Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Won't Lift a Finger

Every once in a while, an event happens in your life that scares you pretty deeply.

I recently had this event.

About a week ago, I started to have a sharp pain on my side. It felt like I had pulled a muscle in my lower back or maybe one of my obliques. Now, unfortunately for me, I had to work the Homecoming dance, so, even with pain running through my body, I went to work.

The dance was pretty quiet except for two girls passing out from heat exhaustion (you have to be careful) and two kids having to be separated for being macho idiots.

In separating the kids, I thought I had pulled the muscle even worse than before. When I arrived home, my legs were hurting, and the pain was so bad in my back and side that I almost couldn't sleep that night. Verge of tears kind of pain we're talking here.

Sunday morning the fear starts to creep in a little. The pain is now throughout my whole body. My legs are hurting all over, my back is barking, and even my arms hurt. All very badly. I can't even pick up my son. That's how painful it is. Somehow I manage to help my wife with my son. Poozer was no amused when "Da-Da" couldn't lift him up.

Years of experience have taught me that muscle pain (if it is muscle pain) needs to be taken care of with heat. So a hot bath and a heating pad were on the menu. Unfortunately, the pain didn't get any better.

Monday morning I have to drag myself down the stairs to shower and get dressed. The pain was really bad, and I had a really hard time buttoning the shirt I was wearing. The pain had moved from my back to my arms and legs. It was so bad, that I had to...uh...remove the contents of my stomach. My wife was worried.

"Don't go to work."

"I have to," I replied.

"Why?" she asked.

"Because I don't have everything set up for a sub."

After a moment of staring me up and down, my wife quietly said, "You're an idiot...but I love you."

It would get worse. I had a fever (101), and my left hand would go numb after my first period class.

With no options left, I went to the nurse and asked her for advice.

"Well, you have a fever (which I already knew), but your blood pressure is fine. So I have no idea why you're hand is numb."

After leaving the nurse's office, my right hand would begin to cramp up and go numb. The pain was so bad, I couldn't even hold a pen. This led to three problems:

1. Couldn't hold a pen, which meant I couldn't really grade.

2. Couldn't hold a piece of chalk, which meant I couldn't write on the board.

3. Couldn't type, which meant no entering of grades (or blogging).

I figured I needed another day, so I finished the day out and went home. Again, couldn't hold my son, couldn't walk, couldn't do anything. I could not, however, take Tuesday off. The kids were turning in journals, so I needed to be there. Plus, if I was going to go to a doctor and sit in an office for hours on end, I wanted something to read.

Maybe it's the German in me, but efficiency is key. I may have been sick, and I may have been in pain, but that doesn't mean I can't work.

As the son (no, not a misspelling) rose on Tuesday morning, I was in a bad way. The numbness and pain were still there, but now I had muscle fatigue. This is how bad it was:

Imagine a handshake. You grip the hand all the way around, but primarily from the bottom. I couldn't do that. The top part was ok, but the bottom wasn't. It felt like muscles in my arm were just hyper tense all the time. I would later find out that the problem area was also known as the Ulnar Nerve.

The issue with the muscle fatigue was that the mundane was now hard.

I couldn't open my car door with one hand; it took both hands.

I had to manipulate my body in a new way to get doors open, hold books, and more. I couldn't even hold a pen or type on a keyboard (hence the lack of posts for a while).

And yet I really did not want to see a doctor. Not because I was afraid of what it might be, but because I never have a good visit to my doctor. I never leave feeling satisfied. Still, with the pain and numbness getting worse, I had to go. So I begrudgingly took a sick day. Of course, before I would miss any work, I made sure the students would have work to do. Yes, Virginia, I am that mean of a teacher.

In the past I have talked about my doctor's office. Aside from making an appointment with him, however, I also made an appointment with a chiropractor. This would cover both bases. Either it was a misplaced disc or nerve, or I was really sick.

The first appointment was the chiropractor. I regaled him with stories about the pain and problems in my arms and legs.
It's never good when the guy looks at you and says, "I...I don't know what this could be." He started talking about "Bi-Lateral" and more. The entire time he kept staring at my arms as if they were encased in gold. As he took his little hammer and tapped my leg, nothing happened.

