i’m not giving you the finger on purpose, i swear! or, that time i got stitches in my middle finger

I have about 7 blog posts running through my head, and 7 other things on my to-do list, except I forgot to take my noon Concerta today and I’m tired, so instead, here’s the brief story of Finally I Had a Normal People Reason to Go to the Emergency Room. (You know, as opposed to all of the bullshit from 2013.)

Last weekend, I travelled to the Montreal Goalball Tournament with our guys from Team Toba. So, two weeks ago, in preparation, I decided I was going to make a Manitoba Goalball t-shirt. Coach swag and all that. So, I bought those stick-on vinyl letters and a can of fabric spray paint (the aim was to reverse-stencil the letters, if that makes sense. I’ll show the shirt later. Gotta be sequential here.)

Then I tried to cut the bottom out of a shoebox so I could use it to spray paint within. Except I didn’t even get the scissors into the cardboard, and instead they somehow sliced my middle finger. At first I thought it wasn’t that bad. I grabbed some Kleenex and started the whole apply-pressure-and-elevate thing. Then I went and found my mom and got her to dig the gauze from my backpack. And then I realized I was bleeding pretty good. So I kept the gauze on for 10 minutes and checked it—still bleeding. Then I repeated that 8 more times, because I’m brilliant. After sitting there for 90 minutes with my finger wrapped in gauze, pressure applied, elevated, and still bleeding (look, I checked the ER wait times at about 70 minutes…) and a few false-exciting-moments that it was going to stop bleeding, I got my mom to drive me to the close ER (which I had never previously been to for myself, but figured I could trust them for a normal people issue such as this).

Registration. Triage. Finger still bleeding quite significantly when the nurse took my taped on gauze off. Got asked if I had a clotting disorder at this point (still not sure if this is standard, and asked them to check on my hematology labs from 2013. The doc later said he couldn’t interpret them and my family doc said a couple days later there was nothing of note), and the nurse dumped saline all over my finger and then wrapped it up in a gauze pad, saying “This is bleeding a lot for such a fine cut”. By the time she was done with me I held up my finger, which had already bled through the dressing, and was like “Uhh, is this okay?”. I then got a giant thing wrapped around my finger including like an entire self-adhesive tensor, and was told I’d be seen in the minor treatment area for stitches or glue.

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A half hour or so later I got called to the back (aka not the minor treatment area). This was probably about 11 PM (I cut my finger at 7:20 PM if I recall correctly), and while a nurse and another nurse came in to do vitals and bring me two cups of apple juice (no snacks, just double juice—my mom purchased snacks), they finally informed the guy next to me with unexplained arm issues that the doctors wouldn’t be in to see us until after midnight shift change. I stuck my earphones in, texted with one hand, got a tetanus shot since mine was a bit out of date, and waited for 12:20 AM when I presumed the doctor would be in.

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(The post-tetanus shot/seriously my vaccines are out of date face.
Also, I just happened to be wearing this shirt. Fitting, no?) 

Eventually he saw guy with unexplained inability to move arm and sent him for some test, and then came in to investigate my finger. Somebody brought him the suture cart and he took off the dressing (still bleeding, by the way). Before he injected the freezing I asked if it was worse than an IV insertion and he said yes, but it wasn’t too bad (I mean, I could totally feel him giving me the stitches but when he asked if I wanted more freezing, I told him to just keep going because the freezing would hurt more than feeling the stitches going in). Eventually, he left me with a numb middle finger, three stitches and a significant blood stain on the sheet where my finger had been levitating for stitches. Classy all the way here. (Gotta keep up my trend.)

Oh, also he made me stick my injured middle finger through a hole in a sheet for the stitches, to which I said “I’ve always wanted to give a doctor the finger”. He and my mom weren’t as amused as I, and my people in the internet, were. That is why the internet people are my people.

So then I got to leave. I went home and promptly took a Naproxen (because I got a T3 after my fibroid surgery and then had no pain afterward, so why not try?) and went to sleep before the freezing totally wore off. 

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Pros of injuring your middle finger and needing to keep it bandaged for over a week: You can give anybody the finger and claim it is an accident. [Also, pros of any hand injury: no dishes.]

