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O Sensitive One

ON FRIDAY, DECEMBER 28, 2007, I was sitting in one of my living room chairs reading one of my books under one of my special reading lamps. There’s a stack of books on my table in the living room, too many books—if there can be too many books—and I was reading one.

Before starting to read I had made an entry in my journal, beautiful Italian journal, just the right paper for my fountain pens. I had a poem in mind and had made a note about it, a poem about my acute sense of hearing, my ability to identify faint sounds heard while sitting in my apartment. Sounds from inside, sounds from outside. I can hear a cat jump to the counter in the kitchen, can hear a cat jump to a window perch, can hear a cat drinking water. Very sensitive. Can identify faint sounds.

And from outside, I can hear the mail carrier opening the apartment mailboxes seventy-five feet away; I hear the boxes when they are closed. The laundry room is beneath our apartment. I can hear the dryer doors close. Can hear when the trash dumpster is opened behind the apartment building next door. If I don’t hear it close just after it opens I know that someone has crawled inside, searching for bottles and cans to recycle.

I also have an acute sense of smell, and taste. And not just about wine either. And I weep easily. I am very sensitive.

So, yes, I was thinking of writing a poem about an aspect of my sensitive nature and had made an entry about it in my beautiful Italian journal, journalhandsuitable for fountain pens, before I turned to reading on Friday, December 28, 2007, sitting in my La-Z boy, under the light from one of my special reading lamps, when I noticed—how shall I put this?—that I was sensitive in an area of my body that has little need for sensitivity.

Pain. Yes, that’s right. Pain. We could call it pain, and a stinging sensation, and so I rearranged my body in the chair. In fact I moved—and I warn you of my mentioning at this time a portion of the body that I have never mentioned in my writings here before today—from one buttock to the other buttock. And then back again. Pain and stinging. And, back again, buttock to buttock. Several times. Oh, my dear, pain and stinging. And I am very sensitive.

So I assumed, having had the situation before, that there was something rhoidal going on. All right, that’s possibly not clear, so—and again I must warn you of a word unseen here until now—hermorrhoidal going on. Or hermorrhoidic, I’m not sure.

Well, it’s certainly something that I have experienced before, I said to myself, in my sensitive head. I am of a certain age and have taken care of my so-called body for many years now. And at this time with this particular pain I knew what to do. I had made preparations, you might say, for this exigency, and went into the necessary room where I applied the appropriate palliative. Then returned to my chair where I took up my Italian journal and made a note about the recent pain and stinging and my response to it.

Then I went back to reading.

Then I went back to pain.


It’s Friday, December 28, 2007, and I’m sitting in one of my chairs, the really comfortable La-Z Boy, and I’m not comfortable. So I did what any grown man would do in a similar circumstance: I called my wife at work. And explained the situation and told her what I had been doing for it.

“I’ll go by a drug store on the way home and buy a sitz bath, fits over the commode, you soak in it, ” she said. “That should help. In the meantime you should continue to do what you’re doing.”

“Crying out in pain?” I said.

“Don’t be a jerk. I’ll leave work early.”

“Thank you.”


And it came to pass that that is what she did, my Catherine. And it came to pass that it did not help. Soaking in the sitz bath got my nethers all wet, but it did not help. And it also came to pass that it’s now after hours on Friday, and I did not have a personal physician whom I could call. And it further came to pass that Cathy, my love, my mate, and, yes, at this time, my nurse, was called out of town on a family emergency. For the weekend and into Monday.

Misery. While she was gone I did what I have always done for the situation. A drawer full of palliatives, of different shapes and textures. Pain. I sat in the chair; I slept in the chair; I watched all the films ever made in the life of cinema on our living room TV from the chair. Trying to sleep in our bed, for some reason, was more painful than trying to sleep in the chair.

And then early on Monday, New Year’s Eve, I called my health plan, Motion Picture & TV, and was put in touch with somebody in, yes, Customer Service. That’s what they call it, “Customer Service.” I spoke with a young man in customer service and explained the situation to him—and what a pleasure it was to speak not to a nurse but to a young man in Customer Service—and gave him the name of a physician there I had once seen (interviewed) while trying to find a personal physician.

