May 26, 2008

Enter A Land Where Your Diminishing Expectations Are Exceeded!

So it gets to be about 6:00 tonight. I'm still not feeling hungry. I'm still feeling a gradually-growing pain in my belly, centered below my navel. The Wife keeps on talking about her friend's husband's story, where he didn't feel any pain in his lower right gut but it turned out to be appendicitis anyway and they caught it only just when the appendix was about to burst. So I check on the good ol' WebMD and find that no, appendicitis isn't always accompanied by pain localized on the right. And I know that given that I've had barely anything to eat all day, and no appetite to speak of, that something is indeed wrong with me. Probably some strain of gastroenteritis, I'm thinking.

And it turns out that's right. Colitis, most likely, given the localization of my pain, but that's really cutting ahead to the end of the story -- which isn't the point of my story at all. No, the story asks a simple question. When you determine that you need medical care immediately, and it's a federal holiday, and you don't have a regular primary treating physician, what do you do?

The answer is, you go to the emergency room. Here in the beautiful High Desert, there is only one emergency room open, and that's at Antelope Valley Hospital.

Now, one of the attorneys at work has been involved with the AV Hospital, and reported to us that the average waiting time at the ER there was twelve hours. I figured, if I die of a burst appendix while in the waiting room, well, maybe that'll do some good for someone else; I'll be dead anyway. But no, I didn't really want to die at all.

And The Wife, to her credit, went along with me. I gave her the option of staying home since I knew I'd be there for a long time and there would be sick people around everywhere. But she was a trooper and stayed with me.

Well, here's the upshot. It was about an hour and a half of hanging around the waiting room. Rocky was on the TV; it ended just like it had every other time I've seen it, with Rocky losing the fight on a split decision but earning Apollo Creed's respect for his determination and more importantly, getting Adrienne's love because it was really all for her all along. (Actually, it was some of the best boxing of any of the movies in the series.) But watching grown men getting punched in the gut wasn't really what I wanted to see. This was followed by the local news in Chicago. Not that we're anywhere near Chicago.

Then I got called back for an interview with a duty nurse, who took my vitals and told me to pee in a cup. Then she assured me that no one was in line ahead of me so it would be pretty quick from there.

Well, that was a damned lie. It was only about fifteen minutes, and then I was called back to another waiting room. There, it was nearly another hour, but I did get to see a doctor. The doctor called for a blood and stool sample, and ruefully chided me for having taken anti-diarrheal medicines earlier in the day. Hey, doc, when you have your ass acting like mine has been for two days, you just might resort to extreme measures, too. Of course, he was right; this is only delaying getting rid of the invading pathogens, and frankly, I didn't know any better. Anyway, the stool sample was not forthcoming, despite several noble efforts on my part to contribute to the cause.

After another hour of waiting, it turned out my blood sample is normal, and I had a brief outpatient consult with the ER doctor, who commanded me to stay home and eat nothing but broth and crackers for a day, and after that to work up to "big food" gradually.

Total time in the ER: four hours and fifteen minutes. Valuable parting gifts: cotton ball on my arm from drawing blood; attractive plastic bracelet bearing enough information about me to steal my identity; and a large plastic basin in which to deposit the stool sample. No, no, I'm kidding about the last one -- I told the intern that I didn't want it and wouldn't use it if he gave it to me, and he threw it away there in the hospital.

We had to wait around for a while and it was an unpleasant experience. But given that we had been led to believe that we'd have to wait for twelve hours, four and a half seemed like a blessing. And the staff was all professional and courteous, and all obviously working very hard under very stressful conditions. I was very impressed with all of them, from the security guards to the nurses to the doctor.

I'm not entirely sure of the purpose of staying home tomorrow. I guess it's to avoid stress and get additional rest. Maybe it's to have mercy on my workmates when the anti-diarrheals wear off. Maybe it's to make sure I'm able to control my diet and keep only liquidy, gentle foods coming in. Or all of the above. He's the professional, I'm going to take his advice.

1 comment:

Pamela said...

Dude, I am so sorry that you had to go through this! It sounds horrible!!!!!! I'm glad that for the most part, you're okay now.