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Posts Tagged ‘ER’

One Year

Yesterday, I was doing some work from home and  at one point called and my boss (the principal of the school). I asked her a question she couldn’t answer and told me she’d get the right person and have them call me right back. What’s your home phone number? she asked me. Here’s what I said, “Two, two, six …. um …. two, two, six …. I don’t remember my phone number.”

Six and a half years I’ve lived in this house – oh wait! We kept the number from the last place, so make that 7.5 years with the same number and I was lost. I kept wanting to use the last 4 digits from the number at the cottage and could not come up with any others. Fortunately, the person we needed wandered into the office and saved me further humiliation in front of my boss, who I do try to convince I am intelligent and with it.

I do forget a lot of stupid things – couldn’t remember whether I was 42 or 43 years old a couple of months ago, to my kids’ wild amusement. (It’s 42.) Words get lost more frequently than I remember happening before The Big Nap. And I’m running out of time on using my favourite excuse – ‘coma brain.’ People laugh when I say it, but I’m not totally kidding. I spent weeks stewing in some pretty wicked drugs and was warned that the effects could take some time to wear off. Someone, I don’t remember who, said a year. So that’s how long I decided to give it. One year, and that’s it with the coma brain.

That year is almost over. One year ago tonight was a Sunday night. My stomach was hurting and I was pretty sure I was in for a bad night. I have irritable bowel syndrome that results in random nights of cramps and pain, ending in raging diarrhea. It had been happening more frequently. Still, I had a ‘Girl’s Night Out’ scheduled with friends, and I was determined to have a good time. We do pot luck and the food was great, thankfully, as it was to be the last food to pass through my lips for 19 days.

After I got home, the pain hit with the suddenness of a shot, a stab in the belly that dropped me to the floor. My standard method of dealing with belly pain is a hot bath, and so I dragged myself up and into the tub, into water as hot as possible. It didn’t help. For the first time ever, I could not get on top of the pain. I’ve had two children without any pain meds at all (and one where they only half worked) and I can clearly remember that pain. I have a physical memory of where and how it hurt. This pain, however, except that I remember thinking that it was the most severe I’d ever experienced, I can remember nothing else about.

Some time in the middle of the night, still in the tub, I asked J to call 911. He called a friend to come look after the kids and did just that. The ambulance attendants were horrible, cruel, heartless human beings, but I don’t feel like going into more detail than that because it still upsets me, one year later. At least they took me to the hospital, where I begged the nurse in triage to knock me out. I don’t remember this, but it is on my chart, “Patient making inappropriate comments. (“Knock me out.”) Of course, in retrospect, that comment was really the only reasonable response to the pain of one’s colon tearing open.

They told me I was constipated and forced me to try enemas, which were utterly ineffective except, one imagines, at squirting soapy water and fecal matter though the growing hole and into my abdominal cavity. Fainting after a couple tries put an end to that and sometime in the wee hours of the morning, a CT scan revealed the true problem. My memories of these hours are fuzzy. At one point, J left to get our kids ready for school and my mother took over. I remember moaning repeatedly, slowly and rhythmically, “It hurts, it hurts, it hurts” and being aware that what I was doing must be hard on my mother, because I know that as a mother, watching your child in pain is just the worst thing, but still being unable to stop.

It was all pain, just pain. The surgeon showed up and told us I had a rupture and he would have to operate, and that there was the possibility of death but he had no choice. I didn’t care. All I cared about was that I would soon be unconscious. There was no fear at all.

I listened to a radio program recently about last words, famous and otherwise. If I hadn’t survived that surgery, my last words would have been, “It’s not working! I’m still awake.” The mask delivering the drugs couldn’t fit properly around the tube up my nose and it took longer to sedate me than normal, although it must have only been a moment or two. And then I was gone, for 18 days.

Tomorrow morning, I am going to wake up, run some errands, go into work, try and find a gift for Asher’s birthday on Saturday. The laundry is piling up. I have no idea what to feed everyone for dinner. We are in the depths of planning Maya’s bat mitzvah. I am scarred, deconditioned and forget things like my own phone number. But I am alive.

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Two evenings ago, Boo told me at bedtime that her left eye hurt. I took a look and could not see anything, so told her she’d feel better in the morning – standard parent line. Also wrong – by the morning, her eye was practically swollen shut. It wasn’t red and there was no apparent bite, not that there’s anything around to bite her right now.

