While I crept out of the coma I discovered wires connected to strategic areas of my body that fed vital signs to a bank of monitors. An IV tube, ready to administer real medicine, pumped saline solution into a vein in my arm. Some nurse had jammed a tube leading to a pissbag into my urethra.

You haven’t lived until you’ve dealt with a plastic tube sprouting from your wally. I’m aware of guys that shove foreign objects into their urethra when they masturbate. On that note, I’d like to point out that some men get their ya-ya’s out when humorless buffoons wearing leather costumes plunge large needles into their testicles.

As if my well-being depended on the number of artificial pathways leading in and out of my body, the (at this juncture still faceless) doctors decided to anesthetize me and install a gastric feeding tube, or G-tube. A G-tube is inserted through a small incision in the abdomen into the stomach. They’re designed for long-term use but my doctors dictated that I endure a G-tube for only a few months. The stroke had temporarily robbed me of my ability to swallow; I took hydration and nutrition directly into my stomach via the G-tube. It also discouraged a pneumonia relapse due to swallowed preparations flipping off my disabled gag reflex on their way to invade my lungs.

Apparently G-tubes were wildly popular among young urban males weathering gunshot wounds inflicted by members of rival neighborhood organizations (not to mention the doctors that manage their kid’s enormous college tuition bills). I joined close to a dozen other patients awaiting the procedure while they lay mildly sedated on gurneys parked in a hallway of the hospital. I conjured a mental image of dispassionate workmen herding cattle into a slaughterhouse. After the surgery I woke from an anesthesia-induced stupor and found myself in the same hallway surrounded by the other G-tube recipients. We were slated to participate in a mass post-operative exodus.

I became aware of a severe pain in my gut surfacing along with my consciousness. I mumbled concern to a nurse decked out in scrubs. She heaved a sigh, rolled her eyes, and told me that my feeling pain was impossible because I had just undergone a painless procedure. Then she advised me to be a “big boy” though I was clearly not a child. I guess the sight of so many patients reminded her of that angel-of-mercy crap and compelled her to grab and hold my hand. I squeezed as tight as my weakened condition would allow. I meant no harm, my grip was a base reaction to intense and foreboding pain experienced in an unpleasantly surreal environment. The nurse jerked her hand out of mine and promised that if I didn’t “behave myself” she would summon some nearby orderlies. She stressed that if need be, the orderlies were only too happy to throw their weight around.

Back in my room, world-class queasiness and lingering pain obscured any craving for food. Regardless, an astonishing urge to guzzle liquids overwhelmed me. The nurses occasionally placed a tiny ice chip on my tongue but otherwise demonstrated little concern for my all-consuming thirst.

When feeding time rolled around, a nurse hung a bag full of nutritious brown muck on an IV pole and then connected my G-tube to it. Within seconds the muck began to course through the tube and into my stomach, and a wave of nausea overpowered me. I detected a vague orange taste each time a bag dispensed its payload. When I asked about it, my nurse for the day cheerfully explained that I tasted the hydrating portion of my feast and insisted that the muck would quench my thirst. After several days the awful thirst still raged. I reported this to the previously cheerful nurse and she scolded me for refusing to cooperate.

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