It’s been a whale of a week! One that has landed me deep in the bowels of a makeshift hospital that I vowed I would never set foot in again after the gruelling birth of my first child. Unfortunately, due to my location, it was the closest facility I could speed to just after I clutched my chest and hit the ground in the parking lot of my local grocery store. I had stopped by to pick up a few bits for a lovely night in front of the fire and a feel-good movie with my girls. I had just put the groceries in the car when a giant’s hand reached through my back, grabbed the contents of my chest and squeezed really, really hard. I was never breathless, but following the last 8 months of dealing with two severe tears in my rotator cuff, of course I had pain down my left arm. In my heart of hearts, I knew I wasn’t having a heart attack, but it’s times like these when 21 years of training myself to ignore the chronic pains of a contorted frame worked against me. I got up, brushed myself off and did some deep breathing.
I was just about to head home when said giant planted a pick-axe into my left eye. Ok… I’m listening. I tried to remain calm as the knee- jerk reaction to the sudden stab in the eye caused me to cry out, terribly frightening the two little girls that had just watched Mommy pick herself up off the ground two minutes earlier. We raced to the hospital, small drops sliding down my cheeks, the girls in floods of tears.
“Tingling or pain in the jaw?”
Having endured the enigma that is trigeminal neuralgia, the result of my head smashing through the driver’s side window, I could only answer with, “Always.”
“Any history of accidents, surgeries, fractures, allergies?”
“Extensive, and yes to all.” Just how does one tell a 28-year-old registrar the ins and outs of what has to be one of the most colourful medical histories known to man? So many of the sensations that I feel from the neurological damage of being crushed at 75 mph aren’t even charted or recognised, let alone have a name that he would find in the little book of medical diagnosis shoved in his back pocket. So, I simply chose to say, “I was killed in a car accident 21 years ago. I’ve got a lot of stuff going on. How about we check the bloods for now.”
So stunned was he, he popped in the needle and did what I asked, although I would have gladly shared the NDE if i thought he was interested. It was, however, a time sensitive situation, and to list my ailments would have taken more time than either of us had to spare.
My ECG was normal, but when the bloods came back, I had an elevated D Dimer, the indicator most commonly used to diagnose blood clots.
“Have you flown recently?”
I nearly felt like a scolded school girl as I confessed my 26 flights over the last 10 months, many of them long haul ones crossing the Atlantic. Attention quickly shifted to my calves and behind my eye as possible hiding places for the elusive clot. My mind shifted into reverse as I thought back to my days of teaching the National Board Exam reviews for chiropractic with the queen of all things obscure in the human form, Dr. Irene Gold. I could hear that thick, Yanky accent as I recalled her telling me that D Dimer was a great topic to trip up my students who thought they knew it all.
“Everyone goes for the clot”, she had chortled, sounding like one of the New York dames from “West Side Story”. “D Dimer can spike in pregnancy (ehm, not a chance at the moment), infection (hmmm, just over the vomiting bug) and adult bilious colic (ding, ding, ding).
As the young doc in training measured my calves, I suddenly felt much more sure of myself. The gripping chest pain, the history of gastric issues, I pointed these things out to a smiling face that as much as said, “it’s a clot lady, get over it”.
I’m not much of a gambler, but I do love putting my neck on the line. If I’m right; awesome! If I’m not, it gives me the chance to work on humility. I’m deducing, hoping and praying that there is no clot.
After 22 hours on a trolley in the corridor of the emergency room, I am now in a modest bed by a window in a room called St. Ursula. Obviously named by the nuns who ran the hospital back in the day. Wasn’t she the hideous woman with the octopus legs and the fab baritone voice in “The Little Mermaid”?
I haven’t eaten, I can’t have a drop of water and I’ve already been through the x-rays and CT scans and ultra-sound. I now await the ‘non-invasive’ procedure of having a little camera shoved down my throat. Thank God I’m allergic to shellfish and was spared the iodine injection that would light up the blood vessels in my lungs.
I’m grateful for the care, even though I’m pretty sure I will get the same bill for my full day’s stay in the corridor as the woman who is in the bed next to me on the ward, who was served dinner, had her own toilet and could turn the glaring overhead light off if she wanted to, while watching her tv.
“Dems de breaks…”
My honest opinion? I think a decade of grief swaddled in my inevitable positivity capped off by my father’s death and my mother’s subsequent accident has dramatically begged for my attention. There’s no shame in that. I’m a “get on with it” kind of gal, and for me, sometimes it takes a little drama to slow me down. You also know that I’m going to turn around and immediately share it with you, so that you might recognise the pattern in your own life. That’s simply who I am and what I do.
I saw something recently that eloquently put it like this:
“The loneliest people are the kindest. The saddest people smile the brightest. The most damaged people are the wisest. All because they do not wish to see anyone else suffer the way they do.”
If through my life, I can create a way to help people grow through realisation, without having to sustain the damage to body or spirit, then I’m on to something big. Don’t ever, for one moment, allow yourself to believe that not one person cares about you. Even if we haven’t yet met, I love you and I’m going to share my trials and tribulations so that you may recognise your own strength and divinity. It’s a consciousness, a way of being, taught by many before and many to come. It belongs to all of us.
I will admit to pangs of sadness when they asked for the contact details of my spouse or partner, my next of kin or even family close by. The life I am leading comes with a price tag. All of ours do. I cried more for my children and their stark realisation while sitting next to me in the hospital.
“What happens to us, Mommy, if something happens…”
It is what it is, and sometimes what it is really sucks.
On the other hand, I delve deeper into the mystery that is my body this time around. That excites me; it always has. I took the ‘living on the edge’, ‘squeeze every drop out of life’ thing very seriously. With great sadness comes compassion for others. With fear for one’s health or safety comes the opportunity to exhibit faith. It, too, is what it is, and sometimes what it is, is awe-inspiring.
So that’s today’s update from St. Ursula on the ward. I promise to keep you posted on the outcome of the diagnosis duel. My money is on me! However, I’m prepared to eat humble pie if I’m wrong. Under the circumstances, a piece of pie wouldn’t go astray, so I can’t lose!
Hang tough, my friends!
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