“I need a referral to a proctologist,“ I said. “It's urgent; I'm in pain. Need him to refer me to a proctologist” I said.

“I’ll take care of it,” he said, this young man in Customer Service.

But he didn’t take care of it. No, he did not.

It’s New Year’s Eve, and he didn’t take care of it. For all of New Year’s Eve I waited. And I received no call from the young man in Motion Picture & TV Health Plan Customer Service, no referral. And when I called back toward the end of the business day they had gone home. To sit comfortably with their families on New Year’s Eve.

It’s late Monday now and Cathy’s back home, but she couldn’t help. How could she help? She’s not a nurse; she treats me with tender, loving care; but she's not a nurse.

“We’ll have to wait until Wednesday,” she said.

“OK, I guess we will,” I screamed.


Imagine the passage of time now. In the chair, out of the chair. Buttock to buttock. Up and down. And all around. A spectacular New Year’s Day. Football. Sing, buttock, buttock. Into the evening. Into the necessary room, out of the necessary room. All the while treating myself for rhoids.

Well, of course I was treating myself. I had gone on the web, to the Mayo Clinic website and had input my rhoid symptoms and they (it, the Mayo algorithm) told me what to do. The Mayo Clinic Website, one-stop shopping for all your rhoidal needs.

And then on Wednesday morning I called Customer Service at Motion Picture & TV Health Plan again, and I screamed. And after a few minutes of screaming at full voice about their lack of response on New Year's Eve, I was put in touch with the doc’s nurse, the nurse of the doc I had seen when trying to find a doc, and she said that she would take care of it immediately. And she did. She referred me to a procto and when I called the office of the procto to make an appointment I was told that he could not see me for one week.

So I again called Motion Picture and TV Health Plan and was...

And here you have every right to expect that I will say something about blood vessels exploding, my so very sensitive head cracking open. But that did not happen. Nor did I increase the volume of my speaking voice. No, I became calm and firm. Like I was a different person. No temperament at all while asking them why, given the stated urgency of my situation, they had referred me to a procto who could not see me for one week.

And you know what happened? They finally did their job and referred me to a man, OK, a savior, a young man, a young Jesus Effing Christ, young Albert The Hell Schweitzer whom I would be able to see the next day, on Thursday, January 3, 2008. We’re at one week now of severe and brutish nether pain.

And when, on that glorous day, the young man, this colo-rectal surgeon looked at my rear, do you know what he said?

“Nope, no rhoids here. What you have is either an...”

And I’m again going to stop for a moment before I continue. Fastidious person that I am. Shy, not a body man and reluctant to enunciate what follows, but one day, you, a reader might need to know...

“ anal abscess or an anal fistula. We’ll have to wait and see which it is.” And by the way, he said that treating my condition as rhoids had made the pain worse. Which is what I had done for six days. Yes, he said that treating my symptoms hemorrhoidically had made the pain worse. Six days.

Yes, right. Thank you Mayo Clinic Website. And a great big thank you to Customer Service at Motion Picture.

And it came to pass that it was an anal fistula. And required an out-patient procedure on my nethers, which I had on 5 March to my great relief. Here's a cute photo. What were you expecting?


Two more items.

I have now found a primary care physician and a good guy procto-surgeon who did my colonoscopy. Who did the fistula procedure.

Call that one item.

Here’s the other item, and it speaks of self-diagnosis with the help of a website. Don’t. Do not. Do not do it. Get a good doc and avoid a health plan's customer service.

Do you know what the Mayo Clinic Website suggested that I do in order to avoid what I had? The anal fistula? The boys and girls of the Mayo Clinic Website suggested monogamous sex. I wasn’t dreaming; I read it correctly. In order to avoid an anal fistula they suggested monogamous sex.

Well, I'm monogamous; and they can kiss my ass.



—Britt Leach

We speak of other hospital adventures here.

21 March 2008

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