Yesterday I had my third ultrasound. I have yet to be pregnant.
The first was to nail down what turned out to be a prostate infection. The second was to figure out if the unwelcome lump in my pair of coconuts* was something nasty (it was not).
This time, after a sort-of-diagnosis of possible kidney stone or stones during an Emergency room visit (see the previous entry for the epic tale), I called to arrange the third ultrasound to see if there really might be a kidney stone down there.
My doctor will have the results by the middle of next week. It kind of bugs me that the person doing the ultrasound can see everything plain as day in real-time but can’t say a word while the procedure is being done.
For this one I was given one simple instruction: drink three cups of water an hour before and then don’t pee until after the ultrasound.
I figure this is some kind of test, because while three cups may not sound like a lot, drinking three cups of water in a row is a lot. I felt very bloated. I drank them at work, as I was heading straight to the hospital from there. I made it as far as downtown before I had to pee. This was about twenty minutes. I had a 30+ minute SkyTrain trip ahead of me. By the time I got off at Sapperton station my entire world had been reduced to a mad dash to the nearest toilet.
I went home. I peed. I broke the one ultrasound rule. However, I was running early and still have 45 minutes to go, so I downed another two cups, thinking that would more than compensate, while hoping that I wouldn’t experience the same fierce desire to urinate, having just done so.
On the latter I was wrong.
I needed to pee during the ultrasound, but it wasn’t too bad. The ultrasound was about the same as the others. Well, not quite the same as the second one, as the magic wand was not rubbed all over my testicles in a decidedly non-erotic manner. This time I just had to yank my shirt up a little while the technician pressed (rather firmly at times) the wand into my lower back and adjacent areas. She was very thorough. She mad me take deep breaths and hold them a lot, so it began to take on an almost Zen-like quality. Plus the jelly was nice and warm, unlike the nightmarishly cold stuff of the first ultrasound. What I’m saying is that as hospital experiences go, it was not that bad.
When she completed the ultrasound she said she needed to confirm with the radiologist that the shots were good and this would take a few minutes. By this time I had to pee again very badly. They were a very long few minutes. Fortunately the shots were deemed okay, and the nearest washroom was right outside the ultrasound room. I made liberal use of it.
Ironically, the horrible soreness that caused me to go to the Emergency room has largely disappeared, because my body has decided to be weird and bothersome. But the ultrasound doesn’t lie**, so I should have the results soon.
* clever euphemism ** assuming the foreign object wasn’t some sort of clever alien shapeshifter, of course
It shouldn’t be convenient to live only a few blocks away from a hospital and its emergency room, because you should never have to go, making the convenience irrelevant. But life is nutty and ignoring the dentist because of irrational fear can have consequences.
As I am about to demonstrate.
About six years ago one of the teeth in my upper jaw cracked (oh, I should warn you, if you get squeamish about anything tooth-related, stop reading now and instead do a search on this blog for the tag “cats are funny people” and delight in the results). It wasn’t painful, it just happened. I don’t know why it cracked, other than maybe a family history of bad teeth–and my neglect in visiting a dentist regularly (or at all) as an adult. A few years after that the remaining tooth gave up and I became the owner of a toothless gap in my left upper jaw. Except it wasn’t really toothless, as the roots and a tiny bit of the exposed part of the tooth remained.
I avoided brushing this part–much like I avoided dentists–because it was generally pretty tender and an accidental brushing would leave it sore.
A few days ago it felt sore and I thought perhaps I had accidentally brushed it. Then I woke up yesterday and it was still sore and further, it felt more like a toothache, actual pain and all that. I took some Advil and Alleve. These had virtually no effect. The whole area around the ex-tooth was tender and seemed inflamed.
Weirdly (or more likely, because I’m a guy) when I woke up today and felt the same pain, I almost still went out for my run. It was sunny and mild, so I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. Sanity prevailed, however, so I promised myself to visit the emergency room first, then I could go for the run.
I did not go for the run.
