You know, there’s nothing like an unscheduled trip to the emergency room to upend one’s perspective on everyday life. Take today, for example. I’m having one of those mornings. The kind where you stub your toe right after you just miss the phone ringing because you tripped over the pile of laundry you forgot to fold last night. The kind of day where you haven’t even had your whole cup of coffee yet and you feel like it’s time to go back to bed and start over tomorrow. When I’m having a day like this I have a tendency to look up and ask the universe: hey, what’s up? Are you trying to tell me something?
Not today though. Compared to the stress of being the mystery case in the ER, a crazy morning at home is a fairy princess picnic. So it all goes to prove that all chaos is relative… I think Einstein said that. (Or was it, “All relatives are chaos…”? But I digress.)
It all started on a Friday night when the area just beneath my ribs began to ache. By the next day, the ache had blossomed, developing to the point where I couldn’t do much more than sit in a crouching position and grimace. Laughing hurt. Breathing hurt. Standing up straight was not happening. When dinner rolled around and I was unable to so much as sit at the table, it occurred to me that something was, perhaps, amiss.
I got the call back from my doctor who gave me the advice they always give crazy people who have the temerity to be sick after office hours: go to the emergency room. On a Saturday night. On a holiday weekend. My head filled with delightful images of incontinent drunks, bloody bar-fighters and hours and hours and HOURS of waiting room time. Well, heck, I said, are you kidding me? Where do I sign up?
It’s highly likely I would have put this ER visit off had it not been for the fact that I had my appendix out when I was 18. I learned then that weird, out-of-nowhere pain can be your body’s way of saying to you, in the nicest possible way: “GET TO THE FREAKIN DOCTOR OR YOUR BODY WILL FILL WITH POISON AND YOU’LL DIE!!!” I gained a newfound respect for the wisdom of my body after that.
Not so much for the doctors though. Unfortunately, at that time they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me and they sent me home. I wandered around like a ticking time bomb for two weeks before the pain returned. I made an encore visit to the hospital emergency room, petrified they’d pat me on the head and send me home with a note suggesting some very nice local shrinks, when suddenly the doctor very calmly- TOO calmly- informed me and my parents that he would like to have me in surgery in, oh, say, twenty minutes.
Hey, nothing happens in twenty minutes in the emergency room. You need to pee? Okay, somebody will be back in an hour to talk to you about that. When I heard “twenty minutes” I knew something was seriously wrong. And I was utterly delighted, not to be crazy. Continue reading The Interesting Patient