It had been 48 hours of bloating and abdominal pain, but the lightning-strike-like cramps had stopped about an hour previous. Now all I had was a dull ache and a heavy feeling, like a brick, had settled in my left side.
My kids were pressuring me, via our family's ongoing facebook chat, to go get it checked out. But I really didn't want to go there with a stomach ache that was just a stomach ache.
"God? Do I need to see someone about something? Is there something wrong? If there is, then let me know. I'll go."
And right at that second, a searing cramp pain took my breath away.
"Really? Something's wrong? I have to go?"
Followed immediately by another pain.
"OK. I'll go. Please not cancer, OK? It's going to be something though, isn't it? Something that I'm going to have to pay attention to. Crap. OK. OK. I'll just have a bath, shave my legs, wash my hair, put some make-up on, brush my teeth..."
I'd been in bed for 2 days and if anyone had to look at my stomach, the least I could do was make the rest of me look presentable. Because. Pride.
I took my time getting ready. Like, who is ever in a hurry to hear bad news. And besides, the worst of the pain was over. Not once, during that hour, did I get another breath-taking cramp.
"God? You're sure? I really should go?"
CRAMP x 10 that doubles me over.
"OK. I'm going."
I got my mom to drop me off at Surrey Memorial around 8 pm.
There were half a dozen folks waiting ahead of me.
"You're here to see a doctor?"
"What's the problem?"
"Abdominal pain, mostly centered here, on my left side."
"How long have you had it?"
She looks up from her keypad and gives me a gentle smile.
"It won't be long."
Her kindness just about does me in.
I nod, fighting back tears, and take a seat.
When they call me to triage, they check my temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. The nurse who records the numbers says, "Well, that'll fast track you through here. You can expect good service tonight!"
Seconds later, a second triage nurse asks me a bunch of questions, where I answer the same way, "I thought I had a stomach flu, I got all bloated and had painful cramps. They lasted for 48 hours and now the cramps are mostly gone, I just have a very tender, uncomfortable spot on my left side, right here... and I feel a little foolish here. It's probably not an emergency ..."
All the while I'm telling him this, that heart rate thing is on my finger, monitoring my pulse.
He says, "I'm not sure what's happening in your abdomen, but your heart rate is causing concern. Please rest on that bed over here. I've ordered an EKG for you stat.
"God? My heart? Really? What? OH MAN. I'm too fat and out of shape aren't I? My life style is going to bite me in the ass? Is it too late to smarten up? No more chocolate and cheezies? Do I need to get a gym membership? And then, like, develop a love of/tolerance for sweating? Am I going to die soon? Is this why I'm here? OK. Fine. Your will be done. My life is yours, regardless. Whatever this is, OK. OK. Your will be done. Your will be done. Your will be done. Help me not to cry when I find out. Whatever it is, I've brought it on myself. I'm sure. Just like this whole face cancer thing. I'm sure everyone is thinking, 'well, what did she expect? That she could sit in the sun and NOT get skin cancer? What makes her think she's so invincible?' ... so OK. I've adding walking and eating salads too late in life. Your will be done. You gave me this life, and You can take it away. I should probably write my own eulogy. And get someone at work to design the bulletin. I don't want my kids worrying about that. I'll get the photos for the slide show figured out, I know how long it takes to scan pics..."
As I chatted with God about my funeral arrangements, the gal with the EKG machine came in and started applying sticky notes to my body. I said, "Amen" and took a deep breath. Whatever was going to be, was going to be. I was at peace.
She did her thing.
Then took all the sticky notes off.
And minutes later I was ushered to another room to donate blood.
"Are you OK?"
"Uh huh. Fine."
"You look awfully pale..."
"Yeah, not a fan of needles."
"Oh. OK. I"ll be quick."
Needle goes in,
I remind myself to breathe.
And breathe again.
And breathe again.
She is applying pressure to the insertion site, and wiggling the needle. Then she rubs the area around the needle. Then she pushes it in further.
Then she takes it out and tries another spot.
I concentrate on breathing.
She manages to find a vein that will give up some blood but it's a slow, lazy drip. So she rubs and wiggles and presses to speed things up. I can hear and feel her changing vials, so I know something is finally working.
