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African Journal #22: The Hospital Room View of San Diego

Posted Feb 19 2009 6:31pm

September 8, 2008

San Diego

Where did the time go? It’s been such a blur, I’m sitting in an office of a home in Washington, DC, debating whether I should hit the sack at 11pm or do a journal. Long due.

My trip to San Diego via a new airline, Sun Country, was anything but pleasant. My head cold prevented me from breathing through my nose, the cabin was filled with icy, unnatural air and the airline was too cheap to provide warm blankets and pillows. But the economy today is hard, y’know, affecting airlines. Anyway, I was greeted by a stranger, a deaf surfette, Erin at the gate. She’s a good friend of a good friend of mine, so the trust was there. Erin took me to picturesque Pacific Beach for a sundown stroll, then we indulged in great introductory conversation at a sushi boat eatery. You cannot find yellowtail tuna, tofu, salmon, seaweed or sashimi in Nigeria, so it was a heavenly treat.
Come Wednesday, a hearty breakfast at Mission Bay Café, an afternoon basking in the sun on Pacific Beach while Erin and Matt surfed, and a night on the town summed up to be a great day. I wasn’t feeling so icky anymore so I was on the road to recovery.

Adam Stone and Erica Parker, friends from a few years back, picked me up and we were off to visit the legendary Del Mar horse races. Adam’s beautiful family home sat on a hilltop, a mere mile from the horse track – I was envious. It was in stark contrast to what I had lived in Nigeria, the southern Californian house equipped with linoleum flooring, bubbling hot tub adjacent to a pool and exquisite art hanging around the home. I hope Adam wouldn’t mind me spilling some of his home decoration secrets.

A hot but dry afternoon at the Del Mar track was interesting, seeing upper class folk in their pretty polka dot dresses and large brimmed hats, Gucci sunglasses, men in their gambling finest and straw fedoras. I hung by the fence, opting to look over the railing rather than bringing my monogrammed C.A,R. lawnchairs and my trusty Del Mar T-shirt. Tacky.

We were in the mood for some grub at a Thai restaurant in the hills. I had some satay with a Tom Yum soup and some great conversations in tactile with Adam and Erica. By the end of dinner, I was experiencing some sort of acid-like discomfort in my upper stomach. I started sweating, and told Adam to drive me home. They dropped me off at Erin’s apartment by 9pm, but she wasn’t home til late. After my dinner dates left, I laid on the couch, munching on Tums and hoping the acid reflux would go away. I had that several times, so laying down sometimes helped. But by 9:30pm, I started feeling queasy and ran to the bathroom. There went my breakfast, lunch and dinner in the toilet, that went on every 15 minutes. I continued throwing up until Erin got home at 2am and was shocked to find me looking so sick on the couch. She checked in on me, then had to sleep for work the next day. By 7am, Erin woke up to find me slumped in the bathroom, STILL throwing up. I had no solid food left in my system, so my liver bile was the only thing left. Erin encouraged me to go to the hospital, so off we went. I felt so weak, my legs trembling and I had to lean on railings, Erin and something solid for support. I felt like throwing up even more.

The emergency room at Scripps Mercy Hospital near North Park was the closest one Erin drove me to. The ER wasn’t packed, only two quiet people sat by while they waited for their call. I sat in the chair, looking for a garbage can to throw up in. Erin wrote down information, and interpreted environmental and written information. Erin has several Deaf Blind friends, so it was easier for her to be able to tune in on my needs to know what was around me, so she continually gave me clues to what was around me. That put me at ease. After I took some medicine, I stopped throwing up and was admitted as a patient. A male interpreter showed up, which I would call Joe, much to my surprise. I thought the hospital would get a woman interpreter. But I was too disoriented to complain. I underwent several tests: ultrasound, Cat Scan, urine and blood tests and a full physical. It was determined that I had several gallstones floating around and one got clogged in the hole between the gallbladder and the tube from the liver to the stomach. It was hard to believe that a gallbladder, which has very little use, could make me so sick with gallstones. One of the causes for the gallstone development was rapid weight loss. I had lost almost 70 pounds in a total of four months, which resulted in hard rocks forming. There actually is a downside to weight loss?!?

