Monday, 1 September 2008

On close shaves with homelessness and having pieces of me removed

Before I begin, I'll warn you - this is a long, episodic story, and a relatively slow mover. Stick with it though - it involves a man sticking his finger up my arse, and I know that's what most of you are hoping for every time you log on to read a new post.

Last week I had a friend staying over as he explored Vienna as the last stop on his European adventure. Unfortunately, it was a last minute decision for him to come so I didn't have time to arrange a few days off from work, but I managed to keep my Saturday free so shenanigans could be had. And had they were - we took in the fairground, and then went partying until 6am-ish, finishing up the night by napping on the underground, and then watching a man take on six other guys in a street fight whilst eating a kebab. Us that is - Brawly had opted for a hot dog as his weapon of choice - a wise decision as they fit nicely into a balled fist, allowing punches to be thrown without letting go of the delicious snack, whereas a kebab would have shot bits of meat and garlic sauce all over the place.

Anyways, the following evening I was back at work, and whilst it wasn't too exhausting - people have better things to do on a Sunday I guess, towards the end of my shift I felt a nagging, dull pain in my side. It was aggravated with each step I took, but was completely tolerable so I didn't panic, but put it down to my kidneys taking revenge on me for the previous night's session.

Earlier that evening my friend had popped in to pick up my house keys, and stayed for a few beers. I feared he'd get home and fall asleep and so warned him that it was my only set and that he'd need to stay awake or at least leave his phone on loud and near his ear. I also pointed out that the apartment door could be a bit stiff to open and that if he had any problems to call me or come back to the pub. When 2am came limping along, I hurried home, the pain in my side easing a little, and called Josh (the doorbell works, but is not very audible, even when awake). I could see from the street that the lights in the living room - his bedroom for now - were off. Not a good sign. His phone remained unanswered and I remained outside in the street considering my options. I tried calling a few more times, but to no avail. I noticed the living room window open, so began to shout him, but as it was now close to 3am, and on a heavily populated street I had to do that whispery shout thing that actually serves no purpose in any situation. Unsurprisingly, this did nothing to rouse him, so I upped the decibel level of my shouts, gradually increasing the bellow factor in the hope my neighbours wouldn't notice my incremental increase in volume.

So what had begun as a faint "josh? *pause* josh? *pause* josh?" gradually escalated into an all out "JOSH!JOSH!JOSH!JOSH!JOSH!JOSH!" with a handful of ill-executed wolf whistles thrown in for good measure. It was at the "WAKE UP AND OPEN THE FUCKING DOOR YOU BASTARD!" point that a neighbour poked his head out the third floor window and angrily yelled at me to shut the fuck up as it was 3:30 on a Monday morning. I shrugged apologetically, waited until he'd retreated inside and then put the next stage of my plan into action. Well, I say plan, but at this point I was at a kind of loss, so my 'plan' involved rummaging around in my bag for stuff to try and throw through the window and hopefully wake him. Chucking stuff through a window 10 metres directly above your head is not easy but I managed to score with a bottle of contact lens solution, a can of deodorant, and one of my work shoes, the other left taunting me by perching itself soundlessly on the windowsill.

No joy. I resigned myself to the fact that I'd be spending my night on a nearby park bench (all my friends in the area had wisely decided to turn off their phones as they slept - what kind of an idiot makes calls at that time anyway?). As I trudged off cursing, I figured I had nothing to lose by attempting to call Josh once more, and lo and behold, this time he picked up with a groggy, "Hello?"

I'm a nice guy so I didn't get angry, but calmly asked him to come downstairs and let me in, which he did. He then announced that he hadn't actually been in the flat himself, but had struggled with the door for longer than he could tolerate, sat down on the floor in the hall, exasperated, and then unwillingly fallen asleep there. So I'd been shouting at an empty room all night, and it may have transpired that we may both have ended up sleeping rough, despite having a perfectly good set of keys!

Job done, I went to bed, exhausted and looking forward to a few relaxing hours' sleep...

Unfortunately, at around 6am I woke up due to excruciating pain in my front and right side. I wasn't sure what it was, but it hurt to move at all, and when I stood up, I instantly doubled over with it. At this point, my girlfriend, who was staying at her parents just outside of Vienna, and whom I'd texted earlier when locked out, called me to see if I'd managed to get in. "Yep, I'm in," I said, "But there's something wrong with my body..."

I explained the symptoms and her first reaction was one of panic - she said I should go to the hospital as soon as possible as it sounded very much like appendicitis. Appendicitis eh? Meh, I'll probably be able to sleep it off, thought I, and laid back down in a relatively pain-free position. I managed to get in a couple more hours sleep and woke, with the pain mostly gone, but still there, nagging away. I figured I should probably go to the docs just to be on the safe side. Walking there was not a good idea and on arrival the pain had kicked back in with a vengeance. She prodded me, nodded sagely, and sent me off to the nearest hospital for further examination. Apparently, other than the pain , I showed none of the other symptoms associated with appendicitis, and the pain itself was a couple of inches north of where the appendix naturally lies, but clearly something was not right

After a short wait at the hospital (Vienna's health service really puts the NHS to shame) I was taken to lie down for examination - they took a bunch of blood, prodded me in much the same manner as my doctor had, and hooked me up to a drip to ease the pain. Whilst in this semi-high state the student nurses, intrigued by my Englishness, had gathered round to bombard me with questions about, well, being English - apparently it's a very desirable trait 'round these parts. And then the head doc returned, gloved up and, parting the curtain of nubile young things drawn around me, casually announced that he needed to investigate my rectum. So here I was, shirtless, high, and surrounded by giggling pretties, with a hairy man's finger knuckle deep in my arse. Not how I'd pictured the week beginning.

I was then left alone for a while, presumably whilst they checked my blood and whatever else for signs of disease or pregnancy or whatever. But after an hour or so, in came a new doc, who began asking me questions as if I'd only just arrived. Confused (and involuntarily clenching the back door), I explained what had been said and done so far (was that first guy even a real doctor?!). Unfazed, he took more blood, leaving me with a nice set of stab wounds in my arm, and after more prodding (although he kept it external) he sent me home, announcing that I definitely don't have appendicitis, and saying I should sleep on it and return if the pain was still there in the morning. It all seemed a little unorthodox but I guess he knew best, so off home I went.

Needless to say, the morning brought fresh and excruciating spasms of agony, but I didn't trust that first hospital, so I went back to my doc. This time I was sent off to be seen privately, and had an ultrasound scan, and more blood taken. Within a couple of hours I'd been admitted to hospital to await surgery - my appendix was about to burst, and had somehow gotten twisted up around my intestine, hence the pain being in the wrong place. I was also told it was rather long. And you know what they say about guys with long appendices... they're more susceptible to infection and displacement resulting in acute appendicitis and an urgent need for removal.

You're probably as tired of reading this by now as I am of writing it so I'll cut it short. In under a week since feeling the initial pain I'd been tested, diagnosed, admitted, operated on, and discharged from hospital. If I hadn't dragged this on so long already I'd include more hospital-based anecdotes involving conversations with a dying man, both of us speaking in a language the other didn't fully understand, sneaking out for forbidden cigarettes, being deprived of food for three days, and having kebabs smuggled in from the outside. Maybe those are tales for next time...

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