Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Trips to the ER are fun, right?

Since so many wonderful friends and family have expressed concern, and since I’m finally recovered enough to use real words again, I thought I’d just do a lil write-up of my condition, what happened, and where I’m at now.

Seriously though, guys, thank you so much for your thoughts and prayers. It really means a lot that so many were thinking of me.

It began as a sore throat.  Then it got really really RIDICULOUSLY painful. Having been an unusually frequent victim of strep throat as a child, I knew that this was no ordinary sore throat.  Friends and parents advised me to go to the doctor, but still I hesitated because, after all, strep throat comes with a raging fever.  And I was, thankfully, fever free. So it couldn’t be strep, right? A feverless strep throat couldn’t possibly exist, right?

Right, Aftan, you little fool. 

To be fair to myself, I did try to visit a doctor’s office. Unfortunately, no one would take me because I wasn’t an “existing client.” Now, I don’t want to turn this into a political rant, but you know the health care system is broken when doctors refuse to see extremely ill patients solely because the office has its administrative tighty-whitees in a twist.  What if I had cancer? Or an auto-immune disorder? You won’t take me because I’m not an existing client?  What, don’t have enough shelf-space for another folder? You require us to buy into expensive health insurance policy plans, and then you refuse to treat us anyway?? This is completely unacceptable.

Not only that, but such practices force us sickees to turn to the ER as a source of primary care. Trust me, that shouldn’t be their job! ER docs should be patching up bullet wounds and treating heart attacks, not diagnosing sore throats.  Clearly, something needs to change in our system. (Is Obamacare the way to change it? I’m not so sure…but we can go out for coffee and you can hear more of my political philosophies another time.)

My point is, I gradually realized that the ER had become my only recourse. Throat lozenges, hot tea, gargling with salt water, and a baggie full of Advil no longer cut it. I couldn’t control the drool slipping out of my mouth because it was much too painful to swallow. I couldn’t eat because even the mild Campbell’s chicken noodle soup somehow turned into liquid fire. I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.

Finally I got a good look at my throat, and literally took a step backward in shock. It looked like a Siberian tiger had tried to claw it’s way up my esophagus, leaving white striations to mark up the swollen redness. [Too much info? Sorry, guys, I’ll cool it.]

I think – I THINK – I have strep throat.

So I texted the Sis and asked her to take me to the ER.  I could have driven myself, but secretly I was hoping that they would dope me up so high on morphine that I wouldn’t be able to drive home. I mentally girded myself for a chaotic and bureaucratic night in the hospital. 

Actually, the ER was fairly straightforward. I waited for a while, yes, but not terribly long; I was in and out with a fistful of prescriptions within two hours, and the doctors were all very kind and answered my not always coherent questions.

[As a quick aside, to give the story some levity: one of the nurses came over at one point to take down some more information (or maybe just to talk to me, since I looked so miserable sitting on my stretcher in the corner and someone else had taken the same info a moment before)…this is how the conversation went from my point of view:

Nurse: Hi, I’m Mike and I’ll be your nurse. What’s your name?
Me: Hi Mike. Aftan.
Nurse: Pardon?
Me: Aftan. A-F-T-A-N. Yes, I know it’s unusual.
Nurse: Ummmm…

And this is how the conversation actually went:

Nurse: Hi, I’m Mike and I’ll be your nurse. What’s your complaint?
Me: Hi Mike. Aftan.
Nurse: Pardon?
Me: Aftan. A-F-T-A-N. Yes, I know it’s unusual.
Nurse: Ummmm…

No, “Aftan” is not some new disease. Just a name. A conclusion that we both eventually came to.]

No, the only real problem of the night came in actually finding the ER. The Georgetown hospital area is very confusingly laid out (at least it is at night to a poor lil sickee who’s never been there and has lost full use of her brain). Turns out we went to the waaaay wrong parking lot, and wandered around lost for a few minutes before discovering we needed to be there, not here.

We left the parking garage, sans parking stub because the little machine refused to spit one out for us when we drove in, and the guard told us that “that’ll be ten dollars, please.”

Please, we explained, we came to the wrong lot and have only been here ten minutes, we’re just looking for the Emergency Room.

“That’ll be ten dollars please.”

Really? You’re gonna charge $10 to the girl who’s begging for the Emergency Room? I was too sick and miserable to argue, so I wearily handed over my card and signed the damn slip. I’m keeping his pen, though, I thought to myself, nursing a small pocket of revenge. Customers steal my pens all the time at the liquor store and it drives me crazy.

The kicker, though? He wouldn’t raise the gate until I gave him the pen back. Since I had angrily stuffed it into my cavernous purse, several minutes elapsed before I could find it.  I would hope that he caught my germs, but I don’t wish this illness on anyone. Adult strep throat really bites. Or claws, as the case may be.

At the end of the night, I left the ER with my prescriptions, no morphine (shoot), and the Sis. A short summary of how I’m doing: I have strep throat (we’re pretty sure), I have powerful meds, and I have a couple days off to sleep and recover. Seriously, I just woke up from a three-hour nap, so hopefully that means I’m on the mend.

Again, thank you all for the well wishes. You rock.

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