What the Hell Happened ???

 

I want to write this now while the pain is not just a long past memory. Josh was kind enough to bring his laptop to the hospital, thinking I could just plug into AOL through the hospital phone system which Iím paying for anyhow.

It didnít work, so I called the operator who said, "No, the hospital phone system could not be connected". Iím glad theyíre surgical procedures are more Ďau courantí than the phone system.

Anyway, how did I end up here, my appendix histoire, and a chunk of my gut torn out (whoops, surgically removed), and a new rectum temporarily torn. I feel like one of the BORG from Star Trek, The Next Generation, with hoses coming out of most orifices of my bodyÖ including a new one. Iíve had at least 5 different IVs placed on both hands and have more tracks on my arms than Santos the Dealer. The prognosis: an extended hospital stay followed by 8 to 12 weeksí recovery at home. Then major surgery again to reconnect my rectum. And, if Iím lucky, another 8 to 12 weeksí recovery.

I suspect some sweeping changes in the life of my family.

As weeks go, it started out just fine. I had three vacation days left and had to take them or lose 'em; opted to take Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Looking back, the first sign that all wasn't right started Tuesday night. Paul, my training buddy, picked me up at 530 p.m. for a five mile race in Hamilton. It was hot (around 85 degrees) and humid. Discretion being my middle name, I decided not to do the race all out. However, that didn't mean being a slouch, after all, I had my overweening pride to consider. The course is gorgeous, rolling along through easy rising hills, past the polo field, through the Gordon College campus, and onto well-landscaped suburban roads. Mile 1 and 2 went as expected. I used all the water stops and my pace was up to speed. Then, by mile 3, things began to deteriorate. I thought it was just the humidity. Obviously wrong because weíd been training in high heat and humidity. Mile 4 was more of the same and by mile 5; I was down to the survival shuffle. With a quarter mile left to go, Paul, having finished the race, joined me.

"Tom, donít look back now, but Louise Rosetti is coming up fast." Louise is an septuagenarian runner.

"Oh, the humiliation." I answered slowing down to stop. "Thatís it, my race is over."

Louise passed my way with a cheerful ĎHi, Tomí. I could have torn her head off.  I would have felt better if she had ignored me.

On the way back, Paul and I stopped at the local package store for a quart of beer. When we got home, Terry advised that her dad had passed away; a blessing really considering all the running around she had to do for him while he occupied space in the nursing home. And a double blessing since he had spent his life abusing his wife and kids both physically and emotionally while hypocritically kissing up to all his so called friends. My vacation ended Wednesday. I still had 2 sick days that could have been converted to cash, so, ended up using them for the wake on Thursday and the funeral on Friday. After that mockery was over, we all adjourned back to the house for food.

We had a big spread for the "sin eating" meal, or do they call it a funeral meal, or maybe in Louisí case, the party after. As the afternoon wore on, I was feeling queasy thinking that maybe I had eaten too much or the crabmeat was salmonellic. Whatever, I went to bed with a belly ache that went from hurt to spasmodic, to many fruitless trips to the bathroom, to finally, at one in the morning running downstairs, my clothes soaked with sweat and body feverish.

"Why donít you go to the emergency room?" queried Terry.

"Hey, Iím Tom Carmody, remember, Iím supposed to be immortal."

"Add delusional to your symptoms, darling."

"Iíll see if I can tough it out."

Five minutes later, Josh and I were driving to Salem Hospital. When we arrived, there wasnít a soul in so I thought idiotically that Iíd be in and out in an hour. Foolish me! They did blood work. They took an X-ray. They did tests. My white count was around 15,000, whatever that meant. Doctorís diagnosis: Possible kidney stones. In retrospect, that should have sounded daffy but I was too hurting to think straight. I had once had kidney stones and by back hurt like fire. Now, my back was fine. I guess we were all tired so, 4 hours later, they sent me home with a strainer to pee into and some generic Percosets for pain. Oh well.

Next morning, I couldnít use the strainer because I couldnít pee. So much for toughing it out. Back Terry, Josh, and I went to Salem Hospital. Different doctor this time, different diagnosis. He couldnít understand last nightís diagnosis so naturally he ordered a whole new set of tests. In the meantime, a nurse catheterized me but there wasnít much in the bladder. Surprised us all. Oh well.

By now, Itís around two in the afternoon, and my stomach is on a new level of pain.

"You know, I think you may have appendicitis, Mr. Carmody." Said the ER doc. "Weíve called your primary care physician and the on call surgeon will be here in a minute".