The doc gave me two options: I had to have surgery on Saturday, August 9th, remove my gallbladder via surgery, or take some medicine and the pain would go away… temporarily. It could come back with a vengeance in Nigeria… imagine this: small town clinic, seven hours away from the capital with better hospitals? Possibly a doctor that graduated from vet school. My overworking but cautious imagination led me to make the decision to opt for surgery in San Diego, not somewhere on the foot of the Sahara Desert.

But, oh horror! There was the presentation I had scheduled to give on Saturday afternoon at 3pm at De Anza Cove! A beautiful day on a beach, people sitting on the grass watching Coco tell stories of her life in Africa. Now that bubble has popped. I wanted that to happen, so after the doctor left, I told Adam, Erica, Erin and a new, cool friend, Cindi, that I wanted to change the location to the 6th floor of Scripps Mercy, the same day of my surgery, time pushed to 5pm. They all thought I was nuts. Indeedy! My work for VSO has made me a more passionate person, I would go to any lengths to ensure that a dream comes true. I dreamed of this moment in San Diego, and it was going to happen.

At 11am, I was prepped for the operation, with well wishes from Cindi and the hospital staff. Joe, the interp, returned in the morning and I immediately requested for an interpreter change. Joe accompanied me into the OR, and due to lack of warning, I passed out from the anesthesia.

I woke up from the 2 hour surgery, groggy from the meds, to find a new female interpreter and Cindi waiting for me. My torso (stomach area) felt so numb, yet sore. I could not move around. I felt like I was on Cloud Nine. Everythin seemed like it was a dream. Adam and Erica showed up in the afternoon, unsure if I would be well enough to give a 2 hour presentation. With eagerness and stubbornness, I told them it’s really going to go as planned. I prepared my vlogs for the audience to see, and I dressed myself in a beautiful printed Nigerian robe. My IV was hooked up, and morphine was dripping, keeping me afloat.

Five o’clock struck, and a steady stream of people showed up. Several of them were former Gallaudet colleagues, and some of them total strangers. Twelve people, two hours, three funny stories and $173.00 later, I completed Tactile Nigeria: San Diego with several business cards, satisfied and amazed people, and a big smile on my face. It was from the euphoria of doing a crazy thing, and it was mostly from the morphine.

I was released from Scripps Mercy on Sunday morning, from the hospital bed into Erin’s car. We headed to the drug store to get a fill of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, as well as antibiotics. I could not believe how much pain I was in, from the four small incisions made on my torso. Four cuts for: 1) scissor, 2) clamp, 3) videocamera, and 4) to take the gallbladder out. The muscle area was sewn, while the top layer of my skin had surgical glue and tape on top.

In the evening, Erin helped me pack my bags for my trip to Portland, Oregon early Monday morning. I could not wait any longer or waste any time seeing the ubercool Zach Wineman – the terp guy that accompanied me to Nigeria back in March. His posse in Portland – Boots, Alisha – bonus.

I am more and more amazed at the courage I have. When people tell me that, I just nod humbly and ponder the measurement of courage in different people. I wake up everyday as an ordinary person, think about what I want to eat for breakfast and who I want to see. I don’t think often about the impact I make on others, nor the impact they make on me. I just tread in daily life as usual, but when I tell stories of survival like this, I sit back and say, whoa. There have been some people in my life that have easily given up when life gets tough, either choosing drugs or alcohol to wipe the realities away, or ending their lives. I know I have gone through so much in life, and I am thankful everyday for living, and for the people I have by my side. That goes for strangers like Erin, Cindi and the support system from the internets and afar.

I now look at my scars, remembering the journeys I made with each and every one of them. From head to toe.

The bed is calling me. I doubt I will be up with the sun, but I’ll be equally happy to get something like this out of my system. Until next time.

