October 25, 2005

 my trip to the e.r.

Originally uploaded by xta's phonecam.

yesterday i woke up with a pain in my stomach. it was a sharp, stabbing pain; something akin, i guessed, to heartburn. how does a person get heartburn first thing in the morning, though? weird.

i got ready for work, and as i drove along my 25 mile commute i was cognizant of the pain the whole way. it was very present; i couldn't forget about it. i wracked my brain... did i eat anything weird last night? no. drink anything odd? no. just diet food. nothing unusual.

i recalled the baked chicken i ate for lunch on friday (3 days prior!) and how i felt like i'd accidentally swallowed a little tiny piece of bone. could that be the problem? if so, how on earth did a chicken bone hang around in my stomach for three days? nah, that couldn't possibly be it.

by noon the pain had travelled lower and to my left abdomen. it was still sharp, to the point where i would gasp out loud from time to time when it would flare up. i drank lots of water and tried eating some food (thinking that would help "push" along whatever possible obstruction i might have), but nothing worked. by 5pm the pain was all i could think about. i left work at 6pm (bailing out on a pledge drive is one of the most awful feelings in the world) and quickly drove home. twice i thought i might have to pull over to the side of the road. when i finally pulled into the driveway i knew i was probably going to be heading to the hospital soon.

as much as i hate hospitals, it didn't take much convincining from ray to get me back in the car. if it was a chicken bone causing these problems, i was at risk of puncturing an intestine. not good. we checked into the duke hospital emergency room about 7:30pm.

the waiting room was filled with all kinds of people in varying stages of pain. a pretty, bookish young black woman sat between her husband and mom, quietly crying and clutching her stomach as she rocked back and forth in her chair. a 30-something white man laid on the cold tile floor in a fetal position, a bucket next to his mouth catching periodic spats of vomit. the tv was tuned to "wife swap." a woman with gorgeous long braids slept beneath her coat.

the triage nurse seemed concerned for my case; she kept saying that i was sitting like a woman in labor. that was the only position that was comfortable: as flat as possible. she took some blood (leaving an IV access in my arm "in case they want more blood or need to inject you with dye for a CT scan.") asked for a urine sample, and took my temperature and blood pressure (100 over 61). she seemed worried enough that she marked my chart as a higher priority and said that i should be called into the ER soon. of course "soon" is completely relative in ER-terms. it was about 9pm when i was finally given a bed and told to put on a gown.

ray wanted to accompany me everywhere, but he wasn't allowed into the x-ray room. i was positioned for two standing x-rays (ow ow ow! standing is bad!) and two x-rays lying down. as i rested on the x-ray table i could actually feel some of the pain subsiding. the technician apologized for taking so long, but i told her that i was more comfortable than i had been all day. she finally came back to sit me up and get me off the table, and as soon as my feet hit the floor i was doubled over again.

back in my ER room another hour went by. ray pulled out my ipod and played "breakout". i tried to read a magazine. the elderly woman in the curtain next to mine was being admitted for multiple myaloma. i could hear an ornery old man across the room being diagnosed with pneumonia and a blood sugar count of 500. ray went to the cafeteria and got some sushi. i started farting. oh my god, the farting felt good. i tried to fart as much as possible.

i think it was around 11pm that the resident came by to tell me they didn't see anything on the x-rays. i told her again about the chicken bone, but she insisted they didn't see anything like that on the film. of course this confused me. how could i have been feeling such sharp, intense pain without having something show up on x-ray?

the pain had been subsiding as the hours passed. perhaps the farting helped. i did have to pee; i asked ray to show me where the bathroom was. maybe i could poop, too.

no luck there, but the walking to and from the bathroom was virtually pain-free. when the doctor came to check on me a little after midnight i told him that i was feeling much better. he confirmed that the x-rays were negative, and if i wasn't in pain anymore i could go home. "i feel so silly," i told him. "nonsense," he said. "if you were in pain, then you did the right thing by coming here."

the discharge nurse arrived almost an hour later and had to wake me up to take the IV out of my arm and read the exit papers to me. i got dressed and ray drove me home. i was in bed by 1:45am.

today i'm feeling none of the sharp pain i felt yesterday, though i swear my gut is talking to me today. it's making all kinds of noises. i refuse to admit that i checked into the ER because of gas, but at this point i have little else to fall back on.

whatever happened to the chicken bone remains a mystery.

