The Fourth Circle

Tonight I went to the emergency room for a migraine. That’s a special kind of hell.

I’ve had migraines for all of my adult life, and they suck. I have yet to find a prophylactic that works for them, and an allergy to sumatriptan is just about the worst drug allergy someone with 15-20 migraines per month can have.

I took one of my barbiturates shortly after the migraine came on today, and then another two hours later. I felt better for a little while, but then it got worse and kept on worsening. So eventually I went and put my shoes on when Ian told me to go put my shoes on so he could take me to the hospital.

When we got there, it looked like it might not be so bad, because we could only see two people in the waiting room. As a former emergency clerk, I knew that could mean either that it was slow or that the ER was full.

It turned out to be pretty full, and we waited out there for an hour-ish. I think. I didn’t check my watch, and I had a dang migraine.

I should have brought a pair of earplugs.

I sat there wearing my sunglasses at night, leaning on my sweetie’s shoulder, waiting and waiting and unable to do anything but think.

And wait as the patients rolled in in waves.

The waiting room is a pretty shit place for someone with a migraine. There are super bright fluorescent lights overhead. There is always a ton of people unable to moderate the volume of their voices. And of course, there’s always the kids whose parents are completely unable or unwilling to teach them how to sit quietly.

The registration clerks were having a good old time laughing and chatting about Sprite. Don’t ask me why. I missed that part.

The triage nurse was hollering a name every few minutes.

The door to the outside world huffed and wheezed every few minutes.

The door to the inner sanctum of the emergency department squeaked and wailed open and shut every time a nurse came to call someone back or let someone out to go home.

My stomach turned, and I let Ian know I was going to vomit before getting up and meandering to the single occupant and unisex ER bathroom. There was a woman inside talking on the phone, as I heard before even getting all the way to the door. I did an about=face and headed for the bathroom outside of the ER, in the hospital proper. Housekeeping was blocking the door.

I leaned my back against the wall and closed my eyes. I said fuck it and walked outside in case I was still going to vomit, even though I was pretty sure I had my stomach under tight control. I leaned against my arms on the outside of the building, breathing.

I would say I almost threw up, but by that point, it wasn’t that close. I had a handle on it and forced everything back down, telling it to stay down. And I walked back inside to lean on my husband some more.

I put my fingers in my ears when I couldn’t take any more noise, and immediately afterward,three kids showed up and started having a blast in the waiting room. I thought there were only two, but Ian told me there were three after we left. I heard one dancing, and one rapping. Neither sounded awesome at either. Finally, they went to the other side of the waiting area. Apparently that was in large part due to how scary my husband gets when he goes into protective mama bear mode, which is absolutely going to happen any time there’s something wrong with me.

A nurse came out and called my name, and she led us back to a treatment room next door to one of the bathrooms, which would have been nicer had it happened about thirty minutes earlier. I’m not the best at puking in a bucket.

While she was tap-tap-tapping on her keyboard, verifying my medical history, the doctor came in. I was happy to see that he’s one who’s seen me for migraine before, and he believes me and  knows I’m not there to get high. Since my mother is a drug-seeking addict, this is the most important thing for me to look for in a doctor.

Kidney stones will show up on imaging, but there’s no way for them to prove that anyone actually has a migraine, so I’ve been treated with a grain of salt more than a handful of times.

I hate that.

I just want to live my life. I can’t live my life when I have a severe migraine. I had planned to go help my husband with a couple of repairs for his second job. I had planned to go for a run and get a new PR. I wanted to paint some pictures because we watched some abstract art videos on YouTube last night, and dude had some techniques I want to try out.

I can go to the ER and get some medicine, but I still can’t live my life afterward, even if I walk out of there with a pain level of less than four, because I’m either ready for bed or too fucked up to see straight.

He’d already gone and attempted the repairs (they sent a part that was broken in a different way from the one it was supposed to replace), and there’s no way I can walk a mile, let alone run any distance at all after some dilaudid and phenergan.

I suppose I could have tried to paint, but I’m quite sure I would have knocked over my dirty water and/or my paint palette. Hell, I’ve been working on this post for well over half an hour now, and it shouldn’t take me more than fifteen minutes to write this.

And my doctor doesn’t want to refer me to a neurologist until he’s exhausted every single possibility he know of. Most recently I took Depakote for two and a half days until I was suicidal. I also had two migraines during that time.

Maybe next week will be the winner. I go back to the doctor next Thursday.

But I will give them this: One of the PAs put me on Prozac and Klonopin in June, and I have never felt so good in my life. Swear. I’m only extremely rarely depressed or anxious anymore, and most of the time when I do feel blue out of the blue, it’s only a sign that I’m going to have a migraine in a couple of hours. Which is a downer in itself.

I know I haven’t talked about my health here in a while, and my health is the main reason that I took such a break from blogging and am only now easing myself back in. But I’m okay, no need to worry. I’m actually better than ever, thanks to the Prozac.

I’ll fill you in some more soon. But hey, thanks for being here and reading what I write.

Btdubs, did y’all catch that? My fat ass runs now. I can’t wait for it to not be ninety degrees outside and thick as soup thanks to high humidity.

