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.

“when i think i’m letting go i find my body it’s still burning . . .”

an emergency! / hence the chance to emerge / i’m a seed on the verge / of becoming a tree . . .

[…] most eyes will see a mess / but good things coalesce / when yeasayers can see.

avalanche, sons of the sea

August was apparently too good for a repeat.  Out of the last seven months, I’ve gotten one good one. One normal, healthy one.

Disclaimer: If you don’t like lady bits, or blood, or hospitals, feel free to stop reading right now.  Regulars over here know I’m transparent, and I think this is the epitome of that.  Also, hi family, I swear a fair amount in this post.

At the end of August, my hemoglobin was a beautiful 123. Normal. I’d started having some light spotting after six consecutive weeks on the hormone pills, which my doctor and I agreed was normal–he said if it got any heavier to take a three day break to allow my body to bleed, and then continue, otherwise finish the pack and take a few days off before starting again. He agreed things were going well–he didn’t think the small fibroid we’d discovered via ultrasound in June [and they had failed to tell me about until after my transfusion in July] needed to be removed, and he–at the last minute before I could question why–freed me for six months and slipped into another room.  I left without booking a follow-up appointment. I stayed on the pills. I went on with my life.

A couple weeks later, despite being on the pills, I started experiencing intermittent bleeds that were quite heavy. Most were short lived, some were not. Once again, the advice from my gynaecologist was the same: take a 2-3 day break from the pills, go back on twice a day. Fine. Let’s do this. I had taken my morning dose already, so I skipped the afternoon dose on Thursday, with the intent to go back on Sunday.

By Saturday, I knew things were not passable for “okay” anymore. I also knew that Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. But, I’m also unfortunately enough of an ER veteran at present . . . to know that I was not sick enough to go in and receive prompt treatment. I go to the ER when I am really sick, I do not go there any time before I absolutely have to. My heart rate was high [from anemia/losing blood volume], but I didn’t know how bad my lab values were. I opted to, for the first time, go to Urgent Care. I figured that if nothing else they would refuse to treat me and send me to the ER, or give me some concrete numbers to go off of.

I arrived at Urgent Care with a letter of introduction in my hand explaining my medical history [best choice ever to make that] and a heart rate of 155. I got sent to the back immediately where they ran an EKG, They drew blood. The doctor loved my intro letter, and wandered off with it somewhere.  They hooked me up to monitors and we waited for my labs to come back. Verdict: Hemoglobin of 84–a bit low but nothing dangerous in my mind–and my heart rate lowered significantly at rest and wasn’t sucky enough to visit the ER–the 155 was higher than anticipated, but it did go down once I was laying down. I was sent home with a plan: return in 24 hours for blood work OR if I had even a single episode of bad bleeding, go straight to the emergency room. Due to the past experience with recommendations to go to Health Sciences Centre [my perception: scarytown], we discussed that option with the doctor, who assured us that either HSC or St. Boniface Hospital were good choices–which made me a lot more settled as I am extremely avoidant of HSC.

Sunday

The next morning, that piece of advice proved well. I hadn’t had a good night with regard to the bleeding, but it wasn’t [to me] severe enough to go to the ER in itself. However, my heart rate had not improved. I gave in and said “Let’s go”, and grabbed my already packed bag, intro letter and health card, and showed up at St. Boniface Hospital by 11:30 AM.  I waited in the line for triage for very little time–some very smart person chose to triage the triage line. When I go into the ER, I never really look sick [and I’m always too calm]. As the nurse goes down the triage line, I can see the girl beside me giving me this “you don’t look sick” type look. When the nurse gets to her, she says “Oh, I have a really bad head cold.” The nurse takes a step to me, I tell her my name and respond “I’m having severe vaginal bleeding and tachycardia.”  I’m not even sure what girl beside me thought [or understood] of that, but I know she must have been pissed off when the nurse immediately pointed me the open triage desk!  Once again, with a heart rate of 155, they immediately walked me to the back.

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I got lucky: the ER doctor that shift was the Emergency Department Director at St. B.  Fondly nickanmed “Dr. Business” at that time, he came in quickly and I gave him the lowdown: I’ve had three blood transfusions since May totalling seven units, this is what’s going on, this is why. He, being Dr. Business, immediately called in the gynaecology resident.  IV inserted, blood drawn, EKG done, monitors hooked up, IV fluids rolling in. Within an hour of arriving, I’d been transferred to a more private treatment room, where Dr. Business was too impatient to wait for gynae and opted to call in a nurse and do a pelvic exam himself [for the record, he needed a lot more practice, and I suppose it is fortunate that he got a round of practice on this girl with a decent pain tolerance–granted, I at this point was getting so sick of being in and out of the ER and the inability to live my life that we definitely asked if more immediate surgery was an option–which he did not believe it was].  Within another hour, the gynaecology resident had arrived.

