This weekend in eastern Maryland was a pumpkin patch strolling, nature hike taking, fire pit gathering, corn maze avoiding gift of perfect autumn weather. See?
Yeah. None of that happened for me because at exactly 8:10AM on Saturday I was zinged with the worst pain of my life right after dropping my tween off for her babysitting class car pool. Luckily, when I arrived back home, my husband still hadn’t left for work.
In fact, when he came out of our bathroom, he immediately sensed something was wrong.
“Sweetheart, why are you curled on the bedroom floor in child’s pose sobbing?”
I joke. He doesn’t know what child’s pose is. And he might have been a bit more alarmed, but he wasn’t panicked either. I have my M.D. and while I’m not practicing, my family is pretty confident I know what to do when things start to spiral and all they need to do is listen to me.
Unfortunately in this case, in my agonized state, I let my inner “the worst of woman” throw in her two cents. You know, the voice who says, “Don’t be a bother. Going to the Emergency Department seems awfully dramatic.”
Despite the fact the differential diagnosis in my head was ectopic pregnancy, ovarian cyst, kidney stone, or appendicitis, the words that came out of my mouth were, “Take me to the urgent care center.”
And thus, I tortured myself with a detour through medical incompetence. Long story short, I was seen by a non-physician care provider in-training. She and her supervisor where distracted by my history of kidney stones and never considered it could be anything else. I was actually writhing in pain in front of them, but their plan was to send me home with antibiotics to treat a urinary tract infection even though my urine was normal.
Public Service Announcement – It is nearly impossible to be in that much pain from a kidney stone and NOT have red blood cells in your urine. Apparently, they missed that class, so you the public should be aware. I really don’t know how non-medical lay people ever get the correct care.
She did throw in a cover-her-assets,“You could also go to the Emergency Department.” Duh. My inner dumbass had already stroked out from the pain, so no arguments there. She did give me two Tylenol3 which were as helpful as pissing on a wildfire.
Thirty minutes later we were at the ED. Apparently, the term “Triage” was just a catch phrase for them, not a concept they rallied around in practice since nothing about my obvious distress or vital signs moved me up in line. My blood pressure was 178/98. In layman’s terms: Not quite “holy shit,” but definitely in the arena of “yikes.” If that elevation wasn’t caused by pain, they might have wanted to entertain the thought that I was having a vascular event. Just sayin’.
To their credit, they were probably thinking pain since I finally got some IV morphine . . . but only in a dosage equivalent to throwing a bucket on my wildfire. Apparently my husband, in his professional work attire, and me, in my 5K souvenir sweatshirt, were poster children for drug seeking junkies. I was still writhing with pain, but my moaning ceased and that’s all they really want in the ER – for you to shut the hell up.
My ER doctor obviously paid some attention in med school because he dismissed the notion of kidney stones, moved me from the “She Might Be A Faker” section of the ED to the “Better Treat Or Face A Lawsuit” area, and ordered an ultrasound to check for ovarian cysts.
The tech performed a very rigorous vaginal ultrasound –and by rigorous, I mean she was gunning to be the first person to view tonsils via the Hoo Haa Highway. Despite her enthusiasm, she was unable to find the blood flow to my right ovary, indicating it might be twisted. This, in retrospect, should have been taken with a grain of salt since she couldn’t really find my left ovary either. At all. Why was the grain of salt needed? Because an ovary usually doesn’t twist unless there is a tumor in it.
A good ol’ fashioned freak-out would have been appropriate here. However, radiologic evidence of pain had finally cleared me from being a manipulating crack head, so I was awarded with a dosage of pain meds equivalent to spraying my wildfire with a fire hose.
But that’s not all I won! In addition to a good buzz, I received a looping vertigo-inducing ride to Labor and Delivery through two miles of the bumpiest, gut-jarring corridors this side of Calcutta for an audience with an overworked-on-call-for-the-weekend OB/GYN! Complimentary exploratory laparoscopy included!
God bless L&D nurses because I was welcomed like a guest on Fantasy Island with a cocktail of Phenergan and morphine that finally dampened my pain like a fire-fighting plane come to save the day by dumping sky jell-o.
So let’s talk about this pain. I’m a lady who has gone through both childbirth and kidney stones, but this pain was obnoxiously worse. Not the worst pain in the world, but in a street fight it kicked the snot out of labor contractions and stones . . . and took their wallets. It was a sledgehammer slammed inside of my hip coupled with a steady level 9 mushroom cloud of pain that radiated to my groin and back that just NEVER LET UP for ten hours. At least contractions come in waves. And you get a baby.
I was wheeled to Pre-Op, in relief, thinking I would be operated on by 6PM. That time came and went. I understood because my surgeon was also the OB on call. Babies are unpredictable. I get it. You know who DID NOT understand? The anesthesiologist cooling his jets for my case. He was angry and I was his punching bag. Literally. His replacement of my IV, if not quite assault, at least would have earned him a trip to the principal’s office. He SMACKED my old painful IV and my new, equally painful IV — he inserted it over my wrist joint – FOUR times.
Don’t worry, I’m writing the letter. At the time I told him he was hurting me, but I checked my outrage. He was “putting me to sleep” after all. I was banking on him controlling his tantrum enough to not kill me because that is A LOT of paperwork. Hey, even without me scolding him, he scraped the bejeezus out of the side of my throat when he intubated me. Good thing I have lots of practice talking to hospital administration.
But sweet blessings balanced out for me when I finally met my surgeon. Even though she never witnessed my full-out distress, she believed my story. So when my ovaries proved to be the models of fit fecundity, she called in GI to vanquish my appendix and restore my right lower quadrant to a happy place fit for rainbows and unicorns once more.
Despite my relief, I still had the surgical discomfort of a thousand sit-ups to make me squirm. I had undergone a laproscopic two-for-one: my uterus whipped around like a joystick to view my ovaries AND my bowel “run” like a toddler pulling a cat’s tail. But this was minor compared to the pain from which I had been delivered. It was my party favor from the anesthesiologist – that half-assed IV he rammed into my wrist – that kept me up all through the wee morning hours. My IV alarm sounded EVERY. FIVE. MINUTES.
Perhaps Dr. ImportantPants will one day experience his very own Circle of Hell — one where he is stuck in a never-ending DMV line while being serenaded by an eternal low-battery smoke alarm chirp while simultaneously being smacked and jabbed by a sadistic boar. I know it will be devoid of the fabulous nursing care that I received from women who attended to my comfort, kept my care on track, laughed with me after I took out my own IV, and got me the hell out of there early the next morning.
To these angels and my surgeons, I say “Bless You!” To that slimy worm of a vestigial organ I say an edited-for-G-rating, “Good Riddance!” You know I’m talking about the appendix and not the anesthesiologist, right? On second thought, if the shoe fits . . .
By Ellen Williams Erin Dymowski