This is going to be a slightly different Thursday post, but what could be more random than trying to write about one’s emergency trip to the hospital while on four different kinds of meds, all of which have “drowsiness” as their main side effect?
Here we go:
I’ve had a stuffed left ear since early Tuesday afternoon—muffled, ringing noise, the ocean with whale song—so I figured I had an ear infection. There wasn’t any pain, though, so I decided it was mild and would go away on its own, because a lot of things do, and I was busy and I have this idea that my immune system is like this:
When it’s actually more like this:
But yesterday morning, I was starting to list to port and bump into things that I could see, but couldn’t avoid, like door frames and tables and assorted people. So after lunch, I filled out a slip for Thursday morning, so I could get some antibiotics (grumble, bah) and get this stupid ear thing cleared up, and went on the public desk for my usual afternoon shift.
About half an hour later, when I was talking to two ladies about why discovering if there were any deaths—by which they clearly meant gristly murders that would leave behind a presence—in the house they just bought was a crap shoot, even with a list names and dates they didn’t have, I started to feel dizzy. Room swooping, head full of bees buzzing, body tingling dizzy.
I have no idea how I finished the conversation with those nice ladies, but they left for the city directories and I called my supervisor to tell her that I thought I was going to faint, and could she watch the desk while I practiced breathing and sorted this out?
She did, but the dizziness didn’t go away like it was supposed to, and I started to feel nauseated. I went through and dismissed the signs of stroke and the American Heart Association symptom list, and reminded myself that food poisoning doesn’t feel like this, but I was starting to have hot tingles and my stomach was making it clear that moving my head and having my eyes open was a Very Bad Idea.
Our HR person, who was in health care in a past incarnation, came down and we had a nice discussion about my pulse and my blood sugar—I was given a piece of candy, which helped my stomach settle, but did nothing for the bees—and we all thought that I’d better go to the hospital.
Except I obviously couldn’t drive—they repeated this several times, which tells me something about my reputation—and while whey each said they would be glad to take me, there was the question of me moving myself out of the basement and outside and to a car without hitting the ground at least once.
I could see their point. And I decided, to steal Garrison Keillor’s schtick, that if I was going to be a writer, I should really experience an ambulance ride from a patient’s POV.
And that’s how I came to be wheeled out of the front entrance of the library on a stretcher in front of patrons, staff, God and everyone.
You know you’re a writer when the worst worries you have during a ride to the ER for symptoms that could mean anything from fluid in the ears to pre-cardiac arrest is that you can’t move your head to see anything—because you will be damned if you’ll use that green barf bag you’re clutching in one hand like a plastic security blanket—and that you’ll forget all the excellent details, like the 12-point test and the removal of my bra for the lead stickers and the fact that my blue nail polish stymied the finger clamp that was supposed to read my oxygen levels.
Okay, no, the worst worries were that I wasn’t embarrassed enough about the bra thing—I was, but only for that poor EMT—and I hadn’t shaved my legs. And that if this was all for an ear wax clog, I was going to have to hurt myself in order to have not wasted everyone’s time.
(yeah, that’s a lie, too. Because I didn’t know what was going on and the initial tests showed nothing, and it wasn’t getting better and I had visions of triple bypasses and diabetes and brain damage and having to quit the library and deal with lifelong vertigo without insurance)
But they didn’t seem to think I’d wasted anybody’s time, even when it was discovered, after two EKGs, a finger stick that had me bleeding copiously all over my gown (the nurse: “Yeah, you’re a giver.”), and numerous blood pressure checks, that I did, in fact, have an ear thing.
A wretched, evil, inner ear virus that’s going around giving people intense vertigo and nausea.
That’s it. That’s all I have.
The doctor had the nurse hit me with meclizine and ondansetron and wrote prescriptions for them and two kinds of decongestants to clear up the fluids I didn’t think I had. She also informed me I wasn’t going back to work this week and said, as a parting shot, “No roller derby until next week.”
I liked her.
My husband picked me up and, after getting my bag o’ drugs at the pharmacy, took me home, where I faced the task of peeling off fifty lead stickers from various parts of my anatomy and fielding forty-something e-mails and texts and voice mails from friends and colleagues who wanted to know what the hell was going on. Apparently, by the time the grapevine was done, I’d collapsed on the floor in a coma without a pulse, which makes a better story than, “Sarah was afraid to stand up. unless the handsome young paramedic held her arm,” but which had several people scared to death that I might not be coming back at all.
But instead, here I am trying to type with my head floating on a string over my left shoulder and being embarrassed that all this mess happened because I managed to contract the stupidest virus in the world and didn’t go to the doctor the moment my hearing was muffled. I’m also a bit annoyed that I’m stuck at home for three days.
I mean, I’m fine. My brain is functioning and my body works and I can focus on what’s in front of me—or could without the meds, anyway. And the only reason I’m not at work is that every time I turn my head too quickly, I fall down and throw up.
Talk about random.
Frankly, I expect more from a virus of this supposed magnitude. Shouldn’t there be more in the way of snot or fever or something? How do I know my immune system is on the job without snot?
Then again, all those tests proved that my heart is excellent and my blood sugar and pressure are good. And that I can still do my wise-ass comedy routine while experiencing vertigo—or at least that paramedics are the ideal trapped audience. And that people care about me.
That’s very good to know.
And I’ve learned a lesson about how quickly this kind of thing can happen and what’s truly important to convey in an emergency situation. Next time, it may be more that a virus and there may be vital things that I won’t be able to communicate. Which is why I believe it’s past time I set aside any lingering worry about social stigma and the assumptions of others and started wearing one of these:
And now, I think I’ll go take my meds and lie down for a while in the hopes that the world will stop trying to fall out from under me.