While I have now learned the UPenn ER is amazing and their doctors rock, I found out in a way I'd prefer not to.
Starts out, Monday I had jury duty. I'd been eating and sleeping very little, stressed about school coming up, still sorting through things here at the apartment, Harris's birthday approaching, and also the one year anniversary of mom's death. Lots of stuff piling up in the Kiko-brain, but I was actually kind of excited about jury duty since I'd never done it before.
It was one of those harrowing experiences that further affirms your adulthood, and makes you sort of hate it at the same time. I have a lot of respect for due process, especially after the courts proved my innocence when the cops were douchebags last year, but the jury duty system sucks balls. We were bounced around a lot from room to room, and between the blistering August-in-Philadelphia heat and the blue-fingered cold of the air-conditioned courtrooms.
I was on edge, but I was back in the cycle of sleeping 2-3 hours a night again, so I expected that. I'd gotten picked for a civil case that everyone said would last maybe a day if the folks didn't just settle instead. Okay day.
Then I came home, got a little nap, and we started on dinner. Well, we meant to. It degenerated into arguing to the tune of all of us storming out of each other's presence. None of us really slept, none of us really could.
By 5AM we were all sitting in the same room together.
Thus occurred my total and complete snap.
The last year, life has been a madhouse. No matter how we all felt about mom, losing her was like losing a limb. And the guys, Gods bless them, want to go back to "normal." Except, we're never going to have that normal again. There's going to have to be a new normal. They've also kept to themselves a lot, and bickered with each other a lot. I've been up and down on the "intolerable" list every other week myself.
Problem is, they cope by putting things back together. They cope by letting their feelings out, raw, unabridged, and taking them 100% for what they are. I cope by tearing down the broken thing and building it new and different. I cope by carefully keeping my feelings to myself until I'm sure they're not going to hurt me or put me in an undesirable position, and sometimes outright countering what I feel because it's so
damn easy for me to drown in it and feel sorry for myself.
The guys read this as me not wanting to grieve or mourn at all, and trying not to overwhelm me because of that. In a way, we've all been 'protecting' each other, or trying to, which is a fool's errand. This has been a vicious cycle for nearly a year that we didn't realize until Monday night.
Finally climbed into bed for the few hours I'd have before court. Except I didn't sleep. My mind buzzed and I tossed and turned and apparently mumbled incoherent things. When the alarm went off at 8AM, I was seeing things and even more incoherent. I vaguely remember Paul taking my pulse, and the guys helping me get dressed to get to the hospital. I remember watching TV with Joe in the waiting room, and some lady in Pepto Bismol pink asking us to hold her station-alarm they give you while she went to go have a cigarette. Joe went to go call court for me, and when my buzzer went off for triage, Pink Lady's buzzer was gone and so was she, and there was a different show on the TV then had been there when I was watching it a moment ago. Most of the day went in blips of consciousness like this.
At triage, the nurse became increasingly alarmed as she tried to talk to me. They put me in the back to wait for an EKG guy. I don't remember talking to him, but apparently I did because I saw him later and he struck up the last conversation. I remember talking to two people at registration after waiting for the EKG, but everything else from there to actually getting placed in an ER room is gone.
The first thing I remember in the back is the nurse was immediately on me for fluid samples. Then about fifteen minutes later, she came back and asked for more. Then they came in and took blood. Then they sent someone else in to take more blood, and put an IV in. The nurse is really nice and manages to get it in my left hand, so it doesn't wiggle if I try to sleep. Despite all the niceness, I'm getting kind of freaked out now, though.
We wait anxiously wondering what's going on, but they've been moving pretty fast with us, and the ER is busy-- which is part of our worry. Joe gets me a blanket and tells me to try and rest. I doze off. I keep waking up at intervals: Joe is sitting, Joe is pacing, Joe is in the doorway. The doctor comes in, C-something, and he's really polite and gets right to the point.
He gets that we're worried at this point, and says he needs to ask me a few questions. He does, including all the crap I've been going through with my hormones and reproductive system since last December. Then he tells us why he's worried is because my first sample came up as positive for pregnancy.Blinkmotherfuckingblink
There are 3 reasons why this is medically impossible, only one of which is that I'm on Depo again.
As my sense of reality kind of dissolves, he cautions us that he's running the best tests for this they have on the other samples. It could be a false-positive. What he's really
worried about is that I might have a pulmonary embolism-- some kind of blockage of blood to the lungs. He enunciates, "This can kill you."Now I'm fucking scared.
Whether I'm pregnant or not, he wants to send me for an X-ray if I'll agree to it. They tell me they can safeguard me since they're only X-raying my chest. If the tests come back positive, he wants to send me for an ultrasound. If that comes back positive, we'll decide what to do from there. He goes, and about an hour passes of Joe and I sitting there in complete confusion.
He wants to go call everyone. I tell him to wait with me until they send me for something. They send me for an X-ray. I see the head of the department. It goes fast. I'm worried. The nurse doesn't know about the other tests yet, and I go back to my room where Joe is waiting. More time passes, and Dr. C checks in on me. The X-Ray is fine, but they still don't think they know anything yet, and he tells us to be patient. I try to sleep more. I've now not had REM sleep in closing on 96 hours.
