Wednesday, October 26, 2011

My Hospital Visit

Just two months ago, I had probably the most hectic and panic-inducing incident that I've ever had in my entire life. I almost died and had to go to the hospital.

About a month before going back to Virginia, I ran out of sleep medicine (something which, for an insomniac with the power to stay awake for 4 days if untreated, is extremely dangerous).  It took me about two weeks to get a hold of my doctor and get him to refill my prescription.  So now this story starts two weeks before going back to Virginia:

I had picked up my sleep medication after about two weeks of not having any (getting my doctor on the phone was next to impossible.  no wait... it WAS impossible).  So I got home and very excitedly maxed out on the medicine and skipped to bed like a small child waiting for Christmas.  When a person goes more than a week without more than 3 hours of sleep a night, it starts to have weird effects.  For example - thinking you're in love with an old friend only to realize days later that that's silly (even though that was a good massage).  So I took my medicine and went to bed extra early because I had to work the next day.

I woke up the next day and just laid in my bed for a while thinking to myself, "Wow, this is comfortable.  I never want to get up from this spot."

Be careful what you wish for.

I got a text message.  I ignored it.  I got a phone call.  I ignored it.  

I was super groggy, but I don't think I've ever felt more relaxed in my entire life.  I slowly rolled (quickly flopped) to the other side of the bed (I keep my phone on the other side of a queen size mattress.  sometimes I get lonely.  don't judge) and tilted my phone a little to see what it said.

Text from Boss at 10:09am:  "You're late"

Call from Boss at 11:02am.  Voicemail.

Deciding that I should listen to the message and then call him afterwards and explain what happened (sleep drugs ate me alive), I picked up my phone and held it in front of me, noticing that I really had to focus my vision to see it.  Attributing it to a combination of 'no sleep drugs for a long time' and then 'lots of sleep drugs in a short time', I pushed the "listen to the voice mail" button.

This is the good part:

"Please enter your password."




Herp derp...

I couldn't for the life of me remember the password to my voicemail.  I'd never had this problem before.  I tried all kinds of combinations that seemed logical at the time.  Apparently nothing is logical when you're almost dying but you don't know it yet.

1234?  no.  4321?  no.  6041?  no.  6969?  no.

This is when I began to realize that there might be something wrong with me - after finally guessing my password after a dozen or so failed attempts.  My password is:

2... 2... 2... 2.

Yeah.  The same number four times in a row.  An easy number to remember, by the way.  It wasn't 8888 or some obscure number like that.  It was four 2s in a row and I couldn't remember it - I had to guess!

Listening to my message - my boss was worried about why I wasn't in work and said that he really needed me to come in.

I called my boss.  I said I wasn't feeling well and that I wouldn't be able to come in.  He understood.

Ok.  Time to get out of bed.

Then my body was like, "Haha, tricked you.  You are incapable of basic functions"  and I went all spaghetti-noodley and fell to the ground.

"Hmm, I guess this is what happens after not taking the medicine for week."

Then I realize something - I can't see.  I mean... I could see... but I couldn't see.  Things were completely blurry and I was unable to see shapes or anything like that.  Basically, I could detect light and that was about it.  That's when I realized that there was something seriously wrong with me.  I couldn't walk and I couldn't see.

Thoughts of me being paralyzed or having MS or having a brain tumor rattled through my mind.  I figured I was still capable of thinking (if we ignore the lack of thinking from earlier); I just couldn't move correctly (plus I had somehow tricked myself into thinking that I was still capable of thinking).  After much struggling and embarrassing grunting, I managed to soldier my way back into my bed where I stayed for most of the day.  I had no way of telling anyone that something was wrong because I couldn't remember how to work a damn phone - an invention that, at its core, really hasn't changed much since 1876.

And so I laid in my bed, perfectly still - staring off into the blurry nothingness, weeping like a small child and remembering all the good times I had in my life one last time before passing away.


Many years ago, I panicked because I had sudden loss of hearing.  Since I was unable to hear anything while using a phone, I just dialed my sister's number and then shouted "HELP" repeatedly into it and figured that my sister would either pick up and hear my cries for help, or the voicemail would eventually kick in and it would record my desperate pleas.