Seriously, I loved this woman from the moment I met her–before I knew how instrumental her role in my care would be. She introduced herself as Stephanie, we did a brief history, we talked smartphones, and she did another exam [which was much less painful than the one an hour before]. She took over from there, got me moved into observation in the back while she figured out a plan of attack.  She agreed that immediate surgery wasn’t going to happen, and I finally had to accept that.

My hemoglobin had only dropped a small amount at that point from the day previous. It was still 82, but because of the bleeding [I was on the pill break at this point to pacify everybody, but the bleeds were still intermittent], it was an option to transfuse if I wanted to. She also repeatedly made the point that “Yes, you do need to take pill breaks, but WE need to support you through them.” I could have hugged her. We together decided to do another transfusion because of the unpredictablity of the bleeds to give me some wiggle room, but she also started me on tranexamic acid to reduce the bleeding, and upped my pills to 3 a day for two days.  I was feeling pretty sick so she ordered some anti-nausea meds [which then took me an hour to get since I didn’t opt in when the nurse offered them and then he went on a break ;). Had I known they would have had to put an extra IV in to shoot the good drugs into me and were just going to give me Gravol, I would have sent my mom down to the pharmacy and not waited an hour–no way was I letting them put a second IV in.

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I got released: Happy I had some fresh blood on board so I’d be feeling better and my heart rate would gradually come back to normal. I was hopeful that the new medication would, after a few days, prove to make a difference and I knew I just had to tough it out until then.

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Monday

Monday was a rough day.  I was really emotionally screwed up and–like the previous Thursday–simply could not cope with anything. I felt sick from the transfusions. The bleeding was worse but not terrible, and by late afternoon, I actually did feel some hope that the pills were working as I read the tranexamic acid worked quickly as I had a few hours of reprieve from how shitty things had been earlier.

11:00 PM rolled round. It was like a switch flipped. I was bleeding much, much worse than I ever had [I pretty much literally couldn’t leave the bathroom].  I told my mom we needed to go back to the ER, and by 11:30 we were in there–I went straight from the car to the bathroom to temporarily deal with the bleeding, then proceeded to triage.

Winnipeg-20130924-00563.jpgTriage was probably among the worst experiences of my life at that point. I’m not feeling good, I’m hemmorhaging worse than I ever have in this disaster, and when i get called up to triage, I get registered, but there is no triage nurse there! I waited, I think, probably 10 or 15 minutes for one to appear, and in the meantime had to listen to some healthcare aide or something fucking order food behind the triage desk! The nurse was nowhere in sight, and I felt like absolute shit. It was kind of a sign of things to come, unfortunately.  Though I couldn’t reach the machines to get any readings, I finally put the saturation/heart rate probe on my own finger, wrapped the blood pressure cuff around my arm, and stared at the thermometer knowing that I didn’t know how to put the sterile thing on it [and knowing I couldn’t reach it].  That FINALLY got the nurses’ attention who sat down and pressed the buttons on the machines, stuck the thermometer in my mouth and went over my intro letter.

My heart rate was an all-time-high for me of 169 beats per minute [they charted me at 170]. They led me back into a gynae treatment room, where I immediately proceeded to the bathroom, puked, and fucking got blood absolutely everywhere–despite the fact that I was wearing two feminine products meant for heavy bleeding, everything was already less than useful despite changing them a half hour earlier when I’d arrived at the hospital. I went into the room to put the gown on as I made my mom rifle through the cupboards for the “fancy hospital underwear” [as Steph the Awesome Resident had jokingly called it on Sunday] and dug through my stuff for a new pad because really, I didn’t give a shit if I bled all over the hospital’s stuff [by the end of this process, the floor of my room was quite unsightly as well].

Tuesday

The nurse eventually came in and did vitals, put an IV in and drew blood. Then, I am not even joking, they proceeded to not do a single effing thing for the rest of the night. I requested nausea medicine and painkillers at about 4 AM which the doctor I’d seen briefly said they would chart for me–I got a shot of Gravol in my IV, but somehow the pain meds didn’t go through–I fell asleep for an hour or so thanks to the Gravol, and woke up a bit after 7 to my mom talking stupid loud on the phone.

I went to the bathroom and felt a bit dizzy, but it wasn’t even as if the nurses were in there asking me how I was doing or checking vitals, so I didn’t report on it.

