I have to confess that I did not have high hopes for this holiday season of 2020. In a year that resembled a flaming turd, wrapped in a tsunami of vomit, lovingly frosted with cold piss, the so called "holiday spirit" completely eluded me.
My only wish was to remain somewhat whole. Still floating aimlessly in that sea of tears and emotions I could hardly comprehend, but with a semblance of wholeness. That was all. I just wanted to tip toe across the month of December and into 2021.
Hardly surprising, it all went down like a lead balloon.
While I was desperately trying to decide if twinkling lights were in any way admissible or even in good taste given the circumstances, something else was happening inside my body. Yep. That body that enjoys taking me to the brink and then pulls me back from the edge of the abyss. That body that can't be appeased by any substance, any medicine. That body that refuses to give me a break, not even during "the most magical time of the year". Something was brewing, and it was not (unfortunately) just a benign, celebratory fart.
In early December, I woke up with unusual pain. Intense pain. I vomited bright yellow bile more times than I care to remember. I couldn't eat or drink. Not even ice chips were palatable to my stomach. It was not my usual piercing facial pain. That is a known entity to me, as familiar as the embrace of an efficient iron maiden. No. This was different and unexpected. I did not speak its language. I could not put it into words. By evening time, I couldn't stand up.
The ER has never qualified as a very festive destination. Everyone is on edge. Everyone is tired. This time, I went in via wheelchair and tried my best to explain. I couldn't say much and my brain was quickly reverting to Spanish, which is an interesting phenomenon that takes place in desperate times. In broken English I listed my allergies, told them I couldn't catch my breath and before I knew it I had an IV in my right arm. My "good arm" for this sort of thing, as I like to call it. I think it was clear to everyone involved that this was not my first rodeo.
Waiting. Waiting. More waiting followed. Some blood was taken. I tried to chit chat incoherently with nurses I couldn't tell apart. "I'm from Madrid" I said time and again, as if that qualified me for some special prize. Finally the pain meds kicked in and the saline replaced my grayish complexion with a more human-like color.
A few hours later, a doctor came in and asked me if I wanted to be moved into the hospital. It's a short elevator ride away. In my painkiller induced daze, I took a moment to consider the offer. A very brief moment indeed. It all flashed in front of my eyes: the calls to the kids, canceled work projects, the abrupt end of eight months of isolation, Amazon boxes being stolen from my doorstep, my chickens freezing to death in their run, dog poop all over the carpets with nobody to take care of Cupcake, the many bills (so cruel and incomprehensible to my European mind), the risk of exposure to Covid-19.
I just shook my head. I couldn't speak. I just used the international gesture for "NO WAY".
And just like that, I was off.
Besides, I had not been told what was wrong with me, and taking that step seemed overly dramatic at that point. The question seemed superfluous. The answer quite easy. That doctor gave me an out and I knowingly took it.
I was home by early morning armed with antiemetics, painkillers. and antacids. I remembered Lulu Diamonds (if you watch SNL, and love Melissa McCarthy you are an insider) and wondered who she had stolen those cat tranquilizers from. I sure needed some myself.
A bumpy three weeks followed. So bumpy that on Christmas Eve the pain under my ribs was excruciating enough that I was now demanding answers. This time I walked into the ER. I knew the drill. I verbally wrestled with the intake nurse who insisted that I "should not say things like ultrasound without my doctor's permission". He was impatient and the place was hopping and loud. He quickly unloaded me onto another nurse. He was the first in what looked like a revolving door of nurses in a Marx Brother's film. I thought someone was going to ask for a hard boiled egg at any moment. (Again, this joke is only for film buffs). The inevitable needle came. The doctor showed up and ordered a CT scan. Now I could confidently say "CT scan" with doctor's permission. The only thing to do now was wait.
But, crucially, while I waited, another unrecognizable nurse came into the room with a bag filled with clear fluid announcing that he had "the good stuff". Ok, I thought. The saline that I had been given three weeks prior had really helped, and I wanted to make the needle in my arm pay. I didn't think anything of it.
"No tumors. No masses" the same initial doctor told me waking me up from my stupor. I was glad. "The best Christmas present" I yelled through two masks (one rigid, one floppy) while he walked out the door. Now, I can go home, I thought.
Upon arriving home and after thoroughly decontaminating, I noticed my stomach was distended and bloated. I was dizzy. I was uncharacteristically hungry. I was apprehensive and teary. I didn't sleep much. A few hours later I was thrashing about, unable to open my swollen eyes, mouth puffy, audible sledgehammer in my ears. My heart was pounding and my body was rigid. I was having an allergic reaction.
A litany of meds followed. I had no intention of returning to the ER in less than ten hours, but nothing mitigated the pain. Nothing. You know you are in trouble when later, someone describes to you a loud, guttural groan of pain you don't even remember making. I remember crying. I remember moving from side to side and pleading for relief. I remember hitting my head with my fists. I don't remember yelling, although I'm assured I did.
That was my Christmas Day. One for my history books. One I would only wish on my worst enemy...and you know who you are.
If your day was indeed dull and, sadly, you did not get to spend it with your family. If you did not get that exact gift you had been hoping for, or perhaps missed a riotous yearly party, remember that a lot of people had it far worse.
2020 did not come bearing gifts of myrrh or gold, after all. It came demanding a blood tribute, and it got it in spades. Consider yourself fortunate if you had a quiet, even boring Christmas day. A good number of folks were dealing with physical and mental pain, many others sat with their grief and sipped on flat despair.
I do hope your holidays were uneventful. Those are the best kind of holidays. May you always have the most uneventful and plain of holidays. Here's to a more humane 2021.