That sounded encouraging, an on call surgeon. You could now add apprehension to the pain I was suffering. Probably some baby fresh out of internship or an ancient whose mentor was Hippocrates.

"This is Dr. Kastranakis." Oh shit, he does look like a baby. But, he got right to business.

"It appears as though you have appendicitis. We should operate and remove it as soon as possible.

"You mean today?"

"I mean now."

"I have a couple questions."

"Sure."

"How many of these have you done?"

"About 80 either directly or as assistant in the last 2 years."

I was about to ask the mortality rate but thought twice about it. I changed my line of questioning.

"How long will this take and how long in the hospital?"

"About an hour or so. The hospital stay would be a couple days, thatís all."

"OK, letís do it." I looked at Terry and she nodded.

As I was being wheeled to the OR, I took stock of myself. Iím surprised I wasnít scared; maybe there was something dripping into the IV on my arm, if so, I highly recommend it. The idea of complications never entered the equation. I saw this as a relatively minor inconvenience. There was only a flash thought that I wouldnít recover but it was fleeting. We halted outside the OR.

"Mr. Carmody, my name is Dr. Wu and Iíll be assisting Dr. Kastranakis." She was beautiful, a vision of delight. I almost said letís operate on Kastranakis and you can assist me.

"Call me Tom."

She asked the same questions that I heard from The OR doc and Kastranakis. Were these trick questions or did these people not talk to each other? Oh well.

Next came a voice that could have belonged to Oscar Wilde. I forget his name but he said he was the Anesthesiologist. He asked me all the questions that I mouthed then answered for the fourth time.

However, he added a new one.

"Do you have any plates or false teeth?"

"Good point. I have a plate. Here, take good care of it, please." I remarked and removed the plate from my mouth and put it in his hands. Was that a look of surprise I caught on his face?

Into the O.R. we went.

"OK, Mr. Carmody, can you move onto the table?"

I did, they placed a mouthpiece and said to count backwards from 10. Now, under the best of circumstances, I might have trouble with this. However, I only remember getting to nine before it became a moot point.

In a moment, Iím conscious but donít want to open my eyes for some strange reason.

"Tom, can you understand me?" It was Dr. Kastranakis.

"I made it, huh?"

"Well, the good news is that there was no cancer."

"What do you mean, I thought we were doing appendix."

"We did but found something else. Your appendix was OK but we removed it anyway. Do you know what a Colostomy is?"

My heart sank, sort of; I was pretty doped up.

"Yes."

"Yours is only temporary, you had Diverticulitis, which is a diseased colon. We removed about a foot of it, not much when you consider how much there is. The Colostomy is so things can heal. In three months we can put you back together again."

"How long was I in the OR?"

"About five hours. I met with your wife an hour after we started and told her of the complications and what was necessary. She agreed and I sent her home with your son because I told her it would require three to four more hours. She didnít want me to tell you; I told her I wouldnít but thought you really should hear it from me before you get misinformation before you talk to your wife."

"Thanks, I appreciate your honesty."

"Weíll be bringing you up to your room shortly. Youíre in ICU right now recovering."

"OK."

"Hi, Mr. Carmody, Iím Maureen, Iím a surgical tech and Iíll be taking you to your room."

"What am I hooked up to?"

"Well, letís see, you have a catheter, an IV, a drain, a tube into your stomach, and an oxygen set up."

I must have looked like a cyborg.

"Do you know how to use the morphine?"

"One of those tubes is a morphine feed. Thereís a gizmo I placed in your hand with a button. You can self medicate that way for pain as needed. But, you only get a shot every six minutes."

"Sounds good to me." I tried it and didnít really notice any reaction. I realized then the secret of the morphine: I was in a great deal of pain but didnít care. What a marvelous drug. I could see how this could become addictive.

Finally, in my room and, luxury of luxuries, alone at least temporarily. I took stock. Next to me was a coat tree on wheels upon which hung a machine to dole out meds etc. Below it was the machine that kept the patient from becoming annoying. And, lastly, the ghastly collection of plastic tubes that, I suppose helped keep me alive. Time seemed to become a relative concept very early on in this hospital stay. Whether it was day or night was inconsequential; it was therefore difficult to sleep then for any extended period of time. Sleep was fitful but, then again, I didnít care.

Day 2 at some point

"Well, Mr. Carmody--"

"Please call me Tom"

"OK, today, Mr. Carmody, weíre going for a walk."