Around 9, I went to the bathroom again. And this, is where all hell broke loose.

I felt fine getting up out of bed. I felt fine walking to the bathroom.  I peed, and evidently my uterus hated this as I once again lost a ridiculous amount of blood. I started feeling dizzy, but was still extremely coherent. You’re okay. You just have to get back to E5. It’s not far.

I got to the door. I fell to the ground.

That was weird. Just need to get back to bed.

I stood up. I fell down again.

At that exact point I guess they determined I’d been gone too long. The nurse opened the door, and said “She fell in the bathroom, I need a stretcher over here.”

She helped me up and onto the stretcher. I have the bruise on my upper arm to prove it. “Which way do I need to lay down?

“She’s diaphoretic and tachypneic,” [translaton: sweating and breathing rapidly—I didn’t at the time know what tachypenia was, I was able to recall the meaning of diaphoretic which proves that my body hated me but my brain still worked] “toilet is full of blood, we need to get her into resuscitation.”

“She needs her glasses.” [I knew things didn’t look right, but in all of that, I actually hadn’t noticed that my glasses had fallen off my face, I just thought my eyes were messed up. Apparently though i was coherent, I looked a lot less confused after they gave me my glasses back, considering my eyes are super bad].

Seriously aside from the glasses, coherent? That was me. “Can you grab my bag from the floor, please?  Does my mom know where I am?

I got into resuscitation. Immediately they were pulling at my gown sticking electrodes all over me and running an EKG, firing up the monitors. IV fluids began rapidly, and they dumped them in quick. “We need gynae in here.” They repeated all the tachypenia jazz and I was like “I doubt if it makes a difference but I haven’t taken my asthma medicine properly because I wanted to keep my heart rate down.”  Pretty quickly I was back and with it. My breathing normalized with the fluids [hypovolemic shock . . . is less than a fun time. If you want to be a nerd about it, I could be incorrect, but would assume I was in either Stage 2 or Stage 3].

Stephanie came down to see me. I finally got the damn painkiller I wanted at 4 AM. She told me that she was going to strongly advocate that we get me into surgery today.  It could be two hours, it could be eight hours, or even the next morning, but she wanted me in there.

Eventually some proportion of the fluids made their way through my body–my cheerful snarkiness was coming back at this point because I was like “I have to go to the bathroom, and I assume after last time you’re not going to let me go there, right?” [They allowed me to keep my bedpan free streak in-tact, thank God, and brought over a commode to the bedside. The nurse helped me move with all of the monitors and because surely they were convinced I was going to fall over when I got up–also I must have still been bleeding a bunch at this point because they told me not to worry about the blood on the floor and helped me clean up. I AM SO CLASSY–Hi doctors, this is why you should take care of me BEFORE all this extremely classy shit happens].   Also, proven by the snark, I was evidently feeling better, too.  My hemoglobin was down to 63 again despite receiving two units of blood less than 48 hours prior.

Stephanie came back with the attending doctor in tow. He, like Stephanie, introduced himself simply as Alaa when we shook hands, which was a big respect win for me. We discussed the surgery, and she handed me the form to sign. I didn’t even read it. “So, this says if I die, it’s not your fault, if you perforate something and have to take my whole uterus, I’ve consented to that–I’ve told you, you can take the whole thing RIGHT NOW but I know you won’t do that. Signed, CUT ME OPEN.”

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“If I’m doing surgery today,” Alaa said, “Stephanie is going to have to buy me coffee.” My mom was like “I will buy you coffee!” i was like “I’ll buy Stephanie coffee.” My mom was like “I’ll buy them BOTH coffee.”

Stephanie ensured they had a couple units of blood on hand for following surgery [Nurse: “We’re going to have to draw blood again.” Me: “I had a transfusion on Sunday. Isn’t my crossmatch good for four days? I don’t think you need to draw blood again.” She was like “I’ll have to check that, but I think you’re right.” :] Turns out? Totally right.]

Surgery in itself was actually simple, and they didn’t even have to cut me open [you know, as per my demands ;)]. As my usual gynaecologist had discussed, I was getting a hysteroscopic myomectomy–they go in with a scope with a camera through the vagina, snip out the fibroid, clear everything else out with a D&C, and that is the end of that. Considering I had a D&C in June under little pain medication [read: 400 mg of ibuprofen 4 hours earlier, and some numbing stuff in my cervix (are you people weirded out yet?)] and no anaesthesia, I figured being anesthetized for this it would be absolutely no problem.  Stephanie had the nurse put a urinary catheter in while I was in resuscitation, and then they moved me out to E3 until they had a room ready for me prior to surgery.  The question, however, then became why the heck was my catheter full of blood? Prior to the advent of the insane bleeding anyways, I was certain I hadn’t been peeing blood. She kind of just figured there was trauma on insertion and didn’t worry about it [and really, first Foley over here, I had no idea what it was supposed to feel like!]