Our doctor wasn’t in, so we saw a colleague. After ruling out the same stuff I ruled out, she sat and stared at Boo for several moments, then said, “Well, I don’t think you’ll need to go to the children’s hospital for IV antibiotics, but I just want to ask my colleague for a second opinion.” That was a bit of a shock. The second doctor agreed that oral antibiotics were the way to go, but they warned me that if Boo got worse or developed a fever, it was straight to the hospital for her. Of course. Because J is out of town.

Sure enough, after dinner I noticed she was looking kind of run down and her eye had become very red. She had a fever. I’m very lucky my parents live in the same city. My mother came over and off we went.

I have to say, it was the least awful ER trip I think I’ve had. We came armed with multiple amusements, we actually got put in an examining room after being called from the waiting room, rather than being stuck with chairs in a hall like the last two times I was there, and Boo was in a great mood. Unless someone touched her eye, it didn’t particularly hurt. Once we got to the examining room, we read, snacked and she talked incessantly as I got sleepier and sleepier. They even had the wherewithal to send a nurse in to apply a topical numbing creme to her hand in case they needed to put an IV in once we were finally seen.

When the doctor, who appeared to be about 12 years old, came to take a look, she proclaimed it still only periorbital cellulitis, instead of the more dangerous orbital cellulitis. Basically, it means the infection was still only around the eye, instead of  in it. Nevertheless, she agreed it wasn’t pretty and it was not good that the eye was still worsening on the antibiotics, and decided to give her a single dose of IV antibiotics. Yay for the numbing creme!

Boo immediately became my favourite child this morning for actually compensating for going to bed at 12:30 by sleeping in until almost 10:30 am. The other two like to keep to their mornings schedule, no matter how little sleep they’ve had – frequently a cause of great parental suffering. Anyway, the eye looked way better this morning, but hasn’t improved much since then, making me even more grateful for the heavy-duty drugs.

Ironically, I missed seeing the video I had rented, Michael Moore’s Sicko. I watched it today, though, as Boo and I lounged around. I’d read beforehand about the various methods Moore uses to manipulate situations, etc, but even given that, the movie is shocking. I knew Americans paid a lot for health care, but I had no idea how awful the situation clearly is.

I’d love to know where the Canadians who claimed to have never waited more than an hour for hospital treatment live, because I’ve never had one shorter than 2 hours. Last night, I showed up at the ER at 8:30 pm and left at 12 midnight. I didn’t resent the wait at all, though, especially seeing some of the really sick children coming through. Three and a half hours doesn’t seem outrageous for emergency care. A lot of people do end up waiting a lot longer, mostly because they are waiting to be seen for non-emergency problems. If you are going to show up at the ER for a sore throat, even a really sore throat, you are going to wait. Unfortunately, in this city, it is pretty much impossible to find a GP who will take on new clients, which leaves people going to the ER when they shouldn’t (rather than a walk-in clinic).

I shudder to think of being in a situation where I would have had to take into consideration the cost of taking Boo to the ER, or  how I would have felt if the IV antibiotics were really expensive and I had to decide whether to pay or take a chance. I’m willing to wait an awfully long time for the right to get the care she needed regardless of our financial situation.

I know I’m rambling on here, but just one more thing. There is a lot of discussion and concern in Canada about wait times. Sometimes, people wait ages to see specialists or get services like CAT scans and that does suck. It is a weakness of the system. But after Boo was born, I developed a severe uterine infection and started to hemorrhage by the time we got to the ER. I was whisked right in and started on an IV, then taken up to a room within a couple of hours. The next day, we got a private room. When the doctors feared I had a blood clot, I got an ultrasound, and MRI and some fancy lung function test that required inhaling something radioactive the day they became concerned. Thankfully, those fears were unfounded.

Then, once I was stabilized after a week, rather than keep me in the hospital for the next week just because I required constant IV antibiotics, I was given a picc line (a tube threaded into your chest for long-term delivery of drugs). A tube lead out of my arm and into a fanny pack filled with my medicine, with a small attached computer delivering the right dosage, and sent home. Every day, a nurse came to visit, change the meds, and check me out. When the computer spazzed out, I phoned a number and got help instantly.

The monetary cost to us for all this care: parking fees. They even paid for prescriptions we picked up at the pharmacy during the week I was at home with the picc line, which we normally pay for ourselves, under the logic that I was still under hospital care and was only home to save them money (my sanity was just a bonus). I spent that entire second week feeling pure, unadulterated gratitude – for being alive, for being allowed to be home, for a healthy baby, for good friends and family, and for being Canadian.

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