Marie, my nurse for this shift and Maureen, the tech prepped me for what could be an ordeal.

"Weíre going to help you get out of bed."

"Can I try to do it myself?" I knew that the more I could do for myself and the faster I could do it, then the sooner Iíd be able to get out of here.

"Sure. The best way to do it is to lay on your side, and, holding onto the side of the bed, slowly bring your legs around and come up to a seated position. Then, stop to get your breath because you could get dizzy. Finally, weíll assist you in standing up and weíll try to walk a few feet. Oh, and before you try to stand, hold this pillow on your stomach."

Sounded like a simple proposition except for the pillow, which I found more of an encumbrance than a help but I could understand how it might help some folks. Even with the morphine (I gave myself a slug before moving) the pain was tremendous as I tried to get up. Now I know what itís like for a new born colt getting its legs for the first time. With the nurse and tech on each side, we got to the door.

"Letís turn around now and go back."

"Letís not."

"Are you sure?"

I stepped through the threshold and down the hall toward the nurseís station. We got about halfway when discretion became the better part of valor and I decided to head back to the room.

"Weíll do it again tonight." She said as I got myself back into bed. Within one minute, I was fast asleep.

I walked twice more that day and the rest of my stay at the hospital was spent roaming the corridors until fatigue dictated that I get my butt back to bed. The nurses started calling me ĎThe Phantomí.  I was determined to walk as much as possible to get my strength back.

One of the kindest people I met during my stay was the Ostomy nurse. She taught me how to change and deal with the bag Iíd be carrying for the next three months. Details will not be forthcoming. Suffice it to say itís not something Iíd wish on anyone but at least in my case, it was temporary.

I developed a low-level fever that kept me on antibiotics longer than I wanted - but, what the hell. Seven days later, the fever subsided and they let me go home.

Food became a major problem. I could eat just about anything but everything tasted like a chemically treated metal. This problem would last about a month. Not only did everything taste repulsive, but I started losing my appetite and consequently weight as well. Anyone familiar with my eating habits knows that this would never do. Also, the weight loss would never be apparent because my stomach was distended like the last stages of starvation because of the surgery.

The first two weeks home saw me walking three times a day then by the end of the second week, once a day but up to three miles. By the third week, I was back to work and began speed walking through Lynn Woods.

The next couple paragraphs contain material that is explicit and recommended for mature audiences only with neither full nor empty stomachs. If you nauseate easily, I suggest you skip to the paragraph with the symbol *.

As my strength increased, the amount of time I spent roaming through Lynn Woods increased proportionally. This brought its own set of problems. Most notable among them was the bag that hung from the left side of my lower belly. The bag was attached to ---- well, let me attempt to get clinical. During the surgery, they discovered that about a foot of my colon was diseased. There were quite a few small holes and evidently one or several had burst open giving the expression Ďyouíre full of shití a new meaning. Since the operation is conducive to secondary infection, they cut out the diseased portion, yeah about a foot worth (not that much considering the 30 or so feet that comprise the intestinal highway). Then, the surgeon cut a one inch diagonal slit about three inches to the left of my navel. Then he rolled over a section of colon and stitched it to my skin from whence comes the other popular expression Ďhe cut me a new assholeí. The rest of my colon to the anus was stitched inside where it dangled freely. This would give the whole thing a chance to heal.

Now, unlike your butt, this new opening has no control muscles like the sphincter soooooo--, it excretes when it damned well pleases. And, since it would be inconvenient to spend all of oneís time lying face down with my new butt hole across the toilet seat, some anally fixated person came up with an ingenious device, i.e. the Colostomy bag. There are different types but the most popular is a two piecer.  Oh, by the way, theyíre expensive and not usually covered by insurance. Ten complete sets (enough for about a month), at this writing, cost about $70. Now you know the origin of the expletive ĎWow, thatís expensive shit!í. It also takes about fifteen or twenty minutes to affix it properly. Now, depending upon how much gut they cut out, where around the belly the new hole is located, and the skill of the surgeon, there are different shaped exit holes from almost round to elliptical. Therefore, the Colostomy kit includes a template of different size holes. Also, the hole the surgeon cut can change dimensions as time goes by. Which means that you have to measure the hole each time you affix a new bag. Then you take the closest shaped hole and place it around the opening to make sure itís a close fit. And here is where you get a chance to practice your artistic abilities. Using the template, youíre going to cut a hole in the device to match the opening in your gut. Luckily, the tolerances are high so if you make a mistake, itís pretty forgiving.