Approximately an hour and a half after arriving at the emergency room, I left with:
confirmation that the ex-tooth was infected
orders to see a dentist in the next 24-48 hours (“No later than Monday” was stressed several times)
one Tylenol 3 and one Alleve (in my tummy, since a nurse handed them to me with a cup of water)
a prescription for Tylenol 3 and antibiotics
affirmation again that hospitals are a place you never want to be
Here is my visit, with timestamps where applicable:
3:50 p.m. I have arrived. I go to the check-in counter and have a hard time hearing the person talking through the glass. I am given a surprisingly hard to remove bracelet with my info on it and have a seat. I expect to wait awhile and am not disappointed.
There are a few people here, but their injuries or ailments are for the most part not immediately obvious. a guy wearing a Tool t-shirt is here with his partner and I assume he has an arm injury, as he only has his left arm in one of the sleeves. I can’t quite see the other arm. This is probably a good thing.
A nicely-dressed woman keeps walking in and out, talking on her phone and holding a tissue to her nose. She eventually goes back to the check-in desk and complains that her nose is bleeding again. She gets to cut in line and is ushered away. I’m not going to try a nosebleed. I can wait.
I try to ignore my ex-tooth, which is currently getting Straight A’s in pain-causing right now.
There is a young Asian guy with a trendy haircut. He looks completely fine.
To my left is a woman around my age or a bit older. She coughs in a loud, wet, unhealthy way. At one point someone comes up to her and says they need a blood sample, then proceeds to do it right there. I don’t remember them taking blood in emergency before. I am glad she’s at least one seat over.
A guy in his 30s shambles in slowly. He is wearing open-toe sandals, is unshaven and looks terrible, as if he hasn’t slept in two months. I can’t hear what he is saying at the check-in desk, but the tone and manner suggest ailment over injury. He then reaches down to the small trash bucket by his feet and sticks his head into it, barfing. I can tell he is trying to throw up quietly. I am not unappreciative. He’s given a bracelet and looks like he might sit next to me–still clutching the plastic trash bucket–but he decides to stand, then to just amble about. His wife and baby arrive a short time later. The baby looks like he is deciding whether or not to cry.
Eventually a staff member takes away the garbage can and gives him a plastic barf bag instead.
To my delight, the baby never cries.
4:20 p.m. I am called to Triage 2, which is…right beside the check-in desk. I get asked questions about allergies and such and am given a bracelet that reads GIVE PENICILLIN ONLY IF RASH OVER ENTIRE BODY IS DESIRED. I sit back down and wait some more.
4:27 p.m. Mr. Self-Treatment arrives at the check-in desk. In a firm and articulate voice he describes various symptoms–a heaviness on the chest, chronic tiredness, etc. and laments over how he has had to self-diagnose and treat himself, even in the presence of professional doctors. I never figured out what the distinction was with professional doctors. Maybe he originally sought treatment by actors who played doctors. He went on for a bit, spending equal time complaining about the system and then complaining about himself. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong with him. His vocal chords were very healthy.
4:32 p.m. I am finally moved to…the second waiting area. In a call-out to The wizard of Oz, you are told to “Follow the yellow brick line.” Okay, they leave out the “brick” part, but I remember this line from before. I follow it and then get confused because the end arrow is mostly peeled away and I’m not sure if I’ve actually reached the end. A kindly old woman confirms I have and also shows me where to put my chart, which is also in a yellow folder.
She seems smarter than me, for which I am grateful.
The second waiting area is more crowded, so I anticipate a long wait here. Some people are dressed in gowns or sitting in wheelchairs. Occasionally someone gets wheeled through on a stretcher. I look to my right and see I am sitting next to a Nellcor sensor. I don’t know what a Nellcor is.
Several people get called but no one responds. This may work to my advantage.
4:55 p.m. I am finally brought into the exam room and explain my predicament. The doctor marvels over how I went so long with the tooth equivalent of a bomb in my mouth not going off. I admitted I knew a day of reckoning would come. A curtain is drawn in the middle of the room and it is clear someone is on the other side. I am glad I cannot see who or what is on the other side because I get an unpleasant vibe from it.
The visit with the doctor is done in about five minutes. She is very friendly and asks if I have any questions after explaining things. I get my first warning to see a dentist in 48 hours max. She warns that T3’s can cause constipation and affect decision-making, among other side effects. She warns against arguing with my partner or getting a haircut while under its effects. I like her.
