Sunday, April 22, 2007

Emergency Room

When I was young I never thought much about hospitals or doctors, but as an adult living in an urban city far from family, I have to maintain my emotional, mental, and physical health.

I've had a few medical procedures I remember because I wasn't under anesthesia, and others I wish I had been sedated, later awakened after everything was in order, and all necessary parts were still in place.

I've never thought I was invincible, but I don't like sometimes feeling helpless when I'm at the mercy of a trained and licensed medical professional. Perhaps it's a feeling of being lied to, or the doctor doesn't have a clue on the most effective treatment that's best for me, not a majority of people who have or have had similar ailments or conditions.

Recently I stopped seeing a specialist because he was pushy and wanted to perform a radical procedure that would've had me out of commission for several weeks. My medical insurance provider denied his request due to lack of medical necessity. I think he wanted a new sports car or wing in his upstate chalet.

I searched the online New York's Best Doctors Listing from New York Magazine and found a second specialist who put me at ease, and wasn't in any way aggressive, or wanted to use me as a guinea pig.

When I thought the house had fallen on the wicked doctor with the shifty eyes, another letter arrived from my insurance provider approving the procedure. No way was I going through with the procedure. What had he added to my medical charts that wasn't there before to change the opinion of whoever stamped yes or no on surgical requests?

I won't become one of those people who refuse to go to a doctor because of bad experiences in waiting rooms with snarky receptionists who act is if they've better things to do, overzealous doctors, or conflicting opinions.

I began feeling a stiffness in my left shoulder a few days ago, but had attributed it to the shifting temperatures and recent rainstorms. A day or two later, Friday night, I felt queasy during the latter part of my Adult Basic Education Workshop, and thought I'd have to send my students home early and make it home without passing out.

I soaked and fell asleep in a hot Epsom Salt bath with rubbing alcohol, Granny's remedy for body aches and pain. My pain de jour centered around my lower abdomen and bladder, and it was excruciating. It felt like an 800lb grizzly bear was sitting on me.

I woke, showered and crawled into bed before leaving a voicemail on my roommate's cellphone to alert him of my condition, and to be very quiet when arrived home from work. A few chills later, I was off to sleep for what I hoped would be all night. Of course, that didn't happen because my roommate had to call me and every ache that I thought the Epsom Salt had numbed shot through my body like an electrical storm.

It wasn't until after 4 a.m. Saturday morning that the symptoms culminated in my regurgitating the homemade trail mix, water, and grapefruit juice I knew I could keep down until morning without upsetting my stomach. No such luck.

I tried calling my general practitioner and the new specialist I switched, but neither of them had an answering service. I delayed as long as I could before hobbling downstairs and hailing a cab to the emergency room a few blocks away with the help of my roommate. I couldn't walk on my own, and held onto his arm as my granny would my arm as I escorted her out of the church sanctuary one step at a time.

I walked into what I hoped would be an empty emergency room, which it was, save for two or three people slouching or hunched over asleep in various chairs. The security guard ushered me into the reception area, perhaps because I looked like something that cat dragged in and dropped at his feet for approval.

I had a temperature of 107ยบ, not that I didn't know I was feverish from my having had the chills twice before leaving the apartment. The admitting nurse printed out a wristband and gave me several sheets of paper and directed me down a hall to another desk where sleepy-eyed doctors and residents spoke among themselves while other emergency room patients moaned, wailed, or slept in various cubicles.

I hobbled behind him until he found an empty space, and eased onto the raised bed that felt like scaling a wall. I was in agony. I didn't think I would die, but I wanted a shot of something to put me out of my misery.

My roommate was ever attentive as he tried to assure me that God would take care of and heal me. We prayed several times before leaving the apartment, but my wavering faith or impatience with having watched some of The Secret and trying not to think that I'd attracted this pain into my life through negative thinking. I shook my head as I watched the assembled panel of touchy-feely experts and converts tell me that I'm responsible for the state of my life on all fronts if I thought about things the wrong way. Ex: Getting out of bed in the morning and stubbing my toe -- if I walked around all day like a sore-headed bear, that I'd attract all sorts of shenanigans or mischief. It sounded like a crock 'o hooey to me, and probably worked in reverse and exacerbated my condition.

Fast forward: Two doctors examined me, before dispatching me to the facilities for a liquid sample in a plastic container, which later revealed I had an infection (reason for the fever and tenderness near my bladder). All dressed, and I'm still not trying to walk, so the orderly asked if I wanted a wheelchair. What the heck! My roommate's sleepy and not strong enough to give me a piggyback ride down the long block to the pharmacy, which wasn't 24-hours. We made our way to the bus stop, and a slowpoke of a driver (he must have been at the end of his shift), and had my three prescriptions filled at a 24-hour pharmacy further downtown on Broadway: Ibuprofen, Vicodin, and Cipro.

I'll either get better or become addicted to painkillers like a suburban soccer mom. I prefer the former, not the latter.

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