Tuesday, September 3, 2013

My Broken Heart

Labor day. The last huzzah of summer, when everyone's supposed to get out and bathe in the glorious rays of the final warm day before sweaters and hot cocoa move in.

I sat at the back of a waiting room watching a pair of kids exchange war stories; one took a fall and whacked his noggin, another got her hand pinched and lost two nails. A pair of sick babies, fussing over their toys and trying to explain why they're so unhappy to an un-translating world. And there's me, the supposed healthy adult trying to not break down as my body betrays me.

We'd had unimpressive labor day plans, going to see The World's End, but it all shattered when a tingling sensation enveloped first my leg, then jumped to my arm and back again; as if someone kept whacking into my skin with a steel brush. I tried to brush it off, because I'm like a cat when it comes to pain, but it kept getting worse and my brain could only think it's one of two major causes and so off my husband and I trekked to the hospital.

As I was checked in, a nurse was called for immediately and they had me smile and move my eyes not admitting they were checking for a stroke, then it was back to the waiting room with the others. It was a busy day as we kept being told, unsurprising; holidays are a bit of a death trap and all.

The kids would come and go; one being given a heafty ice pack, another being told her fingernails would grow back letting her Dad breathe a sigh of guilty relief. Even with her hand mangled she still managed to weasel him into possibly letting her get a kitten. Gotta admire her tenacity. Slowly the waiting room emptied out as the familiar face of Nathan Fillion mimed through episodes of a mute Castle on a back tv and I found five things wrong in a beach picture.

By the time I got into a room most of my symptoms had faded only to the occasional tingle; isn't that just like the radiator? Describing my symptoms for the third time, I got a very quick lowdown from the doctor. EKG, MRI, and an IV; all things I'd never had done before. My only trip to a hospital aside from that whole birth thing involved a rope burn to the neck where the doctor didn't do anything (I'm a hard witch to hang apparently), so this is a bit like yanking the training wheels off and jumping onto a motorcycle.

Slipping into those gowns, having to ask my husband to tie it every time, we're left alone again and I flip through the TV to find the meager Labor Day marathons channels offer up when they know everyone's out having fun. A flurry of activity replaces the doldrums and a pair of nurses appear, one pricking into my arm to shove a tube inside, another placing electrode stickers across my chest like a wayward child who got into the arts & crafts locker.

The first IV attempt fails, and the nurse jumps to my left arm, where she sticks again. She doesn't cure aloud but I can feel it in her head as warm blood dribbles down my arm. Apparently my veins are impenetrable. I have the lamest super power known to man.

She gives up, taping my holey arms, and leaves as the EKG begins. Everyone keeps warning me things are cold, but the gel only reminds me of the aloe I'd drench my skin in after a too long day in the sun.

A probe pushes into my sternum in every way imaginable, at first a slight pressure that becomes almost intolerable as I'm told to hold my breath, breathe out, hold it again, take a tiny breath, now a big one, out through the nose, touch your toes, roll your tongue. Op, Simon didn't say.

I'm unable to watch the images, only the old jokes from Robin Hood Men in Tights are visible, a movie I accidentally memorized as a child. I can listen to my heart though. The thuds are not what I'd expect, an easily detectable drumming from years of movies and tv shows about crime dramas. No, it reminds me of an underwater monster rising from its depths to yank unsuspecting victims down to its lair.  I have no idea if that's good or bad, no one can tell me anything. Perhaps everyone has a terror lurking inside their chests.

Then the nurse moves to check my aorta, which means she has to press down upon my throat. My free hand curls up, the nails digging into my fist. I'm probably supposed to be reacting poorly to the fourth poking in my hand as nurse number three tries to again find and pierce one of my shy veins. But I'm struggling with a life long phobia of anything around my throat. I can barely stand high collar crew shirts, to have someone actively pushing down on my throat is a near terror; another prick into the top of my arm is nothing.

Somehow I get my first ever IV in and bubbles are run through my chest like an old lava lamp and another ten or twenty pictures are taken of the monster inside my chest. Perhaps a few were even instagrammed. Then it's all over and the rush of people vanish into the air, it is feast or famine today.

The rest of the movie plays out when the curtain is yanked back and a wheelchair appears, apparently I shall be chauffeured to the MRI. I feel silly having this much attention paid to me, I can still walk just fine as long as I can hold the gown closed with one hand. But into the chair I must sit and be pushed by an orderly; a college aged kid who's surprisingly chipper.