I go back to the second waiting area and once again wait, as one does in these areas. After a short period of time a nurse comes in with my prescription and the T3/Alleve combo. At 5:15 p.m. I am heading out the way I came in, off to get the prescription filled at Save-On Foods, where I will also buy Goldfish crackers as a pick-me-up.
The pharmacist is like the doctor, friendly and informative. She advises me of one of the side effects of the antibiotics, which is diarrhea. She in unsure if the constipation from the T3s will cancel out the diarrhea from the antibiotics. I like to think they will.
I finish my shopping, come home and indulge in my new prescription drugs. The first T3 works amazingly well, almost completely masking the pain. I can take one more before bed (if needed). I’m feeling a little light-headed as I write this, which is one of the other side effects. I have no immediate plans to drive a bulldozer or other vehicle, so the neighborhood is safe. For now. I may suddenly decide driving a bulldozer is a totally excellent idea. I’ve never been on T3s before.
I need to decide if I want to find an emergency dentist tomorrow or wait until Monday and see if Jeff’s dentist can take me on as a new (emergency) patient. I’ll probably go with the former, as it seems time is of the proverbial essence.
I’m not looking forward to the dentist visit. I mean, who would? You’d need to eat a lot of T3s to think the dentist is fun. Because most of the tooth is gone, removing the rest will require excavating through the gums. I’d like to think dentistry is all lasers and painless now, but I suspect we’re not quite there yet. I’m hoping getting anesthetized is an option. I can deal with waking up all loopy afterward and then experiencing exquisite pain (provided I have my T3s).
All in all, I’d have preferred a better weekend. If it turns out I won the $26 million Lotto 6/49 jackpot tonight, I will come back to amend the preceding statement.
11:00 a.m. In a scene reminiscent of Groundhog Day I find myself back in emergency exactly 24 hours after my last visit.
I had neglected to mention the mild annoyance of a general achiness in my left leg. This achiness worsened last night to where it interfered with my sleep, so I’m back. Whee.
The first guy ahead of me has come because he got a call from his sister that his mother had died. As he said to the receptionist as she arranged for someone to take him up to her, “This sucks.”
11:06 a.m. Busier than yesterday. I am expecting to be here a good while.
11:16 a.m. A kid in full hockey gear (minus skates) sits next to me, holding an ice pack over his right wrist. He is wearing pale blue crocs. He is quiet. I like him.
11:31 a.m. Still waiting in triage. This is definitely going to be a long visit.
11:35 a.m. Initial check-in complete, temperature and blood pressure taken.
11:38 a.m. A daughter and mother arrive, the daughter in tears. She has broken a finger. I get a glimpse of it as we pass. It looks pretty bruised and ugly.
11:40 a.m. More questions, I get my chart and am sent to the Minor Treatment Waiting Room. This place looks familiar!
I notice two clocks, one above the other. They disagree on the time. The incorrect one, an analog, still believes it’s daylight savings time. It also has a second hand that only ticks forward every five seconds. It’s a bit unsettling to watch.
Phone battery stands at 92%.
12:10 p.m. Moved into the exam room, woo. Same intern, wondering why I am back.
12:20 p.m. I am put into a gown for the initial leg prodding. Tentative diagnosis is ‘I dunno!’ I am advised to take Advil as I wait for the doctor to show up.
12:25 p.m. The doctor shows up, I repeat a few stretchy moves and he tells me the same thing as the intern — take Tylenol or Advil and come back if it seems worse or no better by mid-week. Oh, and stay mobile instead of sitting in a rocking chair all day like I normally do.
12:28 p.m. I am done and out of there. The exam room has two other people in it, getting a bit crowded. Today’s theme seems to be leg injuries. I spent a good deal of time sitting near a guy with crutches reading a copy of Runner’s World. I felt sad for both of us.
Two days ago I finished off 10 days of Cipro. This fun-sounding antibiotic was prescribed to deal with what was diagnosed as a bacterial prostate infection. After separate 7 and 10 day doses rather than feeling all fresh and zesty I found it hurt to pee. Having one of the world’s smallest bladders, this has proven inconvenient, to say the least.
And so it is that I begin my weekend sitting in the emergency of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.