I don't remember if she answered or got the message, but she showed up at my place to take care of me.

My sister took me to the urgent care clinic.  We were all worried that I had a brain tumor or something.  The diagnosis?

Too much earwax.  Not kidding.  I still get made fun of to this day even though it was like 8 years ago.  Relentlessly.


I don't remember how I managed it, but in my blind, crippled, weeping state, (and perhaps completely by accident) I called my sister.

The message I left for my sister was complete, unadulterated panic in its purest form.  In tears, I explained my unfortunate predicament to her voicemail, praying that she would get it in time and come to my rescue before I forgot how to breathe or beat my heart or something like that.  In my disoriented and panicked state, after listing off all my symptoms, I'm proud to say that I still had the presence of mind to make a joke.  "I can pretty much guarantee that it's not because I have too much earwax."  Oh, Brandon, you dear, sweet boy.  When will you ever learn?

She finally did get the voicemail and she came to the rescue.  I was relieved that I was finally going to go get some help.  "Let's go!  No time to lose!"

"Let me feed my kids first."


Ok.  I can understand that a mom has to take care of her children - I get that - and I might be a little selfish in thinking that my needs (in that particular instance) were greater than theirs; my nieces are cute and little, but, at least in my mind, me dying takes precedence.  Maybe that's just me; I dunno.  However, not being able to see or walk doesn't lend itself well to throwing an adult-sized tantrum.  So, when offered delicious macaroni and cheese, I accepted (and had seconds).

We arrived at the urgent care clinic (cheaper and quicker than the emergency room) and there was no time to waste.  My sister wheeled me in like a mother pushing a stroller, I described my symptoms to the receptionist, and was met with a long, uncomfortable silence.  I asked my sister what was going on.  "She looks worried" and that was it.  Never a good sign.

"Let me go back and ask a doctor something real quick."  So she left and my sister and I waited about as patiently as you can when you're convinced that you're dying.  Then the receptionist came back and, in a comparatively shaky and urgent voice, mandated that I go to the emergency room immediately (located across the street) and that they'll be expecting me.

Now, emergency rooms are not on a first-come first-served basis like McDonald's or something like that.  They're based on triage - serving the people who need it most first.  A person can spend all day in the emergency room with a minor cold because it's just not that big of a deal.  People that are missing limbs or have gunshot wounds usually get bumped up to the front of the line and are wheeled back immediately for tests and treatment (although I imagine it's pretty easy to diagnose "lack of legs").  So now imagine my fear when, after reassuring myself repeatedly that things hadn't gotten any worse and that maybe I was improving and that I would live to see the sunshine again someday, they immediately checked me in and wheeled me back into a room for tests and treatment.  I had been treated as if I didn't have any legs.  I couldn't see them, but I was about 95% certain that they were there.

Let me remind you that my vision was blurred almost to the point of blindness.  I could kind-of see things when they were right in front of me, but aside from that, everything looked like one of my childhood water color paintings.  So when the purple-scrubs-wearing nurse checking my blood pressure got close enough for me to see, my blood pressure, when combined with adrenaline from my panicked state and seeing a hot nurse, shot up through the roof (190 - not exaggerating).  I've never been one for the whole "hot nurse fetish" (I've always found it to be a little strange) but it was like "can't see... can't see... OMFGPONY HOLY HELL SHE'S HOT!!"  After she left, my (married-to-a-man) sister (who is training to be a physical therapist) said "Wow, she's hot.  Also, your blood pressure is high enough to rupture your heart."

Oh goody.

Then I sat and I waited.  My sister left - something about taking care of kids.  It was just me - alone in a scary hospital - not being able to see who was checking my monitor; not able to walk to the bathroom or get a drink of water.  It felt like I was in a cave.  I asked to use the bathroom.  Hot Nurse said she'd bring in a bedpan for me (right! as if I can pee with a hot nurse standing right there!).  I asked for a drink of water, but she said no; they didn't want to mess up any potential tests that they were going to run on me.

Unable to walk, unable to see, unable to drink, unable to pee...

