5 o’ clock Thursday morning I woke up to pain and the feeling of “I’m going to puke but I”m not sure when.” I puked at 9:30. I spent the rest of the day sleeping in bed and on the couch with no appetite. The next day was similar, waking up at 3am to acute pain, but this time the pain in my abdomen was worse. I looked like a color drained, baggy eyed wreck.
Okay, maybe this isn’t from overeating, I thought. I went to the university’s health center where I was examined by Dr. Templeton. They took samples of my blood and urine. I laid down on a bench and she poked around my stomach before pressing down on my lower right abdomen and triggered one of the worst pains I’ve ever felt in my life.
This was a big deal. I’ve never felt any sort of animosity towards any sort of doctor types— dentists, therapists, professors— but how she pressed and held down her hands to gauge my level of pain triggered something in me. It was a new level of hatred. The undeserved kind towards someone trying to diagnose what could be a life threatening problem. Please stop! I thought.
“It could be appendicitis,” she said.
She decided to send me to the ER, just to be sure. It wasn’t how I’ve always imagined it— barely conscious, lots of pain, blood loss— I was driven there by my mom. My partner went out of his way to join us. We walked to the ER from the main entrance. I was really excited to be there for the new experience.
I kept that attitude up until they stuck an I.V. in my right arm. Shit hurts like shoving in a straw into your arm (“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I know it hurts,” said the nurse. She was very sweet). Then a rookie came in to draw my blood from my left arm, the same arm they did at the health center, except he couldn’t find my vein and kept jamming the needle around inside. The Batman opening song kept playing randomly in the hall way beyond our closed room door. We wondered if it was for a kid nearby or for some inside joke.
The fourth nurse I saw for the day said they needed a CAT scan to know if anything was inflamed or out of place. Conner from CAT scans brought in two styrofoam cups of what he described tastes “like lemonade, so don’t worry.” Of course I was worried. You’re telling me something that will make my innards glow and cause me to” feel like you’re peeing but you’re not” will taste normal? They gave me an hour to finish it all. It turned out to taste like lemonade and feel like mucus lodge in my throat. It was like drinking a Coke while expecting an ice tea or vice versa.
Having people who cared about me there in ER made a huge difference. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was afraid. We joked they’d come in the room and say it was a straightforward case of constipation. Or maybe I did need my appendix taken out. Or maybe it was an ovarian cyst like one of the nurse mentioned. Whatever was going to happen, I felt like I was going to be okay.
If anything I felt like they worried more about me than I cared about myself. Mom said I reminded her of a video she saw on an old man who inevitably was going to die, decided on self-euthanization, and passed away surrounded by family. I asked if it was because I was wearing the patient garb and in the hospital. She said yes.
Conner from CAT scan came to get me 15 minutes late. He led me into a dim room with a large white machine. I slid my pants half way down (metal button), laid on a white bench and got comfortable under a warm blanket. It felt like a place where I could nap tranquilly. I was instructed to hold my arms above my head. Unexpectedly, the machine talked. It told me when to breathe and when to hold my breath, its voice reminding me of Windows ’98. Another woman led me back to the room and they told us to wait 45 minutes for the result.
My scan came out clean. A senior doctor came by and said nothing was wrong. My partner asked if I should restrain myself from any activity and he said no, and “don’t try to run a mile in 6 minutes or something” as an example. Another nurse came in and said I could go home, and asked if we had any questions.
“Is taking out the I.V. going to hurt as much or more than putting it in?” I asked.
“Oh, much better” she said. “At least it’s not a needle like it used to be.”
She took out the I.V. and showed me how it bent and flexed, a thin minuscule straw. Some of my blood was still splattered on it. How did something so small make me feel so awful?
“See?” she said.
I wondered what my bill would be.
TDLR: Hospital cliches are all true. Multiple staff members that are busy crunching time, having to repeat your story over and over to strangers, long wait times.
P.S.: Speaking of hospitals, the following Tuesday was Kiki’s orthopedic appointment. The whole ordeal took a little over two hours. Kiki had a ruptured ligament about four months ago– and happy to say that he’s recovered without needing surgical repair! 😀