For a person who absolutely adores Valentine’s Day, I’ve had some pretty bad ones. When I was younger, no one ever asked me to be their Valentine. Which was okay, because everyone was required to pass out a card to every single person in their class. It wasn’t that I didn’t notice that my pretty blonde friends got bigger cards with better pieces of candy in them… it was just that I didn’t really care. I was just so happy to be a part of it. I am a cheerleader for love.
In middle school we had these things called “singing-grams,” which was really just some choir student who got to skip first period in order to walk into your classroom and halt the lesson, call out a student’s name, and serenade them with a romantic song in front of the whole class. Once again, my pretty blonde friends found this mortifying, but that level of embarrassing attention was my dream. My eighth grade year that dream was finally realized when a group of middle school choir boys came into my science class, called out my name, and began to sing “My Girl.” The sender was anonymous, a fact that I announced in every period until the last of the day, where it made the class burst into laughter. Everyone knew I was so gaga for Valentines Day that someone had sent it as a joke (I will not reveal names here.. but it rhymes with Flurbin).
Then there was the year that I got my high school boyfriend a hideous engraved leather bracelet that he dutifully wore until he broke up with me (probably a good call to break up with anyone who gets you an engraved leather bracelet, on his part). And my loneliest Valentine’s Day, my first in college, when I decorated my room with black cut-out hearts and my mom ended up sending me every single Dakota Fanning movie on DVD, which I then watched consecutively.
No matter how many embarrassments, let downs, or Dakota Fanning movie marathons I forced upon my college roommate, I have never lost my intense love of Valentine’s Day. Even as all my pretty blonde friends grew into beautiful blonde women who spouted intelligent criticisms of the consumerist holiday while their longterm boyfriends showered them in flowers, I kept my stance strong. I love Valentine’s Day. I love balloons and flowers and cheesy gestures and a day that is devoted to celebrating love. I love making Valentine’s presents for my friends and writing them stupid poems and wearing pink. I love love!!!!
But there was one day that stands out among the rest. A day that is, inarguably, the worst ever Valentine’s Day, ever. Valentine’s Day 2014, more dramatically known as the Valentine’s Day when I woke up covered in blood.
Let us all travel back in time to February 10th, 2014, the day I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. I was just coming off of the very first surgery on my butthole which adorably happened a few days before Christmas, and obviously my body was brainstorming other ways it could ruin holidays for me. We had come to the hospital to hear the results of my latest colonoscopy, which would officially confirm if I was diseased or not. While we were there, we had also decided to pop up a few floors to the rectal surgery office so my butt wound could be examined. A fun-filled day.
My gastrointorologist confirmed that I not only had Crohn’s Disease, but I was also showing signs of ileitis (when the infection has traveled to your small intestine as well) and before they could get me on any sort of medication to help me, I had to first undergo a procedure in which I would swallow a tiny camera that would take pictures of my insides. They scheduled this procedure for the following Friday, Valentine’s Day. I was so sick that I didn’t think much of it.
Up on the rectal surgery floor I found out that my poor butthole was suffering from something called a fistula, another nasty and painful side effect of Crohn’s Disease, a disease which I had only officially had for about fifteen minutes. In order to repair it they had to inflate a balloon or something inside of a tunnel inside of my butt. Or at least, that’s what I took away from it. I am not a medical professional!!!
My surgeon (the one who looks so much like Steven Colbert that I literally gasped the first time I saw him) informed my mother and I that the surgery would need to happen as soon as possible. I had stupidly decided to drive back to school that day, so we scheduled it for the next day that I would be back in town: Valentine’s Day.
My mother and I were assured that both the camera swallowing procedure and the fistulotomy could occur on the same day. Then Steven Colbert winked at me and said “It’s a date!” which was very exciting.
The night before Valentine’s Day I arrived home to a nice little set-up. My favorite blanket was in a cozy chair in front of the TV and the two enormous glasses of poison I would have to drink for bowel prep were resting on the table next to me. The night quickly descended into hell.
I have had two truly terrible bowel preps in my life. The first was when I had a breakup that morning, flew home, and bowel prepped all night. Imagine going through the first night of a breakup AND pooping until everything in your body turns to liquid. And the second was the night in question, when I brought in Valentine’s Day 2014 by pooping in the bath.
That is an alarming statement. Let me explain. This will not be pretty, but you have to know how unprepared I was for this situation. Basically, my fistula was on the inside part of my butthole. When the stuff comes out it has to go past it. Pooping had been uncomfortable in general, but not painful necessarily. What I did not realize was that the Prepopik that makes your poo turn to liquid is basically acid with knives in it, and so when I would have the bouts of diarrhea that you must in order to cleanse your system for surgery, this acid poo would get into the fistula tunnel and make me feel like I was getting crucio’ed by Voldemort.
