There is very little that fazes me. I've seen the worst of the worst - gunshot wounds to the head with brain oozing onto the gurney, blood spurting to the ceiling (literally), stabbings to the abdomen with loops of bleeding bowel sitting outside the abdomen, dead ruptured colons with bellies full of stool . . .
So now that I have you all thoroughly disgusted, you're probably wondering what the hell my point is. No, it isn't to see how many keyboards/iPads/tablets/phones I can ruin by getting as many readers as possible to vomit on them.
I've been asked several times what scares me. If all of those vile things I mentioned before don't bother me (I'll defer from describing the really disgusting stuff I've dealt with), what does? What really gets my blood pressure up? If a necrotic scrotum doesn't make me feel nervous (sorry, that just slipped out), what does make my anal sphincter tighten? What does scare the hell out of me?
Well I found out the answer to that question tonight: my wife in the hospital.
Mrs. Bastard has been sick with a cold for over a week. Coughing, body aches, congestion, the usual viral stuff. Nothing to do, just rest and hydrate. Well Mrs. Bastard doesn't believe in rest. She believes in powering through whatever is ailing her, and she's continued working through this plague. Even when her temperature was approaching 39 degrees Celcius (that's around 102 degrees Fahrenheit in case you still cling to that antiquated scale), she went to work, made dinner, did laundry, and took care of our kids while I was out on call. She persevered, refusing to give in to whatever was trying to take her down.
But this afternoon it got acutely worse. She started having difficulty breathing, her chest felt tight, and she was having difficulty moving air. When I heard her say "I think I need to go to the hospital", I knew something was seriously wrong. This woman doesn't believe in seeing doctors. She practically needs to have a limb missing to request medical treatment, and even then she'd probably finish cooking just because she doesn't have time for missing legs.
When we got to the hospital, her heart rate was elevated, her oxygen levels were low, and she was sweating profusely even though it wasn't warm. Blood tests showed her white blood cell count was elevated (a sign of infection), and her chest X-ray scared the bejeezus out of me. It was so obvious that it could have been read by the woman mopping the floor - pneumonia. Not just in one lung, but in both. The radiologist actually said to me, "She's been walking around with this big pneumonia? She must be really tough! This should have knocked her sideways!"
That's right - my wife has been walking and driving around, going to work, and taking care of her family with bilateral pneumonia for the past 3 days.
I'm used to being the captain of my ship - I'm supposed to be the one in control. I tell people what to do, and they do it. But seeing my wife in a hospital gown, being on the opposite side of the patient-doctor relationship, having to sit idly by while some other doctor examines my wife . . . it's a feeling of utter helplessness that is difficult to explain. I see patients with pneumonia all the time - most make it, some don't. But when it's your own partner, the person you swore to love and cherish and take care of for the rest of her life . . . it's a completely different story.
That is what scares me.
Mrs. Bastard, if you're reading this (and there's a good change you are), please get well soon. Please come back to me. Please come back home.