Wednesday, August 18, 2010
I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Five: Coffee Turns Out To Have Very Few Medicinal Qualities.
I almost died twice in one week. This is part five of that story.
I don't call in sick to work.
First of all, what's the point? My job is phenomenally easy. It's not like I have to lift heavy objects, or make sure that the wing doesn't fall off the 747 in flight, or inject tiny nanorobots into someone to help ensure that the hypnotic programming I gave them works properly and transforms them into the Ultimate Hot Dog Eating Champion just in time for the World Record Competition. Those kind of jobs require a great deal of attention and skill and strength and stamina and nanorobots.
My job, on the other hand, requires reading and talking on the phone, and occasionally appearing in court. And most of the time, the "talking on the phone" part is to other lawyers, which means that the actual conversation is not taxing in any way, just annoying.
Second of all, my job doesn't stop. I have this memory of a Lucille Ball show where she was working in some kind of factory and things -- maybe bottles -- kept coming out of the wall, faster than she could handle, and ultimately she couldn't keep up and catastrophe happened. (By catastrophe, I mean "She created a show that will forever be held up as the pinnacle of humor, even though really it was just old vaudeville routines.)
Also, I maybe am confusing Lucy's show with the opening to Laverne & Shirley. Anyway, the point is, law is like those bottles: It never stops. If I take a day off of work, not only will I not get all the telephone conversations and letters done that day that I was supposed to, but more letters will come in and more telephone calls will be made to me and more notices will be sent setting up hearings that conflict with other hearings, and more motions and briefs and suits will be filed, and in the end, I'll take one day off and come back to three days worth of work, which you might think is exaggerating but I'm not, because if I'm not in the office, then not only does nothing in my office get done, but the mail gets delivered giving me more things to do, and, people in my office will try to come find me to see if they can schedule something for me to do that day or some other day. They will not be able to find me and will therefore assume that whatever it is they wanted me to do, I'm okay with it and they'll therefore schedule that thing for me.
That's what was running through my head when I woke up the Friday morning of the day I almost died for the second time.
"Woke up" is a bit misleading, since I hadn't actually slept. For most of the night, instead of actually sleeping what I'd done was lie in my bed, begin to fall asleep, and then, about as I faded from consciousness, I'd run out of air and gasp myself back awake. Being back awake, I'd try to focus on CNN HLN FAFSA, which is what I watch when I'm trying not so much to watch TV as I am trying to fall asleep, and then repeat that cycle. I did that all night long, and you'd think it would have worried me, but it didn't. Not even in the slightest. All I thought, all night long, were variations of these thoughts:
1. Stupid bees.
2. It sure is tough to breathe. Stupid bees.
3. Who gave Joy Behar a show?
I finally gave up on pretending that I was sleeping around 6:30 in the morning, and came downstairs to begin getting ready for work via "Taking some Benadryl and having a cup of coffee." I sat at our kitchen table, not really feeling energetic enough to go get the paper, or sit up straight, and waited for one or the other of my breakfast to kick in.
Twenty minutes later, I'd gone from "trouble breathing" to "trouble breathing and also feeling dizzy," and there was some tightness in my chest. I'd finished up all the bee sting medications two days earlier, but I figured that the Benadryl would help. So I mustered up all my energy to get up and walk the four feet to have a second cup of coffee, which I poured and set on the table. I briefly thought about grabbing something to eat, but decided that would require a bit much out of me, and also decided that it might be difficult to chew when I really couldn't breathe very well at all.
I sat down for a few more minutes, alternating between wondering how many minutes it had been since I took the Benadryl, and wondering whether it was worth the effort to reach out my hand and take a sip of the coffee. After ten minutes of that, I admitted defeat and told Sweetie that I was going to call in sick to work.
"Are you okay?" she asked. "Do we need to go to the ER?"
I told her "I'm fine," and declined the ER, and then called my coworker-- who not only helps me admirably but also steps up to the occasion on days like that one, so I'll call her Wonder Woman -- to tell her I wasn't feeling good and that she'd have to cover for me that day. I gave her some instructions and Wonder Woman said that she'd thought I looked terrible the day before, and that she'd take care of things, and that I'd better get to a doctor. I told her what I'd just told Sweetie: that I'd lay back down and probably try to get into the doctor's office that afternoon.
I hung up the phone and considered getting some coffee. I realized that I was breathing very shallowly, and focused on that for a minute, trying to concentrate on drawing a full breath. When I managed that, though, it felt like someone was grabbing my chest, from inside, and squeezing it.
I tried a few more times, just to make sure I wasn't imagining it. It was there each time: Breathe, Squeeze, Breathe Squeeze.
On the third breath, the squeezing didn't go away. Sweetie walked back into the room and saw me sitting there and said "Are you sure you don't want to go to the ER?"
I hadn't yet ceded to her the right to make me go, and I overruled her.
"I'll be fine," I said. I still thought it was the bees, and figured that I just needed to get some medicine. I did wonder where my adrenaline pen was, and gave some thought to trying to get it out of the cupboard in case I needed it, but that seemed like a lot of work, too, so I sat there a few seconds and then said: "What time does Urgent Care open up?"
"Nine o'clock," Sweetie said. The clenched fist that was pulling my chest inward was getting worse. I looked at my cell phone on the table. 7:10.
"I'll go to Urgent Care when it opens," I said, and Sweetie said "I'll drive you there."
"Okay," I said, and stood up to go lie down for an hour or so before we had to go. As I did so, a wave of dizziness swept over me. I grabbed the chair to steady myself and then, standing there swaying by the kitchen table, I had to remind myself to breathe again and wondered when I last had. I could see little sparks out of the corners of my eyes from standing up, and the fist that was squeezing my chest had turned into metal. Hot metal.
"Or, maybe we should go to the ER," I said.
Next: The drive to the hospital.