Much love.

Happy Birthday, Let’s Go to the ER

I broke my left arm when I was eleven. On my mother’s thirty-sixth birthday.

Wow, that just drives the nail right on in the coffin, doesn’t it? I was eleven when my mother was two years younger than I am now. And she already had two children and two husbands–not that I’m trading my husband in, mind you.

But yes, that’s what happened. We went to the park, and I fell off some playground equipment and snapped that sumbitch pretty dang good if I do say so myself. I freaked right the fuck out.


My mom claims she heard it; I’m glad I did not. She and my stepfather gathered my sister from wherever she was playing and loaded everything up in the car. My mother rode in the back seat with em, supporting my arm since we had nothing to splint it with. Not a fun ride, take my word for it.

That ER has changed so much in the past twenty-seven years. I’m not sure that there’s anything left of the place I went that night, where I kept whimpering as a team of doctors struggled to set my arm, giving me more and more sedation until finally I was unconscious and they could push and pull as needed. I woke up a bit when they were X-raying my arm inside the first cast and finding out that I’d moved enough that it was no longer set properly, and they had to cut that cast off and start over. I don’t remember the ride home with my new cast.

But I do remember the next three days of being out of school, and being allowed to watch TV which was an absolute no any other time I stayed home from school. I don’t remember it hurting very much after the first day, but who was I to insist on going to school when I could stay home?

I welcomed my celebrity status when I returned to school, which was completely out of character for me. I talked to kids I’d never spoken to before and let them sign my cast. It was glorious. My sister had broken her arm the year before, as had my mother, fortunately at separate times, but living it firsthand was a new experience for me. I’d had ‘surgery’ before, but it was just tubes in my ears and my adenoids out, no stitches or anything else that kids would be fascinated by.

I’m left-handed, and I broke my left arm. I loved not having to write my spelling words three times each. That was probably the best part of the whole broken arm thing. No damn spelling words. I’d been reading years longer than I’d been in school, I knew how to spell. Except receive, of course.

I clearly remember the day I got my above-elbow cast off for a short-arm. My appointment was early enough that I was dropped off at school after, and my class was in the library playing Oregon Trail. I walked over to the library and waved at everyone, using my newly-freed elbow. that was quite the ballsy move for eleven-year-old me. Quite.

But it wasn’t nearly as exciting for the rest of the sixth grade as it was for me. I didn’t get half the signatures on my new cast that I did on the old one, even accounting for the lack of real estate to collect them.

And two weeks later, that was it. The cast came off, and I had the stinkiest, skinniest, flakiest, palest arm I’d ever seen. The wait began to see if it would grow, since the doctors were concerned that I’d damaged the growth plates, but no one outside the hospital cared about that. I was no longer the sideshow freak at school, and I faded quickly back into obscurity.

P.S. It grew just fine to match the other.


The Latest Medical Adventure

I spent about eight hours in the ER last night/this morning with my third bout of kidney stone pain in ten days. I get to rise at the crack of dawn tomorrow to be a “scheduled walk-in” at the urology clinic because there is a massive stone possibly stuck in my ureter. After some blood work, we learned that  my kidney function was not the best, so depending on how things are in the morning, I’ll either get more tests done if I’ve passed the stone or get a stent if I haven’t. 

This was probably the worst one I’ve ever had since my first one fifteen years ago. When the nurse gave me morphine in my IV and it neither helped the pain nor made me not care about it, I started to worry. I’ve only had morphine for kidney stone pain once, but it helped the pain and I didn’t mind what was left. 

When I went to CT and had to lie on my stomach I was confused; Ian told me that Google said that meant they thought a stone was stuck. Google was right. 

Not my imaging

At first the doctor said it was 2.5mm by 5.5mm, but a few hours later, after talking to the urologist, he said the urologist thought it was bigger. 

About an hour after the morphine didn’t work, I got Toradol and Zofran. It was another half hour before that kicked in, which was also concerning. The first time I had kidney stones, I got Toradol and felt better before the nurse had the needle in the sharps container. 

I thought about How to Die in Oregon. I think if everyone against assisted suicide went through what I did last night, there would be no question. I can’t imagine dealing with constant, intractable pain with no hope for relief. And it’s only been about 24 hours for me. 

I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I think my stone has moved some. Hopefully I won’t need a stent tomorrow. 

But nothing to eat from now until then, just in case. 

Hospital Training

Obviously, Ms. Rose had me in mind when she came up with this prompt: Training Day.

I’m actually in the midst of training for my census job as we speak. My laptop came in today, so I set it up and set all my passwords and did a few pre-classroom lessons. I have a few left, but I still have ten days to go, so no real rush.

But training–I have so many tales to tell. I’ve had plenty of jobs, especially when I was living with my parents in a small town with not much real job opportunity. And then second and third jobs when I got out on my own.

I’ve been trained, and I’ve trained my share of newbies.

I was thinking about a certain training session the other day, when we went to spring a friend from the hospital.