Tactile love,
Coco

September 8, 2008

San Diego

Where did the time go? It’s been such a blur, I’m sitting in an office of a home in Washington, DC, debating whether I should hit the sack at 11pm or do a journal. Long due.

My trip to San Diego via a new airline, Sun Country, was anything but pleasant. My head cold prevented me from breathing through my nose, the cabin was filled with icy, unnatural air and the airline was too cheap to provide warm blankets and pillows. But the economy today is hard, y’know, affecting airlines. Anyway, I was greeted by a stranger, a deaf surfette, Erin at the gate. She’s a good friend of a good friend of mine, so the trust was there. Erin took me to picturesque Pacific Beach for a sundown stroll, then we indulged in great introductory conversation at a sushi boat eatery. You cannot find yellowtail tuna, tofu, salmon, seaweed or sashimi in Nigeria, so it was a heavenly treat.
Come Wednesday, a hearty breakfast at Mission Bay Café, an afternoon basking in the sun on Pacific Beach while Erin and Matt surfed, and a night on the town summed up to be a great day. I wasn’t feeling so icky anymore so I was on the road to recovery.

Adam Stone and Erica Parker, friends from a few years back, picked me up and we were off to visit the legendary Del Mar horse races. Adam’s beautiful family home sat on a hilltop, a mere mile from the horse track – I was envious. It was in stark contrast to what I had lived in Nigeria, the southern Californian house equipped with linoleum flooring, bubbling hot tub adjacent to a pool and exquisite art hanging around the home. I hope Adam wouldn’t mind me spilling some of his home decoration secrets.

A hot but dry afternoon at the Del Mar track was interesting, seeing upper class folk in their pretty polka dot dresses and large brimmed hats, Gucci sunglasses, men in their gambling finest and straw fedoras. I hung by the fence, opting to look over the railing rather than bringing my monogrammed C.A,R. lawnchairs and my trusty Del Mar T-shirt. Tacky.

We were in the mood for some grub at a Thai restaurant in the hills. I had some satay with a Tom Yum soup and some great conversations in tactile with Adam and Erica. By the end of dinner, I was experiencing some sort of acid-like discomfort in my upper stomach. I started sweating, and told Adam to drive me home. They dropped me off at Erin’s apartment by 9pm, but she wasn’t home til late. After my dinner dates left, I laid on the couch, munching on Tums and hoping the acid reflux would go away. I had that several times, so laying down sometimes helped. But by 9:30pm, I started feeling queasy and ran to the bathroom. There went my breakfast, lunch and dinner in the toilet, that went on every 15 minutes. I continued throwing up until Erin got home at 2am and was shocked to find me looking so sick on the couch. She checked in on me, then had to sleep for work the next day. By 7am, Erin woke up to find me slumped in the bathroom, STILL throwing up. I had no solid food left in my system, so my liver bile was the only thing left. Erin encouraged me to go to the hospital, so off we went. I felt so weak, my legs trembling and I had to lean on railings, Erin and something solid for support. I felt like throwing up even more.

The emergency room at Scripps Mercy Hospital near North Park was the closest one Erin drove me to. The ER wasn’t packed, only two quiet people sat by while they waited for their call. I sat in the chair, looking for a garbage can to throw up in. Erin wrote down information, and interpreted environmental and written information. Erin has several Deaf Blind friends, so it was easier for her to be able to tune in on my needs to know what was around me, so she continually gave me clues to what was around me. That put me at ease. After I took some medicine, I stopped throwing up and was admitted as a patient. A male interpreter showed up, which I would call Joe, much to my surprise. I thought the hospital would get a woman interpreter. But I was too disoriented to complain. I underwent several tests: ultrasound, Cat Scan, urine and blood tests and a full physical. It was determined that I had several gallstones floating around and one got clogged in the hole between the gallbladder and the tube from the liver to the stomach. It was hard to believe that a gallbladder, which has very little use, could make me so sick with gallstones. One of the causes for the gallstone development was rapid weight loss. I had lost almost 70 pounds in a total of four months, which resulted in hard rocks forming. There actually is a downside to weight loss?!?

