Friday, November 23, 2018

Lord, have mercy! Well, for another couple weeks at least...


It sure is funny how some things can sneak up on you.  This past Sunday (Nov 18) I got up at my usual time, made my usual cup of coffee, whipped up a chili sauce marinade for a couple of pork chops I’d be having for dinner that evening, and watched the previous night’s Saturday Night Live.

A couple hours later I thought I’d share an old Thanksgiving photo on my blog with the backstory behind all the smiles.   (Well, I thought it was funny…)

And an hour or so after that, my left flank & back erupted into a burning, suffocating pain. Not again!  I’d just suffered this godawful kidney stone pain a couple weeks earlier, November 5-6.  So I paced back & forth in my apartment for 3 hours, determined not to call 911 again like the last time.  But it just became too much to bear, and the next thing I know, I’m in an ambulance headed to Mercy Hospital. 

Several injections of good stuff like morphine & Dilaudid later, they explained I had a 5mm kidney stone blocking my bladder from my left kidney, and both organs had reached their swelling points.   They drained my bladder with a catheter (ulp) and kept me overnight to see how things looked in the morning.

Monday was a drugged up, dopey daze where a nurse encouraged me to eat a runny egg and ice chips.  But the day was relatively pain free (aside from that catheter between my legs).  They decided to keep me another day.  Why not.

Tuesday morning a urologist greeted me—she looked like a 20 year old contestant for a beauty pageant.  I told her she looked suspiciously pretty for a urologist, she laughed and said “Thanks Doug!  Maybe it will make things easier for you when I’m examining your prostate on a future visit.”   She then went on to explain that my kidney stone only had a 50/50 chance of moving on its own, and it was up to me if I wanted a ureteral stent put in.  “But I should warn you Doug, you’ll be trading one pain for another.”

Feeling a bit more like my old self, I said I was the eternal optimist and was sure I’d pass the stone; she said to come back if the pain returned.  The pain DID return, 2 hours after I got home, and so did I—back to Mercy Hospital.  This time they decided enough was enough, and after another CT scan, informed me that stone wasn’t going ANYWHERE (and there were now 2 other stones directly behind it, to boot—and one was 11mm.)  They’d be performing surgery in the morning, to implant a ureteral stent.  

After a couple weeks, it’d be removed—along with some laser-blasting of all three stones. Ya gotta love technology.   Anyway—another night in the hospital.

I awoke Wednesday morning around 3:30 with a start—the pain was back, in full force.  I begged for more of that good hydromorphone, but was told they couldn’t give me anymore.  When I asked if they were concerned I was becoming a morphine addict, they said  “Douglas your body is already saturated with narcotics.  You’re one good injection away from a fatal overdose.”   Oh.

They packed my lower half in ice while I awaited my 9:00am surgery.  (That ice was actually pretty helpful.)   And right on time, a team of medical personnel show up to wheel me to pre-OP.  After arriving, I’m asked my birthdate, religious preferences, if I had a desire to harm myself or others, any hidden objects in my body and if there’s any illegal substances I abuse.  11 times.  By 11 different people.  The last one is an anethesiologist, who says “Doug, we’re going to have a fine time in the operatng room!  We’ll talk & talk, but you’ll have no memory of it or anything else that happens in there.  Now breathe into this oxygen mask while we wheel you down the hall…”

Zany, colorful dreams.  I awaken with a wet face, my groin on fire and a heavyset woman sitting at a desk beside my bed.  Bathroom… I whisper.  She says “I told you Doug, we have no restroom facilities in post-OP!  Now here’s that ginger ale and pack of snack cookies you asked for…”   Er… I didn’t ask for anything, I just woke up?  The last thing I remember is that black rubber mask going over my face.  “BATHROOM”  I grunt louder, and feebly rattle the rails on my bed.  My God I’m about to explode!   The woman says “Fine, we’ll take you to the public one in the hall, is that what you want??  Stacey, help me carry Doug into the hall please!”  

As these two women prop me up and walk me to the restroom, I look down.  I have some sort of papery mid-riff on, and naked from the belly down.   Standing in front of a toilet, I pee what feels like an army of tin soldiers, and when I look down into the water—lots of odd, red junk.  I’m about to black out.

When I awaken again, I’m in a real hospital room, dressed in a hospital gown & robe, in bed with a grilled cheese sandwich and bowl of tomato soup on the bedside table beside me.  I haven’t eaten in 2 days, and I wolf it down like—well, like a man who hasn’t eaten in 2 days.

