Jul 28, 2011

Medical Anxiety

After my first trip to the ER in over two years this past Friday night, I am still reeling. I was reluctant to even go because I hate hospitals, needles, blood draws, and everything associated with anything medically related. But my blood pressure was high, ironically, hovering around 190 over 130 for about an hour before I decided it was time to succumb to the fact that I may need some professional help to get it under control. My blood pressure had never registered that high before and it didn't appear to be a fluke. I was weak, dizzy, nauseous and felt feverish. My mom drove me to our closest ER and there we sat for about an hour in the sweltering waiting room before being escorted into the ER where they had apparently just experienced what the male nurse formidably referred to as a "code." A code what? I wondered. My mind automatically jumped to the worst conclusion possible and assumed someone had just died there in the ER and that was surely the reason for the waiting room holdup.

The sickening smell of saline solution and rubbing alcohol filled the air of my room where a friendly nurse about my age promptly drew blood and started an IV. I am certain she sensed my anxiety right off the bat as I instructed her to please take as little blood as possible because I was already lightheaded. "You're going to be just fine, I promise." That was reassuring. Really it was. How often do we ever hear a doctor say anything like that with such certainty? She then did an ekg and said that it looked beautiful, and at 96 beats per minute it wasn't even tachycardic. That also helped me relax a bit. What didn't help me relax was the fact that I ended up laying there for a good six hours sweltering with no food or drink and a small cup of ice chips that I had spilled on the floor. My nurse was nice and did check in on me from time to time and once even came in to perform orthostatic blood pressure readings because I had mentioned POTS to her. They never did reveal the results or what they indicated but at least someone had sense enough to collect that kind of data.

I had a slight temperature at 99 point something, but nothing alarming. I was just flushed and felt overheated without sweating. I hate that feeling. Finally someone brought me a cool rag. At one point, the male nurse from earlier walked by and closed the door for "privacy issues." My mom said I must have been showing too much leg for his liking. That's what happens to overheated patients when left unattended. In the state I was in I lost all ability to reason or care about nuisances such as modesty. I was simply trying to keep myself cool. And at this point I was agitated and so famished from lack of food that I was about ready to murder the next nurse who told me not to eat anything until the doctor gave approval. Low blood sugar makes me do and say crazy things. The doctor who had come in at the beginning to examine me for all of about two minutes asking if I had consumed any caffeine that day was leisurely sitting in front of her computer down the hall enjoying a diet coke and a snack. Lucky her. I know this because I walked my weak self down the hall to beg for food and drink. Lo and behold the nurses instructed me I had to wait until I heard from the doctor and that it would just be a few more minutes.

Finally a nurse walks in, not to tell me I could eat, but to collect a urine sample that they had forgotten to collect in the beginning. To top it all off I had just emptied my bladder when I had gotten up to beg for food and water a few minutes before. So she hooked up another IV and let it run for a few minutes until I was ready to produce a sample. Finally, the night was nearly over. In walks a nurse with a cup of ice water for me to drink! I had never been so thankful in all my life! Then, my regular nurse walks in with yet another cup of ice water and 2 big and bitter pills to swallow called Cipro. In comes the doctor for a brief appearance to inform me they had found a probable urinary tract infection so it was the law that I had to take these pills before leaving the hospital. So two nurses, a doctor, my mom and my ex-boyfriend had all arrived and were all hovering about me in this tiny room waiting for me to swallow these damn pills. Talk about pressure. I wasn't convinced I had a UTI in the first place as I wasn't experiencing any symptoms. But I reluctantly swallowed the pills, breaking them up with my teeth first, making the doctor and nurses wait as long as possible for me to finish since I had waited so long for their company.

At last everyone else went out in the hall while my primary nurse unhooked me from everything and asked me how long I had been suffering from anxiety. I said that no one had ever diagnosed me with anxiety before but admitted that hospitals and medical stuff did tend to make me feel very anxious. Of course anxiety wasn't listed anywhere on any of my discharge papers, simply "probable UTI, tachycardia, and weakness" (they neglected to even address the weird high blood pressure issue). Although she herself was not a doctor and did not have the legal authority to diagnose, she revealed quite an astute observation, saying that I clearly exhibited symptoms of anxiety and she understood why: "all you did was go to the dentist to get your teeth out and ended up with a permanent health problem. I get it, believe me. I understand why you'd be anxious around doctors and places like this. You just can't let it define you though. Life's too short." This nurse was right. Life is too short to let one awful life-changing event define you. I was so many other things in my life before POTS, there was so much more to me than being sick. I hate being the sick girl and don't want to be thought of that way. So going to strive to get the old me back one small step at a time. My first goal: stay the heck out of the ER for as long as possible!

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