Welcome back to the work week. I hope you had a good Memorial Day weekend.
I did. Drank some beers, grilled for I think six consecutive meals at one point, mowed the lawn, ran 10 miles in two days, sat in front of a few bonfires, watched a terrific high school baseball game between O’Gorman and Roosevelt on Saturday, saw Matt Capps blow and secure a save on consecutive days.
I also made a visit to the Emergency Room on Sunday, though I should stipulate what many of you probably already know. Any unannounced visit to the hospital is apparently a trip to “The Emergency Room”. I’d been sitting on the bed for an hour before I was told that’s where I was. Which seemed very silly.
Anyway, to back up a little bit.
I’ve always had minor issues with allergies. I’m not really allergic to anything that I know of – foods, plants, animals, etc., though I can’t wear jewelry because my skin turns green underneath it (literally, green, it’s kind of amazing to see), and every now and then will have a strange reaction to certain things.
A couple years ago I was at the gym when I wiped my face off with a towel and immediately could tell that something was wrong with my face, as my lip swelled up quickly. By the time I got home from the gym (about a 3-mile drive), my eyes were swollen shut, my lip looked like I’d insulted Muhammad Ali’s mother and I could scarcely talk. Also, I itched pretty much all over.
I called my brother and asked him to rush over with allergy medicine, and when I answered the door he told me I looked like Will Smith in ‘Hitch’. I’ve never seen that movie, but I googled it and he was right.
Ever since then, I always know that if I feel my lower lip swelling up, to take something immediately, because the allergy has arrived.
So Sunday evening I was more than a little distressed when I felt a lump begin to form in my bottom lip.
My cousin Ross had invited me, the lady friend and some other friends over for Juicy Lucy’s (if you have to ask you don’t deserve to know), and I was having a nice time. Ross is an aspiring comedian (and not in the ‘smart-alecky sportswriter who tells jokes on twitter’ kind of way, but in the ‘gets up on stage for 30 minutes in front of people’ kind of way — ask him to tell you his joke about eating
ten nine pounds of Taco Bell as the world is ending) so it’s always a good time when we get together for some laughs, especially when there’s beer and food involved.
When I got to Ross’s place the rain that came Sunday evening had not yet hit, but it was apparent that it was close. Luckily Ross has a protective awning that spreads across his driveway, so we moved under the roof and watched the rain.
But that rain obviously kicked up something that didn’t agree with me, because not only did my lip swell up, but so did my stomach and cheeks. My hands itched and I couldn’t breathe. I mean, like, I really couldn’t breathe. I took 50mg of Benadryl, and tried to get up and walk around but it only got worse. After sadly excusing ourselves I headed home (even though Ross lives literally one block away from Sanford Hospital), hoping that with the help of a shower the drugs would kick in and return my face and expanding waistline to their normal size.
But that didn’t happen. And the thought of trying to go to bed while not being able to breathe was just enough to scare me into considering a trip to the hospital (especially since the night before I watched one of my favorite movies, SLC Punk, and had the unexpected overnight death of Heroin Bob fresh in my mind).
The last time I was at the hospital was when I was 18. I had to get some warts removed (from my finger and side of my head, thank you). I was still living at home then, so my mom took me.
I realized as I stood in the shower and contemplated a trip to Sanford that I didn’t really know how to ‘go to the hospital’. Like, where do you park? Where do you go? Which door is the front door? Do you have to call first? Maybe I should just skip it.
I asked the lady friend what she thought, and, well, you can guess how that went. So into the passenger seat I go, and back to the hospital we just drove past an hour earlier. It was by now about 10:00 p.m.
Here’s what happens in case you don’t know.
You walk in the front door, and, on Sunday night at least, there’s just a security guard sitting at the front desk. We told him the deal and he directed us to an elevator that would take us to Emergency Care.
Once there, another guy at a desk. We told him the deal, and he asked for my last name and DOB and somehow had me in their system (scary). He gave me this cool wrist band and directed us to sit on a couch to wait for who I assumed would be the nurse.
Being that it was Memorial Day weekend, I half expected the ER to be busy, even at 10:00 on Sunday night. I envisioned women with fish hooks in their eyes or a drunk guy who fell asleep next to the fire and had a beer bottle welded to his hand, but we were pretty much the only ones there.
So within minutes a nice woman came and got us. She led me to your standard hospital room and asked me to take off my shirt and put on one of those stupid gowns (seriously?), but she wasn’t the nurse. She gave me the remote for the TV, and I turned on the Braves/Nationals game while I waited. Within minutes a male nurse named Gary came in and took my blood pressure, which was uncomfortable, not because it was painful or anything, but because the thing gets so tight on your arm you can feel the blood pumping through your arm and I’m sorry but that’s totally gross. The pressure released and he said, ‘Did it get tight, I didn’t get a reading?’ Yeah, it got tight, I said, but no, we had to do it again. Gross the second time, too. Oh, and 130/75 if you’re keeping score (Good? Bad?….I’m the guy with the gun? Sorry…)
The guy asked me all the questions about what medications I’m on (none), what allergies I have (Keflex, which my mom made me memorize when I was very young, even though I don’t know what it is), and what other symptoms I might have had.
