An Easter tale of woe

Ah, sweet April! Welcome, my fellow Dallasonians, to our Goldilocks’ zone where, for three months Texas puts only her best, freshest face forward. For a verdantly brief rainbow season, the entire state seems all but synonymous with Easter.

Nonetheless, if there’s anything we’ve learned via our Grindr fellowships it’s that gleaming looks can be horrifically deceiving. This is a cautionary Easter tale so pay attention closely. Judiciousness is always of essence.

Easter Sunday morning had started out prettily enough: I was to meet my son and his new husband for brunch and in a whimsical, cottontail mood decided to bake them an Easter cake. Granted, I felt a bit bloated and gassy, if not textbook constipated; however, my neighbor and I had devoured an entire pizza out on my balcony the night before; hence, it wasn’t until my abdominal bloat morphed into actual distention that I began to worry, somewhat.

Not until round about noon-ish, or so did I conclude, at last, that perhaps this wasn’t just something easily enough taken care of by a good, robust fart. The Easter cake was still in the oven, and when I began doubling over while pulling it out did it sink in that this Easter Sunday was not going to turn out quite as I’d anticipated.

Is there any emotion worse than knowing that a hospital is the only option left?

Of course, my husband was, per usual, up in some godforsaken far northwest polar bear paradise, doing whatever it is that he does so well.

The invisible screw in my abdomen lurched another sudden twist. Might my neighbor be back home again? It was a long, long longshot. After our pizza, she’d headed out on a date. Miraculously, she picked up on the first ring.

“Gurl,” I whispered, “you have a spare minute to run me by the emergency room?” She didn’t skip a beat. “Lemme me grab my keys. About how many hours ago did your symptoms start?”

Trying not to obsess over my pain, I warbled, “I dunno, seven hours, maybe now eight? Whatcha think—appendix?” Buckling me in, she floored it: “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck …”

The ER’s very doors suddenly materialized in front of us. “Need me to help you check-in, honey?” Grimacing, I winked negatively, “I think I’ve been to this rodeo before.” Behind her wall of biohazard/bulletproof glass, the ER admittance nurse — whom, for no fathomable reason, I instantly nicknamed Theodosia — smiled welcomingly. “Child,” she tutted, shaking her head, “I sure recognize the collywobbles when I see ’em … name, please?”

Hands shaking, I passed her my IDs: “I think I may be suffering an appendicitis attack.”

She handed me a wrist band. “Take a seat, please. We’ll call your name.”

Two steps later, the intercom announced, “Russell. Mr. Howard Russell.” And thus began my gurney-journey through a maze of corridors, ultimately ending up in a room lit like a spaceship, dominated by a large, humming donut-shaped contraption sporting a conveyor belt running through the center.

A wave of nausea began to overwhelm me. “Any chance of getting some pain meds, guys?” Crickets.

“You won’t be in the CT scanner but a few minutes, Mr. Russell. Now, take a deep breath. Hold it. You’ve already been cleared for morphine. Don’t worry. It’s on the way. Exhale. Excellent. Again, deep breath. Hold it …”

“Morphine?” I thought. Isn’t morphine for the dying? The only association I could make with morphine was that grisly triage scene from Saving Private Ryan.

“Well, good news and better news, Mr. Russell,” beamed the new shift-change doc, about a half-hour later. “A private room just opened up for you — although it’s over in the Cancer Research building, but I think you’ll like it — aaaaaand, your morphine’s here!”

From out of nowhere, minions began descending upon me, unfastening my clothes. My eyes started going fuzzy: “Am I going into surgery?” The doctor, staring at a clip-pad in his hand, clucked, “You don’t have appendicitis, Mr. Russell.” His professional smile looked strained: “On a scale of 1-to-10, with 1 being none, at all, how would you rank your current pain level?”

Sweat rolling down my forehead, through chattering teeth, I answered, “Like I’m about to conceive Rosemary’s Baby!” One of the minions patted me, “Now, now. So, how about your testicles … are they usually this large?” “Not like a sack of Ruby Red grapefruits; no, they’re not!”

I could hear the wheeze of a dripping, antibiotic tsunami flushing through the IV in my arm. My mouth had an odd, metallic taste, like I’d been gargling old dimes.

“Then just what do I have?”

For a moment, I couldn’t process the word. My memorized dossier of medical terminology was rather sketchy: Nephritis … kidneys?

“I have kidney failure?” The doc shook his head: “Acute pyelonephritis — not failure of the kidneys, just a severe infection. Very severe. You got to us just in the nick of time.”

Outside my picture window, the flashing lights and slicing blades of a descending medivac chopper whirred. My door opened again. Another embryo entered, pulling a Seussian-looking machine. “Time for our vitals,” she smiled. “Open wide, Mr. Russell.”

“I’m starring in a Marx Brothers’ movie,” I laughed plaintively, staring up to the ceiling from my hospital bed. Pulling the thermometer from my lips, the girl in charge of the Dr. Seuss machine whispered, “The kitchen’s closed, but maybe I can wrangle something up for you. Anything you like in particular?” Arching my brows, I inquired,

“Duck soup?” Thankfully, she laughed, too, and I breathed a sigh of reverence: Things were gonna be OK.

And the moral here, kidz, to our little Easter fable is: If you’re experiencing pain that only worsens as crucial minutes pass, best get your ass to the doctor fast!

— Howard Lewis Russell

Have a question for Howard, guys? He’ll happily consider whatever’s on your mind, at