Sunday, August 1, 2010
Glimpsing My Mortality
Late in the evening, nearing my regular bedtime, my back began to hurt a lot. The pain was like fiery liquid, coursing through my spinal cord. I've dealt with spinal pain before, it appears to be a part of my ongoing condition, but this changed from the familiar to the scary in a few short hours.
Normally, these attacks last maybe 15 to 30 minutes. I usually curl into a ball, and rock back and forth, concentrating on getting through the pain. The technique I use is very like ones I used in childbirth. Afterward, I'm absolutely spent. The intensity of the pain takes everything I have to work through, and leaves nothing for the recovery.
The usual coping methods didn't work, massage didn't work, nothing seemed to work... it was getting worse. It was spreading around my back to my rib cage and chest. The pain radiated and pulled from spine to sternum, and everything in between.
After about two hours, I realized this wasn't going to go away and it wasn't "normal" pain. We decided to go to the emergency room. The chest pains were very unfamiliar and a lifetime of training told me that chest pains needed immediate medical attention.
While triaging me, they decided to put me right back into a room for an examination. The first thing they did was hook me up to something they called a "12 Point." Two days later, and I'm still trying to get all of the glue off of my skin.
They had a terrible time IV'ing me and taking blood. They said I was very dehydrated. This was surprising to me. I take a diuretic as a part of my daily meds, so I make a point of drinking 64 ounces of water at work every day. They got the IV in on the first shot, but weren't able to draw any blood from the site. It hurt like hell... I'd never been stabbed on the side of my forearm before. The blood tech spent more than a half an hour looking for a viable vein on the other arm. She used hot packs, and went about tapping and rooting around trying to find even a superficial vein she could poke. The first poke was unsuccessful; nothing but a sluggish spurt. Apparently, I was clotting up too quickly. Her second try yielded success. It's taken 2 days for the bruise to fully form.
They decided on some pretty heavy pain killers after my exam and my first blood pressure check coming back at 220 over 58. The Dilaudid didn't do a lot the first time, so they doubled the dose, up to 2 mg. Finally the pain, although not gone, was manageable. I ended up getting one more dose before they released me. My metabolism being what it is, I was still feeling the residual effects 12 hours later.
The diagnosis: My gall bladder was being naughty, and possibly my spleen too. They unhooked me, gave me a prescription for something that apparently counteracts some of the naughty behavior and sent me home. I was thankful it wasn't a heart attack or something.
So, the next day, I underwent a very comprehensive ultrasound.
Nothing. Everything looked normal. Tentative diagnosis shot to hell.
So where am I now? I still don't know what happened to me. That frightens me more than knowing, I think. I have a regular appointment with my Rhuemy next week... I'll chat with him about this little episode then (provided nothing else happens between now and then). Part of me wonders if this is just another manifestation of my everyday pains and troubles. Is it something I can look forward to on a periodic basis? I've heard that unexplainable pains and trips to the ER are not uncommon. This would be my second one in less than 5 months.
I glimpsed my mortality the other day, and I was frightened. Not because I know my life is a finite production, but because unexplainable things were happening to my body. Being human isn't for sissies. I figure being "damaged" goods must be part of my lesson in life. Patience, tenacity and hope. If not that, then I don't know why anyone should have to go through this every day...