My first real job was as a patient registration clerk in the small town hospital next door to my mom’s office. I spent a few months in the business office side before transferring to the ER, which was so much more fun. I worked graveyards, twelve hour shifts, seven days on and seven days off, which was the absolute best schedule I’ve ever had. I lived with my parents so I didn’t have any bills, and the internet was still new and exciting, so I spent many of my seven offs traveling to meet mIRC friends or coming back here to visit my real life friends.

Since it was a small town, graveyards were both slower and more exciting than day shifts, and they were the training shift as well. I’m Facebook friends with two of the girls I trained; they’re both nurses now.

I remember one slow night, training one of them. The computer program we used was pretty simple, as they tend to be. I would sit and roleplay the patient as she registered me, over and over.

Name, date of birth, social security number, address. Insurance. Chief complaint. I’d whizzed through the pages so many times before I’d just gaze blankly at the television in the waiting room, chanting the enters and tabs and shifts.

If they still had the same system, I’m sure I could hop right in the rolly chair and register as if sixteen years hadn’t passed.

We had good times there. Sometimes we’d sit, watching the entrance, diagnosing people as they made it up the sidewalk and through the doors. Fell off his bike. Cut her hand on a broken glass washing dishes. Kidney stones. Vomiting and diarrhea.

It was those three years in the ER that had me immediately know what I was suffering from the first time I had kidney stones, when I was 22. And the radiological tests to diagnose it, and the pain medication to treat it. Too bad the doctor didn’t listen to me.

And then there were the not-so-fun times, like registering the two preteen girls who drank bleach in a suicide pact. Helping restrain a patient who needed her stomach pumped after an overdose. Ducking and dodging frantic nurses and EMTs to put an armband on a patient who was dying in spite of their efforts–identification is crucial for patients who don’t make it.

I know it’s crazy there right now. Pneumonia runs rampant through the elderly population this time of year. We used to get so backed up on charts in January that any and all downtime was spent sorting them out.

I do miss it. It was a fun job. And training the new people was so easy.

Bad Vibrations

I fell in the bathroom six hours ago. Way to go me, right? 

It took a while to lose the fuzziness of the concussion, but it’s much nicer now that I don’t feel like I’m about to start drooling. 

You know what really sucks, though? A jerky, vibrating CT scan with a concussion. When you have to lie on the swollen side of your head. The bouncing was not fun.

I also injured my ankle a bit. Got some X-rays of that bad boy.

And I only had to announce my LMP and explain my fertility status seven times so far this ER visit.

I’ll keep you posted on the rest of my miserable weekend–because I will definitely be sore tomorrow. When I fall, I do it right.

What A Lovely Day

Today feels like a week. Why can’t the good days feel that way?

I woke up before my alarm this morning with right flank pain. I’ve suffered from kidney stones since I was 21, but almost exclusively in my left kidney. I thought I must have slept wrong, somehow, so I got dressed, kissed Ian goodbye, and went to deliver my papers. 

Before I made it to the first shoppette I knew it wasn’t muscular. Ugh. It takes me about an hour to deliver my papers, so I figured I’d suffer through. 

Then it got worse, like the one I went to the ER for a little over a year ago. I debated posting on Facebook to see if anyone with a military ID could finish my deliveries, but I only have a small window when all the stores accept deliveries, so I decided against that. 

I texted Ian to apologize for not picking up breakfast on my way home and asked him to take me to the ER when I got done.

Finally I finished, probably twenty minutes later than I should have, due to moving slowly and carefully, especially while getting in and out of the car. 

Have you ever had kidney stones? I can stand, hunched over, and I can lie down, my body curved, but sitting and bending are the pits. 

I got home, and Ian drove me to the hospital. An hour after I signed in, I was triaged by a nurse who thought I was faking. I am a little young and female for kidney stones, but I haven’t had to deal with someone that skeptical since 2001, the first four times I sought treatment. I was really young for them then. But for goodness’ sake, woman, it’s in my chart that you’re looking at on your computer screen! I haven’t been in your ER for years, so how can I be a drug seeker?

We waited. We waited through five ambulances and a helicopter; no one was called back from the packed waiting room. You picked a banner day, kidney. Eventually, things started moving in there.

After over three hours, when everyone who had been there before me had been called back, and some discharged, after several of the people who had shown up after me had been called back, after the stone had at least passed from my kidney and I was in less acute pain, I said screw it, let’s go home.

We went home.

I spent a few hours in bed, and Ian went to work. I took a bit of a nap.

When I got up, I saw that I finally got my judges’ feedback for my first entry in the flash fiction challenge. Guess what’s wrong with my story

It’s not entirely believable.

No shit. I must have missed that section in the guidelines where it says fiction submissions must be entirely believable.

I’m disgusted with this feedback.

I guess I know not to bother entering my surrealist fiction in their contests again.

But I had beef stew for dinner, and that’s what I wanted. So there’s that.

Oh, and my manager called about thirty minutes ago to see if I could open the other store tomorrow. I declined.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can spend a couple hours catching up on my reading and commenting. And figure out what Ben, Betty, and Shepard have been up to.

Not entirely believable. Jeez.