Cons of injuring your middle finger: Pretty much everything is MUCH more difficult. I kind of have a new appreciation for my middle finger for purposes other than giving the finger. Boots? Harder to put on. Signing every coin-toss and score sheet at the goalball tournament? Illegible. Writing anything by hand? Also illegible. Holding stuff? Yep, middle finger is important for that. Typing? Typing was part of the reason I got PowerFlex wrap to cover my bandage with—it looked prettier and made it a bit more bulky so I’d quit trying to type with it. Which was painful. Avoiding water? Yep, that’s fun, especially when the finger you can’t get wet is in the middle… Anyways, I’ll stop whining, but the middle finger is important for more than giving the finger.

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I got the stitches out after I got back from the Montreal/Ottawa adventure. (Manitoba Health wouldn’t pay the full cost of getting them out in Ottawa, since I was there on days 7-10 of “get your stitches out on days 7-10, and my Blue Cross travel insurance didn’t consider stitches removal an emergency. Hm.) My primary doc says it’s healing well, but to keep it covered. Still.

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My Little Pony/Cupcake/Minions/Curious George Band-Aids it is!

So, there’s my How Normal People Visit the ER story. It was very straight forward, as opposed to all the other visits. As for the box, my mom finished cutting it, and I resumed Project T-Shirt the next day… far away from the scissors.

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Shirt on the plane.

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Shirt at the Google Building in Montreal.

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Shirt wearing and pink wrapped bandaged finger in front of a Habs sign at the Bell Centre in Montreal. ‘Cause that’s how we do.

Closing thoughts: Be careful with scissors, friends. Even if you, like me, are 24, adult supervision/assistance may be required from a more adultier adult.

“and i’m stuck in this f**king rut . . .”: another hospital story.

Though music often offers me an unfailing sense of hope, while I ended the last post writing that way, I couldn’t feel it.

That post was my pacification for the time being–days in the making, but in not wanting to write about, yet again, spending another ten hours in the emergency room.

Wednesday night, I grabbed two of many permanent markers out of a new pack on my bedroom floor–not knowing how much I’d need the three words I wrote on my arm the next day. After talking with my primary care doctor’s assistant, based on a totally resting heart rate in the high 90s, we were told to go to “the nearest ER” (we chose the second closest). The meaning of these words on my arm just intensified a thousand times as I focused on them on yet another ride to the hospital.

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By the time I got to the ER at St. Boniface Hospital (a deviation from the last three ER visits, while not the closest hospital we got the okay given they have a significant cardiac problem, just in case), at triage my heart rate was above 150 [which is an improvement over 160 and 168 the last two times].  The triage people were also extremely thorough getting my history down. I was charted as having “hemodynamic compromise” (which is the big fancy medical term for the fact that I’d lost a lot of blood and my heart was having to work really hard to actually use what was left inside my body).  I got sent back to the waiting chairs for a total of five minutes, and then carted off to EKG in a transport chair (once again trying to convince them I could walk, and them refusing to let me). In reality, the only person who got into the ER ahead of me this time was a person who had been flagged for stroke protocol. So, really, that is never reassuring.

Following the EKG, they transported me to a treatment room, where the nurse tried exactly one time to get an IV started, failed, and called a nurse named Matt in to deal with me. Matt was awesome and managed to simultaneously hold my hand while jabbing me with needles. He got the IV in and did a blood draw. The doctor (aka Dr. Cool Shoes) came in at some point when Matt went off to find something, and when I asked if I could go home, he said no ;).  While I was talking to Dr. Cool Shoes, Matt finished stabbing needles into me [at least I was distracted], and they sent a sample off to the lab to check my hemoglobin, then got me hooked up to a bag of fluids in the interim.

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Eventually Dr. Cool Shoes returned after what felt like forever [the other hospital is smaller and their lab is way quicker].  He reported that my hemoglobin was down to 64, informed me that I must have been bleeding a lot [thanks for informing me–this is exactly why I did not trust the gynaecologist’s assistant telling me that I was having a “normal” withdrawal bleed from the hormone pills–my hemoglobin on Monday had been 83–fortunately, upping the pills calmed the bleeding down a lot] and that they were moving me to the back for another blood transfusion. Also at this point, Dr. Cool Shoes allowed me to put my t-shirt back on, so I was much happier than I was in the gown (I’ve noticed that once one person frees you from the gown, nobody else asks any questions about your lack of gown).