Posted by xta at October 25, 2005 10:01 AM | TrackBack

Oh Christa, I'm SO GLAD you're feeling better. I was on pins and needles the whole time I was reading this! Although I knew that if you had the energy to write it, there must have been a happy ending. Things that occurred to me as I read were: appendix? gall bladder? possible alien probe? Hopefully it's not any of those, though.

Posted by: minty at October 25, 2005 11:53 AM

what minty said! one of the things that occured to me was a complication from having the IUD removed. i'm glad it wasn't anything more than gas, really!

Posted by: lisa at October 25, 2005 12:24 PM

If you got out of the Duke ER without stitches, you're a lucky woman. If you ever see Peter again, ask to see the Duke-era scar on the bottom of his foot. On second thought, don't. The relevant nouns are a sewing needle, Cat's Cradle, x-rays, and a scalpel.

Posted by: Penny at October 25, 2005 1:10 PM

I just finished writing a blog post about farts (http://lotusmedia.org/questionable-taste) and now I see this!

Posted by: Ruby at October 25, 2005 2:57 PM

I can speak from two arenas.
For ME, the hypocondriac sp?) I would hafta say that whatever happened was SERIOUS. Who knows? coulda been a rare disease or, also, (whispering) cancer.

Now. As a mom, I must tell you that there have been several occasions wherein the person that I brought to the ER gets MUCH better shortly after third interview. Sometimes even just the mention of the ER can clear up some "issues."

I think you were quite right to have gone and am so glad you have gas.

Sort of.

Posted by: blackbird at October 25, 2005 5:52 PM


I like those shoes you were wearing.

Posted by: blackbird at October 25, 2005 5:52 PM

How scary!! Glad you're okay now.

Posted by: lainey at October 26, 2005 10:12 AM

Well, I can say from my experience that it doesn't sound like a gall bladder problem (which can be horrifically painful!)

I have had some very severe "phantom" pains before--things that showed no evidence discernable by doctors but caused me to panic and almost writhe on the floor. I've gotten to the point where if I can walk and talk I pretty much ignore gut pains anymore. I really think it's possible to have excruciatingly painful gas pains, and I hope that's all it is because being sick sucks!

Posted by: Lisa B at October 26, 2005 11:12 AM

Glad you're OK! The Duke ER is so bad - I am glad that you got reasonable care. I made David drive me there once because I thought that I was dying. We got to Duke and I saw lots of people waiting that were bleeding, vomiting, etc - and I decided that if I could walk into the ER, then I wasn't that bad off. Turns out I was having a panic attack.

Check out this post about an Israeli ER http://savtadotty.blogspot.com/2005/10/i-heart-my-heart.html

Posted by: John Boy at October 26, 2005 3:10 PM

john, you're right. i've been to the duke ER twice, and in the midst of our long wait the other night ray said, "maybe we should have gone to durham regional."

when i finally got care, i feel like i was treated well. but it did take a long time before i actually saw a doctor. i don't know whether it would be any better at durham regional, but it can't be a whole lot worse.

and yes, i'm feeling much better now. i took tuesday off work, and am back on-air today.

Posted by: christa at October 26, 2005 4:13 PM

Yikes --

We'll keep an eye on you this weekend at Halloween party. Just in case anyone's thinking that screams are just about the holiday...

Posted by: Phil at October 26, 2005 11:43 PM

second, or third, that about the terrible Duke ER. They were really nice, but it took forever and the parking situation is bad. And my EMT friend said, "Never ever go to the Duke ER." That was enough for me.

Noah claims to have taken several ex-girlfriends to the ER for pains that turned out to be gas. I think its common.

I'm glad you're okay though!

Posted by: Elizabeth at October 27, 2005 4:00 PM

I am so glad you are okay! It is frustrating when they can't actually find *anything* to explain very real pain.

don't you just love cooling your heels in the ER? after my last trip, we determined that maybe arriving in an ambulance might get you seen to more quickly. maybe.

I do like your little feet in that picture, circumstances notwithstanding :-)

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