Hurricane Pancreas

It was one year ago this week that I found myself lying in Resurrection Hospital with pancreatitis. Yes, I am fully aware of the fact that a much more universal and, some would say, more important one-year anniversary is happening at the same time, but trust me, it really hurt. I mean, it REALLY hurt. I was having the most terrible, awful, twisting pain in my abdomen. It had been going on for several days and Sunday was just the last day that I could stand it.

When I went into the emergency room they decided to do a CAT-scan. I had to drink glass after glass of this horrible-tasting orangey liquid and then wait for two hours. Have you ever waited for two hours in an emergency room without even a television to watch local television shows? Trust me, it’s not fun.

Anyway, they did the scan and they discovered that my pancreas was inflamed. The thing about a pancreas is that you kind of need to have one. Yeah, it’s a pretty important organ. They don’t do pancreas transplants that I am aware of, although there is probably some scientist somewhere who can make one grow on the back of a rat. Why? No one knows. Scientists just like to do Dr. Moreau-type stuff like that all the time.

Now I was aware that the time I drove myself to the ER that there was a hurricane bearing down on New Orleans. It was a something I was concerned about but I kind of had this horrible pain that felt very much like a knife being stuck in my gut and then twisted and turned painfully.

Once I got into the hospital they gave me medication. The pain faded. I fell asleep. Katrina was predicted to hit New Orleans sometime in the morning. It had passed over Florida a few days ago. It had been such a non-event at that time that Eva Longoria had made a comment about it and turned it into a joke on some awards show. Things intensified as the storm passed into the Gulf of Mexico. That usually doesn’t happen but it happened here. As Katrina churned and turned in the Gulf, my gut was turning and churning with agony and pain.

So, my pain and dealing with a sore pancreas is forever going to be tied with that hurricane and what happened in New Orleans. I woke up the next morning and, of course, all of the news channels were doing nothing but covering the storm as it slammed into the city. The news was upbeat, however. The storm had been, just the day before, predicted to be at category 5 and one of the most monstrous storms the nation had ever seen. However, overnight, it slowed and then looked like it would not hit New Orleans head-on.

My doctor came in to visit me that Monday morning. The hospital I was in did not have cable on the room televisions. I was stuck with the local coverage. I was watching the “Today” show, I believe. As he came in and conducted a routine check on me and asked me a bunch of questions he turned to look at the coverage on television. We had a conversation that went something like this”

“What are they saying about the hurricane?” He asked.

“Right now,” I replied, “it looks better than they thought. The biggest part of the storm may have missed New Orleans.”

“Good,” he said, “I really love New Orleans.”

I liked New Orleans too. I had only been there once. During one of my families’ travels via car we decided to go check out the state of Texas. As we were plotting our drive back my dad suggested we take a slight diversion and spend a little time in the Big Easy. As I walked down Bourbon Street with my family, at the age of about 15 or 16, and looking at the women dancing in windows sexily all I could think was, “I HAVE to get back here when I am old enough to drink and get into these bars.” I have yet to have the chance to get back.

As I watched the television throughout the day, however, it became clear that the storm itself was just the start of the disaster. As you probably know, the levees did not hold. The city began to flood. I watched it all because there was nothing else to watch.

I saw as the city fell apart. I was just getting out of the hospital and heading back home as the deaths at the Convention Center and the Dome were becoming evident. Every single cable news network had managed to get camera crews and equipment and reporters into the city but the government couldn’t seem to get anyone anywhere. As it turns out, the government was busy holding their hands over their ears and making “lalalala” noises during those days. Of course, we also know that Bush and his idiots only watch Fox News so they probably were showing pictures of how pretty the sun was reflecting off of the flood waters instead of the dead bodies lying face down on the streets. Yeah, you sure did a fine job there, Brownie.

It’s a year later and still much of the city of New Orleans is a mess. It amazes me that there are still piles and piles of debris lying on streets and piled up on lawns. There are houses that are barely standing that have yet to be knocked down. There are people still living in government-issued trailers while others are still waiting for theirs. Much of the population of New Orleans is still living somewhere else.

So far this year’s hurricane season has been tame as compared to last year. Once again nature is showing the weather predictors that they really have no idea what they are talking about. I understand there is a storm with the rather romantic name of Ernesto that might be bearing down on the Gulf region. I also understand that New Orleans is still built below sea-level and will probably flood again sometime in my life time.

I shook my head when I first heard Kanye West say, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” One year later I have to wonder if maybe he was on to something.

I hope Ernesto is a more polite guest than Katrina. I hope my pancreas doesn’t start to hurt again anytime soon. I still hope I manage to see inside some of those bars I saw back when I was a teenager some day.

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