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I took all my inhalers to ensure my lungs didn’t screw up during surgery [see the cap of the pink AeroChamber up there?]. They moved me upstairs to fill out a zillion pages of medical questionnaires. Within an hour I was down in pre-op awaiting surgery.  A nurse came by and deemed one of the IVs they’d inserted upstairs less than stellar [I had two in] and inserted a new one into my left hand, then pulled out the one they’d just put into my right elbow. Stephanie and Alaa came by separately, Alaa went over everything again and told me that he wished he was only seeing me with a baby inside me, and the anaesthesiologist came and talked to me about how they were putting me to sleep for surgery–as I’d hoped, they put me under general anaesthesia. Why recall anything if I don’t have to?

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Finally, they rolled me into the operating room, which was very blue and sterile looking, but not all scary or intense like on TV. Stephanie came in and was like “Seriously, we’re about to do surgery and you’re still smiling?”. Definitely.  They temporarily lost Alaa and were about to page him, and it turned out he was already in the room.  I moved to the surgery bed, they got me into position, and hooked all the monitors back up. They put the oxygen mask on, which I swore was going to freaking suffocate me so I spent several minutes trying to convince myself to not freak out with this thing suctioned to my face. The last thought I remember having before I was out? The line in the title of this post from the Jack’s Mannequin song The Resolution, which has been a recurrent theme of relevance during 2013, and very relevant even to that morning’s resuscitation situation

When I think I’m letting go . . . I find my body it’s still burning.

With my eyes blurry, I woke up in recovery. I now have two experiences under general anesthesia that I recall, and I woke up completely coherent from both of them. A nurse showed up at my bedside, and I asked her for my glasses.  She asked if I wanted a couple Tylenol 3s and a warm blanket. People, you do not decline the warm blanket. I wasn’t actually in pain, but I prophylactically took the T3s [and, considering they’d only let me have a few spoonfuls of ice chips before surgery, the water they gave me to take the T3s with was the best feeling thing ever, especially considering how my throat felt from the intubation].  Stephanie came in to see how I was doing not too long later, and they rapidly transfused another unit of blood before sending me back to my room. “You actually didn’t bleed much during surgery, so that’s good. And we solved the catheter issue. It accidentally ended up in your vagina instead of in your bladder. So, you’re fine, but it explains the blood.” Damn close together lady parts.

They finished the transfusion, though my IVs really weren’t working well and every time the pump surged a new drip of blood into my veins, it hurt. I had two lines, so I requested they move the drip from my hand to my arm–which they said was the line that didn’t work as well.  It hurt less though and was more tolerable, so I managed to convince them to keep it there.  They moved me back to my room, and after an hour or so they actually let me properly use the bathroom [then after that time they decided they wanted to monitor stuff, so I had to pee in the hat thing and then call them afterwards–really what did I care, at least they were letting me go to the bathroom now!].

Then, of course, they decided that they wanted a new IV, just in case. They left the one in my hand in, which hurt like hell, and proceeded to squish it as they tried at least eight more times to get me a new line.  Finally, after a bunch of pokes, getting my arms slapped to try to bring some veins out, and three different nurses trying, thank goodness, Alaa strolled in and said “Stop poking the poor lady! As long as she’s peeing okay and can eat, she’s going home in a few hours!”

I liked the man before, a lot, but this conversation with him just solidified that even more.  He once again sat down beside my bed, and pulled out a piece of paper and started drawing pictures.

“So, the fibroid is gone, and we left all your girly parts in tact. The surgery went excellent.”

That teeny fibroid that EVERYBODY from my gynaecologist to the people at the hospital told me couldn’t be causing my excessive bleeding?

Yeah, it was.

