Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gallbladder gloom

Saturday night I am innocently sitting in my living room after coming home from a photo shoot. At the shoot, I had dinner, which consisted of some pretty benign foods - but I think it was the mashed potatos that got me. In a couple of hours I was in some pretty awful pain, right in the center of my chest, just below the sternum. I thought I had heartburn, took some Tums. Nope, so then I thought gas? Nope. Then I thought food poisoning, but every other time I've had that, I've thrown up violently so I knew that wasn't it either. By five in the morning I was so miserable I could hardly take a deep breath. I couldn't sit still, couldn't lie down, and would catch myself moaning out loud at times. So I got in my car and drove to the ER, where I work part time, and checked myself in. Hal and Sarah still in their beds at home. I had zero wait at the ER, mostly because I checked in during the dead zone of the day, but I was glad because I didn't know how much longer I could stand that kind of pain.
Before long I found myself in B-18, a room I have been in countless times to check on other patients. It was weird to be there myself, putting on the gown, covering up with the single sheet. Peeing in the cup, getting stabbed with huge needles. They had to give me three doses of morphine before I could tolerate the pain well. Then they came in to do an ultrasound of my gallbladder and lo and behold, there was the problem. Little gallstones lit up the film. I get on the phone and call my family. Six of them have had their gallbladders removed, on my father's side alone. Not a great statistic. Now I need mine out too. The last month has not been a good one for me. Strep throat, some ugly virus, and now gallbladder pain. I think we're beyond what my grandmother would call the meanness coming out...I think I must be exorcising some demons!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Blankety Blank Blank!

Ahhhh! This stupid strep throat is back! A new way to torture potential terrorists....give them strep throat!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Phone number amnesia

I've been working in the ER for about a month and a half now, and I find that this is an extremely interesting place, not just in terms of the patients and the various illnesses and injuries, but also the talented people that work there too. The first CODE was hard to watch; but it was fascinating too. Nurses are amazing; and when they function as a team of 8 to 10, it's even more wild to watch. Every person knows their role in trying to save a life. The doctor circling the bed, calling the shots, try this, try that. It took me three days to get over not only watching the person die, but also watching the medical team do its thing.
My role is something I'm still figuring out, but it's more of a social services type thing. So when the you know what hits the proverbial fan, I get to observe and help with strange things like figuring out who Jane Doe is or trying to find supplies and services for people who don't have what they need. This job is growing on me in ways I never thought possible. I leave work now still thinking of patients I left behind, wondering what happened as the clock ticked on. It's weird. I've met some of the neatest people, lots of them elderly - because I kind of have a thing for old folks. I find that I'm drawn to them. I like talking to them in supermarkets, so of course I'm right there when they are in hospital beds. They usually give me compliments. They think I'm young! And they think I'm sweet. It's a give-give relationship.
One of the most profound observations I've made though, that repeats itself over and over again is something I've termed phone number amnesia. Picture yourself right in the middle of a trauma. Your family member is critically ill or dying or maybe even dead. And now you have to call people to tell them. Mostly other family members. You've known their phone numbers for YEARS, but you can't remember a single digit. Maybe a few digits, but not the whole number. Works every time. Amazing. This has happened to every single person I've encountered in the ER in the last month and a half who has fit the trauma scenario. They get so frustrated. They flip open their cellphones to look up the number and they can't understand why they don't remember it. They smack their foreheads with their palms, rolling their eyes up to the ceiling. I feel sad for them; I try to help. Mostly I stand there with them and say it's okay, it's okay, you'll remember, come sit down.
The brain is a high functioning organ. It knows what to do when. It takes over in those times. Tells you to slow down, forget the phone numbers, work numbers, other responsibilities and worries, to take up this horrible thing that is happening and to deal only with it. Emotion overrides logic, reason, and wherewithall. Is there a solution to phone number amnesia? I don't think so. Because even when you figure out the number, there will be one more person to call and another thing to remember. So when and if this ever happens to you, just hand your cell phone to someone else and tell them who to call.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Voting: priviledge or burden?

I arrived at the polls this morning at 7:04, and the line was backed out the door with young professionals and retirees. I waited until I couldn't wait anymore and had to step out of line and head to work. After I finished at work, I picked up my child and headed back to the polls. This time I stood in line and successfully voted. I explained to Sarah that today was a very special day, a day for helping to choose our country's next leader. Of course, at age 3, she won't grasp the meaning of an election day for a long time, but I think it's good practice to educate our next little generation of Americans that voting is something they should feel is as much a duty as it is a right and a priviledge. My husband, on the other hand, seems as if he could care less. I've known him for 12 years and not once during that time has he cast a vote for anything or anybody. Yet his father served as an Air Force pilot in three U.S. conflicts before he retired as a Lt. Colonel. Every time I encourage him to go, he expresses indifference and everytime I'm met with his indifference, I am dumbfounded. Today I heard a man say he had driven 60 miles to vote. He had just moved to another city but came back to vote. Another lady was pushing a super stroller with three babies (triplets)! The election officials at the polls said there had been record turnout today, all day long. Yet there are still many in this country who seem to not care at all. Or at least they don't care enough to take action. Can someone out there explain this to me?
I think we have a responsibilty to keep up with what happens around us, to care about the consequences of our nations activities and our leader's choices. We have a responsibility to voice our own opinion about how we think and feel about the political atmosphere around us and voting is the number one way to do that. It's sometimes the only way to truly get through.
But that's just my opinion. Shout out. Tell me what you think.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Mean-ness revisited

Building on my last post, I must have done something awfully bad or be possesed by something awfully bad, because there's an awful lot of mean-ness coming out of me. The night before last I came home with a headache, the next night I woke up with a terrible scratchy throat, and the day after, yesterday, I had a four degree fever, the shakes, and I could hardly move I was in so much pain. As I type I can barely swallow. I was convinced last night that I must have the flu, but when the doctor looked at me this morning, he diagnosed my ailments as strep throat. He was very nice, especially when he found out I was one of the gang, as I work in the ER at the hospital. He was also very sympathetic. Little did he know I was simply so full of mean-ness I could barely move. My grandmother would have cooked up some sort of home remedy for this. When I was growing up with her I was never sick. And on the rare occassion that I actually did get sick, she'd usually have something to make me better, and it never involved going to a doctor. Since we were so poor, we couldn't afford to go "runnin' to the doctor" everytime we felt bad. I remember her giving me "onion tea" for stomach ailments, and her pouring hot oil in my ear when I had an earache. I also remember, with great disdain, her pinching my nose tight until I opened my mouth and gasped for air and as soon as I had taken a breath, she'd poke a spoonful of castor oil in and I'd just about throw up. Then she'd give me a piece of lemon or something that tasted worse than the castor oil so I wouldn't gag anymore. She and my father both felt that castor oil could cure just about anything in the human body. What it did was give you the runs so bad that no virus or bacteria could hang on and survive the flushing out. Muscular aches and pains got something called "salve" that came in a big red tin from the Watkins company, or you got "pain oil" that also came from the Watkins company. If you had a scratch or a skinned knee, you got alcohol or peroxide.
Most of all though, if you were sick or down in any way whatsoever, after the teasing about mean-ness and all of that, she made sure that you were taken care of to the best of her ability. Her dry wit and unwavering love is what I miss today. But since I'm all doped up on Loritab, Prednisone, and Amoxicillin, I think I'll be alright.