During these ten hours in the ER, I artfully mastered escaping to the bathroom while the IV was unhooked (which combined with that I was no longer wearing the gown that was three sizes too big for me, made this so much more efficient–the fact that the IV pump was attached to the bed and not to a pole also probably helped with this. [I’m also really low maintenance, considering I got unhooked after the first unit of blood, and the nurse told me “Just stop by the nurses station on your way to the bathroom and I’ll flush your IV”. Except after that they proceeded to make me wait a freaking hour for my next unit of blood. I get it, they were low on staff and had to put a PICC into a guy with a spinal cord injury who came in with a UTI, but I mean . . . an hour?)

At this point, I watched the Dear Jack documentary, because that’s all I do in the ER of course (well that and post pictures on Facebook).

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They actually dumped the two units of blood into me each over an hour, so the transfusion part didn’t take as long as it has previously (they did my last transfusion really quickly, too). Had I not waited for an hour between and over an hour for my labs at the end, I would have been out of there in way less than the ten hours I spent there.

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My earphones barely ever leave my ears–spent a lot of time listening to I Swear This Place is Haunted by A Skylit Drive this time.

This is after unit 1, on my long wait. Just with one unit of blood on board and the fluids, you can see that my lips are pinker than in picture 1.

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Fun fact: KVO on an IV means that the bulk of the stuff is in, but it sends you teeny doses of whatever is still in there, like saline, just to keep the vein open–stands for Keep Vein Open.

When the second unit was done, my heart rate was down to 120. Unlike the other hospital, apparently these people didn’t seem too concerned about this because they let me go home anyways–they gave me the results of the blood work (hemoglobin back to 86) and told me the doctor said I could leave without checking again (I didn’t realize this until I was in the car on the way home, but whatever, I wanted to be out of there.

The last two transfusions have been flawless. Third time’s the charm–I woke up the next morning feeling nauseous and with a headache, took an Advil, and went back to sleep. Then I woke up again feeling more nauseous, and puked. The nausea lasted a few hours, but I didn’t end up throwing up again which was good. Concerned that my heart rate went up again and I might be having some sort of transfusion reaction, my mom and I called the nurses at HealthLinks. Gail was awesome, and basically they triaged me over the phone. With a couple holds for Gail to talk to her supervisors about what to advise me to do, she said I could stay home but if anything changed I needed to call them back and they’d re-assess me over the phone. My heart rate was only a little high, so I likely would have had a long wait if I had to return to the ER anyways according to Gail.  By early afternoon, I’d managed to eat some pizza [totally curative!] and by the evening I was feeling a lot better.

Saturday was a really hard day for other reasons. We went out to the cabin, which I thought would distract me and be a good thing. Instead, I think I finally ended up feeling all of the things I’ve just been surfing past in the last five months. I spent five hours having some sort of breakdown and crying for reasons I couldn’t even figure out. I can’t even say I felt any better afterwards, but I totally could not calm myself down. (My buddy Steve, who seriously just knows exactly how to help me, was telekinetically sending me Ativan and hugs. Which made me laugh, but I think nonexistent Ativan worked ;)).

It was a really shitty afternoon. In the midst of it, I tweeted “I’ve been trying to be okay for five months, and all the effing not okay caught up with me.”

And all of this, especially the words from my friend C, meant so much:

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I’m emotional and sure as hell irrational . . .

emotional breakdown, brian strean

Yesterday was a good day. I shared my doctors appointment game plan for today with Steve, and had a pretty chill–but normal–day. My heart rate is still fluctuating, which is driving me bonkers [who the hell wants to go from 80 beats a minute–which is a bit higher than my Scientific Principles of Fitness and Conditioning lab normal–to like, 140, and then back to 100, and then surely back down to like 85 just to make me crazy].

Today was d-day. I had every intention to rip my doctor to pieces. And then didn’t. My doctor was SUPER apologetic and I didn’t even have to give her shit like I intended [#1 on my list read: Why the fuck was I not contacted about my ultrasound results? How is this acceptable?]. I left “fuck” out. She just apologized multiple times and said “You’re right, it’s not acceptable, I’m sorry.” And she sounded like she felt really bad, considering the answer to “How are you?” was “I’d be a lot better if I hadn’t ended up in the ER again on Thursday.” Because after three really good weeks and another half of a decent week, it’s really hard to accept not okay again.

