Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Better Living Through Unnecessary Medical Care

I will freely admit that I am a tad bit of a hypochondriac (DH would say I'm just raging insane-but that's open for debate). When I was growing up my mother would never take me to the doctor-for anything. When I was in middle school I fell down the steps chasing our dog and tore a ligament in my knee. I spent the next week participating in gym class and walking all over school before my mother believed me enough to take me to the doctor. She was pretty embarrassed that she had waited so long (hi mom!-I told you I would get revenge-well here it is). To be fair when my mom fell down the stairs a couple of years ago she actually broke her foot (like swollen, bruised and could feel the bone moving) and she never went to the doctor.

My parents were responsible and loving parents (so no calling the cops or anything), but they understood that I was a tad dramatic so they took my I'm dying claims with a grain of salt. DH still hasn't figured out how panicky I am, so he totally feeds into my crazy. Last year I personally spent $4000 on medical bills and spent months in and out of various doctors. At one point I was driving to a podiatrist 3 hours away from my home because I didn't like the responses I got from any podiatrist in my hometown. I had been having a ton of foot pain in a foot I had previously had surgery on and not one doctor believed me that there was something wrong. They all thought that I was gunning for drugs rather than a solution. Until I finally had surgery in college my foot hurt every single day for as almost 10 years-which was dismissed by every single doctor except one. After an MRI and being told that I would just have to live with pain I hightailed it back to that doctor. After months of tests we discovered that I had an auto-immune disease that was probably causing a large part of my pain. Now that it is being treated my pain is getting better (without narcotics thank you very much!). I do know my own body and sometimes I'm really right-but other times the crazy just kind of takes over.

Case in point: Sophomore year of college I woke up with a large lump on my eyelid. There wasn't any pus or any thing so where did my mind immediately jump? I decided I had eye cancer and rushed off to student health accordingly. The doctor seemed to have trouble keeping a straight face as I explained that I had eye cancer and would probably need chemo. This was the same doctor that was tasked with dealing with me previously for swine flu (probably not), severe flu (also not severe, but was given IV fluids just to shut me up) and several other ailments that were deadly at the time.

He took one look at my eye and calmly stated that I had a stye on the underside of my eyelid. He told me to wear my glasses until it popped on its own and to stop sleeping in my contacts. I wasn't convinced and left the doctor in a huff-"How could he be so insensitive to my fears?" I raged at my mother on the phone as I begged her to book me an appointment with the nearest oncologist.  Luckily my mother has had tons of experience talking me down off ledges so she convinced me to wait a week until starting my cancer regime. She also talked me into applying a hot towel to my eye to speed up the process. A few days later the eye cancer was gone and once again my mother was right.

All of this leads back to my emergency room visit I alluded to a few days ago. I woke up on the Sunday before school started with a ton of back pain. For once my crazy didn't really kick in and I laid around in bed on a heating pad all day. Basically I used it as an excuse to get DH to rub my back and to not do any Sunday chores. I didn't call my mom all day (which is super unusual) because I felt so terrible. I knew I had to go to work the next day so I was really hoping I would feel better. DH spent most of the day shoveling snow without realizing how terrible I was feeling. When I finally decided that I should probably be seen by a doctor all the walk in care clinics were closed. Instead of rushing off to the ER I made the smart choice to call the on-call doctor to see if it could wait until the next day-he said we should come in.

When I can actually make smart health care decisions or when I wait to go to the doctor I usually wind up to be actually pretty sick. When I have the time and mental abilities to come up with my crazy scenarios it's usually something that's no big deal. I fully expected that this would actually be something serious-my back was really killing me at this point. I've had some pretty bad injuries and this was worse than anything I've ever experienced. It was right in the area of my kidneys so I totally expected a kidney stone or something like that.

The ER was slow, but I really didn't care until I got back to the room. We got triaged and taken back and then we waited FOREVER for a nurse to show up. Once she had taken vital and a urine sample she swept out and we were left alone for another hour. A PA shows up and explains that they had run some tests and I didn't have an infection-they wanted to order a CT scan to check out my kidneys. She also stated that she would get me some pain medication since at this point I was white as a sheet and writhing around trying to get comfortable (quietly so I didn't make a scene of course). We agreed and she left-it was another hour before the nurse came back to start my IV-and she didn't bring the promised pain medication. She did a great job getting the IV in quickly as I squeezed my eyes shut (I don't have a fear of needles, but I do pass out at the sight of blood-I can handle animal blood just not human blood-yes it's odd). DH asked very politely if she could get us a bandage or a wrap to cover the IV so I didn't have to look at the blood in it and she said she would. I was taken away for my CT scan shortly after that which went well and was over quickly. They used the strange dye that makes you feel like you're peeing yourself.

Just a warning for anyone who has to get the contrast dye-IT REALLY WILL FEEL LIKE YOU'RE PEEING YOURSELF! I was told this multiple times and I didn't really believe them. I was more focused on the fact that they told me it would make me feel warm-I was freezing to death so that sounded like a welcome side effect. The very nice radiologist came and got me from my room to take me for the CT scan. It was super embarrassing to be rolled through the waiting room in my hospital bed while wearing my super revealing hospital gown (that I hadn't let DH tie so he could rub my back). Of course one of my former students was in the waiting room with his family-he seemed to get a good laugh out of it. When we got the room I correctly assumed that I should lie on the table by the machine and went to get up-at the same time the radiologist reached out to help me up and he managed to totally grab my boob!

The poor guy turned bright red and I'm pretty sure he expected a screaming fit and a lawsuit. He seemed a bit taken aback when I made a VERY terrible joke (that I won't repeat) and started laughing. He apologized about a million times, but it wasn't that big of deal. When he injected the dye I was still giggling inwardly and then all of the sudden I was peeing myself. I shared this with the radiologist and he assured me that I wasn't. By this point crazy anxiety brain had taken over and I was convinced that I did pee myself.

Once we were done he rolled me back to my room and I still felt a little funny from the dye. The first words out of my mouth when I rejoined DH? "The radiologist grabbed my boob-can you check and see if I peed myself?" DH is actually a good sport (and a GREAT husband) because he checked and confirmed that I hadn't made a huge mess and he cracked up at the story. It took another few hours, but I finally got my pain medicine (3 hours after I was told I would get it and 30 minutes before we were allowed to leave).

So what was wrong? I was having an allergic reaction to a new medicine that I had started taking for my autoimmune disease. The shot of morphine they gave me before discharging me made me totally drunk, but didn't touch the back pain. It wasn't until I had skipped 2 doses of the medicine before the pain started to go away-no matter how many muscle relaxers and pain pills I took.

My lesson from all of this is a surprising one-my mother was RIGHT. It feels like every time I go to the doctor for one thing the medicine or the procedure causes another thing. Medical care is like the Domino theory except with ER visits instead of Communist Governments. My mom has a theory that if you never go to the doctor you never get sick. I think all my illnesses have come about from exposing myself to germs and medical care. My goal for 2015 is to avoid as much medical care as possible since if I get any sicker I'll probably die and that would be unfortunate. Is there a name for a hypochondriac that avoids medical care (besides lunatic)?

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