Tuesday, September 07, 2010
I think I set a World Record For Almost-Dying: Part Eight: Is this ALMOST OVER?
I almost died twice in one week. This is part eight of that story.
I laid there in the Emergency Room a little more, having taken the nexium and tried to sleep, but sleeping wasn't really possible. Instead, I drifted -- I wasn't really aware of what was going on around me, but I wasn't asleep, either, and I kept opening my eyes to look at the clock that was just barely visible out in the central ER area, where doctors and nurses and people who looked like doctors and nurses but probably weren't, because how many doctors and nurses can there be in one area? milled around. It was the least urgent I've ever seen that emergency room be, and I've seen that emergency room a surprising amount of times in my life -- mostly, up until the week of almost dying, for other people.
It's way worse to be the person who needs the ER. Time wasn't moving and I wasn't either. Around 11:30, I sat up and tried to talk to Sweetie a bit. My head spun around and I felt heavy and tired. Even my feet seemed to weigh more as I rubbed at my face and talked to her. I said:
"I don't know exactly what this is, but it's not heartburn."
I was right.
A while later - -it seemed like forever and then some -- they came to take me up to the stress test. They'd drawn more blood, to see if whatever enzymes that announce a heart attack had appeared. The earlier tests had been negative -- the blood they'd drawn at 8 or so hadn't shown any of the chemicals the heart gives off when it's having an attack, so I can't be too critical of Jeff, I suppose, and I try not to be.
The orderly, or whatever they call them now, came in with a wheelchair and I got in, feeling too tired to really be embarrassed at being wheeled around, and still aching in weird places - -my jaw, my sternum, and places like that. The orderly talked to me and Sweetie as though were were there for nothing much at all, joking around, and a part of me resented that. I wanted to say to him, too, I'm not sure what this is, but it's serious.
I don't know what's in a medical chart, what notes doctors make and what they tell each other in those little boxes they're always checking and filling out. But I'd like there to be a box that says something like "This guy is not a pup and doesn't come to the doctor unnecessarily." Because that's true. I've faced every illness I've had, real or imagined, with a stoic bravery that brings tears to my eyes when I think about how calm and steadfast I am and how inspirational my examples are.
So, yes, I used to google my symptoms whenever I got some sniffles, or a pimple in a weird place, or a kind of ache in my torso that upon investigation was almost certainly an inflammation of some organ or other, probably caused by an exotic virus that was inoperable and all I could do was soldier bravely on and try to show others how to face adversity. But the thing that doctors should know about me is not that on three separate occasions I've been pretty sure I had Fatal Brain Cloud, but that I never went to the doctor for them.
I never go to the doctor if I can help it. That used to be because I was a smoker, and if you go to the doctor as a smoker, you don't really get any help. They'll ask you if you smoke, and then blame it on that. Seriously: I went once with a knee problem, the problem being that when I bent my knee I had an excruciating amount of pain and couldn't sit in a car. The doctor asked me if I smoked, and I said "Yes," and he said "Don't you think you should quit?" When I agreed that I should probably quit, he said "It's not helping your knee, that's for sure." That's another reason why we lie to you, doctors: because you blame everything on our bad habits. If a woman who has high cholesterol showed up pregnant in your office, 99.9% of all doctors would insinuate that the pregnancy was partially due to eating fried foods.
But even after I quit smoking, I didn't go to the doctor, because, as I said, I'm not a pup. I go to a doctor only when absolutely 100% necessary (or, now, when Sweetie makes me, as I've ceded control of my doctor visits to her.) And "100% necessary" is a high burden. If I can walk and talk or engage in about 1% of the things I need to do that day, I'm not going to the doctor.
That's what I want in my chart, so you doctors reading this, take note: If I've appeared in front of you, it's because I've become completely unable to function. I'm not there because I stubbed a toe or have a headache. Whatever else you see during your day, when I appear in front of you, you'd better get the life support nanobots ready, 'cause I need those.
Here's what I've gone to the doctor for in my life: Knee problems that prevented me from walking. A broken neck. A slipped disk that required surgery. Anaphylactic shock. And that Friday morning.
That's what I wanted to tell the orderly, and that's what I wanted to tell the really really pregnant lady who was supervising me for the stress test when I went in there: This is something serious. I also wanted to tell the pregnant lady that I had wanted to congratulate her on being pregnant, as she pretty obviously was, but that I hadn't congratulated her on being pregnant because you never know these days, do you? And I live in fear of a thousand tiny things. I don't fear death, or unemployment, or pain, or loneliness. No, I fear accidentally complimenting someone who's not really pregnant. I fear things like that - -social interactions gone awry and making me do whatever a stress test is in front of someone who, in my attempt to be nice, I'd just called fat.
So when I met the stress test lady, I didn't congratulate her on being pregnant, and then I felt impolite and bad about that because nearly-dying or not, I felt that I should be polite and I didn't want any bad karma haunting me as I went through the rest of this day.
That's what I was thinking about as she was explaining the stress test to me, how she'd have to shave off a bunch of hair on my chest and put pads on it and I'd walk on the treadmill: I was thinking Should I tell her congratulations, or not? And mixed in was my also thinking how I wanted her to know I was not the kind of person who comes to the doctor for just anything, because she's opened the conversation with something like "So they think you maybe had a heart attack?" and that sounded a little dismissive to me.
And I wanted to say, too, "What did the second blood test say?"
But before I could do that, the lady mentioned that she was expecting and I got a chance to congratulate her, and then a nurse walked in, too, and the two of them began talking about how they hadn't seen each other in a long time, which it turned out was because the nurse had just gotten back from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I listened to them, electroded up, until the nurse turned to me and looked down at my feet and said: "What are those?"
"They're Crocs," I said. I'd put on my blue Crocs that morning, because in an emergency, who has time to go and get their tennis shoes out from underneath the pile of folded clothes that they've been meaning to put away all week, but they didn't get around to it, which should be understandable, because that week, at least, the person who'd been meaning to get around to putting away his clothes had been stung by a lot of bees and was now in the ER for the second time in six days, and if that's not an excuse to not have done some household chores, what is?
"Can you walk in them?" the nurse asked me.
"Sure," I said.
"Can you jog in them?" she asked. "You might have to move pretty fast, almost jogging, on the test."
I was ready to explain that I've worn my Crocs while taking Mr F and Mr Bunches to the park, and that on some occasions they've opted to go running off, in opposite directions, both towards busy roads, forcing me to run after one, grab him, and carry him like a football while I run after the other and grab him, so, yes, I can run in these, really well, but that seemed like a lot of words and I was fading a bit, getting more dizzy and the left side of my face hurt, so I said
"Yeah," and looked hopeful.
The nurse started talking with the pregnant lady about whether I could do the test, and then, over a little communicator around her neck, I heard a voice say "Don't stress that patient in 6A."
I was the patient in 6A.
Next: Finally, Absolutely the last part of this story.