The Biathlon is the Most Boring Sport in History

7 Oct


The night before our last visitors left the apartment, I had a gallbladder attack that landed me in the hospital after having the home doctor come give me a shot in the butt.  I wound up in the ladies’ digestive surgery ward, which was thankfully much less crowded than the brain surgery ward had been.  Of the eight beds, only four were filled, and I had a spot by the window.

Until they put me on antibiotics to try to control the infection in my gallbladder.  That’s when things got really ugly.  The insensitive Bosnian nurse (with whom I never did learn to get along) didn’t believe me when I told her that I was having trouble getting to the restroom in time in the middle of the night, so my mom had to stand up for me and make her bring a toilet chair to my bedside the next morning.  Once she saw how many times she had to clean out my diarrhea that day, she had me moved to a private room with a television.  I was glad, because it meant I got to watch the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver – I’m quite the figure skating fan.

The only problem was that between the all-to-brief broadcasts of the skating events (what’s wrong with showing all the contestants?), there were hours and hours and hours of biathlon to watch.

The shooting part is interesting.  But how many times can you watch someone cross-country ski around a track without getting bored?

The highlight of the Olympics was getting the opportunity to watch Joannie Rochette win the bronze medal on home turf just a few days after her mother’s death.  That reminded me that if other people could carry on in the face of adversity, so could I.

After a week of staring glazed-eyed at the biathlon, I was finally released from the hospital with instructions to come back to the ER immediately if I had another gallbladder attack.  That didn’t take long (are you surprised?)

I wound up in the same ward as before, just as empty as before, except I had the bed by the door instead of the bed by the window.  “You’re back again?!” the nurses exclaimed.

There were four of us in the ward – me, an Albanian woman who spoke neither French nor English and who depended on her (very large and noisy) family to interpret for her, a woman who had just found out she had stomach cancer and whose middle-school-aged daughter’s pajamas were far too large for her wasted frame, and an older lady suffering from a folie douce, not completely crazy but not totally sane, either.  Every opportunity she got, she’d take her clothes off and ask people to look at her bare behind to make sure nothing was wrong with it.  Every time the nurses found her in that condition, they would threaten to sew her hospital gown onto her, and eventually they moved her out of the ward altogether.  She was replaced by a rather practical-minded woman who solved crossword puzzles all day to pass the time.

Unfortunately, business in the digestive surgery ward gets taken care of much less quickly than in the urology and neurosurgery wards.  I was in the hospital for several days before surgery could be arranged, and then I lingered there for three weeks afterward waiting for all the necessary tests and post-op procedures to be completed.  I had multiple gastroscopies and endoscopies (one of which was performed on the second night of Passover, thereby ruining my dinner plans), and a blood draw every morning before 6:00 until I told the nurse to go stuff it and let me sleep in for once.  (Little did I know that I was in liver failure, which was why I heard, “Oh, you’ll be out by the end of the week” four weeks in a row when I was only supposed to be in the hospital for 3 to 4 days in the first place.)

I was so sick and tired of the restrictions I was on before and during my gallbladder surgery that I made a list of what I wanted to indulge in afterwards.  Boiled down to its essence, the list was morphine, chocolate and cheese.

Okay, I told myself, maybe scrap morphine because it makes me throw up and I don’t want to be throwing up with an abdominal incision, but I definitely wanted good pain meds.  And I had a hard time ranking cheese and chocolate.  I wanted my grandma’s famous chocolate cake because I didn’t get to have any for Valentine’s Day.  But I was also craving pizza, lasagna, macaroni and cheese, ham and cheese omelets, fondue, nachos and lots of other ooey-gooey dishes.

So my list ended up looking like this:

  1. pain meds
  2. cheese
  3. chocolate

Thankfully, this epic hospital stay was free of naked male butt, unlike the previous two.  Or, at least, I didn’t see any.  Mom, on the other hand, was accidentally flashed by a man downstairs in the hospital cafeteria.  It was crowded, and we were seated at opposite sides of a table by the window when she exclaimed, “Oh my goodness!  Don’t turn around!”  “Why not?” I asked.  “That man’s left testicle is hanging out of his shorts!”  She looked away, then looked at him again.  “Mom!” I exclaimed.  “I can’t help it,” she said, “it’s like watching a train wreck.”  “Well, then,” I said, “come sit on my side of the table and you won’t be tempted to look anymore.”

Also, thankfully, I had a fan.  Hospitals in Switzerland do not have central air conditioning and are rather warm.  Given the Swiss people’s fear of drafts, I was lucky to talk the nurses into letting me have a fan at all – they were worried that having air blowing on me would make me even sicker.  It took a few hours for them to locate one in a storage closet after my initial request, but from that moment onward, the fan was mine.  No one else was allowed to use it.

I was eventually discharged the Thursday of Easter weekend, most likely because it was a holiday and there would be nothing the hospital could do for me medically for four days in a row.  I had five holes in my abdomen – four from a (failed) attempted laparoscopy, and one reopening part of the incision from my kidney surgery (out of which was still hanging a bile drain that was secured to my side with stitches and tape).  I had to return several times for wound care appointments and to eventually have the drain removed, but at least I was finally free!


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