11:00 a.m. I check in. Almost immediately I am called over, tagged and given an initial probing–blood pressure and temperature.
11:05 a.m. I am sent back to triage. Only a few moments pass before I am moved along to the area beyond triage. The people in this area do not look happy. There is someone in a bed with the curtain not quite pulled far enough to completely obscure him or her. The shadowy movements bring to mind a Stephen King story.
11:15 a.m I am told to follow the green arrows on the floor and wait in relative seclusion for the doctor. Nearby and unseen a child is crying out as if in agony.
At 11:25 the child is still crying but I can hear someone trying to calm him and talking about how they need to make sure they stop the bleeding. The kid seems unconvinced. Wailing continues.
11:28 a.m. Someone moves me further along to the Minor Treatment Waiting Room. There are more green arrows leading here. I think this is where I was supposed to be. Oops.
The man takes my chart and the wailing kid is farther away which serves to give his cries a more dream (or rather nightmare) like quality.
It is 11:31 a.m. There are five other people here, four of whom appear to be couples. The real waiting mow begins.
11:33 a.m. That kid is really starting to get on my nerves.
11:37 a.m. A young couple arrives with a girl of about three. They listen to the screams and the mother says, “She’s going to sound like that.” That’s the spirit!
11:40 a.m. I am moved to the room I initially went to by mistake and about five minutes later a young doctor attends to me to begin the ‘men of a certain age’ diagnosis in earnest.
After numerous questions and some hands-on probing I am asked to pee in a cup–again. I comply with attendant discomfort. She then decides a rectal exam is in order and for probably the only time ever a woman gets intimate with my butt. The thought of this being an indignity doesn’t occur to me due to being that certain age.
12:05 p.m. I await the initial results of the pee analysis. I notice now that the kid is no longer wailing. Smothered with a pillow, perhaps. The waiting room is now standing room only.
I have drained 5% of my phone’s battery typing this.
12:07 p.m. A man gets called in. He gets up very slowly. He fell off a ladder. I wonder if a person can walk with a broken back.
12:15 p.m. My thoughts turn to food. Mmm, food. I have no food.
I wonder why I am waiting for the urinalysis when the doctor said it would take several days to get a detailed sample of the culture. I will be very hungry in several days.
12:24 p.m. A little kid is taken in and starts crying. Pace yourself, I say. At least wait until the gloves come out.
Meanwhile, the other kid here decides to have a mini-tantrum. I say mini because I know she is capable of so much more.
They just wheeled a woman by in a bed that filled the entire aisle. Three people guiding it and there’s a machine on it that beeps like a heart beat.
12:30 p.m. My phone is down to 91%. I blame Bejeweled 2.
12:50 p.m. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m actually still supposed to be here.
A guy who sheared off his fingertip sits down next to me. No gushing blood. Yet.
1:00 pm to 1:45 pm. I am finally introduced to the actual doctor (the woman is a resident). He asks a lot of intimidatingly personal questions and I answer plainly. The initial pee sample comes back clean save for a very tiny trace elevation in blood glucose — consistent with other results. No infection to be found. He suggests a few possibilities, like a yeast infection (possible in men, says he) or maybe irritation in my manhood as a result of the antibiotics. But he doesn’t think these are the causes. He thinks it’s an STI even though I’ve been in a monogamous relationship for the past year. I am given pills to take for a week and another pee sample is taken which will be tested for STIs. I’ll know if I get a call in the next five days or so. no call means everything is fine there. He tells me to practice safe sex and for me and my partner to get tested for the biggies like HIV and such within the week. This is sensible advice and I’ll definitely follow up, even at the risk of getting Very Bad News because knowing is better than not knowing.
I’m going with the irritation theory, though. It’s the least disturbing.
As I make my way out of the exam room I notice another guy on the other bed. He is on his side and curled up in a bit of a fetal position. That doesn’t look good. At least he’s not screaming.
The person in the rolling bed with the beeping machine is trundled by again with even more people in attendance. I’m wondering if they’re just getting scooped up as the giant bed is wheeled down the halls.
All told my visit lasted a little under three hours but actual waiting times were not bad. The staff was friendly and efficient so as far as icky hospital visits go it went about as well as can be expected. My phone battery stands at 83%.