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Chronic Illness: Oh, What a Night!

oh what a night

There are days, and then there are DAYS; memorable days; unforgettable days. Yesterday, and into the early morning hours of today, was one of those unforgettable days. I have had a lot of bad, really bad, awful days over the past three years. Thanks to gastroparesis, fibromyalgia, and degenerative spine disease, every day is challenging. Most days are normal, but there are other days that stand above what has come to be my “new normal.”

About 7:00 pm last night, my battle with nausea kicked into overdrive. My goal is to avoid vomiting. I took some Zofran, hoping it would ratchet the nausea down to normal levels. An hour later, I realized that the medicine was not going to work (it usually works quickly). I finally felt that awful feeling, the call to bow before and worship the porcelain God. I slowly rose from my recliner, picked up my cane, put my right hand over my mouth, and made my way to the bathroom. I quickly knelt before the toilet and up came the contents of my stomach. I repeatedly vomited for what seemed like eternity. Once I determined that I was “safe,” I got up off the floor, washed my face and beard — which was covered with chunks of vomit — and returned to the living room. I still felt nauseous, so I took more Zofran, hoping that I wouldn’t have to throw up again. The medicine quickly kicked in. All praise be to Loki and modern medicine.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Polly came home from work at 2:30 am. She asked me if I wanted anything to eat. I told her nnnnnooooo! We watched a bit of TV and then headed for bed. The time was 3:45 am. Polly did her usual bathroom routine while I arranged my side of the bed in preparation for yet another titanic struggle with pain. I took my nightly medications, including Vicodin, Zanaflex, and Trazodone — all meant to reduce my pain so I could sleep. At 4:15 am, I told Polly “good night” and told her “I love you.” As is her custom, Polly gently patted my side and told me “I love you too. I hope you have a good night.” In a matter of minutes, Polly drifted off to sleep. I started watching a new series on Netflix, hoping to join Polly in dreamland one to three hours later.

Surprisingly, I fell quickly asleep, only to wake up an hour later. What could happen in an hour, right? Due to the excruciating pain in my back and neck, I typically sleep on my right side or on my stomach. This night, I started out on my side. Sometime during the hour I was asleep, my right leg fell off the bed (a common occurrence). When I woke up (the first time), I was alarmed to find that my leg and right arm were totally paralyzed (not numb, paralyzed — a first). It took me about ten minutes to get my leg back on the bed. I suspect the nerve (s) controlling my leg and arm had gotten pinched. Once I was properly situated on the bed, the paralysis eventually went away.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I wrangled my body on the bed something didn’t feel right. Why do my back and legs feel wet? I stood up by the bed and surveyed the blanket and sheets. Water, maybe? Nope. Shit. Lots of shit. I had lost control of my bowels. Worse, in trying to get my body settled, I had rolled in the shit. The “wet” on my back and legs was shit. Think: vanilla ice cream cone rolled in chocolate. I said to myself, “are you fucking kidding me?”

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

As I made my way to the bathroom to get a wet washcloth and towel, I noticed I was really weak and lightheaded. Halfway to the bathroom, I passed out for a second, sending me careening into a white folding table in the living room. Fortunately, this broke my fall.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Nope. You see, when I used the table to break my fall, my glasses were on the top of the table, Of all the things I could have hit, I put my full weight on my glasses, bending them to such a degree that I can’t wear them.

I finally made it to the bathroom, got the towels I needed, and returned to the bedroom to clean up my mess. Amazingly, Polly slept through all of this. I didn’t feel I needed to wake her up, though I could have used some emotional support. “My shit, my problem,” I told myself.

After cleaning the bed, I sat on the side of the bed for 30 minutes or so, head in hands, wondering if I could go on. I finally decided I could, and snuggled back in bed next to Polly.

Surely, this is enough for one day, right? Right? I mean, right?

Finally, I can say yes.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar
    Karuna Gal

    Lord, what you have to go through, Bruce! Stomach and colon problems are tough to deal with, and yours are dramatic ones. Damn! Sending you my best wishes. 😢🍀

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    Charles S. Oaxpatu

    Sorry. I have had my own unique versions of your story, and it ain’t no damned fun. “Tired afterwards” is my only observation on this old folks sickness activity.

    Perhaps, one of these days, I should tell you and everyone else here the story of “Mammy Walker” and her bowels. It was a horror story repeated numerous times in the house next door to mine when I was only five years old. My mom explained it to me in simple, straightforward terms:

    “Mammy’s bowels are running hard and fast, and the doctor can’t do anything to turn them off—–no matter how hard he tries.”

    All I could do was ponder what she said in my young mind, try to wrap my head around it, worry about my own ass end and what that would be like, and wonder why so many cars came to Mammy Walker’s house whenever such events occurred. It was like the whole town was showing up next door in response to an air raid siren.

  3. Avatar

    That has all the trauma and toil of the Odyssey. All that is missing is a pissed off Poseidon and a wooden horse full of Grecians.
    Hopefully tonight will be better.

  4. Avatar

    And yet, I think you are brave, too, Bruce. You are willing to tell us what you go through. I hope at least telling the story gives your heart a bit of comfort. When I was pregnant, I puked my guts up for months, much longer than normal pregnant ladies. Nothing compared to what you go through, but I can tell you puking is one of my least favorite things. Glad the meds finally kicked in!

    • Avatar
      Charles S. Oaxpatu

      Hi BJW. Ditto on the puking. I had rather have the runs all night than nausea and puke even one time. The wonderful antidepressant I took for 30 years prevented me from having nausea and puking for that same 30 years. When Senator Joe Manchin’s daughter killed manufacturing of that medication, nausea and puking came back into my life about three years ago. It has been just awful!!!

  5. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    There’s a fairly strong argument that this local (well – local to me) folk artist’s ditty on the interplay of prescription medication, relationships and the human bowel should never actually get to see the light of day. If that’s true, then hopefully it will get weeded out as it goes through moderation. And I’ll probably need to go into hiding from this blog’s comments section for a bit. But I guess that part of me still hoped that – despite the childishness – it might just cheer you all up. Oh, and by the way – “Bum” is used in the lyric very much in the Scottish idiom. Hope the link even works after all that…

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Bruce Gerencser