"Wow. That was slow. Sorry about that..."
"Are you OK?"
"Uh huh. Give me a sec."
"Here. Press hard. And follow me."
I was moved again into another room.
More conversations about my past 48 hours. More of me holding my left side.
More forms filled out.
More checking to see if my brains were still working. "Spell your last name? What is your postal code? When were you born?"
Then. Finally after a few hours, a doctor.
"Hi, Jane? You have an infection. I've requested a CT Scan. From what you've described, I'm assuming its your bowel. I need to see if it's burst or perforated. And then he says, "May I" and he lifts up my top and touches my stomach. I am SO embarrassed. I have the world's fattest stomach in the Whole Entire World and its bloated and white and have I mentioned it hasn't seen the sun in 28 years?
With ex-ray vision he presses on the one spot that is tender and sore. "Does it hurt right here?"
"Wow. You're good. You got it on your first try..."
"Your description of events made it easy to figure out what was going on."
Then he puts both hands on either side of my belly and jiggles it.
He effin jiggled my stomach. OH THE MORTIFICATION.
"How does that feel?" he asked.
"Aside from making me feel absolutely and utterly embarrassed, it is also causing me some level of discomfort. Pain would be too strong a word."
A short time later, a cheerful nurse walked in holding up two very large syringes.
"Hey? Would you like some pain killers? I've got the good stuff here?" she says in a sing song voice.
I look at those needles and sigh,
"What? You like being in pain?"
"No, it's not that. I just really don't like needles. And I'm not really in alot of pain. Just uncomfortable."
"I've seen your chart. It's OK to have pain. You've got alot going on."
"Nah. It's OK. I'll be alright."
"You know I'm going to set you up with an IV, right? The CT Scan you're having requires that we put a solution through your veins."
"Do you want to put this gown on?"
"It opens to the back."
While I undress, she sets up all the IV stuff on the tray. I do not look.
I sit on the edge of the bed, with the gown open to the back.
She turns around and looks at me.
"Uh. You better lie down. Are you OK?"
"Yeah. I don't like needles."
"Neither do I. I'm pretty good at this. You'll be fine."
It took three tries in both arms before she hit a good line. She apologized profusely with each stab.
"Don't look," she said when she was in. "I still have some taping to do. This isn't pretty."
As she cleaned up all the wrappings, she brought out her big syringes again.
"Yes?" she asked. "I think you could use some. It's morphine. Really, it'll get rid of every drop of pain. On a scale of 1 - 10, what's your pain level?"
"I dunno. Maybe a 2? That's hardly seems..."
"2 milligrams it is. Plus maybe a little more. I think you could use it. And this is gravol. That's helpful too. With the nausea. OK. You're good to go."
And with that, she flicked a switch on the drip bag and line leading in and WHOOSH, My world got rocked. I thought my neck and chest were going to explode.
And then I relaxed.
Morphine is a lovely drug.
They should have given it to me in the first waiting room.
(Are you still reading? Isn't this the most boring post EVER? Seriously. Only I could make a big deal out of a stomach ache. If you want to jump to the end, I totally understand. But if you've never had a CT Scan done and are wondering what the process is like, I will describe it in monotonous detail, next.)
I am still laying on the bed, feeling relaxed and sleepy (as per morphine and gravol) when another nurse comes in.
English is not her first language.
"You follow me, yes?"
I sit up and swing my legs over the side of the bed/gurney.
"You walk, OK?"
"Sure. But, " I hold up my arm, "I'm attached to my bed."
"Yes, You carry."
So I stand up.
"You put shoes on, yes."
I slip my feet into my sparkly flip flops.
"You take things. No one watch."
So I packed my phone into my purse, put it over my non-IV'ed arm. My gown is open and untied at the back because my arms do not bend backwards.
"Oh. No let anyone see this. I tie for you?"
Together we walk down a maze of hallways, me in my gown, purse, sparkle shoes, holding my IV bag, and she leading the way.
She gets me this room, then leaves.
I stand there. And wonder what to do.
So I take a photo. With my phone. And wonder if I'll instagram it later.
Eventually I meet the technician.
