At the emergency room, they ask you to rate pain on a scale from 1 to 10, 1 being meh, 10 being unspeakable agony. As my sister sped down the local highway, I was convinced, for one solid minute, that I was dying.
This event happened in August 2020, at the height of the first wave of Covid-19, at least in Florida. I went in alone, filled out a sheet, sat on one of the six empty chairs in the waiting room, and waited ten minutes before being led, hunched over, to a room for assessment. After payment of the co-pay, I was allowed to provide a pain rating. It was a pulsating, radiating, nausea-inducing pain, the kind of pain that made every sense unbearably clear. I rated it an overall 5, with intermittent spikes of 7.
Even on morphine, then Toradol, the pain didn’t budge. It was stubborn, unresponsive. It emanated from an abstract place modern medicine had yet to discover, like the exact physical space of the soul. Well, my soul had manifested in my lower left torso and was being twisted by degrees by a spiked, gauntleted fist.
Later, after emergency surgery, the gynecologist informed me that my left ovary had twisted five times around itself, and both it and the fallopian tube were necrotic. She performed a unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy due to ovarian torsion, the removal of a fallopian tube and the ovary. She was concerned, due to the state of the ovary, that it might have been cancerous.
Pre-pandemic, my mother would have been in the chair beside me, not just because I’m her child, but because she was a nurse and infection preventionist, and regularly cites Shirley MacLaine’s iconic scene in Terms of Endearment as the proper way to advocate for a loved one. With Covid raging, I had to settle for the gynecologist putting her on speakerphone for the operation debrief. It wasn’t enough. My mother’s warm hand was absent on my arm. Our eyes couldn’t share a look. I couldn’t leave it up to her to be present while I grappled with what had happened, was happening. I wanted to cry. It had been such a pleasant Sunday. Now it was Monday afternoon and I had undergone an irrevocable change. While I was considering giving in to tears, the gynecologist asked if I had a high pain threshold. I do not…