Ring of Fire

The past few months have been a whirlwind of activity followed by everything grinding to a screeching halt. The common theme for the first three months of the year was travel. I spend an inordinate amount of time in airports, on planes, and living out of a suitcase. While I technically reside in LA, my time there is largely limited to weekdays spent at the office.

Travel has dominated the past months for a number of reasons. For work, I travelled overseas to Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Shanghai. While the strip was predominantly business, I managed to sneak in a few fun activities. In Tokyo, I met up with my good friends, the Eguchi family for an enjoyable lunch. In Hong Kong, a couple of co-workers and I took the ferry to Macao, supposedly the “Las Vegas” of Asia and “Vegas on steroids.” Despite visiting on a Friday night, what we found was a depressing ghost town. We strolled around the palatial Venician where a smattering of Chinese tourists marveled at the artificial canals. We drank by ourselves in an empty bar before moving to an equally desolate restaurant. It quickly became apparent that the casinos had been overbuilt in a wild frenzy of overly optimistic expectation. Instead, after a disappointing few hours, we hopped on the ferry back to Hong Kong. In Beijing, our hotel was only a few blocks from Tiananmen Square. After running the gauntlet of prostitutes, it was possible to stroll up to the Great Hall at the entrance to the Forbidden City. However, as with my last visit to Beijing, I was once again thwarted in my attempt to see Chairman Mao’s preserved corpse. This time, the mausoleum was closed for regular renovations and maintenance that just happened to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the invasion of Tibet.

The Eguchi Family
The Eguchi Family

Aside from business travel, I have been shuttling back and forth to Omaha on weekends when Megan isn’t visiting me in LA. Weekends in Omaha typically involve exhausting amounts of wedding planning while weekends together in LA usually involve little, if any, mention of the wedding at all. In mid-March, my mom visited the U.S. from Italy and flew to Omaha for the weekend. Since it was her first visit to “the Gateway to the West,” she got the frantic tour of the area. This tour was naturally heavy on wedding-related destinations including the wedding venue, rehearsal venue, hotel, bridal shop, courthouse, jewelry store, shopping malls, restaurants, and just about anything else remotely connected to a wedding. It was a busy weekend, but it was nice for her to be able to meet Megan’s family and to see Omaha before the wedding.

The following weekend, I took a redeye flight to Boston and spent the weekend in Onset visiting my dad, my brother, and my grandmother. It is always wonderful to visit Onset, especially in the off-season when it is quiet. We enjoyed a relaxing weekend, occasionally venturing outside to play tennis or throw the football, though mainly camping out inside watching soccer and basketball on TV and feasting on chocolate chip cookies. On Sunday morning, we made the regular pilgrimage to the Daniel Webster Inn in Sandwich where we savored a delicious breakfast buffet. Our family has had many memorable meals at the Daniel Webster and it was nice to add another one.

After a couple of months of frantic travel nearly every weekend, April was intended to be a month of regaining stability and getting back into a normal routine. However, these plans hit a snag when I unexpectedly was laid low by a medical issue. Megan was in LA visiting for her Spring Break and on her second day here I began to feel sick. After nearly 8 hours of vomiting, it became clear that whatever I had wasn’t going away, so she drove me to the emergency room at 3:30 in the morning. I was soon admitted to the hospital and an NG tube was promptly thrust down my nose into my stomach. A couple of years ago in Atlanta, I experienced similar symptoms and was hospitalized due to a blockage in my small intestine. Eventually, the blockage resolved itself without surgery, although apparently the same issue had returned. This time, I was given a CT scan and moved into a shared room. Fortunately, the NG tube relieved the pressure in my stomach and prevented vomiting and thankfully the steady flow of morphine dulled the pain. In the afternoon, I completed another CT scan, this time with a liquid injected into me to monitor the flow. Only a couple of hours after the results of this test came back I was rushed down to the operating room to prepare for surgery. When I woke near midnight, the surgery was completed and I was informed that the blockage in my small intestine was due to Meckel’s diverticulum. The offending portion of the small intestine was removed, along with my appendix (to reduce the risk of infection). A roughly four inch scar ran up my stomach, wrapping around my belly button. Initially, the scar was jagged and looked like I was the victim of a shark attack, although it has straightened out over time.

Aaron in Emergency Room
Aaron in Emergency Room

Following the surgery, I remained in the hospital for four additional days. The first day I could barely move and I was told that the small intestine basically falls asleep as a result of the anesthetic used during surgery. It wasn’t until the third day when I was allowed to drink liquids and four days before I could begin to consume soft foods. Oddly, despite not eating or drinking anything for an entire week, I still didn’t lose any weight at all. Fortunately, Megan stayed with me in the hospital and we passed the time reading, watching TV, sleeping, listening to our annoying roommate, and going for short walks. While walking around was encouraged to aid in a speedy recovery, the walking course was less than stellar. Our short stroll around our floor of the hospital took us past one room where two security officers stood guard on an unquestionably disturbed looking patient – Megan and I spent a good deal of time speculating on his crime, although we never gained closure through a confirmed answer. Further along the course, we passed a series of rooms marked with signs warning that patients inside the room carried airborne viruses. Nurses entering the room were covered head to toe and donned masks. Still, they often left the doors open and occasionally let those patients out for a walk, so we did our best to hold our breaths and avoid that section of the floor. Really, I cannot recommend a stay in the hospital on any grounds. The food isn’t very good, the rooms aren’t very comfortable, and most of the people are sick.

Aaron returning from a walk
Aaron returning from a walk

Eventually, I was discharged and allowed to return home. However, I was instructed to remain on soft foods for a few days and to avoid any exercise. I was not allowed to lift anything over 15 pounds, I couldn’t run, and I wasn’t allowed to drive since I was prescribed vicodin. Thankfully, Megan extended her spring break and stayed for an additional week. During that time, she pampered me and took care of me far better than any of the nurses at the hospital (actually, even in the hospital she usually got what I needed). At times, it was slightly embarrassing to have her carrying bags of groceries or piles of laundry while I shuffled next to her carrying nothing (or her purse). Each day, we would go for a short, slow walk around the neighborhood and I gradually began to feel better.

The recovery continues and I am not yet entirely back to being able to eat, drink, or exercise as I would like. However, each day the pain lessens and I get closer to a full recovery. In retrospect, I was fortunate that the incident happened while I was in the U.S. and that Megan was around to take care of me. The upcoming couple of months look to be busy and full of more travel, so even the timing worked out pretty well. Considering how busy and eventful the past few months have been, I’m eager to see what’s in store for the next few months.

One Reply to “Ring of Fire”

  1. Deidre Giannine says:

    Hi Aaron,

    WOW!! I came on the cooksail website to connect with your mother!! But somehow started reading about your adventures…and I am always curious..and I knew there is a wedding this summer! My goodness..YOU. have been through so much..and thankfully with Megan..in the U.S…it was all very scarey…I think you have ANGELS…on your shoulders.
    I am happy to hear you are better.

    I am always so amazed with you and your family with all of their international travels…and obstacles they achieve along the way…So yourself have achieved so many!!! and I am always so impressed..and wish I could have 1/8 of your adventures…

    I continue to be in Monroe, Ct…still happy…connecting with new people all the time…always interesting…but me here…and not out there

    I need to know if your parents will be at Cape Cod this summer because I wanted to try and connect with them…
    As always, Deidre Giannini – Monroe

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