Lost in Translation

My mother will often toss around the Spanish word empacho after a big meal. It’s a romanticized way to describe indigestion that can kill you if you don’t drown yourself in herbal teas (te digestivo). Empacho can’t really kill you. I know this because, folks, me empache.

I didn’t, really, but I thought I did. One egg, two ounces of ham, and one roll for breakfast was all my stomach needed on Sunday to become really, really angry. Christian Bale angry.

I drank my weight in tea and followed the directions on the Mylanta bottle precisely. I was in the middle of making Summer Harm’s banana bread when I decided this was more than romantic indigestion. I tried unsuccessfully all morning and afternoon to find a doctor who could see me, to no avail. My entire city was suffering from empacho.

So, for the first time in my life–not counting preterm labor with Nicholas–I went to the urgent care. The man triaged ahead of me had a similar complaint, but he lasted two weeks before deciding to see a doctor. I gave him a once over and decided he must have had two eggs,  four ounces of ham, and two rolls. I gave the woman crawling out of the bathroom holding her stomach a once over and, after watching her gingerly sit down in the wheelchair, decided she either ate the entire ham, turkey, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie or her appendix was about to burst out of her stomach like a fully gestated alien.

Sidenote: her husband had the most inane grin on his face the entire time. The woman was in excruciating pain and there he was, politician-smile firmly in place. The poor woman was trying to get into her wheelchair without upsetting the alien while he stood beaming at her purse strap like a boy on a first date. I wanted to tell him to go drink some chamomile tea, relax, and put on his game face. Now is not the time to showcase your wide range of crazy.

They ushered me back quickly, and the short of it is I have gastritis, an inflammation of the stomach lining. I rarely drink or take ibuprofen, so they believe it was caused by stress and ham.

“Ham?! I had two ounces, and that’s actually the first time I’ve tried had baked ham.”

“Sometimes that’s all it takes.”

Zantac twice per day, Mylanta three times per day, and a bland diet. By Saturday I should feel better. I was still muttering about the injustice of gastritis over 2 ounces of ham when the nurse came in to take my blood pressure. As we waited for the machine to take my reading he listened to me sympathetically and flipped through my chart.

“Well,” he said, “you are about to turn forty. This sort of thing happens as you get older.”

Oh, for Pete’s sake.

Jules Kendall writes about books, family, and easygoing simplicity.


  1. says

    I’m torn between the “sorry you are feeling lousy” response, and the genuine laugh-out-loud of your punchline. Hope you feel better in time for the big day 😉

  2. says

    I feel a strange desire to swear, in a laughing sort of funny, ha. ha. sort of way. I’ll remain somewhat PC…f*ck me. Man, all the joys of hitting a new decade…but I thought 40 was the new 30…what is going on here? 😉

  3. says

    I had the same reaction as Charlotte noted above. Shaking my head in sympathy the whole time, then a genuine laugh-out-loud belly laugh (in our quiet quiet office no less) at the punchline. Glad it’s nothing serious!

  4. says

    Wow Jules. I’m thinking you should have “filed”that under “insult to injury”… :/ Did he have to kick you while you’re down? I hope you start feeling better. I think it might have been the ham, not that your intestinal tract is aging. ;)…bad ham. That’s all….

  5. Phaedra says

    Seriously, the curse of turning 40 is hitting you. I have never thought of 40 as old. I wasn’t concerned about turning 40 in July. I was laughing (in a nice way) about all the crazy things that happened to most of my friends as they turned 40 and how none of that would happen to ME! Why, I’m healthy & keep up on good health habits… what could happen to me? Uh, Forty happened. The curse managed to put a hit on me. I’m still recovering from the smackdown.

    I hope that you feel better more quickly than the week’s time they indicated. You have my full sympathy!

    Last, but not least, thanks for the great storytelling and the laugh.

    • says

      That’s the first time I have ever had ham, and my husband cooked it in butter. I’ve been maintaining a pretty low fat/healthy diet for a while, so it might have been too much for me.

  6. YJ says

    I hope you feel better soon! Am so glad you went in instead of touching it out. Also, the doctor also told my 29 yo self that ” you’re not young anymore” when I pulled my back whilst sitting at my desk and needed muscle relaxants, so it’s not just b/c of 40… ^_^

  7. says

    It’s pathetic, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have noticed some minor breaking down since 40 (past two years). Now I can’t sleep on my right shoulder because it aches all of the next day, and I got some elbow bursitis from resting my elbows on my desk at the computer. This dastardly bursitis is hanging on, too, with the Jaws of Life. I’m having to take ibuprofen daily to function (last resort, too), which gives me…stomach pains and gastritis. I actually do take pretty good care of myself with exercise and diet and am surprised at these little inconveniences! Makes me think if biblical Abraham and how he lived to 700 or some nonsense–No Thank you!!

  8. georgia says

    I always get the same on Easter Sunday :(
    I found it very amusing that you filed the post under ‘body’ and ‘health’ and the ‘Pete’s sake’ post under ‘mind’ and ‘health’. Like Mark Twain’s quote “age is an issue of mind over matter…”
    Happy Birthday, btw!!!

  9. says

    Your Thanksgiving Day table is just beautiful!

    So sorry to hear about your stomach troubles. The older I get, the more I realize that getting older is not for the faint of heart – literally! I’m on my fifth pregnancy at age 33 years (i am aware that this is not “old”, but I’ve got a twelve year old, so I feel older, if that makes any sense) now, and I can definitely say that, while I actually feel more mentally and emotionally stable, I’m praying my body will hold together through this upcoming labor and recovery. My body loosened so much this time around that I’ve most definitely got some sessions with a chiropractor in my future!

    I hope you feel much better soon. :)

  10. Karen F says

    Jules – I swear, I had something very similar happen to me! 2 weeks after my 40th birthday, I had severe chest pain and it turns out it was a gallbladder attack. I had to have emergency surgery to have my gallbladder out. My step-sister (who is a month older than I am) had the same exact thing happen to her 3 weeks later. So we both turned 40 and then had our gallbladders out.

  11. Jennifer says

    You may not see this at this late date but I have to concur with Karen. You probably have a gallstone or two. Keep an eye on it. I am an ER nurse, 41 AND 5 months out from having my gallbladder out. I would say that it was the fatty ham that triggered your symptoms. Fun, fun! No major worries, just something to mention to your regular doctor. Hope you are feeling better!

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