And that’s because since June’s ultrasound, the damn thing had grown from 2 cm x 3 x 3 [or something of that nature] to essentially having the ability to fill my entire uterus, at 5 x 6 x 8 [once again, of something of that nature].  That sucker was huge–fibroids, which are essentially an overgrowth of muscle cells fed by a blood vessel–cause different problems depending on where they grow on the uterus and their size. Fibroids on the outer walls may cause heavy bleeding but are often asymptomatic–if they cause heavy bleeding, they still usually don’t affect the cyclic nature of menstrual cycles–i.e. bleeding during periods may be heavy, but they still last for 5-7 days or less, and don’t happen with extreme frequency. Those ones may also push on different organs and cause problems like frequent urination or bowel issues.  My fibroid was submuscosal–the rarer kind, of course!–it was growing in the inner wall of my uterus and taking up all the space in there, and causing all kinds of problems. Two and a half years ago, I started getting my period every two weeks, which was at the time linked to how hormones might act in a nineteen year old’s body as I kind of fizzled out of the whole adolescence thing–reality, it was probably the start of a really teeny fibroid, which as it grew caused the bleeding to never stop and then as the growth continued, made the bleeds really severe despite being on birth control to not prevent babies but prevent bleeding.

My blood counts were probably still sucky, but I’d anticipate in the low 80s so since I wasn’t actively bleeding heavily anymore and my blood volumes had been restored to normal with transfusions and fluids, I was allowed to go home that evening after I ate something [pending I didn’t throw up]. Alaa anticipated that my counts will be up above 100 within 2-3 weeks–“Go home, have nice steak!”

“I’m a vegetarian.”

“Oh, my daughter claims to be vegetarian. Then I cook nice steak, all crispy on the edges, and that is the end of that! Okay, no steak. You like spinach? Broccoli?” I agreed. “Yes, lots of spinach and broccoli, 2 weeks your blood counts will be all nice over 100.”

He got me to continue on the tranexamic acid until the totally bleeding stopped [so I should be done that today because with that and the hormone pills i’m so paranoid I’m going to throw a blood clot somewhere], and decreased me immediately to ONE birth control pill per day.  I was SO excited about that. I asked him if I had to stay on the pills, and while I didn’t like his response [because I don’t want to be on them] I totally respected it: “If you were my daughter” [he has three] “I would tell you to stay on it, even if you’re not sexually active.” Ah fine, fair enough. They ordered me a liquids tray, and he told me I was good to go home as long as I could eat okay.

The nurse brought me Jell-O [the cafeteria was closed–regardless, best Jell-O I’d ever tasted, considering the circumstances] and juice [yay for people not thinking my request for half apple juice half water was weird], and went over my discharge instructions–only liquids for the remainder of the day, bland foods only the next, from there increase as I could tolerate. Much of the discharge instructions didn’t really apply to me, so there was little in regard to the take-home message: No baths or swimming for three weeks, no tampons for three weeks. If anything seems weird, call, follow up with my family doctor or gynaecologist in 2 weeks and have blood work done. Don’t make any major life decisions for 24 hours.

By about 8:00, they kicked me out. Which, was quite the surprise considering less than 12 hours earlier they’d been hauling me off the bathroom floor and into resuscitation.

The recovery from the surgery in itself was nothing to speak of. I’ve taken one naproxen in the last three days for a slight headache and to bring down the swelling in my hand, which is better by the day.  I took some liberties with “bland food” and opted to include grilled cheese and cupcakes [which I have received an abundance of thanks to the amazing Steve working magic all the way from California, and my lovely ladies at work–we understand balance here: hospital fills my body with salt in the form of IV saline, we counteract that with sugar in the form of cupcakes. SCIENCE, PEOPLE]. It’s really more recovering from the transfusions and whole resuscitation scene and the fact that because surgery didn’t come into the picture until last week when my mom talked with my gynaecologist on the phone, that I have been beating up my body really hard for the last seven months.

I take my pills. I wake up every day feeling stronger than the day before. I hope to start doing light exercise late next week after my follow-up appointment with my primary doctor–which is something I have been unable to commit to since January.

And I hope i’m off this ride. Because it’s not okay. It’s not okay that I had to get that sick, repeatedly, to get treated in a way that will actually work. It’s not okay that I could have almost died before that happened. It’s not okay that I have to have a deep knowledge of not only my own body, but also understand medical science and the inner workings of the medical system to get care–because most people don’t have that kind of knowledge. It’s not okay that my regular specialist refused to acknowledge all possibilities, consider other causes from the beginning of my treatment.

I’m getting onto a new ride. Because I got lucky.

When I think i’m letting go / i find my body it’s still burning.

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Thank you to Dr. DaSilva at the Misericordia Health Centre Urgent Care clinic for providing me direction and taking the best care of me possible on limited resources.  Thank you to Dr. Steigerwald, St. Boniface Hospital Emergency Department, and all of the numerous people who took care of me–names are far too numerous to recall, but also include Badi, my RN in CPRU. Thank you to each of the nurses and health care aides who found themselves involved in my care in resuscitation–amongst the chaos I cannot even attempt to provide thanks in an adequate or inclusive way.