He jotted some things into a computer, then left. Then an attractive young girl came in with a clipboard and asked me a bunch of questions that basically came down to ‘Do you have insurance/how are you going to pay for this?’
She left, and said the doctor would be in soon. I had assumed Gary the nurse would suffice, especially on a holiday weekend, but apparently not.
And it took a long time for the doctor to come in (surprise!). After about 20 minutes a Dr. Beth came in. She was very nice, and apologized for the wait, even though I suspect it was standard (are they really busy, or do they just do that to everyone? I know I’m not the first person to ask that question).
She asked me all of the exact same questions that Gary the Nurse asked, plus one more.
‘Did you get diarrhea?’
No, I didn’t.
She agreed with my suspicion that the rain had magnified something that was too much for my system to handle, and suggested a steroid shot.
Now. I spent most of my young life having an enormous fear of needles, stemming from the tetanus shot I was administered before Kindergarten at age five. I screamed and cried like a baby that day, and never got over the fear. Then when I was 18, I had to get two shots – a second tetanus shot and a painkilling shot right into my forehead so the doctor could remove the aforementioned warts.
As an 18-year-old I was resigned to be tough and take the shots like a man, but I was still very nervous. But to my surprise and relief, neither shot was painful at all (well the one to the forehead wasn’t great, but it felt mostly like picking a scab that wasn’t ready to be picked).
So this time, at age 32, I wasn’t afraid of a shot at all. And, as a weight-lifter I have to admit I was kind of intrigued by the idea of a steroid shot (I briefly entertained the thought of getting in a few sets on the bench as soon as I got home), even though I have no idea what they really mean by ‘steroid shot’.
So the doctor left, and after another 15-20 minutes a young nurse came in to administer the shot. She seemed nervous, which I didn’t like. My guess is she doesn’t like needles any more than I do. I made sure not to look at the actual needle just in case, but still wasn’t worried.
The nurse applied the alcohol rub or whatever to sterilize my left shoulder, then stuck in the needle.
And it hurt. A lot. The puncture, yes, but also the drugs seeping into my arm. Seriously, it was gross. I could feel my arm bubbling and pulsating, and a dull, throbbing pain made it hard to sit still. It felt like if someone pinched you really hard, but then just kept squeezing, harder and harder, twisting and twisting, never letting go, to where eventually you’re like, ‘KNOCK THAT OFF, THAT REALLY HURTS!’
I didn’t react much physically, but I did say to the nurse, ‘That hurt way more than I expected it to.’ That seemed to hurt her feelings. She apologized. ‘At least it’s not bleeding,’ she offered.
The lady friend (who, through various sports related injuries during her life has had God knows how many enormous needles stuck into her and no doubt thinks I’m a giant wuss now), informed me that she expected the shot to hurt because, ‘It was a pretty big needle’. Boy am I glad I didn’t catch a glimpse of it beforehand.
Luckily the pain in my arm didn’t last more than a few minutes. Bryce Harper hit a home run for the Nationals, which I was happy to see as it happened. The doctor came back in, observed that the swelling in my lip had already begun to subside, and said it was time to ‘bust me outta there’.
And then left. Which was confusing.
Was I supposed to leave? Go back to the front desk? Go find a nurse? Talk to one of the people wandering around the floor? I went to the bathroom and hoped someone would say something to me, but no one did.
So to be safe I just sat back on the bed and opened the curtain so at least people could see I was still in there. And then, yet another nurse (didn’t catch this lady’s name) came in with a couple sheets of paper that had my symptoms on it (Angioedema of the lips, it said, which sounds double gross), and a play-by-play of how they’d treated it, though it didn’t say the name of whatever it was they shot into my arm (also that’s six people I went through from beginning to end, not counting the security guard). She instructed me to take 25-50mg of Benadryl every six hours for the next two days (which I realize as I write this I have forgotten to do), but didn’t provide any.
Then she went to leave. To be sure, I asked her, ‘Can I leave now?’, and she said yes.
It was a little before midnight.
In hindsight, I think I would’ve been OK if I’d waited another couple of hours before going to the hospital, which I kept saying over and over to the lady friend. She assured me that it’s better to be safe than sorry, of course, which is probably true, especially since I had trouble breathing, something I’d never dealt with before.
And at least now I kind of know how the hospital thing works if I ever have to go back, either for myself or to take someone else.
And the next time my lip starts to swell up, no matter where I am, I’m getting the hell out of there.