(Can I say something here? Every nurse, every technician, every doctor I met on this visit, and I probably encountered at least two dozen of them, were kind, capable, and patient. I trusted them all implicitly.And at least 90% of them were Asians. This is an observation, not a racist rant. I am grateful for the care and attention to detail I was given.)
"Hi, Have you ever had a CT Scan before?"
"Then you're in for a treat. This is a pain free zone. Nothing in this room will hurt you."
"So you know we're going to put a solution through your intravenous?"
"OK. Good. It will feel warm. Like very warm. Like a hot flash warming you up from the inside. It won't hurt though. Are you ready for a test run?"
"Alright. Are you comfortable? Do you want to bend your knees?"
"Just a sec. I have a block to put under your legs? How does that feel?"
"Yeah, I hear that alot. Some people find this a good position. OK. Now bend your arms back behind your head. Good. And I'll just let some fluid flow into your IV you won't feel a thing."
I jump as it feels like a bee has stung my upper arm.
"Oh, did you feel that? A little sting? Hmm. Most people don't. Are you OK?"
"Yes. I just wasn't expecting it. You said that thing about no pain..."
"Right. No pain in this room."
And then I got stung again. Three more times.
"You should be OK now. It only hurts here, (and he puts his finger on the spot) right?"
"OK. I'm going back to my room, and we'll first do a test, then the real thing. The machine will move you forward and tell you when to breathe. One thing? That hot feeling you're going to get? Will also fill your bladder and other lower parts. You may feel like you're peeing your pants or something. Know that you aren't. It's just part of the process. I can see exactly what's happening and you'll be fine."
He leaves and goes into the control headquarters, EXACTLY like on TV medical shows.
I lie on this thing that moves me forward.
The machine says 'Breathe'.
So I breathe.
Then the machine says, 'Hold your breath'.
So I stop breathing.
"God? This is pretty amazing. Thank you that I live in this time and place with all this technology and all these smart people. Thank you for machines that can see my insides. Thank you for people who are called to become doctors. Thank you for this hospital and all the equipment here. I pray Your will be done in this place tonight. Not just in regards to me, but to everyone here. Heal those who need healing. Give wisdom to those who are diagnosing. Give patience to those who are dealing with cranky people. Amen."
One more trial run with the breathing and not breathing thing and then he says, over the speaker, that we're ready for the main event.
My arms gets stung a few more times.
And then it starts in my mouth.
My mouth has a heat source and it's furnace is switched on HIGH.
It carries on down my throat.
Not a burning, but a heat.
I can trace the fluids as they enter my system by the heat path they are leaving behind. My upper chest is next, then my upper abdomen. Slowly (or quickly, I guess, depending on your view point) my entire body is getting heated up from the inside.
I wait til it hits my bladder, and sure enough, it's ignited too. And yup, as the heat extends from my bladder downwards, it feels like hot pee making it's way out of my body.
It's a strange sensation, feeling your body parts like that. One at a time, warming up.
(I chatted about my CT scan with a friend, who mentioned she had an 'added bonus experience' when the heat hit 'that' spot. Haha. How fun would that have been? Although, if that had happened I wouldn't have blogged about it. I do have some decorum.)
ANYway, after that? I was done.
Another nurse, escorted me and my IV bag back to the bed/gurney I was coming to think of as my home for the night. It was now past midnight, so I told my kids to go to sleep. I wouldn't update again til the morning. I was hooked up to an IV, given morphine and gravol and was going to sleep. I called my mom and told her to go to bed, I'd call her in the morning.
I lay there, feeling pretty alone.
And I analysed that for awhile.
People will say I'm brave, just like they did when I did the face thing by myself two weeks ago. And it's not that I'm brave, it's just that this is my reality. I know that if I asked, I could've found someone who would've sacrificed a night of sleep to come sit with me. But I'm not sure who I want to see me like this. So vulnerable and scared and halfways naked. That's a whole level of intimacy I just don't have with anyone. I toyed with the idea that I may have trust issues. Trusting someone with my fears while they are happening. Trusting someone enough to let them all the way in.
Also. There 's the matter of who would I want to spend 6 - 12 hours with? Talking/not talking. Them feeling obliged to keep my spirits up. Me feeling pressured to be reassuring that I was fine. It all is so taxing, no?
