Tuesday, March 25, 2014

All Things Considered, I'm Glad I'm Not Dead

Like many men, it takes a lot for me to go to the doctor. Maybe it’s because I hate sitting forever in the waiting room. Maybe it’s because every doctor I see has me fill out a billion forms. Maybe it’s because when the doctor asks me, “Do you drink or smoke?” and I truthfully answer, “No” they don’t look like they quite believe me.

I’d had a cough on and off for a couple of weeks, and it didn’t seem to be getting any better. Usually a few zinc cough drops will knock it right out, but not this time. It was getting bad enough that I started to have a fever, chills, low-to-no energy, and I was achy all over. Worst of all, any creative juices I had for writing or editing were zapped. Nada. Nothing. Still, I didn’t want to go to the doctor.

However, recently I heard of three men I know who weren’t feeling well and it turned out to be something serious—like operation type of serious. But that couldn’t be me, right?

Then one morning, I was coughing so hard that I started to throw up. That was enough. I looked up the closest urgent care that took our insurance and off I went.

A billion forms later, and after about an hour of waiting, I got in to see the PA (Physician’s Assistant). She was super nice and asked me a lot of questions, especially about the blood disorder I was diagnosed with several years ago (it’s genetic and can cause my blood to clot easier than most people.)

So, she wanted to do a test with a machine called an EKG. It tests the heart to make sure it’s working as it should. After having to shave part of my chest, she attached some wires up to me and ran the test.

A few minutes later, the PA came in, a serious look on her face. She said, “The results on your EKG are concerning. I’m not saying you’re having a heart attack, but you might be. We need to get you to the hospital.”

I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. Then again, I’d never had one, so I wasn’t sure how it felt. Still, I’m not a doctor and wasn’t going to argue.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll head to the hospital. It’s just down the road. Where should I go when I get there?”

The PA shook her head. “If you are having a heart attack, you shouldn’t drive. I’ve already called the ambulance. They are going to take you.”

Ambulance? I was going to be taken in an ambulance? Sure enough, the EMTs came and got me, put me on a gurney, and wheeled me out of the urgent care.

We went through the waiting room full of people. I wanted to say something silly to the people waiting like, “I only came in for a hangnail!” but I didn’t.

The EMTs got me in the ambulance and ran another EKG on me. The results? My heart looked fine. That was a good thing. Still, off to the hospital we went.

Me in the ambulance
I got checked in, mostly correct aside that they thought I was 10 years younger than I am (thank you!). After two more EKG tests, the heart attack was ruled out.

BUT, (and that’s a big but) the PA was concerned I might have a PE based on my family history and blood disorder. PE? As in Physical Education? I asked for clarification. She said PE meant Pulmonary Embolism. Yeah, that didn’t help much. I asked for clarification again. She said, “It means a clot in your lungs.”

Me in the hospital
So, off I go to get X-rays of my chest. They also want to do a CAT scan. As I’m getting prepped for the CAT scan, the lady asks me, “Are you allergic to any medications?” I give my standard answer of “None of which I’m aware.” For a bit of fun, I did say, “But I’m allergic to cats, so maybe this isn’t a good idea.” She rolled her eyes and got me set up.

For the CAT scan, they have to inject something into your bloodstream. The lady said I’d feel warm all over, get a weird taste in my mouth and it may feel like I’m urinating. Fun times!

Once the CAT scan was completed, I got wheeled back to my room. Only now, I’m starting to itch all over. The lady who did the CAT scan looks me over and says, “You’re having an allergic reaction to the (whatever it was called that they injected me with).” My response, “Hey, I told you I was allergic to cats.”

So, they pumped me full of another drug to stop the itching.

Roughly 45 minutes went by while they reviewed my results. Finally, the PA tells me, “Okay. Good news. No heart attack. No clot in your lungs. Your blood pressure was really high when you got here, but that could be from being told you were having a heart attack. Your blood pressure is fine now. We’re going to diagnose you with Acute Bronchitis.”

She gave me some prescriptions and sent me on my way.

In the end, what do I take from all of this? I’m delighted that I’m not dead. Yes, the medical bills aren’t going to be fun, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Because my dad died when he was only 33 (I was 6 at the time), I’ve grown up with the understanding that we are mortal and can die at really any time. There aren’t any guarantees. 

Also, because of my faith, I’m not really scared of dying as much as wanting to be on the Earth a while longer to see my kids grow up, spend more years with my beautiful wife, and writing more stories that are bouncing around in my head. 

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