The best laid plans of mice and Geoff…
I had planned to write a detailed report about the events of Thanksgiving #1 and Thanksgiving #2 once they had both transpired. We were just beginning the preparations for Thanksgiving #2 with Geoff, his mom, dad, brother Will and Will’s wife Keri (will and Keri drove nine hours from Springfield, MO and arrived at 1:30AM the night before) when Geoff started to complain of abdominal pain. Two things to know about Geoff: 1) he rarely complains of physical discomfort, unless he has been accidently racked by me or one of our dogs and 2) Geoff’s body does not respond in a normal way to sickness and disease. Some examples–Geoff is deathly allergic to tree nuts and bees, Geoff dreams in sound not visuals, Geoff acquired a rare and deadly intestinal parasite from India, and survived, Geoff had temporary, debilitating cysts along his spine that are now gone, Geoff once got bitten by a spider that caused his entire body to swell and turn red, Geoff is color blind, Geoff had a several week stint of night vomiting when he was in elementary school, Geoff fell and cut his knee open, twice, on the same sprinkler. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Geoff doesn’t get colds, he gets admitted to hospitals. So when Geoff’s tum-tum was a hurtin’ on the day of Thanksgiving #2 we all suspected that we were in this for the long hall. Geoff sheepishly suggested that we go to the urgent care clinic in Green county, whereas I suggested that we go straight to the emergency room at the hospital. Since I was driving and not suffering from debilitating abdominal pain, I won.
We were incredibly lucky that although it was a holiday weekend there was not a single soul in front of us when we got to the ER. We gave our information, the nurse triaged Geoff, and we were promptly escorted to our very own curtained cubicle. Within ten minutes he was seen by a physician. Within thirty he was slurping down a lovely barium cocktail, and less than two hours from our arrival he was in the catscan machine.
The surgeon met with Geoff pretty quickly after the cat-scan was over, asked a few questions, and confirmed that Geoff had appendicitis. Up until this point we still kind of believed that we’d be sent home with some magic pill in time to watch the LSU vs. Arkansas game and cook Thanksgiving #2. Hind sight has proven that we are optimistic dumb-dumbs.
So then things began to move in lightning fast motion. Before I knew it the super attentive ER nurses had Geoff stripped down to his birthday suit and they were shaving his abdomen (which would have been comical had it not been for the circumstances and the inherently gloomy tone of hospitals in general). Then they covered him up with a sheet and made him hand me his wedding ring. The wedding ring he never takes off. At this point I burst into tears. I was trying to be strong. I was trying to play up the “routine procedure” idea and play down the “we’re all gonna die!” idea, but I was not super successful. In fact, I was so unsuccessful that after they wheeled Geoff off to the OR, the ER nurse didn’t want to leave me alone in the surgery waiting room. I tried to convince her that I was fine and I had my sh*t together, but the fact that I could only slobber my words reduced my credibility.
Fortunately, only a couple of sobs after I arrived in the surgery waiting room my parents-in-law and Will and Keri arrived, at which point hysterical sobbing became too embarrassing, so I pulled myself together. The surgery was quick, and before we knew it the surgeon jauntily strolled into the waiting room and presented us with Geoff’s actual appendix. Yes. In a little metal bowl. His real appendix. Some of you all might be grossed out by this, but know, since I am a scientist at heart, that this made my day. I immediately snapped a picture.
Shortly after the viewing of the organ and a detailed discussion about Bill Clinton between the surgeon and my mother-in-law, Geoff was wheeled out to us in a glorious and groggy stupor. At this point we still believed (mistakenly) that Geoff was a normal patient. Again, hindsight has its way with us. When Geoff was rolled from the OR to his room the doctor said someone of his age and fitness level should be out of the hospital in less than 24 hours. I’m pretty sure diabetic grandmothers only have to stay like 36 hours after this procedure. The doc said the surgery was completely routine and successful, the appendix came out perfectly, and it had not yet burst, so there was no reason to anticipate any complications. If you are a baseball fan (and a Geoff fan) then you know that the doctor “jinxed the dirt” with his reliance on science and previous experience to offer a guess at when Geoff might be released. He did not know that Geoff is a freak of nature. He did not know that Geoff eats left handed. He did not know what he was in for.
By Sunday morning it was clear that Geoff would not be leaving the hospital with the same swiftness other 33-year old fit and healthy farmers do. Geoff was basically green for 48 hours. When he quit being green, he was hunched over for hours on end. He did not sleep at night. He walked the halls constantly (as walking is the cure recommended by every single doctor, nurse, orderly, visitor, and stranger that we spoke with during our stay). In the end the doc diagnosed G with an ileus, which loosely translates to “weird paralyzed colon situation that some people (like people who dream in sound) get when they have their appendix out.”
Nerd Alert: If we were to graph Geoff’s level of physical comfort and health in this situation, the graph would be basically linear with a positive slope. Each day he improved, SLOWLY, but steadily. You could literally see him change in color from puke green to his normal pinkish red. His mobility went from basically nothing to almost normal just at a slower pace. As with all things, Geoff was disciplined, moderate, and consistent. He did everything that the doctors asked, explicitly.
My graph on the other had would be more sinusoidal. My emotions bounced between panic and relief, certainty and uncertainty, hope and despair. At first it seemed like we’d be out in two days, then three, then four, then (brain explosion) five. First Geoff’s prognosis was good, then complicated, then uncertain, and then reasonably certain. We both did our best, but we both have some areas where we could improve. Geoff could try to be a more normal patient, and I can try not to let my imagination run away with me and turn me into a blubbering idiot when I need to be strong.
Fortunately, my father-in-law, Randy, has stayed with us since Saturday and helped us tremendously on the farm. Without him we might have had to rename the farm “Goat Mutiny Ranch” or “Guinea Fowl in the Road Farm.” And without Randy my Kayak would have surely be in Nashville by now had it washed away in the heavy rains we had two nights ago. Randy has been a lifesaver.
Also saving lives and brightening people’s spirits have been my great friends from school, they helped pick up my slack when I was absent for the past three days, they called to check on us, they came by and performed impromptu comedy routines in a clever attempt to help un-paralyze Geoff’s colon.
Although Thanksgiving#2 was cancelled, Geoff and I have no shortage of things to be thankful for. We have friends and family we can count on when we’re in a pickle. Geoff survived his routine operation and his freakishly unexpected complications. We got to see both of our families for a good amount of time this holiday season. And Bailey only ate most of our baked goods in protest over Geoff’s absence. We are truly blessed.
And, for anyone who is interested, we have a full color DVD of Geoff’s surgery.