Hereís the next wrinkle. Your stomach gets distended like an excessive beer drinker because of the surgery. In order to see what youíre doing, I advise buying a cheap full-length mirror. Then you powder around the hole and affix the holding device and the bag.  If you're interested in more details, do a Google search.

So now, having explained all this, you get some idea of the problems I encountered once I started training again. From walking the streets of Salem, I wanted to move into cross-country in Lynn Woods and Breakheart Reservation as soon as possible. The plan was to get to the second round of surgery in three months time in the best possible shape. I became a man with a mission. To get the best cardio-vascular benefit, speed walking was better than regular walking. The woods were ideal for this to reduce the ridicule race walkers inspire on the roads. Running at this point was tough because of the pull on the bag and the tenderness of the stitched area. As I neared the second surgery, Iíd add actual running for a hundred yards or so for variety and hang the pull of the bag.

Then came the race.

Phone rings. "Hey, Tom!" Oh no, itís Paul and that means a workout I probably donít want. "Thereís a race at Lynn Woods on Wednesday at 6:30, gentlemanly hour for racing as youíd say. Itís the handicap race." No, this isnít a race for cripples. But, when itís set up properly, everyone arrives at the finish line about the same time. The organizer takes your average time per mile and if youíre slow, you start ahead of the next fastest runner and so on down to the fastest runner who starts last. Thatís the way it works in fantasyland. The real world works this way. John R. and Bob L. are lying sacks of poop, and, not to single them out, because we all do it somewhat, and, shall we say, hyperbolize our running times per mile upwards, sometimes as much as 3 minutes per mile more than our average. So, if John runs an average of 13 minutes/mile and adds 3 to 16 minutes/mile then runs his rump off to 12 minutes per mile, then in all likelihood, he could actually win the race. Itís almost impossible for the fastest runners to lie because their averages are public record. Something wrong with this scenario? Hell, yes; does anyone care? Hell no. Forgive the inadvertent pun but Paul told me I had the race sewn up. I had a real handicap. All I had to do was lift my shirt, and if I could keep the race director from gagging, then the race was mine. All this, of course was according to Paul. Personally, I couldnít care less about winning. As a matter of fact, I havenít cared since my first race 20 years ago where not only didnít I win, but I didnít place or show. I almost came in dead last but thatís another embarrassing story of losing my running shorts in front of 400 people.

Bill Mullen, the race director, didnít barf when I raised my shirt but did stifle a gag and sent Paul and I out first. My head was foggy enough that night to let Paul tell Bill what my projected time would be. As usual, Paul was overly optimistic.

"Weíll do 13 minutes per mile." Said Paul.

"Not if those stitches are any indication." Said Bill.

"True, but this is Tom weíre talking about."

"OK."

"Hey, do I get any say in this?"

"NO!!!" said both Paul and Bill emphatically.

Oops, almost forgot the last piece of graphic barfable material. Remember I mentioned that my new poop chute works spontaneously. Well, itíll start filling up while Iím running and Iíll have to pull over and empty the damned thing. For this reason, I carried pockets full of napkins stolen from Dunkin Donuts. Iíd have to open the clip at the bottom of the bag and squeeze the shit out just like a pastry chef squeezes out frosting from a cone shaped paper appliance. Being playful by nature, I used to spell out ĎTomí, or if the bag were really full, Iíd leave cryptic messages on trees, and when really daring, right in the middle of the road.

Here are some messages I left behind (no pun intended):

ĎDonít tread on me.í

ĎSmells like shit.í

ĎFree compost.í

ĎI give a shit.í

Well, anyway, I hoped I wouldnít have to exercise my option to empty the bag during this particular run. OK, to the race. It was a 5 miler, cross-country, uneven terrain, and seven main hills.

"Paul, Iím going to speed walk this; not run, not race."

"Whatever you want, Tom."

"Paul, weíve known each other for twenty years and for twenty of those twenty years, youíve sucked me into running faster than I want. But tonight, Iíve really got to stay within myself."

"Whatever you say--.  By the way, Mary Ellen, Bob Levine, and John Robinson are running. You can beat them, you can even win this race."

"I give up."