To the gynaecology residents who were the true light amongst the whole situation through their compassion, clarity and determination, I cannot thank you enough–I saw three of you while I was in the ER, and though I can recall Marley and Stephanie, I am unable to recall the other wonderful resident who oversaw pieces of my care.  To Dr. Alaa Awadallah, OB/GYN, you were incredible and I cannot convey my thankfulness for your easygoing manner, compassion and ability to sprinkle a few laughs into a really difficult situation.

To my friends, family, coworkers and patient instructors: thank you for sticking with me the past several months, I’m sure I was less than awesome at times.

My biggest thank you, however, must be extended to Stephanie Appleby, OB/GYN resident. I am blessed that Stephanie and I crossed paths not once but twice, and without her, I doubt my prognosis would have been as good. She advocated strongly for me from the moment that we met, and I greatly question that without that advocacy I would be alive right now. Stephanie: You’ve got this doctor thing down–compassion, grace, humour and persistence. I am awaiting the day that I can be your patient again: healthy and hopeful as these are the things that YOU restored in me through your care . . . and apparently Alaa wants to see me with a baby inside me, but I’d let you steal that position from him :].

Here’s to moving forward for real–to a new ride . .. where the ups can far counteract the downs.

“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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“no peace, just clicking machines”: the hospital story

Surreal. That is the only word I can find to explain the things that have occurred over the past few days. It feels like a long expanse of time from my life is missing, however, it’s that missing expanse that I find myself living in my head over and over again. The hope is, if I get it out here . . . I can get it out of my head.

For the previous week and a half, I’d been extremely tired and not feeling well, missed a lot of work and slept way too much. Constantly being grated on about my nutritional choices didn’t help, and frustration was setting in hardcore. After over a week off work, on Monday I finally had regained enough strength to return to work after seeing my doctors on Friday morning, who, instead of repeating the same old phrases of iron-rich foods, respectively a) said she would arrange for an ultrasound and b) started me on Provera to deal with my messed up periods which are the real root of the anemia issues. We’d try that course of action for the next three weeks, and re-evaluate. I got blood drawn like I have many times, and returned home.

Monday morning (May 6th), things had continued to go on the uphill and despite a crappy night of breathing and four hours of sleep, I went to work feeling okay. I was exhausted, but I was happy to be there and went through the motions like any morning, albeit with less enthusiasm. I came to school, and while I was hanging out in the accessibility office, I read the heartbeat skipping text conversion of a message from my doctor’s assistant: “I need you to call me as soon as you can.” I slipped out of the office and down the hall, where I was told “You need to go to the emergency room right away and tell them your hemoglobin is 56–you may need a blood transfusion.” My response was to ask if I could go to class, considering I’d gone to work that morning, and after checking with the doctor, I was okayed to go to class prior to going to the ER.

I calmly returned to the accessibility office and BBMed my boss, then once my paperwork in there was done I went to my mom’s office to let her know what was going on, e-mailed my friend Steve and BBMed my friend Dia. While I went to class, my mom went back home and packed my stuff up, picked me back up at school and we went to the hospital.

I was triaged (and got a mask to wear, because I was so uninterested in getting germy sick in that ER), and the 2.5 hour wait began. I was called in, re-assessed, and stuck twice before an IV was accessed (that shit hurts. I was biting the inside of my mouth–I really thought it was not going to be a big deal but . . . wow). Blood was drawn from my other arm, and IV fluids were started. I saw the awesome Doctor Tim who complimented me on my Chucks and commented on the fact that my iPod, video camera and phone were all siting on my bed, and waited for blood to arrive–over the weekend, my hemoglobin had dropped further, to 52, while it should be over 120 . . . so while I was feeling fine, I was in pretty bad shape. My heart rate upon my first check once in my little ER room was 137–in most of my fitness labs last term, my resting heart rate was in the 70s.

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Not impressed with this situation.

Eventually the nurse said that the blood should be arriving in about 20 minutes. Finally, they hooked me up, we waited the initial 15 minutes to ensure I wasn’t having any sort of reaction to it, and then my mom left for the night. Because my blood counts were so messed up, I was sick, but I was feeling totally fine and was constantly using my phone, iPod or iPad to keep myself entertained, and video blogging the hospital stay as it progressed (near the end of this post). By about 9 PM I had given up on the idea that any sort of sleep might happen between the frequent vitals checks and the old lady yelling in the room across from me. I plugged my earphones in and watched the Dear Jack documentary once again as fresh, packed red blood cells united with the ones already in my body.

