03 November 2011

On Caterwauling and CAT Scans

In which our hero receives the best drugs ever....

When last we met, I was caterwauling. Not, you know, literally, because that was like a month ago....

I'm just saying.

Besides being painful this was also a very difficult thing for me as a husband. There are many, many ways I would much rather awaken my wife than by crying in agony.

Most of them licentious.

But I digress.

My wife finally heard my pathetic whimperings and came down stairs to find out what was wrong. It only made it worse for me when I saw the look of distress on her face that my distress had caused.

I attempted to debate the demerits of going to the hospital, but even my desire to avoid spending money on my still trivial health could not be overruled by the fact that I was in the worst pain of my life. So the wife went upstairs, got dressed (it was 2:30 a.m. after all), brought down clothes for me, and helped me get dressed.

Dressing when you can neither stand nor sit nor lie down is not easy.

She then went out to get the car.

I crawled to the door.

Probably what I looked like.

It was raining out, so I decided to try toughing out the walk from the door to the car. I would say that what followed was all a blur, but my wife could only wish that. The reason that I'm the one who always drives has less to do with my wife's ability to drive and more to do with my inability to passenge (it stands to reason that if a driver drives, then a passenger passenges). There is—to me—a corollary between the two, but I'm not allowed to talk about it.

Suffice it to say for all that we live a block from the hospital, I still managed to drive her nuts.

When we got to the emergency room, she went in to get a wheelchair, and returned with two nurses and a wheelchair. Apparently the best advice of the morning was to breathe slowly. I was hyperventilating because, yeah, pain.

You know that shopping cart with the stuck wheel you get at the supermarket that you hate? That's the wheelchair I was given. The right foot rest worked just fine, but the left foot rest—you know, the one for the leg that has pain thanks to the back problem—was completely uncooperative.

This was only the third trip in my life to the ER that I am aware of. My mother may have better stats on it, but I only remember two other trips: once when I was 11 and had a concussion thanks to riding a bike I did not know how to brake into a telephone pole, and once when I was in 10th grade and suffered a lovely gash on my scalp while playing indoor soccer. Nevertheless, I was grimly prepared for what I knew was to follow.

If you've ever been to an emergency room by any means other than ambulance or medievac, you know what the experience is like. It is universal: paperwork and waiting. back....

When I suffered the gash on my scalp in 10th grade, I arrived at the emergency room at 3:15 p.m. and was seen by a doctor at 8:15 p.m. To be fair, there was a change of hospitals in there (insurance companies kinda stink sometimes), but the point stands. Going to the emergency room by any means that will not cancel Christmas due to finances invariably involves waiting and looking at other people who are, by definition, miserable because it's a hospital emergency room you're waiting in.

Still better than the DMV.

Eventually, I sent my wife home because my malady was causing her physical illness and we both knew her employer was going to have no sympathy in the morning. That left me and the rest of the plebeians in the emergency room, glaring balefully at every ambulance that enters the parking lot. At 4 a.m., an hour and a half after we arrived, I was taken to a bed.

And I was thankful.

In the waiting room I had been subjected to the horrors of listening to CNN, a network that falls into the genre of channels that are forbidden in my house (political media). In the bedroom, I had a choice of channels, but the tv was already set to ESPN.

So that was an upgrade.

From then, it was still another 45 minutes or so until I was finally treated.

Before I continue, I should mention that they measured my initial blood pressure at 155/93 when I got in there. Lest you think I'm like that all the time, allow me to inform you that was high for me.

When the nurse finally came in with my treatment, she brought a vial for injection and a pill. The pill, I was advised, was to be dissolved on my tongue rather than chewed or swallowed. When I asked if it was a pain killer or a muscle relaxant, I was told it was an anti-nausea pill.


Some people fear injections, particularly injections that require anti-nausea pills as preparation. I do not lie to you when I say that this made me look forward to this injection because it meant they were taking me seriously. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Me: "Oh. So that must be the good stuff."
Nurse: "Yep. This is the strongest painkiller we've got. If this doesn't work, we're gonna have to take you out back and put you down."

Which was fine by me.

About a half hour after receiving the injection in my thigh, I was rolled down to radiology to get a CAT scan. CAT scans, as it turns out, are like MRIs with an express setting. My previous MRI had taken about half an hour. The CAT scan took less than 5 minutes if I recall correctly. Most of that was trying to get me to straighten out my left leg some so it could fit through the tube. After that, they wheeled my bed back out into the hallway to await transport back to the bedroom.

This is when the painkiller kicked in.

Thankfully, this was not a side effect.

To say it was glorious would be an understatement. As I mentioned, I was still in the hospital bed. I had my left leg bent at about 45 degrees and shook it pretty continuously to alleviate the pain. When the painkiller hit, I didn't even realize it until I turned on my side in that hallway, lay my leg down flat, and stopped moving.


It was like my whole body just went Oh.... For the first time in months I had almost no pain. My body was not spasming. I could just lie on my side and almost sleep.

I say almost because I've always been too hyper-vigilant during certain sleep circumstances. Driving to Florida once with my dad, I was passenging and would start to fall asleep. I would feel him change lanes without using his turn signal, and I would wake up to make sure he was still awake and not just driving off the road with sleep. The same was true in the hospital. I would drift into semi-consciousness and then the sound of voices getting closer to my bed/room would cause me to wake up. So I did not sleep while in the hospital, but I did rest.

For which I was thankful.

For those who desire to know what sort of side effects I did experience, you will be disappointed to know that I did not see pretty pink unicorns on the ceiling or anything. The extent of it was a bit of wobbliness when I had to walk from the bed to the MRI table and a bit of slurring when I spoke.

What I like to think I sounded like.

Did I say MRI? Yeah, the doctor came by and said that they wanted to do an MRI because they were concerned that I might have spinal cord compression. Then she walked away.

If you ever find yourself in a hospital bed and your doctor tells you they need to do some tests because they think you might have something you've never heard of before, do yourself a favor and don't look it up. Whatever it is, the internet likes to use scary words like 'tumor' and 'cancer' to tell you what's causing it.

Had that been the problem, it would have required emergency surgery. I'm guessing it was not the problem because all they did was give me a steroid IV, a prescription for more steroids, flexeril (woot), and percocet (yeah baby), and sent me home. My blood pressure was 120/77.

The moral of the story, boys and girls, is drugs are good.

1 comment:

  1. I "awwww!"-ed when you were able to turn over and rest. Yup, drugs are great!

    Hope you're doing better.