Panicked, parched, and practically peeing in my PJ's, it probably wasn't prudent of me to impatiently protrude with the... poetry and then... possum... with... the... p-word... I don't know.  This sentence didn't end up working out for me.  Screw you, alliteration!

I sat and I waited in my cold, dark hospital room.  I imagined Doctor House and his team working on a particularly difficult case and hoped that maybe something like that was happening with me.  Realistically, my file probably just sat on a counter until the nurse reminded the doctor to take a look at it.

They stole some of my blood and then wheeled me back for a CT scan.  They did that awesome thing when they count and then move the patient from the bed to the scanner-bed-thingy (only I got to be the patient!!).  Highlight of my day right there.

The two minutes that I was inside that machine were probably the most relaxing two minutes of the entire day.  Nothing I could do would speed up what they were doing or shorten the time it would take for them to find out what was wrong with me.  I laid there with my eyes closed.  It felt like I was being gently rocked back and forth.  When I told Hot Nurse that it felt like I was being rocked back and forth, she wrote that down.  It turns out that that little bit of information is what led to my diagnosis.

Then they had me do an eye test.  They propped me up and had me look down a hall at (what I assume was) a chart with big letters at the top and smaller letters as you go down the chart.  They asked me to read the letters on the chart.  "Not a chance."

As punishment for my failure to jump through their chart-seeing hoop, they placed me back in my cave and made me wait longer.  My other sister and her husband came to visit me.  It was sweet and it made me feel good that they were there, but I really just wanted to be alone.  I love them and all, but when you're not sure if your future is going to be without sight and walking, or if that future is going to end in a week or two, you kind of just want to be alone and think for a bit.  It's a very derealizing sensation - being unsure about your immediate mortal future.  But yet they remained, irritating me with nothing but the best of intentions.  So now not only was I dying, but I also had to entertain company.

I think it was like 4 hours until the doctor finally came into my room.  "No brain tumor!" she gleefully greeted me while gracefully gliding into my grotto (nailed it).  She looked in my eyes; she wrote something down; she made me watch a pen move back and forth, but didn't write something down.  Then she checked my ears.

"There's the problem!"  She exclaimed - Holmes-style.  No, it wasn't that I had too much earwax like how I led you to believe earlier (sorry about that).  I guess she was able to see that something was wrong with my inner-ear (my eardrums were indented or something like that).  The inner ear not only is responsible for converting sound into brain waves, but it also plays a big role in balance.  That's why I wasn't able to stand and that's why I felt like I was being rocked back and forth in the CT scan.  I had Vertigo (like the movie... but not like the movie).  In rare cases, vertigo can mess up your vision.  She said that some Sudafed combined with a super-powerful antihistamine would clear up the problem.

I later found out that "antihistamine" is code for "you will never pee ever again."  But that's a story best unshared.

Hot Nurse came back into the cave a few minutes later with a little paper cup of pills and went to check my wristband to make sure she was giving the medicine to the right person.  I thought she was going to shake my hand.  I don't know why - it was completely stupid.  Her being so attractive skewed my judgment.  Why would a nurse that I've been interacting with all day want to shake my hand now?  But yet, I reached up and I shook her hand (like a boss).  And then I regretted it.  She looked at me all weird and I was all "oh, we're not shaking hands?" and she was all "we can if you want, but I really just want to check your wristband" and I was all "oh" and she was all "you can let go of my hand now."  My sister and brother-in-law watched.  It was awkward.  The kind of awkward where everyone in the room goes quiet just as you realize that you've done something wrong, and they all stare in silence.

In embarrassed silence, I took my pills.

Within a half hour, my symptoms had drastically improved.  The very first thing I saw when my sight returned enough to see beyond my nose was down Hot Nurse's shirt (HAAAAALELUUJAHH).  After 40 minutes, I could walk again (stumbly, but walky).  She told me that all the nurses had placed bets on what was wrong with me.  She had guessed vertigo because of when I told her about my experience in the CT scan.

Hot Nurse, I'm sorry for awkwardly shaking your hand; but you're welcome for whatever money you earned off of my medical mystery.

I was promptly discharged, and I went home.

Now I owe the hospital $4200 - a small price to pay for both balance and vision.

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