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Not impressed with this situation, but even after the saline alone, my nurse commented that my colour was already better.

Sometime during the first transfusion, around 11:30, I heard the nurses doing a shift change and talking about me (I was “19” due to where I was located). Soon enough, someone crashed through my door with another bed and I got transferred out of the main ER by a couple hospital people who chose to crash through my doorway with a bed–I was just like “Just leave it there, I can walk!”. After feeling like I was in some kind of movie as they not-so-gracefully careened my bed to the back portion of the ER, I found myself in a much better room in a quieter back area, still my own room with my own bathroom, which I was happy about.

Eventually, the last bit of the blood was run through with more saline, and sometime soon after I was given a shot of Lasix through the IV, left on the saline for awhile, and told to rest. Hahaha, funny joke nurses! Reality: there is no rest on Lasix (a diuretic), and when the nurses say “This will make you pee” is the understatement of the year. Within about five minutes of the first dose, I was, I swear, going to the bathroom every five or ten minutes (I was like “REALLY what is the point of giving me IV fluids if you are simultaneously just making me pee it all out?!”). I think my nurse was actually slightly amused. Eventually the nurses came in again and started the second bag of blood (which is this big important production involving turning the bright light on because one of them has to stand there holding my arm and reading all of the information off of my bracelet to the other nurse reading the matching information off of the bag of blood).

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Throughout much of the time I spent in these hospital beds, I played the same three things on my iPod:

  • Caves – Jack’s Mannequin [for about eight hours straight]:
    • “No peace / just clicking machines […] the walls caved in on me.”
    • “I lay still, still I’m ready to fight”
    • “The walls are caving in / Doors got locked for sure / There’s no one here but me . . .”
    • “I fought a war to walk a gangplank / into a life I left behind / windows leading to the past / think it’s time I broke some glass / Get this history off my mind.”
    • But really, it is all about the piano–you’ll know the part I’m talking about.
  • Diane the Skyscraper – Jack’s Mannequin:
    • “But I don’t have the energy / So she plugs my machines back in . . .”
    • “And the late night TV talks to me, bout God, but God why can’t I sleep / As she plugs my machines back in.”
    • “I’d be lying if I said this was my plan / but we are all in this together / See I’m trying but I just don’t understand / Why I can’t predict the weather past the storm.”
    • “And I feel like I’m a battle tank / But there’s peace for every pound of strength.”
  • and the Matthew Good album Hospital Music.

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Sometime around 2 AM the night shift ER doctor came and talked to me, and was a total sweetheart. She told me she was going to refer me to hematology (outpatients) to do testing to rule out a bleeding disorder (like Von Willebrands), and sat down on my bed and told me about how she has two kids with hemophilia. Really, if a doctor is going to come visit at 2 AM, it helps if they are personable–though I only saw her for a few minutes, she was fantastic.

Between the vitals every half hour and the next shot of Lasix (I tried to argue with them on it–“I don’t want that again. You told me to rest and I just ended up going to the bathroom every five minutes, how is that even productive?”), sleep was non-existent. Even more-so when at 4 AM old-man-next-door was yelling about his rain gauge and getting angry with the nurses. Somewhere after 4:45 AM, the nurse came in to do vitals and took the SAT probe away from me because apparently she didn’t like me playing with it. Also sometime around here I also caused an “upstream occlusion” in my IV by getting tangled in the power cord (serves them right for giving me the Lasix :]).

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The early hours of the morning . . . 4:19 / 4:45 AM

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The third and final bag of blood was started sometime in the early morning hours, and when it was finished I actually got unhooked from my IV for a bit–pretty soon after this, my morning nurse, Spencer, came to give me another shot of Lasix, and I told him “My arms are free now, let’s have a dance party instead of the Lasix, okay?” (He didn’t oblige, by the way, and I swear they have a script because he was just like “This will make you pee”, and I was like “Understatement of the year, my friend.” The first dose was the worst, but I still was going to the bathroom like every twenty minutes on the subsequent doses, which was still ridiculous but not as ridiculous. Granted, I was just happy not to be stuck to the pole anymore, because that thing had shitty wheels and made everything so much more confusing.

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I actually don’t hate this picture, because I actually look fairly healthy in it. Also i was happy because I was untethered.

I thought once I’d gotten unhooked and shot up with Lasix one final time that I was free. I honestly did. My last heart rate that I’d asked about was 94 and I was like “Oh good, look, time to go home.” The lab came and drew blood . . . and then Spencer re-appeared and hooked me back up again! Needless to say, I wasn’t impressed.

