"Make sure you always wear clean, nice underwear, she said, in case you get in an accident. I always figured that'd be the least of my worries, but now I'm older and I see that there is a lot you can't control and little you can control...Clean underwear is one of those things you can...for the most part anyway." -Brian Andreas
And make sure to always shave your legs and have freshly washed hair...because you just never know when you could make an unplanned visit to the ER! Hospital gowns leave little to the imagination. In fact, they don't provide adequate coverage period. And even though we've all been told that doctors and nurses don't take notice of things like that, they are LYING! Trust me on that one...I am highly suspect that the strange green elfin socks they gave me to wear had nothing to do with their desire to help me stay warm and more to do with the fact that they didn't want to deal with the obvious sabbatical I've taken from shaving.
But alas what is one to do? I have been terribly sick and incapacitated for the past 5 weeks. So, when we headed out the door to Emergency last Thursday, I was way too sick to take the time make myself look pretty... however, notice I didn't say too sick to care - Regardless of my pain saturated state, I was painfully aware that I was heading out the door a puffy, hairy, greasy mess. If I could have, I would have paused to do something about it. The thought really crossed my mind. I'm weird like that. Admittedly, I've even gone to labor and delivery with full hair and makeup done all 3 times. I like to look good, no matter what. Speaking of labor, I might add that gall bladder attacks are very similar to labor - except worse. A whole lot more painful. Really. And all you end up with when it is over is a belly full of stones and gas. Talk about adding insult to injury.
All kidding aside, I really loathe having to go to emergency. In fact, I avoid it pretty much at all costs for 2 reasons,
#1 I'm famous for saying "I'm too sick to go to the hospital" I'd rather suffer in the comfort and privacy of my own home.
#2 After the skepticism, open hostility and even abuse that I have so often been subjected to in regards to my LD - I have a high level of anxiety over interactions with doctors. It is easy to fear that by heading to the ER, I am potentially putting myself in the line of fire. I am loathe to do that, especially when I am in a weakened and vulnerable state.
But after I had the mother of all GB attacks back in July (which naturally I refused to go to the hospital for), Dr H (my US doc) and Dr Anonymous (my Cdn doc) ordered an ultrasound. The ultrasound revealed stones in my GB. Stones that were dangerously close to being big enough to block my bile ducts. I was put on meds to try and break down the stones and both Dr H and Dr A made me promise that I would go to the hospital if or when I had another attack.
Graham reminded me of this on Thursday, as he dragged me out the door kicking and screaming. I kept insisting that it would pass but by this time I had already been keeled over in pain for 5 hours straight. En route to hospital, the pain began to subside and so I tried to convince Graham to turn around and take me home. We did make a U-turn and then Graham thought better of it and ignoring my pleas he turned around and made a bee line for the ER.
Upon our arrival in the ER, I was immediately whisked in to the triage area. Of course even though I was there in regards to my GB, my LD status quickly became front and center. My laundry list of medications and my picc line make it pretty hard to hide the fact that I am battling LD. Naturally, the triage nurse had never met anyone with LD before and so was very fascinated and curious about my condition. Once the triage nurse had been appropriately educated about LD, I was tended to by 2 highly entertaining male nurses. At one point they referred to Graham as my boyfriend, I quickly corrected them. "No, he's my husband." From that point on, they referred to Graham as my "ex-boyfriend". It was very funny. Of course, I was high on morphine by then.
The nurses left saying the ER doc would be in shortly to examine me.
Graham passed the time by taking advantage of my morphed out status... I was slightly confused when he made me hold that newspaper...
"Freaks come out to play!"
As I quietly lay there waiting for the ER doc, I could hear the staff speaking in hushed tones. I kept overhearing "Lyme Disease" and "the woman in bed 10 has Lyme Disease" and "Really, Lyme Disease that is so rare" Of course, this raised our level of anxiety instantly - given our past experience, we naturally assumed their whispered dialogue had negative connotations. Both Graham and I felt like we were sitting ducks. Okay, I think I actually thought I was a duck. One paranoid, anxious duck.
