You know that dream we all have about being somewhere and realizing we're naked? It just happened to me for real, and it was kind of informative.
I'm writing from a bed at United Hospital, where I am recuperating from a traumatic evening. I don't want to give all the gory details, but basically I developed an intestinal blockage Wednesday night and ended up writhing in agony on the upstairs bathroom floor.
I've always had a pretty high tolerance for pain. When I was a teenager a doctor once told me the knot on the side of my pinkie indicated I had broken the finger at some point. It took me a while to remember the basketball game where I thought I had just staved it, several years before.
Feeling this bad was a new experience. What made it worse was not knowing what was actually happening. Could it be food poisoning? Appendicitis? Something even more horrible? All sorts of possibilities flashed through my mind as my beloved called first the nurse line and then 911.
In these situations, rational thinking sometimes takes a backseat. It seemed to me my biggest problem was getting comfortable. I rolled this way and that, groaning and cursing, sweating profusely.
And that's when I decided my pants were the problem. They were too hot, too encumbering.
All this stuff about life just being a simple question of pulling on your pants one leg at a time makes no sense when you feel stabbing pains in your guts. Taking off my jeans became a Sisyphean project. I kicked off my shoes and tried to channel my writhing toward pants-shedding.
It took a while. (It never occurred to me to ask Jane, my beloved, to help. Like I said, there was little rational thought.) Yet I did it, and man, it felt good to have the cool bathroom tiles on my skin. The pain didn't go away; in fact, it may have been worse. But that tiny modicum of relief was magnificent.
My wife told me the ambulance was on the way, and after an eternity (about three minutes) I heard the siren in the distance. Suddenly there were four burly young men standing around me, asking questions in calm, measured tones. I was able to scoot onto a blanket they brought for situations just like mine and seconds later I was swinging round our narrow upstairs hallway, down the stairs, through the living room and out under a bright, moonlit sky.
It's funny what you remember: the twinkling stars in the cool night air, the EMT apologizing if he had kicked me in the head on the way down the stairs, wondering at the way these focused professionals talked among themselves as the ambulance sped through the streets. All this while still in agony.
The emergency room staff were great too, checking me out, helping me with my pain, which began to ease. The search for the cause continued. My appendix was OK, but food poisoning was a possibility. A CT scan produced a possibility of a hernia. After more consultations lasting into the next day, and with the pain completely gone, the blockage diagnosis seemed the most likely. Now I am due to go home.
Which leaves me with two things. First, I am in awe of the wonderful attention I have received over the last 24 hours. We complain about the medical system, but the fact is there is a host of dedicated health professionals who are committed to providing top-notch care. We are lucky to have them.
Second, it's only now that I remembered my pants. I really am miles from home without any clean clothes. I could put on what I have, which are pretty wretchedly dirty. But I don't have pants. Or shoes. I really am pretty much naked. Only this time, it's not a nightmare.
But I am safe. And I am well. And considering the shape I was in just hours ago, that's more than a dream.
Euan Kerr is a member of the arts and culture unit at MPR News.