Soon enough another doctor came in to tell me my hemoglobin was up to 113, that I just needed to ensure I kept my appointment with my gynaecologist on May 22nd and keep taking my iron pills, and I could go home. Spencer came back and unhooked me from the saline and pulled my IV and I was free to go.

While my hospitalization wasn’t in the least torturous, and full of really good people taking care of me, it should have never had to happen to begin with. I’ve been expressing concerns to my family doctor for a year and continually requesting regular hemoglobin draws, and those values have been having ups and downs, even when I was compliant with treatment. The purpose of having a doctor is so they assist you to make the right decisions about how to deal with what is going on in your body . . . not simply facilitate the making of requests. The big issue finally came, obviously, within the last couple weeks, when between April 12th and May 3rd my hemoglobin dropped from 8.3 (up from 6.something) to 5.8. It should have never had the chance considering I was seeing my doctor almost monthly to get to the point where I could barely get out of bed for five days, and it should not have taken a week to see my doctors after the fact–I am still angry about that. If you know me, you will know that I am all about self-advocacy, but the reality is, in order to put up a fight . . . it is imperative to be moderately healthy–you have to have the energy to fight. Denial is a typical and important yet also potentially detrimental coping mechanism, and I’ve experienced that deeply in this experience–I am okay, it’s not that bad. I spent an entire weekend telling my mom that I didn’t need to go to the hospital when I couldn’t even get out of bed without my head hurting. Denial is easier than feeling all kinds of the crazy things it’s possible to feel when you’re sick . . . because it’s less emotionally draining when your body and mind are already exhausted.

There came a point, which I didn’t realize until I got home from the hospital, where I simply went on emotional autopilot simply just to keep surviving, and really, it felt a lot better when I started feeling things properly again. And I think that came with the return to energy, too. Because for way too long, I’ve been coasting. I’ve been trying to survive and my body wasn’t healthy–yet, I was trying but without the right tools. Which is futile. Regrets are futile, also, however–I’ve learned that if this ever, God forbid, happens again that I’ll go to the hospital when things start getting bad and not lose a week over my life . . . 22 hours was quite enough, but I’m back to where I should be . . . and working at getting better everyday.

I was blessed this week by the words and support of dozens upon dozens of my friends both near and far, and I am so thankful for these people–sharing their stories, and sending me e-mails, texts, tweets and Facebook messages continuously in the hours during and following my time in the hospital. Those things made the length of the days and nights both at home and in the ER more tolerable. That support means everything, and to everyone who reached out at all hours, I am beyond grateful for your support.

But more than that, I was for the second time in my life blessed by the gifts of people who I will never be able to thank, for helping to make me healthy by choosing to donate blood. I received a transfusion early in my life as a premie, and donated blood once in high school–I very much hope that I can stay healthy enough to be able to donate blood again soon. The irony is, I had a blood donation appointment booked for May 2nd that I couldn’t attend, and days later I was on the receiving end. To all of you who donate blood regularly: thank you. I cannot convey my thankfulness enough, nor can I express to you the awe I feel in the fact that I feel so healthy now. Thank you.

There are additional points of irony in this story. Monday when I was at work (fully believing I was perfectly healthy) my boss told me I looked like I’d lost weight (which I figured was just one of those things people tell you when you’ve been sick a week and thought nothing of it). I walked out of work and tweeted this Jack’s Mannequin lyric “She thinks I’m much too thin / She asks me if I’m sick“, and thought nothing about it–I tweet lyrics all the time (it turns out I have lost fifteen pounds, which is crazy, but since I never weigh myself I don’t know the timespan that occurred within).

The real irony comes in two places, the first the obvious that I was still super sick. The second piece of irony is, the album that song is on, Everything in Transit, culminated recording the same day lead singer Andrew McMahon was hospitalized for anemia then diagnosed with leukemia–the album has all kinds of random hospital/doctor references that were really foreshadowing to what would happen next in Andrew’s story (later on, the album ended up coming out the day he got a bone marrow transplant)–my tweeting of his lyric foreshadowed the next 24 hours in a similar way as his own story was foreshadowed by the album, which is really surreal.

In the darkness, blessings, however, shine through. And two things remain in everything: perseverance and hope.

And, the story continues . . . and I am very thankful that it does . . .

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When I think I’m letting go, I find my body it’s still burning

[…] I need light in the dark as I search for the resolution.”

–the resolution, jack’s mannequin