The only thing that could make the pain close to tolerable was to sit in a hot bath. So back and forth I would go between the toilet and the bath all night long, until I was weak and exhausted and empty. It was maybe three or four in the morning and I was forcing myself awake when I felt the familiar cramps that signaled more Prepopik diarrhea. I placed my arms on either side of the tub and tried to lift myself out, and found that I did not have the strength.
It is confusing for me to type that because it’s too difficult to comprehend, as a moderately healthy person now, how one can lack the strength to pull oneself out of a bathtub. All I know is that I could not. I was that sick. I wouldn’t believe it now if I didn’t remember it so clearly.
In a panic I texted my mom that I was going to be sick but I couldn’t get up out of the bath. I couldn’t stand the idea of my mother coming in and lifting my twenty-year old naked body out of the tub and transferring me to the toilet so I could have more crucio diarrhea. I was at a loss.
She texted back: go.
I told her I was trying and that I didn’t have the strength to get up, and she corrected me: no, no. go in the bath.
So on my twentieth Valentines day I pooped in a bathtub, which on an embarrassment level fell somewhere above engraved leather bracelets but below a sarcastic rendition of My Girl.
After the pain subsided a bit I was able to roll myself over the lip of the tub and flop onto the tile. I wrapped a robe around myself and crawled on my hands and knees to the toilet. My mom, without a word, came in and cleaned my poo from the tub.
For years after the fact I have maintained that this was the greatest display of Valentine’s love I have ever seen, and the true meaning of the holiday. When Chloe and Kirby got engaged I asked her, very seriously, “Would Kirby clean your poo out of the bath?” and she contemplated before saying, quite somberly, “You know.. I think he really would.” And so I gave them my blessing. That’s how you know.
The next morning my mother and I headed to the hospital. First up was the camera swallowing procedure, which proved to be a little difficult as I was meant to swallow a quarter-sized camera but was unable to ingest any liquids before my surgery that afternoon. The nurse said I could have just a tiny bit of water, but I had to get it down the first time. It tasted like plastic.
Then I was adorned with a heavy leaden belt and a tiny whirring machine that sat in a little satchel on my hip. They told me to come back in a certain amount of hours (this was many years ago, okay??) and that I couldn’t lie down at all.
This was roadblock number two, as I was meant to be unconscious for my fistulotomy in about an hour. I genuinely have no idea how this was resolved. My mom figured it out while I wandered the halls trying desperately to stay awake.
Easily the worst part of any surgery is all of the in-between time when you’re just thinking, “dudes, I’m in pain here, just knock me out!” But this particular day was wrought with in between time spent in waiting rooms, filling out forms, answering the same questions, and trying to forget the fact that I hadn’t slept at all the night before. When it came time for the rectal surgery we actually had to get back in the car and drive to an outpatient clinic where I settled into another waiting room, unable to lie down.
At last I was called back, handed a gown, and instructed to remove all clothing. Which was tricky, as I was wearing a heavy leaden belt that I was under no circumstances allowed to take off. I managed to pull my clothes out from under the belt and then weave the gown back under them. The nurse came back in to inform me that I couldn’t bring the belt and the little whirring machine into the operating room as I would be cut open and they were not sterilized. Again, no idea how this was resolved.
They gave me a cute little hairnet and the last thing I remember was taking a bunch of photos of me in my hairnet, horrible belt, IV drip, and hospital gown and howling with laughter over them with my mom. Then I woke up.
The rest of the day only comes back in little flashes, since I was heavily drugged up. I remember another waiting room while we were trying to get the belt off. I remember curling up in the car with my favorite pokemon blanket. I remember my mom taking a video of me weeping in my hospital gown and saying how much I love my friends and all of the fish in the sea.
I then I remember waking up in the deep hours of the night covered in blood.
I hobbled into the bathroom across the hall from me to pee and I noticed that there was something swaddling my bottom and that my legs and abdomen were slick. When I turned on the light I found that I had been taped into a giant makeshift cotton diaper that was now soaked with blood. In my groggy state I thought I had been experimented on. I immediately was wracked with sobs as I clawed the diaper off of me.
This is how my mother found me: hunched over, gargoyle-like, in the bathroom, tears of despair choking my words. Apparently I was supposed to change my dressing after surgery. Apparently a nurse thought I would remember this fact despite all of the morphine in my system.
And that is the story of the worst ever Valentine’s Day, ever. So the next time the dumb boy you like doesn’t get you anything, or worse, he gets something for your pretty blonde friend instead, remember that a Valentine’s Day when you’re not waking up in a pool of your own anal blood is a good one. And then call your mom and tell her you love her.
HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, FRIENDS!!!