I'm wheeled Professor X style through halls cramped with people in scrubs when we cross a threshold and suddenly all the life of the hospital drops off. Most of it is closed off in celebration of the day, only the low level of emergency lighting and red of an exit sign light the path. Nary a soul stirs in the darkness. It felt like the introductory scene to a zombie apocalypse.

Passing a dead cafeteria and a silenced grand piano, eventually we come to the darkest hallway of them all where the MRI awaits. My driver tries the door but it's locked. This is probably when I should start looking around for something heavy. He tries to unlock it but it won't take. Yep, definitely zombie apocalypse right behind that door. Maybe I could kill them with a wheel chair?

After the third attempt the door finally relents and amazingly no virus infested horde descends, only more emptiness and me in my useless chair am passed off to the woman who's gonna shove me into a coffin for an hour and a half.

If, like me, you've never been through an MRI here's what they do. First they ask thirty times if I have anything metal on you. Then another thirty more just to make absolute certain. I'm still wheeled right up to the machine in case I suddenly want to make a break for it and lay down on the plank.

This is when I get the news about how long this thing is gonna take, that I can't move, or blink, or really think about breathing. It's probably best to enter a coma stage now. I slip ear plugs in, relinquish my glasses, and have my own welder's helmet fitted over my head. Then I tuck in my arms and I'm off into the coffin of tones.

It's like listening to a song that refuses to start. Tones are methodical and occasionally rhythmic, but it's the same bong after bong. Bong tch tch tch Bong Bong tch tch tch. Then that eight minutes have passed, and I only have another 50 to go.

It gives one plenty of time to let the mind wander. I tried to jump start on story ideas, props, even pointless dragon age speculation; but my possibly mutinous mind couldn't be dissuaded from crafting the horrifying thought of what if there is a stroke or tumor waiting at the end of the tunnel. What then?

A freezing cold liquid bubbles through my IV, and I try to lie still as it inches across my hand into my arm and through my body. It's as if someone dribbled frozen mercury down my skin, and I want to wipe it away but I can't move. Only another 5-55 minutes left. No one tells me how long is left or how much time has passed. I really miss my watch, not that I could have seen it.

By the time I'm yanked out my sense of time is completely obliterated. I'd have sworn only a half hour or so passed, but my husband tells me it was that plus an hour. Listening to a song that cannot start while locked in place is a new entry in the theory of relativity.

I slither back into my bits of metal and again wait in my little chair for the orderly to return, and probably help fight off the zombie hordes that will surely appear this time. The MRI was just to lull me into a false sense of security.

About the only people we come across is a father with four daughters trailing behind him, obviously bored out of their minds, until they spot me and eye me up. They don't know what to make of the woman in the wheelchair but know it's bad. Already I'm scaring people and all I've done is bleed onto the floor, have my chest coated in gel, and been locked into a broken tape recorder for an hour. If this is serious and I wind up back in the hospital over and over, how many more people will cast either pitying or wary eyes upon me?

By the time we get back to the room, we have almost no time in the span of a hospital's life (only an entire episode of adventure time) before the doctor appears for the last time; spending nearly a minute talking to me.

My brain is fine, what little they could find of it, so there's no stroke or tumor or worms hiding inside. But my heart has a hole in it. They don't know how big, only that bubbles didn't go where bubbles were supposed to go. They want me to come back in soon to have a probe dropped down my throat to see it better. I nod, knowing that I have such a tiny esophagus I couldn't even take a tiny sudafed pill until I was a teenager. I have no idea how they're going to get a probe down my throat, or if it'll take as many jabs and pokes as the IV. Til then he suggests I take an aspirin a day and call him in the morning.

Finally putting back on my clothes, I'm free to leave 7 hours later with a broken heart. A heart that was always broken. Possibly a heart that will always be broken.


Leslie said...

Oh my gosh. I don't know what else to say. That's terrifying. I'll be thinking of you and praying you find out good news after the throat probe. Let me know if there's something I can do to help you out - even if it means talking on that awful phone.


Tony Noland said...

Yowza. That's not a fun way to spend a holiday.

Hoping for straightforward diagnosis and treatment plan for you.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Xavier.
Glad you're all right. Or rightish.

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