My own episode of HousePosted: September 26, 2008
Friday begins like any other day. I get up, eat breakfast, check my e-mail, and get my daughter up. Inara, the baby who had had a fever for the previous five days is cheerful but covered in a full body rash. Wonderful. The afternoon finds us at the Doctors’ office receiving the non-troubling diagnosis of Roseola. Not a problem now. Once you have the rash, you’re no longer contagious. It’s nice how that works out. During the day, my head starts aching, but really, what’s new, right?
Saturday morning at 12:30 finds me laying with my head in the toilet with a full blown migraine. Oh, well. I’ve averaged two of these a year since I was six and once they get this bad they only get better. An hour later I’ve managed to fall back asleep per usual. I wake up with the baby at 4:30 just to make my way back to the toilet. From here on, that which went down will quickly come up. Pleasant. Baby goes back to sleep and I move to the couch. The thermometer shows an elevated temperature that explains the uncontrollable shaking.
The next morning came and my personally anticipated death did not. Always a good omen. Erik suggests going to the doctor’s office. I’m no dummy though, I’ve watched more than my share of ER and know what happens to the saps who show up with fevers, headaches, and uncontrollable vomiting. Thanks, but no thanks, Kemosabe. We strike a compromise and he phones the on-call nurses. They are traitors and recommend he take me to the clinic right away. Sigh.
I make it to the clinic where all the Nurse Practitioner manages to do is agitate my headache. She recommends that we go to the emergency room as she can’t give me any fluids or administer any of the “tests” they may need to run to rule “certain things” out. Just say it already! I’m not a child! I know what you’re alluding to! I watch all the medical dramas! For criminy.
We make our way to the University ER. As Erik drives I ask him to promise me that if I ever die from a doctors stupidity that he’ll sue their asses so he can stay home and raise the kids. That’s the type of thing I think about at moments like these (and at random moments in between). What are you talking about he asks. Just promise I demand. Don’t worry I says. I take that to mean “okay”.
The hospital just finished a remodel which is great, but the whole wailing waiting area is windows and the sun is shining its brightest. This isn’t the best for those of us with RAGING HEADACHES, but I get admitted fairly quickly. Nurse B shuts off half the lights in my room and I find myself willing to trust her as a woman of goodwill.
I’m thirsty… so thirsty. Nurse B draws blood in a momentary act of ill will and inserts an IV. I refrain from fainting and view the moment as a personal success. The doctor (very nice lady) explains that it’s very likely I have viral meningitis and they may have to run a test to rule it out. Am I familiar with the way a spinal tap works, she asks. Finally. It’s out in the open. The dreaded/dreadful spinal tap. It’s no longer the elephant in the room. Yes, I tell her. I’ve watched so much ER in fact, I can correctly diagnose people on other TV shows. Not kidding. She smiles and says not to worry about it yet, but to start thinking about whether that’s the course of action we want to take. I tell her the only reason I’m willing to even consider it is because I’m a wife and mother. If it was just me, going home and dying would most likely be the recourse I would choose. Again, she smiles, and she and her student nurse whisk out of the room.
As I’m lying there blissfully re-hydrating, when a bat out of hell another nurse comes flying in to tell me she’s taking me to CT. I’m sorry, what? That’s actually what I said in my sweet, disoriented drugged up way. You need a CAT scan she says to me, the uninformed dummy. Oh, yes. That sounds reasonable. My mom’s had her share of those for her migraines, so why not. As she wheels me away, I tell my loyal subjects husband and daughter I’ll be right back and not to worry. I tend to feel very regal when I think I’m dying.
In the CT room it takes the blustery nurse and the new grandmother nurse a good five minutes to get all my earrings out. I couldn’t assist since the IV prevented my hand from reaching my ear. It was a sad moment for me because I knew I wouldn’t be able to put them back in within ten minutes and that meant my conch piercings would close up. Yes, that fast. I loved them. (moment of silence) The scan itself was quick and painless and I was back off to my room and my waiting family.
Some guy on animal planet was wrestling his third crockodile of the day when the doctor and her shadow returned. Well, what do we think, she asks. I think I haven’t slept in 48 hours and I don’t want anyone stabbing a giant needle into my spine, that’s what I think. But I don’t say anything. Erik asks all the responsible grown-up questions and she gives reasonable answers to all of them. There’s a minute of silence and she poses her question again. I just stare at my Erik. She asks if we want a moment to discuss it and he says yes. She leaves. He asks me what I think. I say I don’t know and try not to whimper. He asks me if I’m too tired to make this call and I say yes. She comes back in. That was a fast minute. Rik says go ahead and she leaves to get her supplies.
Erik and Inara leave to avoid being traumatized. What about me? I’m traumatized just by being left alone! Doesn’t anyone care about that? The doctor and her disciple return and “get set-up”. The doctor is chatting about I don’t remember what as she explains what’s going to happen to me. I lie in the fetal position facing away from her wishing for Amanda to be there holding my hand as she was when I got sutures after Nara’s birth. All the sudden I panic and ask the lady doctor Are you the one doing this? Yes, she says. She reassures me that her student is only helping her keep herself sterile and then she’ll be leaving. Okay, I sigh. I’ve had enough students work on me for one lifetime.
She tells me the spinal tap should feel like going to the dentist. She doesn’t know how I dread the dentists’. She says it should sting a little when she gives me the numbing shots, but that the actual tap should just feel like pressure. I know she’s lying cause that’s the same lie my dentist uses.
The part about the numbing shots stinging was of course an understatement and I think for the second time in five minutes how it should be mandatory for medical students to get a spinal tap before they graduate. My Uncle once told me cops have to get sprayed with pepper spray before they can use it so really, it’s only fair.