And that’s where I spent Thanksgiving Eve & Thanksgiving Day, in that hospital bed eating fairly bland (but still good) food, staring out the window and walking my IV thingie with me to the bathroom every 10 minutes.  (This stent inside me gives me the constant, painful urge to pee in the worst way, and if I ignore the sensation for more than a couple seconds it starts peeing on it's own.)  The nurse on my floor supplied me with a pack of maternity pads after I got my discharge papers, and let’s just say that they’ve been very helpful today. 

I sure am hoping it eases up in the days ahead, because right now I don’t dare leave my apartment!  Well, I’d better get going… again.

To be continued


 it never ends

Sunday, November 18, 2018

November 23, 1978: Happy Thanksgiving from the Morris Family

1978 November

Here’s a pic of myself & my siblings, Thanksgiving 1978.  From left to right is Donda, aged 9.  That’s me in the green flannel shirt, 17.  Steve, aged 12.  Courtney, 3.  Shawn, 15.  And finally, our oldest brother Duke (aka Donovan to the outside world), home from his sophomore year at the University of Pittsburgh, aged 19.

Aren’t we a happy looking bunch?  Here’s the truth behind this picture.  We were all getting ready to sit down & dig in, when Mom said “Wait—I want a picture of all you kids.  Duke, Doug, Steve—go stand behind your sisters.”  

Us boys got up, stood behind the girls.  Mom pointed her camera at us and said “Okay… say TURKEY you turkeys!”   (She was very fond of calling everyone turkeys back then.)  We all murmur “turkey…” and continue to sit or stand there.  Mom says “Jesus Christ, you look like I just told you the dog died!” 

My brother Duke said “What do you want us to do?”  and Mom said “Look like you’re happy the dog died!”

My dad said “Mother!”  and we busted out laughing.  Mom got a pretty decent photo.  And on that happy note…

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

I’m about to blow my guts out: goodbye cruel world

lots of laxatives

In my quest to figure out what’s wrong with me (from the belly down, my head’s another story)  I had my first visit at the gastroenterologist’s office in Oakland, at UPMC Presbyterian on Veterans Day. 

I’ve never been at this facility before, it was more like a mall than a hospital.  HUGE.  Hundreds of people milling about, a food court, shopping.. shopping?   After I found my way to the 644th floor and the doctor’s office, a nurse asked some questions, took blood and escorted me back to one of their patient rooms.  A few minutes later, a very petite Asian woman in a white lab coat and stethoscope entered and promptly sat down at a computer monitor. 

And without looking up from her screen…

DOC:  Misto Morris, good morning.  I am Doctor G.  Excuse my tardiness, unexpected paitent alway show up Monday mornings.

ME:  Good morning Doctor.  Er… tardy?  My appointment’s at 10, it’s 10:02.

DOC:  So what is this problem we have Misto Morris.  Beside you being overweight.

ME:  Well, on October 25 I got a sharp pain in my gut, more like a stabbing pain that lasted 90 minutes, right here.  Doc, are you looking?  Right here.  Then my abdomen swelled--

DOC:  Whoa!  According to your PCP chart from August 2016 and your visit to Passavant Hospital 2 week ago, you put on a lot of weight!   Are you aware of this numbers?

ME:  Yes.  I developed a jaw disorder in 2016 and had to give up exercise & ate a lot of soft foods like mashed potatoes and eggs.  Ok, ice cream & pudding too.  If it helps, I’ve lost about 13 lbs in the last 2 weeks.  Because I’m unable to eat more than a couple forkfuls in one sitting.  

DOC:  You don’t see this as silver lining?  So what you think the problem is?

ME:  Well, I’ve been doing a lot of googling of my symptoms and it could be chronic gastreitis, diverticulitis, early onset diabetes, impacted colon, not enough good bacteria in my intestines, pancreaitis, peptic ulcer, stomach cancer… the ER doc last week said it could be gallstones or my fatty liver.

DOC:  Haha, you an armchair physician!  You had the SAME gallstones and same fatty liver in 2015, so is not that.  If it was that, you would KNOW it.  If you had diabetes you would know it too.  Your x-rays from Mercy last week look normal, but there could be things hiding.

ME:  What about my CT scans at Passavant a couple days before Mercy’s x-rays?

DOC:  Whoa!  You had CT scans?!  Be back in flash. 

(She exits and I hear her yell “Ruth!!”)

20 minutes later…

DOC:  Oh these scans are excellent.  Not you I mean.  Your body, it is what it is for overweight man in his 50s.  Some good some bad.  But I see everything now.   Look—here your intestine!

ME:  It doesn’t look very happy, but what do I know..

DOC:  Oh a minute ago you knew so much!  Here is the plan.  You will return next week for barium drink one visit, and eat radium eggs on other.  DO NOT MAKE PLANS ON EGG DAY, you will be here 5 hour.  In lab downstair.  We will track a radium dot thru your digestive tract to see how fast your body process food into waste.

