Trout Fisting In America #26 – Ulcer

It looks like a spanish verb, doesn’t it? Ulgo, Ulces, Ulce, Ulcemeos, Ulceron. Never really learned 2nd person plural, the vosotros form—growing up 15mi from Mexico I guess nobody thought we needed to learn it.

I still wonder how this whole parenting experience would be different if our kid hadn’t gotten sick when he was two weeks old. It was a life-threatening illness—two different ‘superbug’ strains of e-coli residing in his urinary tract. He had lost a little bit of weight since he was born (normal), turned a little yellow (also normal), had trouble learning to breastfeed (extremely normal) but it wasn’t until the morning he spiked a fever that we called the pediatrician who told us to bring him in.

She weighed him, took his temperature, did a couple of more tests and came back into the room. ‘I’ve gone ahead and called the hospital, and they’re holding a room for you. I think you’ll get there faster if you drive yourselves instead of taking an ambulance.’

And we were off. I still remember the drive, the way we had to fill out the paperwork and process our insurance info before they’d admit him—which considering we’d been told to get there as fast as we could, seemed a little un-hippocratical (at the time he was covered under my wife’s insurance, which we lost three weeks later when her grad school assistantship wasn’t renewed—we scrambled to get him covered under medicaid, which he is still covered under today thank you very much). They got him hooked up to an IV. At the time I thought our son was very brave for not crying when they put the needle in, I realized later that he was just that sick. Anyway, the IV helped, and within a few days they’d found a strain of antibiotic that could fight off the bacteria. It wasn’t approved for children under a year old, but we didn’t have much choice, and thankfully subsequent tests in Atlanta revealed there was no damage to his kidneys or his hearing (possible side-effects from the antibiotics).

At the time, I said I’d be happy to donate one of my kidneys if he needed it, even if it meant he’d look a little funny for a few years until he grew into it. Nobody laughed, so don’t feel bad for not thinking I’m funny. I’m used to it.

So yeah, within a few days he was out of the woods, the life-threatening woods anyway, which if you don’t know that those woods are real and can come for your loved ones at anytime, well let’s just say that his mom & I were already well too aware of the chaotic destructive forces of the universe and if you aren’t well then I envy you your innocence.

But there was still a problem, because his nutritional needs were being met through the IV, and because he’d been a lethargic breast-feeder up until now, there were supply & demand problems re: milk that needed to be solved. Luckily we had a great lactation consultant who came up with a plan that turned out to be successful. Unfortunately it involved feeding the little guy around the clock every three hours. It went like this: the alarm goes off on my phone and we spring into action. While my wife feeds him 10min on each side I prepare a bottle of milk for him, which involves warming up her pumped milk from the last session and topping it off w/pre-made formula provided by the hospital. After his feeding session w/my wife, I’d then tape a thin tube to my fingertip and, holding the bottle above my finger like an IV bag, put my finger in my son’s mouth and let him drink that milk through the tube. And while he drank, my wife would pump for the next session, and once he finished the bottle I’d made for him, we’d try and get him back to sleep and then use whatever time was left to sleep for ourselves.

I need to be clear: if the alarm went off at 11pm, the next session started at 2am, regardless of how long it took to feed him or get him to sleep. And then the next alarm went off at 5am. And so on. We did this for four straight days. It worked—he was able to feed into his second year—but you can imagine what kind of zombies we were after 4 straight days of this.

Another side-effect was the adrenaline rush that came w/being woken up by an alarm every 3hrs, in part b/c you have to rely on your adrenaline to get you through something like that, to help you cope w/the exhaustion.

I’ve always been a heavy sleeper. Years of sleeping in your car, or next to an airport, or with loud roommates, will enable you to sleep through anything. But even now, three years after that 10-day hospital stay, I’m the first one to wake up when he makes noise. And it’s only lately that I start waking up w/o an accompanying rush of adrenaline that makes it impossible to fall right back to sleep. When he was tiny and waking up in the middle of the night, I’d have to go downstairs and have a bowl of cereal, or some peanut butter sandwiches (single slice w/PB on the left side and then folded in half) before I could get back to sleep. As a result, I started eating more than I’d ever eaten in my life, and despite being considered underweight, began to develop a gut.

It’s also around this time I started experiencing stomach pains unlike anything I’d ever felt before. If I was frustrated, irritated, upset,  or pissed-off, then it got even worse (note: if your child is under a year old you will feel these things often—usually it has more to do w/your own lack of sleep than the child’s actual behavior). As my stomach continued to churn & bloat, as I found myself continuing to eat huge quantities of food, I started to think i should go see a doctor.

Luckily, my kid’s medicaid meant I got medicaid too, and so I called my doctor. She ran some tests and told me to ease back on the coffee, the spicy foods, the alcohol etc. b/c it wasn’t an ulcer yet, but there was some serious gastrointestinal stuff going on. I got a prescription for some pills that were basically extra-strength pepcid. I got my bike fixed, got a trailer for the kid, and started getting some goddamned exercise. My pants started to fit again, the bloating subsided, but the adrenaline rushes didn’t. Every time my kid woke up in the middle of the night I was like a firefighter leaping into action, and it’s only been the past couple of months that I’ve started to calmly walk across the bedroom floor instead of blindly, frantically stumbling.

And yet, and yet, the experience of him getting sick, followed by nursing him back to health, brought some serious real-world stuff into what had, up until then, been a cool weird trip. Before he got sick I was just some guy hanging out with a baby, afterwards I was a father prepared to do anything so my son might live. You bet your ass I would’ve had a lot more fun if he hadn’t gotten sick. The stomach pain still surfaces from time to time, but I just pop a pill and remind myself to chill the fuck out.

A glass of ice water w/a lime wedge in it also helps, and that was a public service announcement that all by itself justifies the price of this book.

And while I’m not exactly sure what this story has to do with Trout Fisting and/or America, it still feels somehow relevant to the overall story I’m attempting to tell here, a story in which all of us are suffering despite doing the best that we can to get by, in which all of us are killing ourselves in order to live and feeling scared & isolated & terrified while our bodies are filled w/vast oceans of bile that inflict tremendous amount of pain and turn our bodies distended and cause us to rant into the abyss even as we all spin further out of control.

Trout Fisting In America appears here every Tuesday. We’re going to keep going until we reach #50, or until the Trout begs for mercy. You can check out previous installments HERE.

About ScottCreney

Scott Creney lives in Athens, Georgia. He is the author of "Dear Al-Qaeda: Letters to the World’s Most Notorious Terror Organiztion".
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