My guy is a keeper. He’s been holding my hand, literally and metaphorically, through a very bad last night and this morning. He’s asleep right now, in our bedroom, lying flat on his stomach. A little while ago I slipped back into bed with him, trying to distract myself from the terrible itching morphine gives me, and he instinctively turned over and nestled me into his arms, completely in his sleep. I felt safe, protected and, most of all, loved.
Yes, this post is very sappy and I apologise for it in advance. Hard core narcotics smooth out the prickly aspects of my personality and I am inclined to forgive mortal enemies, go out of my way for family and friends, and really, really appreciate my lover.
Narcotics? Well, we spent hours at the ER last night. I had been aware all day of a nagging ache in my left side but it wasn’t unfamiliar and so I just tried to ignore it. I have such a collection of internal problems, at least some of them female organ related, that I don’t really bother with nagging type stuff any more. The sheer volume of tests being requested, and passed from area of speciality to area of speciality, means that definitive diagnoses are time consuming and extremely expensive to obtain. Often the issues have resolved anyway by the time that a result is reached, so I tend to try and cut out the time/money thing and tell myself that I have Munchausen’s Syndrome.
(Technique works, for the most part. That is, if you discount the fact that this sort of approach meant that I had a very nasty nerve cell tumour ignored for over three years. Luckily it was slow growing and surgically managable and five years have made it not an issue any more. I still don’t recommend this line of approach to anybody else, though.)
Regardless, hot packs didn’t work, cuddling up to Boyfriend’s warm back didn’t help. I sucked it up and went to bed, only to be awoke about an hour and a half later, with waves of intense pain crashing up through my left side and stabbing into my kidney. I gasped and moaned and tried to curl up in a fetal position but nothing alleviated it. Eventually, I managed to wake up BF, by dint of tapping on his backside, which was turned away from me. Poor guy might have wistfully thought it was about middle of the night nookie (we have a blanket policy that we should both make the effort to wake the other up, but it’s not actually essential; we work on a 50% audience participation rate for the nightshift), only to discover his distraught girlfriend moaning in pain and barely able to talk through the spasms.
I hate, hate, HATE going to hospitals and will do anything to avoid it. I truly believe that you shouldn’t present at the ER unless you are actively dying. Pain isn’t a direct cause of death. Also, I always think that if you don’t have something disgustingly obviously wrong with you (such as a snapped in half femur protruding through the skin), then the staff will think of you as drug seeking. Pain is not disgustingly obvious.*
If there had been an after hours GP available, or an urgent care clinic, I would have utilised that. There wasn’t, so I didn’t. But I did reject out of hand the suggestion of an ambulance. Such is the health care crisis that there are never enough NeeNaws to meet the demand. I refuse to be the cause of somebody dying from an ambulance not turning up in time, when my partner could drive me there (admittedly, that was a wrong decision in retrospect – they could have given me pain relief so much earlier).
Instead, BF drove me down. To even get dressed enough to be decent took agonising minutes. I am used to pain. I have had lots of major surgeries. I’ve had two babies. I live with a chronic arthritic condition. I have always found that focused breathing could distract me a little, help me to breathe through the pain and endure it.
Not this time. Shallow breathing was the only thing possible as it hurt way too much to suck in air. I was trying to not get BF freaked out by my pain levels and kept whispering improved pain status numbers (between one to ten) but wishful thinking doesn’t always work. Why did I do that? Well, old patterns of behaviour tend to repeat. My exhusband hated hospitals, would get faint with blood and gore and other bodily fluids, would want desperately to get away from the situation, so that he could feel better. Of course it wasn’t his fault for not dealing well with the circumstances, just as it wasn’t mine that I was in those circumstances. But I wanted him there. He even went home to sleep when I was in early labour with our first child. To be fair, the nurse suggested it but he leapt like a trout to the fly, and rapidly disappeared before I could indicate that I would really, really like him to stay there.
BF is so different. He drove me to the hospital, assured me that if I felt better we needn’t go in, held my hand , never letting go for all the time we were there, apart from when he was parking the car. I felt reassured by his presence. That did as much for my mental state as morphine did for my physical.
Which was a lot. I’d assumed that I would have to wait for hours in the waiting room, along with the rest of the sinkhole of inquity, which is one reason I didn’t want to go. Being in that much pain and having to sit uncomfortably for hours until a doctor could see me and give me some pain meds was not a situation that I wanted to be in. I had just accepted the fact that I would have to and that’s why I was there.
The triage desk lady sent me straight out the back. I was put on a trolley straight away and wheeled to assessment. A nurse saw me about ten minutes after that and immediately dropped a cannula into my vein. I was hooked up to blood pressure and pulse machines straight away. I got an anti-emetic and they pumped 30mg of morphine into me, over the next four hours.
Without even asking my pain rating,on a scale of one to ten. They normally ALWAYS do that. The morphine took a while to kick in but once it had, I started wondering why they had gone against the usual protocols and so I asked. Apparently, they look at the person and at the monitors and that combined result is a lot more accurate than asking for self assessment. I was only ever going to say ‘7’, because to say 10 would make me feel like a drugseeker.
The nurse who had pushed it through was studying things on the machines and by my physical appearance. He then announced, after about ten minutes of infusing, whether the pain was still ten out of ten. I’d never even talked about rating the pain with him!
I got pain relief, I provided various samples. Result: no bladder infection, no viral infection that they could discover.
The popular theory is that I had a kidney stone. I don’t know. It certainly felt like my kidneys were so involved and yet I’ve had this pain before (more dull, chronic pain) and I am still peeing with the best of them and it doesn’t hurt at all, and the lab shows nothing from the blood tests.
So, right now I am still high as a kite on morphine. Poor BF had to call work and tell them I was so sick. Not that he minded but I always feel awful about calling in sick. Even when I am so out of it on morphine that I couldn’t fly a kite, let alone drive a bus. My work ethic is very much slanted in the employer’s best interest and yet circumstances like these still make me incredibly guilty.
Then we came home and went to bed, hopefully to sleep through for a few hours. He did; I didn’t. The morphine set up the most incredible itching reaction and I suddenly recalled that the last time I was in hospital, on a morphine drip, the itch and subsequent urticaria were so bad that medical students were invited to inspect my loathesomeness. So I guess I can add Vitamin M to the list of things that my body doesn’t really accept readily, but I think that even if I had remembered, I still would have gone for the painkiller effect. I honestly didn’t realise how much pain Iwas suffering, until the drugs had kicked in.
He was besides me all of the time, holding my hand and stroking my hair. He was completely and utterly reliable and so, so right for me. It felt so good to not have to go through all of this on my own. Especially as the pain was so bad that I couldn’t even manage to get dressed properly, insert myself in and out of cars or even remember any personal details, like age or medical history or even address.
So I look at him sleeping right now, exhausted himself, and thank somebody/thing that put him in my life path. I love this guy a lot.
*Apparently, this pain of mine WAS disgustingly obvious. Either that, or it was a Fabulous Friday ER promotion, to show what they are capable of.
Except, I’ve been thinking about this a bit today. It has occurred to me that when the Emergency Department is utilised for its proper purpose , it performs exactly as it should. Except mostly it isn’t utilised for emergency medicine: drunks, whiners and patients of other doctors who haven’t figured it out.
The basic premise is that if you are sick enough, you won’t wait at all. And if somebody sicker comes along, then they get priority. When I was waiting for my canula to be removed, somebody crashed in another of the cubicles. Restoring his heartbeat and breathing, hospital medical personnel running with crash equipments; those all came before my needs and I thought that was just fine. If I was Just-Brought-Back-From-Death guy, I suspect that I would have thought it even finer.