The doc gave me two options: I had to have surgery on Saturday, August 9th, remove my gallbladder via surgery, or take some medicine and the pain would go away… temporarily. It could come back with a vengeance in Nigeria… imagine this: small town clinic, seven hours away from the capital with better hospitals? Possibly a doctor that graduated from vet school. My overworking but cautious imagination led me to make the decision to opt for surgery in San Diego, not somewhere on the foot of the Sahara Desert.

But, oh horror! There was the presentation I had scheduled to give on Saturday afternoon at 3pm at De Anza Cove! A beautiful day on a beach, people sitting on the grass watching Coco tell stories of her life in Africa. Now that bubble has popped. I wanted that to happen, so after the doctor left, I told Adam, Erica, Erin and a new, cool friend, Cindi, that I wanted to change the location to the 6th floor of Scripps Mercy, the same day of my surgery, time pushed to 5pm. They all thought I was nuts. Indeedy! My work for VSO has made me a more passionate person, I would go to any lengths to ensure that a dream comes true. I dreamed of this moment in San Diego, and it was going to happen.

At 11am, I was prepped for the operation, with well wishes from Cindi and the hospital staff. Joe, the interp, returned in the morning and I immediately requested for an interpreter change. Joe accompanied me into the OR, and due to lack of warning, I passed out from the anesthesia.

I woke up from the 2 hour surgery, groggy from the meds, to find a new female interpreter and Cindi waiting for me. My torso (stomach area) felt so numb, yet sore. I could not move around. I felt like I was on Cloud Nine. Everythin seemed like it was a dream. Adam and Erica showed up in the afternoon, unsure if I would be well enough to give a 2 hour presentation. With eagerness and stubbornness, I told them it’s really going to go as planned. I prepared my vlogs for the audience to see, and I dressed myself in a beautiful printed Nigerian robe. My IV was hooked up, and morphine was dripping, keeping me afloat.

Five o’clock struck, and a steady stream of people showed up. Several of them were former Gallaudet colleagues, and some of them total strangers. Twelve people, two hours, three funny stories and $173.00 later, I completed Tactile Nigeria: San Diego with several business cards, satisfied and amazed people, and a big smile on my face. It was from the euphoria of doing a crazy thing, and it was mostly from the morphine.

I was released from Scripps Mercy on Sunday morning, from the hospital bed into Erin’s car. We headed to the drug store to get a fill of Hydrocodone and Oxycodone, as well as antibiotics. I could not believe how much pain I was in, from the four small incisions made on my torso. Four cuts for: 1) scissor, 2) clamp, 3) videocamera, and 4) to take the gallbladder out. The muscle area was sewn, while the top layer of my skin had surgical glue and tape on top.

In the evening, Erin helped me pack my bags for my trip to Portland, Oregon early Monday morning. I could not wait any longer or waste any time seeing the ubercool Zach Wineman – the terp guy that accompanied me to Nigeria back in March. His posse in Portland – Boots, Alisha – bonus.

I am more and more amazed at the courage I have. When people tell me that, I just nod humbly and ponder the measurement of courage in different people. I wake up everyday as an ordinary person, think about what I want to eat for breakfast and who I want to see. I don’t think often about the impact I make on others, nor the impact they make on me. I just tread in daily life as usual, but when I tell stories of survival like this, I sit back and say, whoa. There have been some people in my life that have easily given up when life gets tough, either choosing drugs or alcohol to wipe the realities away, or ending their lives. I know I have gone through so much in life, and I am thankful everyday for living, and for the people I have by my side. That goes for strangers like Erin, Cindi and the support system from the internets and afar.

I now look at my scars, remembering the journeys I made with each and every one of them. From head to toe.

The bed is calling me. I doubt I will be up with the sun, but I’ll be equally happy to get something like this out of my system. Until next time.

Tactile love,
Coco

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