Turns out, as we predicted MONTHS ago, I have a small fibroid or a polyp having a party in my uterus. Hello, not okay, the only thing that is allowed to grow in there is maybe a baby like YEARS down the road. So, because things are controlled on the hormone pills, we’re sticking with this dose for the time being, and I have to get in touch with my gyn doctor about scheduling surgery to get that thing out of me [the growing thing, not the whole organ, of course]. And then hopefully that stops this whole bit where my uterus tries to kill me three months in a row.

Otherwise, we briefly discussed the lasting post-transfusion weirdness going on in my body, i.e. how my heart rate keeps fluctuating for no reason. I’m really not too far out from this transfusion, and considering I’ve had three of those in as many months, it’s not surprising that eventually it would be a harder recovery. For example, Steve told me on Friday when I wasn’t feeling well that GI issues aren’t uncommon post transfusion–ANTIBODIES! Also he pointed out that I’ve at this point had my body’s whole blood volume replaced by donor blood. Can you say holy shit? Also THANKFUL.

So, there’s a road ahead of me. But hopefully it leads to resolution and better health. Much better.

Once again, so many thank yous. To my blood donors–to all blood donors. To the staff at St. Boniface Hospital, including Dr. Cool Shoes (whose name I unfortunately did not note); to Matt, Student Nurse Danielle, and the other nurses who took care of me. To my parents for dealing with me wrecking their holidays, and the rest of my family for dealing with all my shit. To Steve who dealt with my 20 e-mails from a country away [including “should I steal this stethoscope?” “It’s cheap, not worth it.”] and totally just knowing the right things to say; to everybody who put up with my ridiculous texts. To my coworkers for once again having to deal with me screwing up the schedule. To every single person who has taken the time to send some love via Facebook in one way or another. And . . . to everybody who has been a part of this journey. My brain doesn’t work to note every single person who has made an impact, but if you’ve been around . . . you have.

“i just can’t predict the weather past the storm”: another hospital story

can you tell me how this story ends? […]

and i feel like i’m a battle tank, but there’s peace for every pound of strength /  i’m waiting for the enemy, while she plugs my machines back in…

[…] i’d be lying if I said this was my plan […] / see I’m trying but I just don’t understand why i can’t predict the weather past the storm.

diane the skyscraper, jack’s mannequin

This is not the story I planned.

Unlike last time I ended up in the emergency room, I am struggling to make sense of this, or find any sort of silver linings in the situation. This time, through tachycardia, hemoglobin drops and another blood transfusion, I cannot make any sense of it at all. But, as there always is, there is hope.

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After Friday’s double-stick blood work, which measured a pretty good hemoglobin level.

I was supposed to get on a plane to California on Saturday morning. Friday night, knowing that things were definitely not right with my body, despite a freshly drawn hemoglobin of a beautiful 108, my mom and I cancelled my flight to San Francisco (with a lot of tears), and I was absolutely crushed. As I mentioned in part 1 of this saga, we know the root of the problem (super messed up periods–also if you are not into a bit of TMI, stop reading now) but not the cause of it. The first try to fix it, Provera, has only made things worse (this is where I should mention that I tried to get in touch with my gynaecologist last week because things were okay and I just wanted some direction. The issue was, he was not available all week, thus I had to solve problems myself. See also: not a doctor.]

I was experiencing significant tachycardia (high heart rate) on Saturday but I really didn’t realize how bad it actually was until I checked into the ER early that afternoon. My mom parked the car, I got out and walked into the ER (climbing a hill on the way). Vitals were done, bracelet placed on my arm, and the triage nurse said “Can I get a wheelchair out here?” My heart rate was 168 (and I tried to convince them I could walk), and I was promptly taken to the back, where blood was drawn, an EKG was done.

I spent the next 8 hours hooked up to telemetry (which meant my heart rate and oxygen saturation were measured continuously, and my blood pressure was automatically taken at regular intervals, which frequently made me jump). We did a couple walk tests around the ER to see how my heart reacted early on and to catch some arrythmias (fun), so basically things were going all over the place. Between my blood work at 9:30 AM on Friday in the outpatient hematology clinic, and Saturday afternoon, my hemoglobin had dropped from 108 to 88. Any hope of rescheduling my flight was ripped out of my hands as soon as I set foot in the ER.

