Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Why You Should Always Take Someone to the ER With You

So I get to the ER early this morning and feel kind of guilty because the combination of writhing around, pacing and grimacing in the waiting room means I got called in before people who were clearly there before me. I felt a little bit like a drama queen, but seriously, it freakin' hurt. I read later that this writhing around is characteristic of gallstones, so yay me for being stereotypical.

The last time I was in the ER I had a brain bleed and sat in the waiting room bleeding into my skull FOREVER while they took a stupid skateboarder with a sprained ankle because everyone (including me) thought it was just a concussion. So, you know, karma.

Anyway, it took about 3 hours to get the ultrasound and the whole time, I was pretty sure the pain was from a crazy wicked bout of gas. About two seconds after the ultrasound tech turned on the machine, she said, "Ooh, yeah. You have gallstones." Great. Nice and quick, except then she took about 45 minutes to examine the rest of my abdomen, over and over. She kept squinting at the machine and frowning, and then going over the same spot, twisting and turning.

I have cancer, I concluded. A big ol' tumor, or maybe my pancreas is totally the wrong size.

"Does everything else look normal?" I asked her.

"I can't tell you that. We're allowed to tell you you have gallstones, but otherwise, the doctor will review all the scans and let you know."

"OK, but can you at least tell me my pancreas looks normal?" I ask.

"Sorry, I can't tell you that, but how old are you?"


"Yeah, pancreatic cancer is pretty rare in people who are your age. That's what Patrick Swayze has."

Oh dear. She saw something on there and doesn't want to tell me I'm on my deathbed. She bringing in the celebrity angle to make me feel less alone.

So I got wheeled back into the ER, ready to hear the worst, and waited and waited some more.

"We want the radiologist to go over the scans," said the doctor on a fly-by. "That's why it's taking a while."

I was left alone with my brain and my anxiety. Not a good idea.

Of course. Clearly there are abnormalities. This is what happened last time. I got a CT scan, and the doc had to consult with the neurosurgeons. That was an accident, though, and this is obviously a systemic disease. Should I call G, whom I'd left at home to get the boys to school? No, the inaugural address is still going on. I'll at least let him finish watching that before I give him the bad news that he'll have to raise the boys on his own.

Stop it, Lunasea. Your blood test was fine, except for the white blood cell count and you know that's probably because you're fighting a cold. You have no fever and have felt fine up until this morning. You have NO other symptoms, and you DO have gallstones, so there's no reason to think anything else is happening. Chill out. Get your iPod and listen to a meditation or two so you don't have to listen to the crazy voice in your head or the crazy lady at the end of the hallway screaming and hollering.

OK, here's a good one. "Meditation During a Crisis." Let's try that one.

[Cue soft, slow voice] "This is a meditation for the weeks that follow hearing devastating news..."

No! Turn that one off! Put it away and just try to breathe. I'll just close my eyes and rest. I'm so tired.

This is what I'm going to look like when I'm dead. I remember the furrowing of the brow in dying people I've seen. That's what I look like right now. I should ask for more morphine. I'm practically a hospice patient so there shouldn't be any hesitation.

I've had a good life. I've done everything I've wanted to do, except see my grandchildren. There's nothing to be afraid of in death. If heaven awaits, awesome. If it doesn't, well, it's not like I'm going to be aware of it, right? No reason to fear.

"Be not afraid...I go before you always....." They always play that at funerals.

I'd better get that list together of songs I want played at my memorial. I want to make sure they get that Eva Cassidy song in there."

So by the time G. came to pick me up, I was reconciling myself to my own imminent death and planning my memorial service. Because sometimes I'm really reasonable, and sometimes I go completely insane.

This is why I should have told him, "Drop the boys off at school and then proceed immediately to the ER where you can keep me from going crazy, OK?" We'll both remember that next time.

Doctor finally dropped by and told me I was probably going to need my gallbladder removed, but not today and I could go home. "What about the pancreas?" I asked.

He gave me a weird look. "No, we'll leave that in."

"No, I mean did it look normal? Everything else looked normal?"

"Yeah. Fine. Here's your appointment for the surgery consult next week, OK? Bye. Hope you feel better."

Yes, thank you. I think I will.


Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, if you weren't sick you would worry yourself sick. Did you really think those things? I feel like I should come sit with you next time you go to ER. Next time take a friend or get one to stay with the kids and take G. I'm sorry you have to have surgery and hope the pain lessens until then.
Knot Mom

Carrie said...

It sounds like we have similar thoughts at moments like that. :) I can go from having a hang nail to needing my entire arm amputated (please be the left arm!) in 0.2 seconds. You're probably nicer to G. about it though--usually Paul is on the receiving end of my freak-out. He's getting more used to them though and is less apt to get mad back at me.

I hope everything goes well with the surgery. I've known so many people who've had a similar experience and ended up with the gall bladder out. They've all gone on to lead normal, healthy lives. :)

Anonymous said...

Sorry it was so traumatizing, Love..... very glad it is something so treatable! Your writing about the internal drama really had me laughing out loud ... I go to the same places sometimes!

My Brand Of Crazy... said...

Oh my goodness you poor thing! I hope you are feeling better via drugs right now and I hope the surgery goes well! Love ya girl:)

Anonymous said...

And here I thought I was the only one, lol. Had pretty much the same experience when I had gallstones 3 weeks postpartum... it was 6 years ago, but I still vividly recall my, "Who will help John take care of the baby when I'm dead" internal conversations. I always seem to Go There.

Good luck with the surgery -- it wil be a breeze!


LemonySarah said...

Mr. Lemony goes through the same gloom and doom routine EVERY time he feels even slightly off. Therefore, when I read all your worries, I automatically thought, No dear, it's all going to be fine. No, dear, let's just wait until the doctor looks at the results. NO DEAR, CUT IT OUT ALREADY!

Glad you've only got gallstones. Well, not GLAD. Not even relieved. Sorry is better, but still glad it's nothing life threatening.

Keep us posted, sweetie!

Linda said...

Oh, so sorry for all the worries...
It's not a good idea to go by yourself-ever. I did the same when I received an urgent phone call to get my hiney to the hospital asap to have a cat scan of my chest after having chest pains. Blood tests came back abnormal and between the doc and home, an urgent message was left not to "doddle". No one was home, so off I went-sure that I had suffered a heart attack, or had a blood clot was about to blow up. Cat scan showed all was well, but I had planned my memorial service.Relaying all the deets to my bubby via cell phone.

Damn gallstones!! Sorry, but that's a very routine surgery, so you will be FINE.

Sorry to be a comment hog, but I have something else..when I would see your name Lunasea on G's blog, I always read it as something else. I got it now- Luna-sea (lunacy) duh!!

And, ummm, which Eva Cassidy song?
I luff her. One of my favorites is "I Know You By Heart".

Lunasea said...

Hey Linda, thanks for stopping by!

I was thinking of "How Can I Keep From Singing." I love that song, but had only heard it by Enya until I discovered Eva Cassidy's version. Now I'm a big fan of hers. I'll have to check out the song you mentioned.

You've piqued my curiosity because my G. doesn't have a blog, so I'm wondering if there's a parallel universe with a different G. and Lunasea. If you head back here, what G's blog are you reading?

gwendomama said...

There are many reasons why I like you, but the most notable one being that OUR BRAINS WERE SEPARATED AT BIRTH.....

Linda said...

Gwendomama!!! I call her G...for short.

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