She starts to do the tap and for a moment I think I may have overreacted. That thought is quickly replaced with a yelp. Does that hurt she asks. Do people yelp when it doesn’t, I wonder? Out loud I say that I have a very low threshold for pain when I’m exhausted. She says let’s keep going and see if it gets better. What kind of dumb idea is that? She keeps going, it doesn’t get better. Ow, ow, ow! I fight back tears as she withdraws the dagger needle and promises me another numbing shot. As my head continues to pound I pray for death.
Do you have kids I ask. Not yet she answers. My back burns momentarily as she fulfills her promise. My husband is a lawyer she volunteers. What kind? I’m not really sure, she says, the kind that’s of no use to my friends or family. I smile a wane smile at the wall. We’re in she declares cheerfully. I hadn’t even felt her start. If only she’d given me enough numbing medicine from the start this part would have been a bad dream versus a nightmare. Oh, well, what’s done is done.
Lay on your back for thirty minutes to avoid a headache due to the tap she says as she leaves the room. My family returns but I send them away to find lunch. The newest batch of painkillers are taking affect and I want to sleep.
An hour later I am awoken to be told I don’t have viral meningitis. What a waste I think. There’s nothing they can treat. Erik says that’s great and Inara wants to nurse, but she can’t. They all go away again and I slip back to sleep. An hour later I’m discharged. I’ve had two packs of fluids, anti-nausea meds, maxed out the painkillers (that didn’t do too much anyway) and received clean test results. They mention in passing that my sinuses are full. Thanks for telling me. If I could empty them like sand from my shoes I would.
I sleep off and on for the rest of the afternoon. They gave me some apple juice before I left the hospital and that stayed down. Sarah brings us groceries: fresh foods full of electrolytes. Seeing that the cashier tried to charge us $70 for a watermelon brought some needed entertainment. I go to bed early and wake up to pee at 11. Erik is still up working at the computer and asks how I feel. I think it’s gone I say with relief and head back to bed.
Of course I spoke too soon. Most of the night is spent on the couch sitting up with the heating pad and a cold washcloth trying to get comfortable. Sunday isn’t enjoyable to say the least. Anxiety starts in. Is it going to end before Erik has to go back to work? Am I turning into my Mom? Do I have week long migraines to look forward to? I was tired of sitting and laying. I had to move. I go outside and pace. I talk to the neighbor about a dog born without front legs who learned to walk on his hind legs all the time. Inspirational, no? I try to get a hold of my chiropractors home number but no one returns my calls. Erik and Inara come home from running errands and we all go for a walk. Amanda comes over for a quick visit on her way back to Des Moines. Where was she yesterday! She brings me gelato. We all sit on the kitchen floor and talk, enjoying the momentary reprieve from my agony.
I wake up at three sure that my neck just needs to be removed and all would be fine. Take it, just take it! I wander around and flop all over the couch like a dying fish on a dock. Could it really get any worse? I go and wake Erik up. Misery loves company. I’m dying I announce. I can’t get comfortable I cry. Calm down he tells me. Don’t get frantic he says as he pins me to the bed. I pant and try to calm myself. I decide to treat the pain as I would a contraction. I embrace it and let it flow over me. I start thrashing. I’m up on all fours rocking, rubbing my head on the bed moaning. I know Erik is concerned for my sanity, but I’m only concerned about my surviving the night. The pain is growing more intense by the moment.
A bath, I say. What? Do you think I should take a bath? Maybe that would help, I whimper. He gets up and draws a bath. As I sink into the water and it flows around me he goes and finds candles to I don’t have to face the lights. My Erik places the candle on the floor out of sight and sits it the folding chair he has brought and just waits. I remark how much lighter my head feels underwater. My stomach turns as the water cools. He leaves when the baby cries. The water stops helping. My blood is rushing in my head pounding, pounding. I sit up. The pain is too much and I vomit in the bucket he brought with the candle. I hear Inara asking for me and I vomit again. The pressure lessens.
I get up and nurse my daughter as we watch the sunrise through the blinds. I put her back to bed and grab a bag of frozen country potatoes as the pain rises again. Maybe I can numb it out. I prop myself up on the couch with my pack and my caring husband props himself up on me and sleep comes if only for an hour. Erik crawls back to bed. I stay on the couch as frozen in place as my bag of spuds had been an hour ago. If I don’t move, they are still cold enough to help me manage the pain though not cold enough to bring the release of sleep.
Two hours later finds our family trio in the chiropractors office. My face void of emotion as I sit awaiting my turn. Hope grows in my discouraged heart as my turn comes. The Chiropractor looks at me and at the bucket in my hand. I don’t do vomit he says. No promises, I say, laying down on the table. What did you do to yourself he asks. I don’t know I reply as unexpected tears well up in my tired eyes. I don’t do crying he adds. I think, as long as you do my neck I don’t care what else you “don’t do”. Out loud I just promise to try not to.
We move to the chair and I return to my silence, staring into space. The doctor makes a comment on the great chaos that is my neck. As if I didn’t already know. This isn’t going to feel good, so I’m just going to go ahead and do it he says. He didn’t lie. It doesn’t feel good. He adjusts my neck in one direction and it’s like a big wave crashing against the rocks. He turns my neck the other way and the waves are calm. Yahtzee he exclaims. Immediate relief. I look at my bucket and know I will not be needing it any more. Yahtzee.
It will take another two days for my mystery fever to leave and another visit later on in the week to the chiropractor to solidify my necks new found lease on life. I will go to bed early that night and lie awake for two hours from the sheer glee of knowing I could sleep if I wanted to. Soon, it will all just be a bad memory. I lay in bed thinking back through the preceeding days. Looking for the beauty from the pain. I find it and I sleep.