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When the doctor finally came in (“Nobody’s seen her yet?! The chart says ‘Treatment in progress’!”), she ordered fluids to get my heart rate down, and an IV was started (where they gave me a wicked bruise).

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(Wouldn’t be an ER visit without giving the camera the finger, yeah?)

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Still looking pretty pink! By about 10:30 PM, my heart rate was down to 92 at rest, and they let me leave.

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Sunday morning, things had reverted to how they had been. My heart rate was still way too high at rest, and after procrastinating the inevitable a lot, a reading of 137 prompted a return to the ER. On the way there, I had this really weird feeling that my body was really hot, when apparently it wasn’t hot in the car–my mom dropped me off at the door to the ER, where I walked inside, and immediately walked into the bathroom and puked (I felt totally fine after that, so I am not sure what the deal was). My heart rate at triage was 160, and while they didn’t make me get into the chair this time, I got pulled from the waiting room into a treatment room really quickly. The electrodes from the day before were still stuck all over my chest and stomach, so I saved them some time and they hooked me back up.

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I was quickly hooked back up for another EKG with all the sticky things still securely in place, but they didn’t make me do any more walk tests. My heart rate spiked up a bit whenever I walked to the bathroom, but it came down pretty quickly.

The ER doctor on Sunday was a lot more conservative in his treatment, and a lot more thorough in his assessment. I was actually only monitored and not treated in the 6ish hours I spent in the ER. My hemoglobin was 79, so I was on the verge of being okay. I was given the option for transfusion or to simply go home without treatment. Considering I was still tachycardic and we had not yet addressed the cause of the hemoglobin drops in treatment, I opted to do the transfusion, however, I was also given the option whether to stay overnight or return in the morning to do the transfusion either in hematology/oncology or in the ER, wherever they had space. No decision needed, I opted to return home and to sleep in my own bed.  The doctor gave me the pros and cons, and it was a really hard choice to decide to repeat the transfusion. However, the ER doctor who treated me on Saturday night came in to see me when she saw I was back in, and she and the nurse who discharged me said that I’d made a good choice.

I went home for the night, peeled all of the electrodes off my body [the ones on my chest were easy to peel off, the ones on my tummy hurt]. Seriously, the amount of adhesive that pulls up when these things are removed is wild.

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Monday morning, I returned to the ER to check in for my transfusion. After a long wait, a volunteer kept asking the desk where I was going and when (sidebar: hot male nurse at triage. Bonus!), and they eventually got a move on.

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I ended up being transfused in the back of the ER with an awesome nurse named Alexa taking care of me. Alexa was an IV-inserting rockstar, and not only did she get it in on the first shot, it barely hurt worse than a blood draw. New favourite nurse EVER. She, like the ER doctor and the nurse the night before, agreed that I’d made the right choice about the transfusion.

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Four days later, Alexa’s insertion left very little bruising–check out this bruise from Saturday–a failed insertion attempt.

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The transfusion…

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(During these visits to the ER, I’ve learned to fix a bulk of my own alarms. Alexa wasn’t too impressed when I got tired of the IV beeping after the first unit and silenced the alarm :]. I was also fixing my own alarms whenever the SAT probe stopped reading on Saturday and Sunday by changing fingers, and I’ve mastered fixing occlusions. Oh, and no Lasix this time!)

During the transfusion, the nurse who triaged me on Saturday found me and checked in–she had been trying to figure out what happened to me [because “it’s not very often you see someone in their twenties with a heart rate that high!”], which was so sweet. All went smoothly with the transfusion, until the pump signalled the end of the second unit. Alexa came to check the IV . . . and the bag was still half full of blood! I’d been watching the minutes count down on the monitor, and I was so frustrated when she told me that my transfusion wasn’t actually over! She had no idea why the infusion stopped, but she got the remainder into me in record time (I had my celebratory cupcake too early, which was a downer!). One final blood draw, and I got to go home [via Starbucks, which is a thing–like wearing that t-shirt during–that I do following transfusions, apparently).

Check out these vitals (note that my blood pressure didn’t fluctuate much from the other days, but my heart rate is much lower. Yay for being young?)

