View From Lodi, CA: Joe Guzzardi Returns!
March 16, 2007, 04:00 AM
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Special JoeNote to VDARE.COM readers: Many thanks to all who sent cards, e-mails and their prayers. I am more grateful that I can ever express. Your messages were an enormous source of comfort during my ordeal—the details of which follow.

After three hospital stays totaling 82 days, (most of them in intensive care), three major surgeries, a thousand injections, dozens of CAT-scans and X-rays, I am finally back at home-minus forty pounds-and beginning to put my life back together.

According to my surgeons, that will be no small chore. They predict a one-year recovery period from the rare disease that overtook me—pancreatitis. Only about 50,000 incidents of acute pancreatitis occur in the U.S. annually.

Based on the home nursing care I'm receiving, a year sounds about right. Frequent dressing changes for my wounds are mandatory. And I am often overwhelmed with exhaustion by mid-day even though I may have hardly done more than read the newspaper.

Most pancreatitis cases result from alcohol or drug abuse, gallstones or complications from prior surgeries. None of those fit into my medical profile. I am one of the 15% of pancreatitis victims where the cause is unknown.

Until stricken, I could not have told you one single thing about the pancreas. The best I could have ventured is that it is an organ in the general area of the stomach that produces insulin.

I got some clue what I was in for when the emergency room doctor returned from reading the X-rays and said: "I have bad news for you". I naturally expected his follow up to be: "Cancer". Instead, he told me: "Pancreatitis."

Pancreatitis came upon me like a sudden summer storm. One day, I was fine but the next day I was doubled over in a pain so intense I could not endure it. And the day after that, I was on the operating table.

For someone who in his sixty-three years on earth had never been hospitalized for anything, let alone undergone surgery, it was all quite a shock.

Surrounded by doctors and nurses, I was slow to realize the gravity of my situation. When, after my third surgery, I asked the doctors if I was going to live, they artfully dodged the question by replying that I was doing as well as could be expected.

Only when I left the hospital did the surgeons candidly tell me that most patients in my condition don't live to tell about it.

How did I make it through?

First, I had the love and support of family and friends.

Second, I had the dedicated and tireless care of the professional hospital staff.

Third, I was determined not to die. Whatever goals were set for me, I pledged to better them. When the physical therapist told me it would be a month before I was walking on my own, I set my timetable for two weeks-and I beat it.

The good news from my ordeal is that I've been through a life-altering experience. Nothing is-or ever will be-the same for me.

I listened carefully to the staff chaplain who visited me daily. And, although it has been decades since I have been what could be called "religious", I took comfort in the compassionate words and prayers of my nurses.

I'm not sure exactly how my new life will play out. But I am very thankful to have the chance to live it.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.