In the end, I decided that yes, I was feeling alone, but I wasn't especially lonely. A husband who loved me would've been a fine companion to have through it all, but seeing I didn't have one, I was actually pretty OK to do this on my own.
An hour later, another nurse walks into my room and says, "Get up. We very busy tonight. Many people waiting. You can not have bed any longer. Come. I take you back to waiting room."
I sit up.
"In this gown? With the IV?"
"Yes, yes. Come. You go now. Take your things."
I stand up, slip on my flip flops, get my purse, my bag of clothes, grab my IV bag, and follow her.
"CT Scan results take long time. Special doctor. He not here. You wait somewhere else."
The head nurse at the station sees us leaving my room, and interrupts.
"She can't go sit in the waiting room like that! Find another spot for her..."
So that is how it came to pass I ended my night sitting in a chair at the end of the hall, behind a curtain, next to the dirty equipment storage room.
"Excuse me? Jane? Hi. How're you doing? That morphine working out for you?"
I open one eye. It's the doctor who touched my stomach.
"Yeah. I'm good."
"I'll bet you are. I'll send some more of that good stuff home with you. Here are your results. And some prescriptions. And a referral to see a specialist surgeon as soon as you're feeling better. Here are some antibiotics to take right now. The good news is your bowel has not perforated. It is not leaking. You are not septic. Emergency surgery is not required. You have ..."
(and I really, really don't want to print the word out here, because, you might google it and I don't want you seeing my face, or reading my words, or just hanging out with me and thinking of what's happening in my bowels. You know? Because, bowels. That's where shit is. And gross. Eww. Yuck.
Haha. My sister called tonight, and asked if I was getting a poop bag. HAHA. NO I AM NOT. I just have to eat better/healthier/wiser.)
I have a thing.
Which my mom has as well.
So yay. Twin-sies.
It's no big deal.
A few minutes later, another nurse, comes by to take out my IV. She starts to rip off the tape and I start to breathe.
"You don't like needles or something?" she asks.
"Not so much."
"Well, don't look. This'll just take a sec."
She rips off the other bandage.
And disconnects the line.
The room/hallway is starting to spin.
She presses down firmly on the insertion spot, and pulls out the needle and I'm seeing white dots in front of my eyes.
"I, uh, am, not..."
She looks up from my arm and into my face.
"Hang on. I'll get you some oxygen."
She continues to say words but I can't hear a thing she's saying. A whooshing sound has filled my head and it's gone ice cold. I don't know where all my blood has gone, but it has vacated my brain.
I came to with oxygen being supplied through my nose.
"You OK now?" she asked as I opened my eyes. "You really don't like needles, do you?"
"It's just embarrassing, you know. It's a physical reaction, I can't control it."
I'm recovering at home. With meds and jello.
Never in the history of my life have I wished more for my couch/TV set up to be working. Haha. Such bad timing to be sick at home and not have a comfy sofa to lay on or a TV to watch.
So me and my bed have logged alot of hours.
This afternoon, just hours after my fun night at the hospital, I met with the plastic surgeon who knifed my nose. He loves his work,,, says I'll heal so beautifully that I won't be able to tell which side he stitched up. He looked me over and said, "You're young, you obviously love the sun. Throw some sunscreen on now and then, and keep an eye on anything that looks suspicious. There will be more. And as long as we catch them early enough, you'll be fine."
The moral of the story, young readers?
Is wear sunscreen, eat natural good foods including lots of fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains. Floss daily. And go barefoot as often as possible. I am the voice of experience here. Heed this sound advice.
Three things I'm thankful for:
1. While I'm still uncomfortable, I'm not in pain. So thankful for Surrey Memorial, their new Emergency dept and all the staff I encountered.
2. My mom, who drove me there and then came back to pick me up in the middle of the night. My kids (and Jenn) who persuaded me to go, which prompted the conversation with God about it all.
3. Maxine, whom I was supposed to hang out with tonight, dropped by with a care package, in spite of me cancelling...
|Flowers from her garden. Chocolate. People mag and spf 60 because she wasn't sure if I knew where to find sunscreen... Haha.|