Sunday, March 30, 2008

Nearing blast-off!

Am in that pre-departure flurry as I get ready to leave for India on Tuesday: a 14-hour direct flight to Delhi. An overnight in the capital, a three-hour afternoon flight to Guwahati, a five-hour drive through the Assamese countryside, and I'll be there: Kaziranga National Park, about 38 hours door-to-door. Will be working on a series of stories, some that I pitched to editors nearly two years ago! It will be a wild three weeks in the field, in one of the few places left in Asia--and in India--that is home to the big, dangerous animals that have all but disappeared elsewhere: tigers, Asian elephants, Indian one-horned rhinos, king cobras, and more. Will write from the other side!

Monday, March 17, 2008

An In-there Experience

I just had an adventure, not a globetrotting out-there experience—it was an in-there experience, an institutional experience. One day, eating became a liability. Any old meal left me writhing my way through the night until I ended up in the Emergency Room. Since I wasn’t bleeding profusely or about to “code blue” on them on the spot, the word “shortly” took on a whole new meaning over the nine-plus hours I spent there.

Afternoon bled into evening and into the wee hours of the morning. They imaged the intimacy of my insides in various ways as I gazed with detached fascination at my organs pictured on computer screens. Gall bladder. Liver. Duodenum. Spleen.

They admitted me, forbidding food or liquid from midnight to after surgery—8:00 PM that night. I knew the few sips I snuck wouldn’t kill me, and my voice was cracking on the flurry of phone calls that came in on my cell phone.

In the end, I gave my gall bladder back to the hospital I was born in. They took it and my one huge gall stone out through four small holes. How do they do that? Brings to mind the same kinds of questions I have when I see a ship in a bottle. Laparoscopic surgery is amazing: it’s miraculous how quickly I’ve healed in just two weeks. So different than the same surgery my mother suffered when I was growing up—that left a diagonal eight-inch Frankenstein scar across her belly.

I asked the doc if I could have my stone, but it had to go to the lab. He claims he showed it to me after he’d put me back together, but I have absolutely no memory of our little show ‘n tell.

When I went for my checkup the other day, I asked the doc why I’d formed a gall stone. He thought in my case it was probably a bad roll of the genetic dice. Then he examined my four holes, grinned at me and told me to have a nice life—and goodbye!