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Simplify and add lightness

Anyone familiar with the history of Lotus will instantly recognize the phrase. On Thursday night I would have recognized it… but never in my life would I have guessed how that would be the next major challenge in getting the Caterham done. This build-a-car thing is turning into one long never ending challenge it seems.

So Thursday night, Kim and I decided we were overdue for a date night. Stay in, cook dinner, and watch a movie together on the couch since we’d both been incredibly busy the last few weeks and hadn’t really had time for just us. Kim brought some Publix rotisserie chicken over and I had an extra package of Vigo red beans and rice from the un-re-boxing party; sounded perfect for a healthy dinner.

We ate around 7pm then moved down to the living room for the movie. On the way down I mentioned to her I shouldn’t have eaten as much as I did as I felt incredibly full and bloated. She said it didn’t look like I’d eaten that much and I agreed. We proceeded to watch the movie (Noah’s Ark… was eh, ok I guess).

Fast forward to 9pm. My chest hurt. A lot. It felt like my stomach was about to explode. I had horrible pressure and pain right under my breastplate and no matter how much I tried to burp or move just could not get comfortable. There were several comments made between Kim and I related to me being inhabited by a chest-burster (Aliens reference). Finally I hit the point where I decided I just needed to throw up and that would help ease the pressure on my chest and that I had just eaten too much too fast. With that thought process I got up off the couch, went into the kitchen, and made myself get sick in the sink. I didn’t throw up much, but just that little bit seemed to help.

Fast forward another 15 minutes. I was in even more pain than before. I threw up again, although this time it was MUCH easier to make happen. I was starting to think maybe something was really wrong. Kim asked if I needed to go to the emergency room… and I said yeah, we need to go.

Things moved quick from there, I grabbed my shoes, iPad, cell phone, and the car keys. We were in the car five minutes later and on the way to Northside Hospital. It’s a 20 minute drive with no traffic – by the time we got there I was in tears. Every minute that went by it seemed the pain doubled. Kim was starting to get very concerned; I could see it in her face.

She dropped me off at the door to the ER and I went in telling the first nurse I saw I had horrible pain my chest; immediately the nurse had me back in a room and was hooking me up for an EKG. Two minutes later the nurse told me I wasn’t having a heart attack; I guess that was good news, but it also meant I had to go back to the waiting room in horrible pain until a room opened up.

I went back out to the waiting room and sat there with Kim for what seemed like forever but was in reality about 15 minutes. I couldn’t get comfortable sitting, standing, walking; it was just never-ending pain in my chest. I also started to get even more nauseous and finally decided to just get it over with. I found a nurse, got a tongue depressor, and then went into the bathroom. I’ve never thrown up more violently in my life. I had burst blood vessels in my eyes, my face was just one giant splotch of red, and it looked like I’d wrestled a bear in there. Kim was aghast at how I looked when I came out. Later on that night the nurse asked if I had a rash on my face. Both Kim and I laughed and said no, that was from when I was throwing up earlier that night in the ER lobby bathroom.

A few minutes after my bear wrestling episode a nurse came and got me and I was shown back into a room in the ER. A doctor and another nurse came in to check my vitals; heart rate was way too high, blood pressure too high, had a fever of about 100, and was constantly sweating all over. At this point I’m thinking great, I’ve got some kind of food poisoning and that’d be it… well… I was wrong.

After discussion with the doctor they got me hooked up with an IV, got some fluids going in me, along with a morphine drip and some anti-nausea medicine. That helped take the edge off but didn’t do too much. A dose of Dilaudid was added, and then another, before I was finally comfortable. By now it was close to midnight and was taken in for a CT scan but not before I sucked down about a gallon of this yellow liquid. It was like cold thera-flu and tasted gross with the after affect of making seem like I’d attempted to swallow a half dozen dry cotton balls. Given that I was already nauseous this stuff didn’t help. It was also a good time for a photo op, you know, just for posterity. The smile is fake and forced (like you can’t tell).

Drinking the yellow goo

At this point I was actually pretty calm, thanks to the pain meds, and the guy running the CT scan machine and I had a good chat about motorcycles. I showed him a picture of the Caterham and so forth…. two gear heads chatting while we looked at my innards in black and white. Eventually we wrapped up and I got moved back to my ER room. Kim was asleep sitting sideways in her chair with her head on the wall. We tried not to wake her but weren’t successful.

After about 30 minutes, the doctor came back in and said they didn’t see anything conclusive on the CT scan, but wanted to do some further tests via ultrasound. They’d ruled out appendicitis at this point from the CT scan results, which is what Kim and I were thinking, since during all the waiting we’d Google’d everything we could about abdominal pain. That’s the good and bad thing about WebMD; if you got some malady you can self diagnose, but if you got nothing wrong with you, you’re convinced you’re about to die from a half dozen diseases you didn’t know existed. By now it was 3:30 in the morning and both Kim and I were zombies but she was being a trooper and didn’t complain once. I was getting short tempered, cranky, tired, and didn’t feel good. Pain med’s always bring out the worst in me.