ME:  Gulp.. ok.

DOC:  I see a colonscopy and endoscopy in your future.  Probably around Christmas.  Until then… I think we need to… WAKE UP your intestines, and colon.  Do you take laxatives?

ME:  My mother gave me 2 teaspoons of Milk of Magnesia in 1969.

DOC:   Ah, you an armchair comedian too.  I want you to go to drugstore.  Buy Dulcolax pills and 238 grams of Miralax.  Then pick day this week and take 4 pills at noon with water.  At 5pm, mix whole bottle of Miralax with 64 oz. of Gatorade.  Drink entire concoction over 2 hours.

ME:   Waitaminute, you want me to swallow a half gallon of Gatorade and a half POUND of laxatives??  Then what?

DOC:  Don’t go nowhere.  You’re going to clean your intestines REAL good.   You going to shout WAKE UP to your colon.

ME:  This sounds pretty traumatic.

DOC (smiling):  Yes…  I know. 

So, today is the day.  I just swallowed 4 Dulcolax pills with a glass of water, I hope my body is ready for this.  I asked Dr.G if I could eat anything between the pills and the ENTIRE BOTTLE OF MIRALAX at 5pm, she said “Sure why not—have a piece of fish!  But nothing else, no green beans.  Last thing you will need is fiber.”

Thanks for the tip.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

It’s not good up here when it’s not good down there


It may be awhile before my next post; I’ve been dealing with some health issues and right now they’re all I can focus on.  And thanks to 21st century medicine, I have to begin jumping thru hoops (aka “specialists”) before I can get some answers.

While writing my last post (about escaping from the Planet of the Tromps—heh) I’d been experiencing several days of discomfort & abdominal swelling, unable to eat more than a couple forkfuls of anything.  (On Halloween, I was barely able to get down half a scrambled egg; on my birthday!) 

So later that blog-day I made some rice & broccoli, consumed 2 forkfuls—then called my PCP in a panic after my stomach closed up and my head turned red-hot.  She directed me to the nearest emergency room, which turned out to be a CLOSED emergency room.  (It had been converted into an “Urgent Care Unit”  for sore throats & boo-boos in 2010.)  


The following morning my sister Shawn & brother-in-law Jim took me to UPMC Passavant, who in turn took blood, urine, cat-scanned me and said they didn’t see anything, other than gallstones & a “non-alcoholic fatty liver”.   Could that be what’s causing all my abdominal issues?   “It could!  You should drink a lot more water.”

After a worrisome and uncomfortable weekend, this past Monday the left side of my body burst into flame—well, that’s what it felt like—forcing me to call 911 to take me to the Emergency room.  I grunted to the paramedics I’d just been to UPMC Passavant a couple days before.  The one medic said “You mean UPMC Pass Away?  If you have a real emergency, you should go downtown to Mercy.”   Mercy it is!   We arrived in no time at all, and my stretcher was parked in the hallway for 4-5 hours before someone could see me.   But by then, the pain had pretty much dissipated; they still took x-rays, blood & urine though, and suggested I see a urologist and a gastroenterologist.

(When I told them about going to UPMC Passavant on Friday, one of the nurses said “Oh that hospital is so pretty!  I hear every patient gets a room of their own and sees a doctor right away” and my doctor said “Well, you didn’t get that here but city hospitals are more up-to-date.”)

I thanked them profusely, and wearing the surgical scrubs and oversized Mercy Hospital t-shirt they gave me (after the nurse splattered blood on my clothes) I walked down the street into downtown Pittsburgh, just in time for rush hour.  I watched as office workers & professionals hurried home, some taking quick glances in my direction as they moved along.  With my baggy outfit and hair sticking up at all angles, I looked like one of those homeless people that seem to sprout up everywhere from 5-7pm.  I wanted to yell “I’M NOT A HOMELESS PERSON!  A FEW YEARS AGO I WAS ONE OF YOU!”   

I made it to my old bus stop (the last time I caught a bus there was my final day of work, nearly 4 years ago) as a 19L pulled up, and I stumbled on.  Clutching a wad of dollar bills, I shakily tried to slide 3 ones into the machine while people and their Connect Cards waited behind me, shaking their heads.  

I know, people—I know! 

As I took my seat and watched weary bodies get on, I recognized several faces from my former working days.  (Wow, I was shocked how much older they looked, compared to the days when I rode with them daily.)   A few recognized me too and nodded in my direction, while a couple of them did double-takes; based on my appearance, they probably figured I’d fallen on hard times.  

I suddenly missed my old working days downtown very much.

