True Story Thursday

Married To The Sea

And if I swallow anything evil
put your finger down my throat
~The Who

So last night I ended up going back to the hospital again. At around 11:30pm. I gave up on getting treated and still being able to work today. Ended up getting home around 2am, with a blood draw mark on my other hand, no medical help, and the conviction that I'd behaved very foolishly. Driven Dave to distraction and waffled on what to do or not do. My brain was less than no help. Every new little twinge was met with: Is it deadly? Am I imagining it? Can I afford it? Can I afford not to be able to afford it? Can I has a cigarette now?

While waiting to be processed for registration I had a very bad time. Breathing became much more difficult, so I started forcing deep breath after deep breath. I learned a little later it was the considered opinion of the nurses that I was merely hyperventilating. If that was a panic attack, sirrah, it was the worst I've ever experienced. At one point my lips and chest and arms and legs were simultaneously trembling and numb, my left hand crooked into a claw I could not straighten, and I was weeping with fear because no matter how deeply I breathed I could not get enough air. The nurse said I was hyperventilating and should try to just relax and breathe normally. The same advice, mind you, that Dave has given me on the previous couple of occasions I've had attacks of shakes and difficulty breathing. However, as this was happening, a man was wheeled in on a guerney, having recently arrived by ambulance. I heard the EMTs remark he was probably on PCP. He was twitching, disoriented and aggressive; he tried to fight anyone who came near him and lurched off the guerney, tumbling to the floor inches from where I was sitting. Needless to say his situation was a danger to others as well as himself, and all hands nearby focused upon getting him subdued and settled and moved to a place where he could begin to be treated.

I was ashamed that I could not move out of the way and equally ashamed that I could not make my symptoms go away at will, as the nurse appeared to think they should. I am well accustomed to being perceived to be faking it. This was one of those times.

Sure enough, after a period of breathing normally, squeezing my left hand between my knees, and rubbing my forearms as best I could to encourage normal circulation, the shakes and numbness gradually subsided. The nurses directed me to sit in the pre-registration area, and there I concentrated on emptying my mind, not forcing breath one way or the other, and remaining still. Only a few times did I have a frightening chest and neck constriction like before, and after half an hour or so those, too gradually subsided.

So, blood sample drawn, urine sample produced, registration forms filled out, I went to sit in the waiting room with the very large crowd who had gotten there before me. It was by then almost 1:30 in the morning. I'd overheard one of the male nurses remark that this was far from the most crowded night they'd had this week. Ended up chatting with a guy who said he'd been at the hospital having various things treated since very early in the morning, but had been in the waiting room this time since 6:30pm. I started the conversation with "What are you in for, if you don't mind me asking?" We talked about illnesses and injuries for a few minutes. His were all injuries; as he told it he'd been jumped in an alleyway by five guys, four wearing ski masks and the fifth not someone he recognized. Later at one point he asked, "You got health insurance?" and I said, "Hell no, if I had health insurance I'd be at the rich people hospital across the street," which got a chuckle. I'd been wanting to use that line all week.

On my way out I talked to a different guy, who was smoking near the entrance. He was like, "You're leaving, and you ain't been seen yet?" I explained that since I'd thought it was a penicillin allergy, if I had been right, I'd be dead by then. He sympathized; he was allergic to penicillin himself. Said the experience was awful, your lungs fill up with water like that (fingersnap).

It's a strange sentiment to come away with, but what I said to myself as I walked home was this: People are smart. People use all the perspectives they have all the time, they do as much as they know how with the information they have, and all the time they are looking for how to go on. Never underestimate them. I thought on all the people I'd met that day and how each in their own way was very smart indeed. (Well, maybe the guy who lurched off the guerney and tried to fight all the EMTs wasn't having a very smart time. I don't know what's going on with that guy. Hope he gets help and/or does some very smart things, if there are any available for him to do.)

The silent implication being: I'm people too. And however dumb I feel, I am not dumb all the time. Never underestimate me either. That's what Dave told me when I got home: be smart about yourself, be smart about taking care of yourself.

I felt worse for scaring him like that than I do for the wasted time and money. Sure, I was scared too. Still am. But I'm a person who is hyperaware of myself. It's far too easy to let that hyperawareness slide over into panic when there's something wrong I don't know how to fix. And as the inside of my mind becomes gradually more hospitable, I'm bound to start paying more close and dreadful attention to the workings of my body. Which has been manifesting as a kind of hypochondria where I freak out way more than is necessary over a genuine but not life-threatening illness. I don't want to become addicted to hospitals the way Tyler Durden was to support groups.

I have got to start another epic poem. It is probably the only thing that will occupy enough of my attention-paying dealies to ameliorate this situation. Especially since I do have a serious respiratory illness and need to try and take my stupid penicillin, even if I have to work up to full dosage gradually. Can't afford to go running over to the ER for a six-hour wait and a big, fat bill every time I feel like I can't get enough air. I think I will call one of my aunts for advice tonight. Maybe then I won't feel such a fool.