Off we went just the two of us with the race directorís blessing. I guesstimated that we were 15 or twenty minutes ahead of the elite runners; which meant we didnít have a chance in hell of winning, notwithstanding Paulís optimism. Anyway, at this point Iím exhilarated. It just feels good to be back again in the chase, even though the only thing Iím chasing is Paul. I could feel that pulling sensation on my abdomen as I ran but I also knew that no pain, no gain, as long as I stayed within myself and didnít go crazy. At some points, I was speed walking as fast as Paul was running. Actually he wasnít really running but into that strut he used whenever we ran. We talked about the summer and he reaching his 50th birthday and how he was going to try to qualify as a national class triathlete and the training that would be necessary. Me, I just wanted to go into the next surgery in the best cardio-vascular health of my life. It was a great night for running, about 65 degrees and slightly humid, not too many bugs yet. By the time we reached mile four, I was still smelling the roses. For once, Paul didnít really try to push me to greater speed, something heís tried on and off with varying degrees of failure for years now. Instead, we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. We were about a mile and a half from the finish line, struggling up the last major hill when the first runner, a young lady, passed us. Tension gripped both of us for a moment only, before clear heads prevailed. 90% of the field then passed us before the finish line was in sight.

The next couple months were spent training at an even pace and culminated with a 3-hour run through Lynn Woods a couple days before surgery.

Dr. Kastranakis had mentioned that he was going to try this surgery the way they often do knee surgery today Ė with small holes and a camera. This would mean less intrusiveness and a much faster recovery Time. However, and this was the big ĎBUTí, if there was a lot of scar tissue, then all bets were off and heíd have to proceed slicing me right back down the middle as before.

What the hell. Chances were 50/50 so I agreed.

Fast forward to surgery 2.

In the prep room, Terry waited with me as we waited in line. A surgical nurse who hailed from western Virginia (complete with a "you all" drawl) got me ready for an IV. I complained in a light hearted manner that the main suffering from surgery was at the hands of incompetent IV stickers. They bitched about not being able to find a vein. Hey, what the hell are those bluish-green rivers that run under my skin??? They picked at me so often both my hands were black and blue. I ended up with no feeling on the tips of two fingers still, today, months later.

Terry and I bantered lightheartedly until we were called. She gave me a parting kiss and off I went.

Long period of black followed by Bang, Zap, Wakeup, audio first, sounds in the recovery room, then a disembodied voice asking or was it telling,

"Hi, Tom, can you understand me?"

"Yeah, I think so."

We werenít able to do it larthroscopically because of scar tissue but the good news is everything went fine. Youíre back together again. Youíll be going to your room shortly."

The move to the bedroom was the beginning of a surreal nightmare that lasted through my 5-day stay in the hospital. I was on the same floor as before and next to the same room. The personnel hadnít changed. But, now it was as if some demon were now controlling the post-surgical ward. My roomy turned out to be a 50-year-old drunk with about 1% of his liver left. His obnoxious younger brother visited him at all hours, day or night. One episode of this nightmare had the brother coming in at 11:00 PM with his cap turned backward to accent his sunken bare chest. He carried a boom box. He wanted his brother to record his final remarks for all the people he hated so it could be played at his wake.. Here is how one segment sounded:

"What about Billy. Heís a fÖÖ jerk."

"Yeah, turn it on. ĎHi Billy, this is Jim and I want you to know that youíre a real fÖÖ. a.. hÖí

"Good, good. Wait Ďtil the prÖ hears that at your wake."

As if this wasnít bad enough, every one of his bottom-of-the-food-  chain visitors would end up using our bathroom, something that was to have severe personal consequences later on. Then, Jimís girl friend would trot in at all hours and jump into bed with him. The vibration was like a jackhammer and again ignored by the staff, whom one rarely saw. For the most part, the staff nurses were phantoms who only materialized at shift change.

Then there was the noise level. The patient in the next room was running a casino. They played cards in his room beyond 11 every night. You could hear coin drops and conversation at 10 decibels:

"Yo, Angie, speed it up will you before I have to shave waitiní for you. Put in some fÖÖ cash or fold!"

"Whassamatta, whatís de hurry, you ainít goin nowhere."

Then there was Louis who had a drain in his chest, refused to stay in bed, had the foulest and loudest mouth imaginable, and kept trying to get out of the hospital. When the staff was around, he drove them nuts to this point:

"I canít take this anymore. Why canít we call security?"

"I did an hour ago."

"If this doesnít get any better soon, Iím leaving. I donít care."

Maybe thatís where all the staff went.

However, before I get accused of painting with too broad a brush, there was one nurse, the over night one, who would not only change my antibiotics religiously, but would actually check in to see us from time to time.

