Friday, September 13, 2013

...to the ER! Stat!

The beginning of the week, I knew something nasty was brewing under my arm. I've had a small (lima bean sized) cyst there for years. It sometimes swells a tiny bit at "that time" of the month, but was otherwise painlessly unremarkable. I could feel it if I pushed down on my skin and had a doctor check it a few times over the years (worried about cancer and all that.) Monday? It was a golf ball. The swelling was NOT going down, even with ice packs. I called the doc. I guess I didn't communicate the urgency of the situation well enough because the friendly but ignorant fellow who schedules things didn't have anything sooner than the next Tuesday (another week and a day away.)

Could I make it a week with a painful golf ball under my arm? Hmm. Perhaps.

Perhaps not! By Thursday it was the size of an orange. I hadn't slept more than an hour at a time for days and couldn't lower my arm at all. I kept my physical therapy appointment Thursday and she very kindly checked my temp (because sepsis is bad) and didn't make me lift weights with my left arm. Thank goodness! But my heart rate was crazy high in half the time it normally takes. Not good. I'd noticed this on Wednesday at the gym too, so I slowed my walking a bit.

Yes, I get it. I'm crazy. I should have gone to the ER on Monday. I went today. They were slammed and short staffed, but did put me in a curtained stall fairly quickly after triage. I was left alone for long stretches waiting for an available doctor/nurse so I got to listen in to the goings on.

To my right was a little old Polish grandma who spoke no English. 87 years old, bless her heart. She'd fallen and hit her head. Luckily her devoted daughter found her pretty quickly and acted as an interpreter - never leaving her side. They conversed avidly in Polish each time the various hospital personnel visited. The blood guy - who couldn't find a good vein but managed to splash a fair quantity on the floor for me to stare at under the curtain. The nice sounding Italian fella who came to bring her for her x-rays (he apologized for only knowing English and Italian and not Polish.) The girl who brought her for a cat scan (and was the first to notice the blood puddle on the floor.) The second girl who came to try and draw more blood (and was successful.) Each visitor apologized for making her wait so long and acknowledged her agitation and strong desire to go home. I must have missed the agitated part. She sounded in good spirits and reasonable to me. But what do I know. I don't speak a word of Polish.

To my left was someone moaning in pain at regular intervals. Various people would come in to ask questions and each time she said something different about why she was there and where the pain was coming from. She was already wearing 2 pain patches (morphine, according to her) and was on other oral pain killers. Let's see, she mentioned an auto accident, two surgeries, a rod in her leg, being run over, a strange lump (hey! that was MY complaint), a torn rotator cuff from 2 years previously...good gracious I could go on and on. Her moans would get louder if hospital staff was within earshot. She wouldn't let them close her curtains either. Just from the tone staff took with her and the types of questions they were asking...I got the impression she was a "drug seeker". For someone in as much pain as she complained of, they sure left her in there a LONG LONG time.

Finally, a doctor and nurse came in loaded down with gear. I was told a "slight pinch" as he anesthetized the area under my arm. I was swabbed with lidocaine then he needle jabbed me 10 times or so with something else then poked at my alien growth. Hard. OUCH! Nope, I can still feel that. A lot. A whole lot! He jabbed me with more. Another cursory squeeze and poke. Oh bloody hell ouch! OUCH! Nope. More jabs. My gosh I felt close to 30 needle sticks and I guess they gave up trying to numb the area. That's when the cut and the crushing and squeezing began in earnest. I felt like I was delivering a bowling ball through a pin hole. With an extra side of pain. I was howling in pain. SCREAMING in agony. They kept apologizing but kept right on inflicting more pain. It just went on and on. At one point he asked for tongs because he could see the sac. Forceps delivery. The alien baby was born! Ugh. Just when I thought I couldn't take it anymore, he said he was packing the wound and hoped he'd cleaned it all out.

I was sobbing and shaking. I couldn't stop. Horrible. They left me to rest and compose myself for a bit. As my breathing calmed down I started to notice how quiet it was. Polish grandma was still away having her cat scan and drug seeker? I guess real screams of agony shut HER up. But good. I didn't hear a peep out of her for at least 30 minutes. Then she started up the moaning when a nurse came to check on me. I was chuckling on the inside.

Finally a nice fella with a cup full of drugs stopped in. Horse pills! But I was never happier to see a cup of pills ever before in my life. Thank you gods of chemistry! He brought me papers to sign, 3 prescriptions, some cursory instructions and a "rest for a bit, we'll discharge you shortly." Thank you Jeebus!

I was so happy when the nurse stuck her head in and said I could get dressed. I just wanted to be home and in my own bed. I was still really shaky and a little disoriented. They don't put you in a wheelchair and bring you to the door any more. When did they stop doing that? I wish they'd done that. It was a fairly long walk from the curtain area back to the waiting room. I weaved my way back, praying I'd see the hubby and kids waiting. It had been hours. I'd sent them away earlier (to get food and spend time away from the ER.) A scan of the waiting area and a motley assortment of shady looking characters that were NOT my family told me I needed a phone. My cell battery was dead. As usual. Luckily they have a courtesy phone hanging on the wall (WAY above wheel chair accessible height, I might add) and I called home. No answer. Rats.

I hung up on the brink of full blown panic when I spotted Max skipping his way through the ER entrance. Whew! I was so happy to see John and Max I nearly keeled over and burst into tears. I was glad they didn't come into the back with me - NOT an experience for kids - but, at the same time, I wished I'd had someone with me. Drug seeker and Polish Grandma's daughter were not very chatty. Thank goodness for my Kindle and Facebook! Although after the procedure, they'd put up the rails on my bed and I couldn't get up to get it. I knew I should have kept it in bed with me. Heh.

Now for some much needed rest. I vow not to even LOOK at these bandages until tomorrow. I don't want to see the aftermath. Nope. Really really don't. But thank you ER nurse who gave me an arm-load of padding, gauze pads, and tape. Maybe John will change my dressing. Eh...maybe I don't want him to see either. Ick.

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