The promised ultrasound happened around 4am and was largely uneventful. The nurse gooped up my chest, ran the transceiver over it, and took some pictures. I then flipped up on my side and they took more pictures. Shortly I was headed back to my berth in the ER and another dose of dilaudid. I asked the ultrasound tech if it was a boy or girl; she didn’t really laugh. I thought it was funny, but of course I was high on pain med’s so…

Around 5am I decided I wasn’t going to work the next day regardless of how this turned out; I was exhausted. As I started sending out messages to folks that I was in the ER and wouldn’t be in the next day, the doctor came in and announced “We got it. You’ve got stones in your gallbladder blocking the bile ducts, its inflamed, and needs to come out. We’re moving you upstairs to a room so we can start prepping for surgery.” Both Kim and I looked at each other for a second then I said “Ok, whatever we need to do let’s do it.”

From there a bunch of paperwork came my way, I got a new wristband, was dropped into a wheelchair, and sent upstairs to room 404. Ironic… that’s also my area code.

The rest of the morning went by quickly. Nurses came and went, doctors came and went, and in between all of it Kim and I took mini-naps as best we could.

Kim in nap mode

I was on IV drips, antibiotics, pain meds, oxygen, and couldn’t eat or drink. Kim disappeared for an hour or two to go home and get some clothes, charge cables for my phone and iPad, and to take a shower. I want to say I missed her but honestly there was so much activity going in and out of the room that I can’t really remember her even being gone.

Around 9am they came and collected me for surgery. Went through pre-op around 10am and was on the table by 11am. I remember the oxygen mask coming onto my face and that was it. I woke up 2 hours later in recovery with the familiar droopy eyelids that just did not want to open. I don’t know what it is about coming out of surgery, but every time I feel this war between my body falling back to sleep and knowing that I had to wake up. I didn’t know it at the time, but it had already been three and a half hours since I went in for surgery and my mom and Kim were worried; it was only supposed to take two hours end to end.

Around 3:30pm they got me back up to my room. Kim and my mom were already there; they’d gotten tired of sitting around the waiting room and figured they might as well go chill in my “medical suite” where it was quiet. After getting back from surgery the normal stream of nurses and doctors made their appearance. Mom left right after I got back. I felt bad she drove all the way to Atlanta to see me for five minutes, but knew she had to beat traffic to get back at some reasonable time. I was glad though that Kim had someone to hang out with while I was in surgery and I’m sure the two of them kept each other company. As I was getting settled the doctor poked his head in and said the laparoscopy had worked as they’d hoped and they didn’t need to cut me all the way open. I realized then I hadn’t actually looked at my incisions. So I hiked up my gown and took a peak; four small incisions about an inch long scattered across my abdomen with a layer of biological super glue over them. Kinda neat.

Throughout the afternoon not much happened; watched TV, hung out, then Mick showed up with presents! I got a Caterham F1 hat and a homemade card with some very funny gallbladder jokes. Cards got posted to the wall and the Caterham hat became my “walking hat” for my evening strolls throughout the night (had to get up every four hours and walk around the nurse’s station to prevent blood clots). Mick’s visit cheered me greatly; thanks Mick! The pic below is great; I was so high on pain med’s I look like I’m in outer space.

New hat and a smile

Friday night and Saturday morning was pretty uneventful, nurses and doctors every few hours to check my vital signs, I got fed dinner finally (crusted Tilapia, was good) – I hadn’t eaten in about 24 hours – and managed a couple hours of sleep Friday night. I took a stroll about 2am dressed in my gown and Caterham hat. I made small talk with a nurse and another patient on my journey; both commented on the hat and had to explain to both what a Caterham was exactly. They were both intrigued that you could actually order a car and build it. It was a buzzkill when they asked how I was going to build the car now that I was on six weeks of recovery for the surgery. In my head I was thinking “bloody hell two weeks ol’ chap”. Besides, the car isn’t even here yet.

Breakfast Saturday morning was eggs, grits, and pancakes – all lackluster – while I watched a rainy F1 qualifying session from Spa. The good news was the eggs gave me gas and was tooting up a storm under the blankets; I joke about it, but the doctors and the nurses actually said it was important I did that because it meant my digestive system was functioning. It wasn’t until they said that did I realize just how significant this surgery was.

F1 and breakfast

Shortly thereafter the doctor came in and said they’d be releasing me about noon. Kim packed our stuff and I was home a little after 2pm – the house was exactly as I’d left it in a rush Thursday night and it was kind of surreal that I hadn’t been home in almost two days.

And now it’s Sunday night and am watching the F1 race on the DVR while I write this. My stomach is a little tight and the incisions hurt but so far no sickness from eating and the pain pills seem to be doing their stuff in taking the edge off. Back to work tomorrow, working from home, and have gotten a few phone calls from people I work with checking in on me which is much appreciated and warms my mood greatly. Throughout the last two days I’ve had a ton of support from folks via email, Facebook, phone, and text – thanks everyone it meant a lot for all the support!!

Daniel