By the morning of day three, I felt so grungy I needed a shave and general clean up. Plus, my lower backside was beginning to itch. For one of the few times during my stay there, I rang for a nurse.

"Hi, can someone help me clean up?"

"Sure, Iíll get one of the techs."

An hour later, she showed up and assisted me into the bathroom. It was a major project because I had to haul around the medicine tree and the attendant hoses going into and coming out of my body.

The bathroom was really too small to accommodate all the equipment but there was enough room in front of the sink for me to remove my johnny and begin the process. I shaved, brushed my teeth, and sponge bathed as best as I could but I couldnít reach the part of the back that still itched. I pulled the cord in the bathroom and waited a half-hour for the tech to come back.

"The bottom of my back itches like crazy. Would you wash me there?"

"Sure, Itís a little red there and looks like you have a couple tiny black heads or scabs there." She cleaned and powdered the area. When finished, she put me back to bed. I could only lie on my back. Lying on my side was still too uncomfortable. She took my temperature and checked my oxygen level.

"Youíre running a slight fever." She said when I asked. From the first surgery, I knew what that meant---more antibiotics and a possible extended hospital stay. Next week was Halloween week in Salem and I was damned if I was going to stay in this circus any longer than necessary. By the fifth day, my fever had subsided long enough for the surgeon to allow me to go home. My back was still itching, the groin area (now that feeling had returned there) was also itchy. I took this as a sign that recovery was in progress. How naÔve!

HOME! What a beautiful sound. I let the word roll around in my mouth and savored it. When Josh and Terry drove me home, Julianne and the neighbors who were just beginning afternoon cocktails met me in the backyard. There was Steve and Sharon, Hiede and Bob, and Sharonís brother Bob. It felt so good to see all those smiling faces (hope it wasnít just the liquor). Everyone was getting ready for the onslaught of people who would descend upon Salem by foot, train, bus, bike, and broom. I told Terry that I would take a T-shirt and cut the bottom of the shirt out to expose my stainless steel stapled stomach. I could then be the most realistic monster on Halloween. Might even win a prize.

Whoops, I spoke too soon. Dammit, now the stitches were itching and there was a redness Ĺ way up the railroad track of stainless steel. It was Sunday and the surgeon was not around but his cover suggested I go to the hospital. Well, how much worse could the emergency room be from the surgical unit? The surgeon on duty was a young resident who proclaimed after scrutiny:

"Youíve got an infection in the stitches."

"How did that happen?"

And then came the most oft quoted phrase: "Itís pretty common."

He removed the stitch around the infection and drained it (a painful process). Then, he stuffed a huge wad of gauze into the wound. This was to continue for the next two weeks. On Monday, when I went back to Dr.K., I asked him about the itching and the black head like things that started appearing over the groin area of my body. He didnít have a clue and said heíd contact my primary care physician, Dr.Spartos. Dr.Spartos, Tony to us as heíd been a friend of the family for years, said facetiously.

"Heís probably got crabs."

We all had a good laugh and Tony said to come in and see him the next day.

Now, a word about Tony Spartos, AKA Dr. Spartos. Weíve known Tony over 25 years. Our 2 daughters were in gymnastics together and, he would on occasion help out when I needed an MD at my ultra endurance events. We called him "Dr. Classic Case OfÖ" because his diagnoses were often preceded by that phrase. More often than not, his diagnoses were correct.

Tonyís office, the next day.

"Those are weird looking like blackheads or scabs."

"All I know is that the itching compounded by the secondary infection are driving me nuts."

Tony used tweezers to pull out a couple and sent them to the microscope. Minutes later, he came in and announced in Latin a phrase 80 syllables long. It didnít take more than 2 years of Latin to understand what he said.

"Tony, Crabs by any other name are still Crabs and thereís only 1 place I could have picked them up."

I related to him my experiences with the bottom-of-the-food-chain encountered in the hospital.

"Could the cause of the infection be related to the crabs?"

"Yes."

"We can clear this up but itís going to take a bit of work on your partÖ.and the family.."

Now, since Iím getting tired of writing about this, hereís the Readerís Digest version. It took 2 weeks for the infection in the stitches to heal and it took FOUR MONTHS to get rid of the critters. I later learned that the little darlings had mutated into a super species impervious to traditional treatment.

Conclusion. What did I learn from all this? First and foremost, Iím not immortal. Also, itís been a year and Iím still smoke free. The only down side is the weight gain.

OK, so Iíll die of a massive coronary instead of lung cancer. So it goes.