"Huh. That's strange."

He started tapping harder. Finally, after a few more tries, he looked at the knee, cocked his head, and said, "Oh. I've been tapping in the wrong place. Silly me."

He then tapped again and the leg spasmed.

"Lie down on the table," he said sweetly. "I'm going to adjust you...but I think this is viral. Honestly it looks like Lyme. Go to a doctor."
Then the cracking started. It didn't help.

The next stop was the clinic. I have explained before how I feel about doctors. So there I am sitting in the clinic waiting to see the doctor and get blood tests and I feel totally out of place. Everyone around me is an old person waiting to get a flu shot.
After a forty minutes of grading and waiting, the nurse comes up and mispronounces my name (not a shock at this point).

Five minutes in the small room which inlcuded getting weighed and chit-chat about random things (really, do I need to hear about your dying cat?), and I'm off to have blood taken.
Now this is an easy process. You sit in the table, they tie off your arm and stick the needle in, and then you wait while the blood flows.

The nurse was still telling me all about how her cat is dying and how her child is so upset. I politely nod. Unfortunately her mind is distracted, so she misses the vein the first time.
I guess it was supposed to hurt, but I didn't feel it. There's a bruise a little larger than a quarter on my right arm from her missing.

Three vials later, the nurse gives me that strange, "Hmm."
"What's wrong I ask?"
"Your blood is flowing really slowly. It might be a problem."

She takes the fourth vial which is the slow flowing one to the back. While she's in the back, a nurse comes by looking for my doctor.
"Have you seen him?" she asks.
"He's in that office," I reply.
She goes to talk to him. Though I couldn't hear it all, I caught the end of the conversation when he yells at her, "Figure it out! That's your JOB!"

My nurse returns. "I have to take two more vials. The last two apparently won't work."
"Ok," I reply. I don't really have a choice.
Again she puts the needle in (though she doesn't miss this time) and takes more blood. Again the blood flows really slowly.
"That's so weird," she comments.

Now, if you've ever donated blood, you know that there's a point where you can become dizzy. No food, no water, and blood being taken equals a woozy Ironic.

Time passes. I know I sat for a few minutes gaining my wits, then I left.

It wasn't until today that I got the news. My white blood cell count is down, so is my Vitamin D. It's not Lyme.
I need more sun, and I had some sort of virus that hit my nervous system.

The main issue with the doctor's office was my actual doctor. I was in the same room that I once dropped trousers in and was stared at from the parking ramp. My doctor listened to my story and just stared at me.
"Been bitten by a tick lately?"
"No," I replied."
"Hmm. How long have you been feeling sick?"
"Since Sunday," I said.
"And you're just coming here now?"
He sighed, finished his notes, and went into the hall.
Not completely muffled, I hear, "What the hell is this guy thinking? Why didn't he come in earlier? Why are some people stupid about health?"
I'm not feeling well, and I'm nervous, but this comment angers me, so I say out loud, "I can hear you, doctor."

Silence, then the swishing of pant legs moving quickly away from my door.

As you can tell from this post, I'm ok now. I still have some fatigue, but nothing too serious. I do need more sun, however.

It just saddens me how the medical world has changed. I honestly blame insurance companies and the modern idea of speed. We want a quick diagnosis so we can move on to the next thing. If a doctor tries to be personable, we become uneasy.

That which does not kill me can only make me stronger. Unfortunately, it can also makes us madder.

Then again, what do I know? I'm the patient in 305. I could be wrong.



Cat said...

Hi Leab!
Wow, how scary. I am glad you are better and know what it was! I agree most Dr's are like that. I am lucky and have a really good one and we are on a comfortable level with each other. She is also respectful of her patients.

How the hell are you supposed to get more sun, when there is NO SUNSHINE to get? The damn rain and clouds all the time... and winter is not even here yet... sigh...

Arthur Willoughby said...

What a miserable experience. Glad you're feeling some better.

In defense of medicine, I have to say that despite the excruciatingly long wait at Regions Hospital a few weeks ago, once my wife was seen the staff was universally welcoming, competent and compassionate.

I also happen to love my family doctor. She's the only physician I've ever had that spends as much time with you as you need. Very refreshing.

If you want her number, let me know. tb