore) at the gym the Sunday night before the downfall. My walking now consists of moving from the recliner to the restroom, but that’s quite a feat. Eventually, I’ll be able to get back to light training. Tenille has been remarkably dedicated to both walking and the gym, so I’ll be able to fall in line (although not keep up) when I’m fully released.
Having the time, I’ve thought of Eat Move Sleep, the recent book from Tom Rath, the Gallup guy. We Americans have deeply ingrained, unhealthy habits. “Sitting is the new smoking,” Rath quips. It’s unfortunate we hold onto this stigma that we have to be perched (and visible) from behind a desk for 10 hours or more a day. We constantly seek research based evidence to support whether something is working or not. Stuck behind a glowing screen for hours on end is bad science. Human beings were NOT wired to do so neither physically and mentally. But our culture falsely believes the myth that “putting in long hours” equates to some honor. Having purchased extra movie channels over the summer during the recovery, we recently watched The Internship (2 out of 4 stars).
I’ve been intrigued by the companies that “get it” (i.e. Google as portrayed in The Internship) who provide time for exercise, rest, and fun DURING the workday. It’s far more productive. “Yeah, science!” I read an article in The Atlantic of how Finland takes a recess break every 45-minutes. It allows kids to reboot. The article was written by an American who went to teach in Finland and was determined to “power” her students through longer periods of instruction time unlike her Finnish colleagues (to no avail). Again. “Science, yo!”
On the topic of other countries, I’ve broadened my horizons (mostly cause it was kind of forced upon me), and I’ve been watching the World Cup. I’m surprised it’s kept my attention having never played “football,” which really fits far better than “soccer”…I mean really. Why is our game is called “football” when so little of the game involves kicking (and the fact we often deride kickers)? Can we petition to swap? Our “football” is really about a bunch of guys socking away at one another, so “soccer” seems apropos. I am open to other ideas before I start a petition for a name change. Meatball? Concussionball? Although it should probably be something that starts with an “F” so we can maintain the “NFL.” Forceball? Few screws loose ball? (Although I’ll say, soccer, I mean football, is surprisingly aggressive. Who knew? Although I will say I’m a little annoyed by the dramatic acting when a player goes down (i.e. flops) on the pitch.) My 17-year-old daughter got me to watching the first match, and I enjoyed watching the USMNT. Patriotism, I guess. Tim Howard.
That guy spent 90+ minutes in beastmode in the last game. Of course, the newcomers all jumped on his bandwagon (mostly cause most don’t know who else is doing what and his work is tangible). Frankly, I like him not only because of his incredible awesome performances, but because he battles Tourette syndrome, and I personally like a really good underdog. From what I can tell (as a newbie), the US was a defensive-minded team and the other side was offensive now that I’ve seen the attacking of other national teams. Our family has talked of why, all of the sudden, we (namely people like myself and my daughter who cares little of sport) became suddenly interested. For her, it was totally peer-driven interest by way of Twitter. For me, it was not much different. Far more media coverage has been given to the Cup this year. ESPN Radio has talked more of it, thus my interest spiked. Like a good sheep, I tuned in. And I followed some of my more enlightened peers via Facebook (so antiquated) and by text. As a side note, here’s what (my daughter and) I like about “football”: No commercials. That alone may stop the game from coming to America. (I get it. It’s here…but it’s not “here” like it is “there.”) The nonstop clock is greatness. I stay a little confused about the counting up instead of down and the whole extra time thing still has me baffled. I get it in theory, but it’s complicated. Maybe it’s a metric system-customary system thing. Question. Why do they count off 10 yards (I like that foam stuff, by the way) for a free kick if they’re all using the metric system, anyhow? Oh, and I haven’t quite figured out what earns a free kick yet, although the ones near goal are exciting to watch. That whole razzle-dazzle American thing at the end of their last game was like watching a flea-flicker in American football. That was quite epic, although it would have really hurt if they had scored cause I think I’d have leapt from the sofa from my prone position, which couldn’t have been good for the healing process. Admittedly, I love the jerseys (or “kits” as I understand they’re called). I follow UniWatch because I like the fashion of sport. (Who knew?) There are some outstandingly cool outfits. The Brazil blue is by far my fav. The Germans’ deep red and black is close. The Americans monochromatic white is boring and their red, white, and blues look like one of those bomb pops you used to buy from the ice cream truck. Beyond the uniforms, running time-clock and lack of commercials, I love the passion of the fans. I hear watching at a sports bar is quite an experience, but I won’t know for another eight years (at least) because I’m not getting out anytime soon this round, and I understand the Russian Cup in four years will have games on at 5 AM. By the time the games hit Qatar, I suspect it’ll look completely different in scope. I have no idea where the 2010 Cup was held, and I don’t recall American talking heads speaking of it on our airwaves. But I think the globalization may in significant part be the new phenomena; and that is where I’m piqued. With the advent of social media, sport has garnered more attention. I suspect additional channel lineups on pay television set the stage, but Twitter and the like gave it a boost (here in the States that is). As we become more connected, we become more connected. Eight years from now, I’ll be eligible for retirement (although hard to imagine). TI wonder how far we will have come in education globally by the Qatar games.
I’ve suggested we are at the end of schooling as we’ve known it. Retired superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Turner recently said in a Dallas Morning News article, “The real challenge for education today is that we are running a 19th-century system, using a 20th-century accountability model complete with a facts-based multiple-choice test, and expecting our kids to gain 21st-century skills.” As with my own children, they’re ready. Is OUR “nostesia” holding them back? Our memories of “how it used to be.” (It ain’t goin’ back. And do we REALLY want to go back? Was it REALLY as good as we “remember?” REALLY?) Be looking for more on this term and several others in the weeks and months to come. Having spent the day with thousands of school board members before the ultimate belly tuck job, I found Denton ISD is ahead of the curve. There are seismic shifts taking place in education, and I am convinced Denton is going to be one of the major epicenters in our state and nation.
As this school year begins anew, it will begin anew.