The night of 27 September, 1984, was a difficult one for me. I had an ache in my gut and apparently moaned in pain, even while asleep. My wife, who is a delicate sleeper, spent many hours awake and concerned.
We were expecting the birth of our firstborn in a few months hence. We’d begun to accumulate books about child care. One of these had charts through which guesses at diagnosis could be made, leading one to “stay cool and at home” or things like “SEE A DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY”. When the sun rose, she got the book and said, “we’re going to the doctor”.
For prenatal care and other routine family medicine needs at that time, we patronized the Kaohsiung clinic of the 7th Day Adventist hospital in Taipei. I was compelled to dress, walk down 5 flights of stairs and climb into a taxi to the location. On exiting the elevator on the floor where the clinic was located, we discovered that it was closed. Of course! September 28 is a holiday, Confucius’ Birthday, in Taiwan.
Back down the elevator and into another taxi, this time to the little Kaohsiung Christian Hospital, where my not-yet-fully developed Taiwanese had to serve me. Unclear on the distinction between Internal and External medicine, I saw an internist, who questioned and prodded me and announced, “you need an operation”. I asked, “when?” and he answered, “now.”
I was sent to the “external” (surgical) doctor a couple rooms along the hall.
Within a couple hours I was coming out of anaesthesia, minus my appendix. Of course I was told that they got it “just in time”. That seems to be a standard trope following an appendectomy. What puzzled me was the smiling nurse who visited me the next morning and asked, “Have you farted?” I was slightly offended that she would inquire about something so personal. I didn’t understand that passing gas was a sign that after being anaesthetized, the digestive system had resumed proper functioning.
Last Sunday evening we had a vegetarian stew for supper. It was based on Cauliflower and Garbanzo beans. We had leftovers on Monday. Tuesday afternoon, I can assure you, the signs of worn off anaesthesia were abundantly present.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.