The Misadventures of a College Snoot
It’s the last day of UnOlympics, UC San Diego’s annual freshman competition, and Revelle reigned over the 2nd- and 3rd-place colleges (it’s a 6-college system) with the much anticipated Golden Shoe — the trophy that would validate our being #1 in balloon-tossing, head-spinning madness for a year. Much to be proud of, but not a surprise. After all, who else but a group of type-A personalities vying for victory could claim the status of UnOlympics Champions?
I am so giddy from the festivities in the last few days, I can barely contain myself. A freshman in college, first time on my own, I feel like the world is at my fingertips. My life is starting to unfold before my eyes, I muse to myself as I stuff the last piece of corn dog into my self-satisfied grin. Welcome Week was fun and I got this college thing under the belt. I look forward to my first class tomorrow as I stroll past the excited fellow first-years to my dorm.
Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain in my abdomen. I haven’t exercised since PE class in 11th grade, but didn’t think I was that out of shape. I continue to walk despite the poking and prodding on my left side. The discomfort becomes more intense and I decide to skip dinner, round two.
I am in bed, it is well past 4 a.m. and I am unable to breathe without a dagger-like stabbing to my left side. My roommate has been asleep for hours; in fact, the whole dormitory is eerily silent. Trying to keep my grunting to a whisper, I manage to stagger out of bed and make my way into the hall, toward my RA’s room. His class schedule is plastered on the door — 8 a.m. rise and shine. Wonderful. I don’t have the heart to wake him; his alarm will go off in less than four hours. No longer Queen of the World, I slide against the wall until I am crouched on the floor, breathing in spurts and dangerously close to tears. I don’t remember how much time passes until I see an officer standing above me, asking suspiciously what I’m doing on the floor. “My stomach hurts,” I tell him, and no, I am not hung over, I think to myself. He helps me up and radios in another officer, who momentarily picks me up in a cop car. Wow, I am inside a real cop car, in the back seat, without handcuffs. I’m starting to feel cool all over again, only with a subdued high from the previous four days. The pain is now gnawing on my side and sends a wave of needle-like pins up my body every time I breathe. I’m ecstatic to see us pull up to the Emergency Room — everyone’s awake and ready to help. Little do I know it will be hours before I am called in, tested and re-tested, then tested again, after which comes the announcement that I have appendicitis and it must be removed immediately. But not before I am given a waiver, where I have to sign not once, but twice, that if something were to happen during surgery (i.e., I die), my family cannot sue for malpractice. It is at this point all pride leaps out the window and I start to cry. My clothes are stripped, I have an ugly, over-sized blue robe on, unkempt hair, and a red, puffy face. My mom and grandma, to whom I was waving goodbye all too cheerfully only a few days ago, were over a hundred miles away, completely oblivious to my grown-up, real-world troubles. I cry harder. I cry because I don’t want to die alone in a hospital before experiencing a real college course and because I am embarrassed that I am crying. It is a vicious cycle.
I finally accept that I will not be going to Math (things could be worse) or Spanish (more difficult to swallow) and call my grandma to tell her the news — it is 7 a.m. and she is up. She is surprisingly nonchalant about the whole thing and I feel a little relieved. I try not to look at the IV invasively stuck in my vein and get up to use the restroom. I forget the nurse’s advice to always hold the IV bag above my head and set it on the floor. As I am about to answer nature’s call, I am horror-stricken to see blood flowing through the tube and into the bag. (Context: I am deathly afraid of needles and blood, especially when combined.) Before I even think to tie my robe, I frantically run out of the bathroom, arms flailing, screaming that I am bleeding. The nurse rushes over confused and flushes the blood back in when she sees I did the opposite of her instructions. It is then that I notice the people sitting in the waiting room, looking uncomfortable after having been mooned by a psychotic patient bleeding from her right arm. I don’t care. It’s all over — my femininity and grace, long gone. I just need to wake up after the surgery so I can bask in the storytelling of my ordeal.
The time has come — my appendectomy. All my fears of dying on the operating table come back as a second wave and I beg the anesthesiologist to be sedated. He happily obliges and a few seconds after the injection, as I am wheeled into the operating room, I am blissfully giggling, then laughing hysterically, until I completely pass out. The last thing I remember is looking at the operating tools and, in a punch-drunk snicker, asking the doctor if they were going to slice me open with that impressive toolkit.
As I recover in pain, my mom and grandma arrive and take me home. I miss the first week. I am a regular at the disabilities office for the next two, milking for all its worth the cart service that personally picks me up and drops me off at my respective locations. Life starts to pick up again as I recall my trials and tribulations to all who would listen. Just like now.