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Editor’s note: John Rice is off this week celebrating the passage of time. Please enjoy this column from October of 2002.

When people get older, they tend to complain about their health. I’m no exception. Last week I couldn’t help noticing that my stomach hurt so much it was impossible for me to lie down. I reasoned that the right-lower pain, combined with loss of appetite meant that I had appendicitis.

The ER doctor was unimpressed with my symptoms and self diagnosis until he saw the CAT scan, whereupon I was immediately whisked to surgery. The most painful part of the surgery, of course, was when they ripped the tape that held my IV in place. It was like they were trying to wax my forearm.

Recovery Room was a breeze and I felt fine until three hours post-op when I suddenly needed morphine. As I drifted off into my drug induced sleep, the hospital gave me a new roommate.

As many college freshmen have learned this fall, roommates can be troublesome. Especially if they are drunk, psychotic and keep the TV on all night. At midnight, I meekly inquired whether the hospital had some kind of “lights out.” When the nurse relayed my request to my roommate, he ripped out his IV and stormed off for a cigarette. It took two security officers to subdue him. Personally, I would have sprung for a carton.

At 3 a.m., I called the House Supervisor. I said that although my roommate and I shared the same meal plan and probably liked the same music, we just weren’t getting along. Thankfully, the nurses wheeled me to a private room where I finally got some shut-eye.

The next morning, I intended to stay in the hospital, but it was too noisy to sleep. It sounded like they were jack-hammering the hallways. When I got home I found peace and quiet. However, my new pain medication made my stomach feel like it was spending the day at Six Flags. I made it through the night without medication by watching endless reruns of “The Civil War” on PBS. Usually, when I watch this documentary I am appalled by the suffering. This time, I was envious of all the morphine the wounded were getting.

In the morning I got a new pain medication that included dips and turns. This, along with cards, books and a CD I received from neighbors, lifted my spirits. The CD contained the soothing sounds of “Los Straightjackets,” which I’m sure my old hospital roommate would have enjoyed.

My neighbors had learned of my condition when they heard me yelling at my wife for not putting enough ice in my ice water, buttering the wrong side of my toast and failing to fluff my pillow properly.

If I somehow feel human by next week, I’ll be glad to complain about something other than my health.