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I’ve been running since a long time / I’ve been hiding from the truth / I been battered, been broken, been buried now and death proof / and i’ve been known to take a big chance / but i can’t waste another shot at redemption, no / i’m ready, don’t let me go passing through the wrong hands.

my confidence is in crisis mode / your fingertips, well they know the code / release me / take another piece of me and there won’t be another left / come on release me / take another piece of me and there won’t be another left unless you let go.

i’ve been waiting for the sun to shine / another winter ends / the winter’s starting over / we met beside a landmine waiting for the wind to blow / and i’m in trouble with these friends of mine / change was in my blood, i lost my sense of direction / i dragged us to the bright light / life was like a tv show.

[…] i’ll be nothing but sand falling down / through your fingers to the ground below. / i’ve been running, i’ve been running, i’ve been running such a long time.

release me, jack’s mannequin

When I thought it was all over, Sunday evening I experienced yet another bad bleed [sure, right after we put all that new blood in!]. My mom called the 24-hour answering service and my gynaecologist, who was on call, called right back. If the bleed lasted more than two hours, I needed to go to a different ER, if it subsided, he would see me the next day. Well, my mom didn’t listen to me OR the doctor, and carted me back off to the ER of the big downtown hospital, which was packed, smelled like booze, and was going to be an extremely long wait. Very soon after we got there, the bleed subsided, and after triage my heart rate was “only” 101. I managed to convince my mom to let us leave–it would have been, I am sure, 5-8 hours before I entered the treatment area, and I figured I was better off laying down where my heart rate probably wouldn’t be in the triple-digits.

I need to say RIGHT NOW, that my gynaecologist is friggen AWESOME. He walked in yesterday afternoon and said “Are you still bleeding to death? We need to get you fixed!” We had been trying to get this to subside without using combined hormone pills [oral contraceptives], because of my retinopathy, but at this point we have no choice–they are safe medications but not without risks. Bleeding to death, however, I suppose is also a pretty significant precursor to actual death, so that was our first step of the day.  After he examined me, he didn’t think there was anything abnormal, so the good news is that the hormone pills should get things re-balanced and it’s “just” a hormone imbalance causing all this. Then he did a minor, in-office surgical procedure that will hopefully alongside the pills lessen [and stop] the bleeding. I think initially he didn’t think I was going to get through the in-office aspect of it, because I was really shaky and kept tensing up, because he said “Okay, we’re going to try this, but I might have to get you in for emergency surgery tonight. Have you eaten anything today?” [I was like “Fuck, so now it gets serious? Have I not just been in and out of the ER all weekend?]. We kept going, though, he talked me through it really well, and apparently I did a lot better than most women do (and thank God, didn’t have to set foot in another emergency room).  My gyn is also super funny, so that made the unpleasant experience significantly better (“I had a hundred year old lady in here awhile ago! I was like, ‘If I’m a hundred, I don’t CARE if anything is wrong with me!'”). I also confessed that I’d screwed around with the Provera the week prior, because he wasn’t there to advise me–he was SO good about it–“Well, I wasn’t here and how were YOU supposed to know? It’s okay, we’ll get you fixed!”  Seriously, this guy might be my new favourite doctor.

So, it could be a bumpy road ahead, but hopefully we are on the right track to a resolution.

I fought  a war to walk a gang plank / into a life I left behind . . .

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I need to extend a huge thank you to the people who took care of me the last few days. I can in no way provide a comprehensive [or accurate] list of all of the ER staff who took care of me on the various steps in this journey–however, among them are “Dr. Dan”, Dr. Derksen, Susan – RN and Alexa – RN (Specialty Nurse – Critical Care).

An extended thank-you to Dr. Campbell from May’s ER stay, who referred me to hematology to ensure we are getting a comprehensive look at what may be going on in my body; as well as to all of the amazing Emergency Department staff at Seven Oaks Hospital who played a role in my care whose names I cannot recall amongst the chaos.

Thank you also, of course, to my friends near and far–especially Steve and Danielle for being unwavering supports–and to my family.

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The biggest thank you I have to extend, though, is the people who volunteer to donate blood. I have been blessed by this gift twice in five weeks, and to selflessly give a component of your own body to help someone you do not even know is extremely generous. These situations come with certain ironies, and this time, the irony is that it is National Blood Donors Week . . . and I could not be more thankful for people who make the choice . . . to give life.

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