I nearly died: my 9-11 story

Every year I do this, to take stock of everything, and every year it feels like I’m diminishing the importance of 9-11 in everyone’s lives. Regardless, every year I need to do this, if only to remember that powerful, horrible day as I saw it. This is the 9-11 story of my life, almost cut short itself.

Where was I when the Twin Towers were hit? I was in Montreal, safe away from the events of NYC, though later that day I’d find out that Montreal was under some kind of shroud of fear, too. I was in Montreal, listening to the radio station that my dad had left on because he never turned it off after his breakfast back then. He used to listen to an all-news-all-day news station (CKAC) that has since been converted to a sports news station. I was home sick because the previous night some lower abdominal pains had started to hurt me and through the night they had become worse. I admit to freaking out a little bit too much and thinking “omg I have cancer”, because my period had passed already and it was way too early for another round, but that’s neither here nor there.

9-11 trajectory

Waiting for the doctor’s appointment

So, I was quietly trying to tune out the pains on a comfy chair we had near the radio, listening to the newscasters rambling on and on about I can’t remember what, when one of them interrupted the others hurriedly with the news that one of the towers of the WTC had been crashed into. That caught my attention. Sitting up, frowning, I scrambled to the tv set in the next room and turned it on — and there was the smoke. I remember thinking “my gosh, this looks like a scene right out of a movie”. And it really did, except without special effects, whether in-camera or CGI. This was the real deal, and it was… haunting.

I saw the entire thing live. My mother and I watched it like zombies, horrified and shocked and helpless. Even when it was time for my doctor’s appointment we felt a bit deadened inside and couldn’t quite comprehend how such a horrible thing had happened.

Look, this thing didn’t just affect Americans, it brought the feeling home that we’re not infallible, that we’re not giants, none of us. Canada is a very close neighbour of the United States. Yes, we were scared. Some people had started talking about the possibility that Toronto or even Montreal might be hit next, since Canada was, thank you so much Harper, a close ally (do not even get me started on this guy; Bush would say something and Harper would play heel). And what’s the highest, one of the most significant buildings in Montreal? Place Ville-Marie, where my dad worked at the time. Oh, when my mother heard those discussions… she flipped out.

Anyhow, my appointment. I was 14 at the time and so I still had a pediatrician (a doctor I liked!). He was skeptical regarding my situation, because I presented no symptoms besides the lower-right abdominal pain. Normally someone suffering from appendicitis would be running high fevers, maybe even vomit, and I don’t even know what else. “The most concluding test,” says he, “is this: can you jump?” I jumped, albeit with some trepidation. “Well, that wasn’t convincing,” says he. “I don’t quite know what’s going on but I’m pretty sure it’s appendicitis. I’m sending you to the Children’s.”

Children’s, I will have you know, is shorthand for The Montreal Children’s Hospital, smack downtown.

At the Children’s

Mum and I drove downtown. The waiting room was… well, let’s just say, if you’re a kid the waiting rooms aren’t too packed. Considering my condition, I was bumped up and about an hour later I was seeing the doctor to pretty much get the same word: appendicits. Seeing as this was early September, we hadn’t yet covered the digestive system in Biology (but I’ll have you know that I proudly pointed out where it is when the teacher asked me on my first day back to school ;), so I was pretty much in the dark. “What is it?” I asked. The doctor explained, with the help of his poster of the digestive system. “It’s part of the digestive system, but it just sits there attached to the stomach, doing nothing.”

I’m pretty sure we were sent back to the waiting room, but I was told that now would be the time to grab a lunch, as I’d be on an IV drip diet and they’d run some urine and blood tests in a few hours. Also, I was bumped up on the waiting list (2nd, actually. There was another case of appendicitis that had walked in earlier and he/she’d be operated before me — I think in retrospect it was a she, I was put in a room later with a tiny scrap of a girl who’d had her appendix removed too, poor thing). That actually saved my life. So, I ate my last real meal for the next week or so, and momentarily I was ushered elsewhere to get my IV installed (it took the nurse several tries and two wrists because I have “shy” veins – ouch) and then I was put in a room to wait for my bodily fluids to clear of “food”. Mum and I had a lot of time to talk about what was happening to me.

We talked, while my IV dripped and dripped, and a few hours later I had to pee, so with a tiny cup I went and peed. More waiting. More IV dripping, because for the next test (ultrasound) they needed me to be near-to-bloating haha. No, seriously, about an hour later I was sent to the ultrasound girl and she plied me, man, because she couldn’t see my appendix. “Aha,” she exclaimed about fifteen minutes later, after which I’d begun to feel like she was trying to kill me with all the pressure she was putting on THE spot. “It looks like it’s reversed! Hmm, interesting…” Yeah, take that fucking thing off of meeeee

After that final test they didn’t make me wait too long, and so I bade my mom and dad (who’d joined us a little earlier) goodbye and wouldn’t see them again until about five hours later.


The hazy memories

Appendix removal procedures, we were told beforehand, usually just take an hour, two tops. Snip, snip, sew, sew, see you. What took so long? Ah, they didn’t know this before opening me up, but my appendix had burst  and thank goodness its reversed position made it a self-contained bowl-like form (that was near to overflowing btw), because otherwise they’d have been dealing with peritonitis and umm, I might have died right there in the OR.

By the way, undressing under a thin sheet in front of a bunch of watchful white-sheathed people with masks isn’t so hot, but in the end I just thought of it in a clinical way. Aaaand, morphine is awesome. You feel it tingling like… like tiny daggers, up your arm, and then poof, you’re out. It’s the coolest drug ever 😀

So… yeah, that was my ordeal on 9/11, and I have a nearly-not-there two-inch scar to prove it (whereas normal procedures typically leave much smaller scars since they need only go snip. In my case they had to use the big guns). To be honest, I kind of enjoyed my stay at the hospital. Lots of memories. That girl I mentioned earlier, for example: her mom was an insensitive bitch and grabbed a nap in the girl’s bed, squishing her. Also the girl had burgers whereas I was on a liquid diet until my fifth and last day, booo. A baby boy was brought in on the second day with a hernia on his balls I think, or next to them (I was still pretty hazy, I can’t remember everything), poor thing. What else. Mom and I played Scrabble. My middle sister Amy stepped on my IV once and she was like “YOU’RE DYING!” when it started beeping loudly. Also my IV started sucking blood once instead of dripping solution and the nurse was all flustered and harried and “OMG that could have been horrific” because IIRC if it reaches the machine it gets fucked up.

Throughout my stay there were rumours that some WTC survivors could be brought to Montreal, so all hospitals were getting ready for the possibility, even the Children’s. Mum was still harried about my dad working at Place Ville-Marie.

Anyhow, as you might rightly think, no, 9-11 isn’t only about the World Trace Center to me. 9-11 was mostly about my own ordeal. I don’t think it ever passed through my mind that I might die before my operation, but after my mom walked into the wakeup room and told me just how long I’d been in the OR, and after the surgeon explained to me just how lucky I was… well, 9/11, to me, is about me. I count my blessings where I can.

So, don’t take this the wrong way, but each year when 9-11 comes around, I’m just happy to be alive. Yet I remember the victims, and a small hollow in my heart opens up every year for all of them. Rest in beautiful, eternal peace, each and every one of you.