When I got home, I called my sister to tell her of my big hospital adventure, then plopped on my couch in relief; I figured the worst was behind me.  Well, I hoped it was.  Boy was I in for a surprise!

On Tuesday (the day before yesterday) I woke up—made a cup of coffee—showered & hurried downstairs to the church next door to cast my vote, and joked with the workers there about coming back later to cast my second ballot.  Then I casually ambled back to my apartment, just in time for my left flank & lower back to bloom into painful flame.  It was even worse than the day before.

Sonofabitch!   I paced my apartment the entire day, sure that it was a kidney stone.  (I have a feeling, given the last week or so, it’s been more than one.  Maybe they’re in battle with my gallstones.)   As I debated going back to the ER for my THIRD visit in 4-5 days, I remembered a prescription for Flo-Max I’d gotten 18 months prior for a kidney stone.  I ran & swallowed one, and a good pee later, felt the fire in my flank & lower back die down.   I watched the Democrats take back the House in relative peace.

And now, 2 days later I sit here feeling shaky, sore (and other than occasional jabs and an annoying sensation in my abdomen) mostly pain free.  I’ve been guzzling a lot of water, and reading up on bus routes for next week when I visit a gastro specialist on Monday and a urologist on Thursday.  Different hospitals, different parts of the city.   I’m praying I don’t hear the “c” word, but if they tell me they can’t find anything wrong I’m gonna be plenty sore!

The Specialist

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Making it my mission to “Escape From the Planet of the Tromps”

The Spaceship Apache

Starlog 2018.11.1:  It’s been almost 2 years since I found myself stranded on this bizarre version of planet Earth, which I’ve named the Planet of the Tromps. 

I am desperate to return home.

This all began when I completed construction of a device I call the Infinitor, which would allow me to visit parallel universes—rather, parallel Earths—to see how they differ from my own.

Little did I know the first Earth I visited would also be my last; I’ve been unable to make the jump back, or to another one.  I think it has something to do with this planet’s global warming and polluted atmosphere, which doesn’t seem to be a priority of its ruling classes. 

(I hope they’re all good swimmers, because after these polar ice caps melt…)

While this Earth is much like my own, the layout of continents, oceans & the like, this world has not one but TWO sentient species.  Humans, like myself—and a strange, dangerous race known as the Tromps.  They eat and breathe and speak like humans, they wear clothes and raise families and go to work and shop and do all the other things that humans do—but at the same time, they couldn’t be more different.

They harbor anger, fear & resentment towards beings that don’t think and behave like themselves, and many of them have a scary affinity for firearms (much like the ‘Wild West’ era of my own Earth). 

It doesn’t help that they seem to lack attibutes like compassion and common sense. 

Please!  No more!

A reporter asks a Tromp couple for their thoughts on Muslims, gays and other minorities—clearly repulsed, they insist he stop talking about such aberrations

Their leader is a frightful, amoral character known as THE TROMP.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this figure lacks any redeeming qualities.  Humans warned the Tromps early on, but they reveled in his demented rhetoric, gathered en masse & elected this buffoon to rule over all.   And why wouldn’t they, he’s just like them.



Their leader (pictured here) shouts ludicrous nonsense like this to angry crowds of Tromps; I believe the irony is lost on them

THE TROMP is obsessed with cartoonish rallies where he seems to thrive on the hatred he instills in his followers.  He spews a constant stream of ridiculous and anger-filled lies (he seems incapable of doing anything but) to incite violence and division towards the humans.  

Lest they discover the truth, he warns his followers not to believe anything they see, hear or read unless it comes from him or his cronies on some psuedo “news” channel.  On my Earth, they’d be laughed right off of television.

Tromp News Channel

“See no humans!  Hear no humans!  Don’t speak to humans!”

Weirdly, he delights in screwing over humans and Tromps as he takes from the lower & middle classes to deliver larger profits to the wealthy, all while convincing his followers that it’s in their best interest. 

They’re only too eager to comply.


“The Tromp works hard to strip us of evils like healthcare, and vows to stop imaginary caravans of terrorist humans from crossing our borders!  All hail the Tromp!”

Isn’t this the craziest shit you’ve ever seen?  I watch it every day from my grounded spacecraft (camouflaged to look like a one bedroom apartment).

And the sooner I get out of here, the better.  I know it sounds like the makings for a crazy-ass science fiction movie, but you can’t make this kind of stuff up!

I’ve come up with new coordinates to enter into my ship’s Infinitor, however due to atmospheric disturbances I won’t be able to make an attempt until Stardate 2018.11.6.

Hopefully on this date I can use the data below to make the jump to another Earth; it may not be the one I remember, but perhaps one that’s more civilized, and a saner one too.