We cowered behind our flimsy little curtain, anxiously, tensely waiting for what felt like an eternity for the ER Doc. ER doc finally came in and did an exam. He asked many questions related to my gall bladder issues and then of course came the questions about LD. A million of them. However, to our great surprise and immense relief, he was quite knowledgeable about LD. Shockingly enough, he even cited how extremely serious a disease it is - how novel! Of course he had never actually met anyone with it and so he was very curious to talk to and examine a real live specimen.
My pain didn't really subside on the morphine so the decision was made to keep me in the ER over night and then send me for an ultrasound in the morning. So I spent a LONG, LONG night in the ER. High and bored.
Come morning I was visited by 2 surgical residents, who did an exam, asked the same questions the ER doc had and then asked a billion more about LD. Surprise, surprise they had never met anyone with LD either. They decided I should be sent for an ultrasound and then pending those results, a decision would be made as to whether surgery was necessary.
After my ultrasound, the same 2 surgical residents came by with the results. They said that while I certainly had a lot of little stones weirdly enough the big stones that were present at my last ultrasound were MIA. They said the surgeon still needed to take a look at my case and test results but they indicated that I would probably be able to go home.
Phew, I was so relieved. By this point, I was exhausted, hungry, bloated and in desperate need of a good cup of coffee. I called Graham to let him know that I'd probably be free to go very shortly. About 45 minutes later, as I was dreaming of home sweet home, the resident materialized by my bedside again.
"The surgeon just reviewed your case and you need emergency surgery. We are admitting you now. And I'm going to need to go over the risks of surgery with you and have you sign this consent."
"WHAT?" was all I could mutter around the fingers of panic squeezing my neck.
I think my heart quite literally stopped, my stomach dropped to my toes, and I nearly vomited up my gall bladder.
I was shell shocked and totally freaked out. This couldn't really be happening. Not now. Not in the condition I am in. I have spent the past 5 weeks bedridden. I am incredibly weak, have limited mobility, not to mention my respiratory and cardiac issues have been giving me serious problems. How in the world is my body going to withstand a surgical assault on top of all that?
And in that moment, I sent out a desperate prayer. I knew I could Trust God but I needed peace and direction from Him. I prayed for 2 things to happen.
#1 Dr H had to okay the surgery
#2 I had to feel comfortable with the surgeon
It felt like we spent an eternity waiting to meet with the surgeon. When he finally walked in and introduced himself I liked him immediately and a calm settled over me. God sent me Dr Frimer. A surgeon with a great big heart. Not to mention super personable, very caring and even funny. He spent a lot of time asking me questions about my LD. He was very concerned about my condition but he also emphasized that the surgery needed to be done within the next 72 hours. He immediately phoned DR H in California to consult with him about me. Dr H gave him the 'okay' which made everything 'okay' for me too. The anesthesiologist was also consulted and briefed on my condition too. God answered my pleas and gave me peace about surgery. .
We were really blown away with Dr Frimer's care and concern. In fact, for the remainder of my stay, we had many positive interactions with hospital staff in regards to my LD. Interestingly enough, my lyme symptoms didn't beat their usual hasty retreat into oblivion in the presence of doctors and nurses. My tachycardia and arrythmias kept setting off the alarms and quite literally kept the nurses running. My blood pressure kept dropping very low. I had several blood sugar crashes that required immediate intervention. I lost count of how many times they asked me if I was sure that I wasn't diabetic (like you would forget something like that!) my shortness of breath required oxygen and I actually stopped breathing 8 times after surgery.
Yes, you might say, I became the greasy haired, puffy poster child for Lyme Disease. I had a steady stream of nurses and residents wanting to check me out and find out about LD. They looked, they poked, they prodded, they got a crash course in LD...I felt like a live specimen caught in the glare of an interactive microscope. It was very novel to have such a positive experience however my hospital stay was no picnic in the park either.
As Dr H says, "Hospitals are dangerous places to be"
Yes, yes they are.
Did I mention that i was nearly given potentially fatal overdoses of my IV meds FIVE times?