Friday, June 6, 2014

"Listen To Your Body, Bock" - Part 2

"The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp", oil painting on canvas (1632), Rembrandt
In September 2001 I had just gotten out from a biannual medical check up and was driving back to work when my cell phone rang.

The caller was a nurse at the doctors office I had just left. He told me to immediately stop driving as soon as it could be done, park the car and get myself transported to the emergency room at the hospital. They were going to fax the paperwork there meanwhile. No, I was absolutely not allowed to drive there myself under any conditions.

When I (a little irritated) asked why this brouhaha all of a sudden, I was informed that they had received the results of the blood tests that had been taken and according to them I should actually not be alive, moving about and definitely not driving a car on public roads on my way to work. Apparently the tests showed that my blood count (Hb), which should normally be between 130-170 g/l in a healthy male, was down to 56 g/l.

During the following five days I was subjected to every kind of gastrointestinal examination on the books, gastroscopy, Esophagogastroduodenoscopy, rectoscopy and colonoscopy, I was fed with some radioactive gunk which then was filmed as it passed through my system, from the mouth to the other end.  Despite the extensive examinations no ongoing leakage was discovered, nor any scars or other signs of old leaks. As far as the tests showed, I had the most beautiful and healthy gastrointestinal system in Northern Europe.

It was - and still is - a complete mystery how and from where I had been leaking blood extremely slowly over what must have been a long period of time. If the drop in the blood count had been sudden I would have gone into a state of shock and died.

All the doctors I met asked if I hadn't noticed any bleeding from my body. I told them that I hadn't noticed anything of the sort. I had from time to time been feeling a little tired, but nothing exceptional and I had not had a single sick day during the previous three years.

While at the hospital I was given a bag of blood a day, and I noticed that I became more alert and awake and realized how tired I had in fact been.  "You must listen to your body, Bock" they all told me, but if there was no noticeable shift I cannot understand what my body could have told me.

I was released from the hospital on Monday September 10, 2001, in a much better condition than when I was admitted and told to regularly check my blood count. (There is an easy way to do it without a blood test. You look at the palms of your hands, if they have a nice rosy color all is well but if they go pale you should take a blood test.) I have never had a problem like this after that incident.

I was on sick leave for a month after being released from the hospital, the doctors and my employer insisted on it even if I was feeling better than I had felt for a couple of years. The day after I had come home my father called me in the afternoon and told me to turn on the television, there was something dramatic and strange going on in New York.

As I sat down in front of the television set, I saw a tape being replayed of the first plane crashing into one of the towers at the World Trade Center, I watched live - in a state of complete horror and disbelief - when the second plane crashed into the other tower, and later when the towers crumpled and crashed to the ground, one after the other, and listened to all the speculations all through the night.

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