When I keep waking up, the floaters are back. Finally they cart me off for an ultrasound, and Joe leaves for more phone calls. I wait for about two hours, dozing in a wheelchair wrapped up like a mummy because it's freezing. The first ultrasound takes five minutes. The technician brings the doctor in charge in for a second, better one (depending on which side you're on). I want Joe there, but no one's sent him up.
Thankfully, I am absolutely not pregnant. But, there is "anomalous tissue" that shouldn't be there, and my body is giving it blood. It might be a cyst, or... "something else", he says.
I hysterically laugh in relief and then cry while I'm getting dressed. The area is empty when I come out, and I'm told by a passing nurse someone will be coming for me shortly. I doze in the wheelchair for about an hour until someone comes to get me. Back in the room, Joe and I put together pieces from my adventures and his talks with the doctors. We're both still really confused and scared, though relieved there's not one brick to the head with the possibility of pregnancy.
The day has waned on. Neither of us is keeping track of time too well. Dr. C comes in at some point, and asks us more questions. He wants me to sign a consent form for a VQ scan concerning the pulmonary embolism. Nothing is 100%, not even the ultrasound, and in case I am pregnant, I have to sign consent to have the VQ done. Fine, whatever, just make sure I don't die, right?
They send me upstairs, Joe goes with. A hot, tiny doctor in her early-50's comes out, gracefully aged with dark hair pinned up and a grey sort of mini-dress on, except it's got a fold-patch up across the chest like an officer's outfit. She's really hyper and cheery, and introduces herself to me as the department head. She doesn't think I have a pulmonary embolism, but she'll have someone "right with me quickly."
They put radiated saltwater or something in my IV, then put me in a machine out of 2001: A Space Odyssey. I have to keeps my arms above my head. I doze off in there. The technician tells me most people freak out. I'm too tired to freak out at this point, but I am starting to feel like I got stuck in the Twilight Zone.
Joe and I joke around in the hallway while waiting to hear back. He's supposed to be in the waiting room but no one says anything. Dr. Hyper comes back and informs me I have GREAT lungs, and nothing to worry about, and they're sending me downstairs. She comes back a bit later and tells me she's sending her diagnosis to Doc C that I have extremely high stress, possibility for some sort of anxiety complex. She tells me it's not her area of expertise, but what is is that you can work your body up to being used to being stressed, and wear your body out physically. If I don't let up, I will be back in there with a PE.
The battery on my cell phone is dead, and in our rush out the door, I didn't grab my bag, so no charger. A nurse lets Joe use the phone at the station to call Paul. We watch the news and wait for hospital transport (which I'm annoyed with at this point: I could walk, get lost, and still eventually get there faster). Finally two cute young interns come up to get me. They chat with us the whole way. They're bubbly and friendly, and it makes me feel better.
We get back to the room, and the nurse who put my IV in is back to take my blood pressure. He says hopefully I'll be out of here soon, because it's about 7PM by now. They've been talking on and off about keeping me overnight, so I joke with him that if I get to leave by the time he does, I'll be happy. He laughs and says he's not done until 10PM-- and he really hopes it doesn't take 3 more hours. I'm feeling a little better but Joe and I are both frazzled and hungry. Joe hasn't much left my side, and I haven't eaten.
A young female GYN comes in. She gets right to the point-- she's really confused. Joe and I laugh at that and she laughs with us. We're all confused. That's not encouraging. There's no medical way I can be pregnant, but apparently the normal rate of some hormone I'm supposed to have is "5". I'm up somewhere at 4,000, but all other signs contradict this, and they're worried about the tissue.
Unpleasant female things ensue. Doctor is still confused, but all signs point to me being healthy and not having anything life-threatening. She brings me paperwork to release my information from my normal GYN to a department in the hospital. They'd contact me in two days to test my hormone levels again, and discuss the possibility of surgery and biopsy to see what the tissue is. More than likely, it's not a big thing to worry about, and the surgery would be outpatient (joy, more of that). It could be a cyst, loose scar tissue, or tissue left over from a previous pregnancy.
Dr. C comes back in and chats with us for a few, then takes out the IV. My symptoms are being caused by the high hormone count, and no doubt it's heightening my stress level. If I start showing any symptoms of pregnancy, like nausea, or I start having back pain, or pretty much anything else alarming, come back in immediately. He personally sends us on our way. We drown him in thanks.
Outside it's raining and humid. We're now both really damn exhausted and hungry. We get home, finish straightening up Harris's room, watch some Star Trek while we eat dinner, and then collapse early.
I sleep like the dead.
Joe says, "Kiko?"
"You set the alarm for 10:30. It's going off."
"I'm NOT getting up right now."
And I rolled over and that was that. I was amazingly less cranky about an hour and a half later. The walking-haze lifted, and Joe and I straightened up until Paul came home with Harris.
The rest of the day has been a heaven-sent with Harris. Nothing can possibly be wrong right now, and the ER and all the hysteria associated with it is miles away. I've got my follow-up in another day which I'm not looking forward to, but when I come home I'll get to come home to my boy. I've missed that and needed it so badly, and he'll be gone again Monday, so the rest of the world will have to wait.