Friday, April 27, 2018

So Now It's ...VERTIGO, Part 2

So after several hours of just sitting and waiting, with the world still spinning around me in all directions, I was finally placed in an ER exam room.  By this time it was 7PM and I had not eaten since noon so I asked the nurse when I could have food and water.  She said I'd be going for a CT scan within the next few minutes so we could address that when I was done.

I had the CT scan which showed nothing:  no stroke, no brain tumor, no brain disease.  Great news!  But the doctors weren't satisfied, so they ordered an MRI.  By this time, it was 8PM on Saturday, April 7th.  They told me it would take a few hours to set up the MRI.

Sound cue: needle scratching across a record

"A few HOURS?  That will put me past midnight!"  So it didn't look like I would be going home that night.  They didn't admit me, so I guess I was just being "kept?

I phoned Kevin and told him not to expect me and not to come visit me.  The orders were that I couldn't eat or drink before the MRI and I was already in a bad mood from being dizzy and nauseous so I told him to stay home and I'd call him when I was done.

And then I waited.

As anyone who has been admitted or, in my case kept, at a hospital, you know you don't get any rest.  Between alarms going off, patients screaming, and the nursing staff congregating at the nursing station like its the student center at a college, the noises alone prevent you from getting any kind of rest.  Add to that the very physical fact that the room is spinning, my eyes are flitting back and forth, my head feels like a giant hand is trying to push me into the ground.  Mix in the fact that my mouth was arid and my stomach was grumbling and I may have been the least pleasant person to be around in Chicago that night.

Because at 12:00 midnight, I still had not gone for the MRI, I still hadn't eaten or had anything to drink, I still had no idea how long I would be there, I had no clue what was wrong with me, and it was now Sunday, April 8th - my birthday.  On my 52nd birthday, I was almost exactly where I was 52 years before:  in a hospital, barely clothed, wrapped in hospital wear, unable to walk and see straight, and with an empty stomach.

But this time - I was not one bit happy about it.

By 4AM, I had HAD it.  I called the nurse and told her to take out my IV, I was going home.  I told them I would schedule my own MRI someplace and send them the results, but that waiting 13 hours for a test was ridiculous.  She said she needed to get the doctor.  Fine, I say.  A few minutes later, the doctor came in and wanted the details, which I methodically laid out for her.  She agreed that the CT scan was clear but that the MRI would tell them more.  She believed I would have mine around 8AM.  Nope, I said.  I'm outta here.  But she played her little ER mind games on me.  And when she offered to go to Subway and get me something to eat, I caved completely.  She came back 15 minutes later with a sub, chips, and a birthday cupcake.  I ate it all and by 4:30AM, I passed out.

At 6:30AM, they took me for the MRI.  I completely passed out during the procedure.  It was the easiest test I had taken so far.  The problem now was that I needed to wait for a doctor to read the results which, they estimated, would be around noon.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record.

Apparently, it takes 6 hours or so for someone to read the results and disseminate the information to the patient.  So now, just more waiting.  I ate breakfast and just as I finished, Kevin walked into the room -- a true sight for sore eyes.  He wished me a happy birthday and suggested we delay celebrating it for a few weeks, to which I agreed.  I updated him on the situation.

A few hours later, the nursing staff came into my room with lunch.  They sang "Happy Birthday" to me and sympathized with my being stuck in the hospital on my birthday.  I even got a piece of apple pie with a little decoration on top.  I mean, they tried.  And it did make me feel a little better.

Around noon, the doctor finally came in to let me know that they had ruled out a stroke, ruled out a brain tumor, but noticed some severe blockage in my left sinuses.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record.

Left sinuses?  The sinuses on which I had three surgeries, the last one being almost exactly one year ago? Those sinuses?  YAAASSSS Queen, THOSE sinuses.  So they suggested I make an appointment with an otoneurologist soon and see my ENT about the sinus infection.  So here we go again.

I was discharged soon after and Kevin took me home.  The rest of my birthday was quiet, just him and me watching TV in the living room.  Perhaps we will celebrate it sometime later, but frankly turning 52 doesn't really mean anything to me.  But he has a big birthday coming up next month, so more to follow on that.

And this story continues as well... 

Sound cue:  sad trombone.

Monday, April 23, 2018

So Now It's . . . VERTIGO

On the morning of Wednesday, April 4th, I was sitting in a conference room at work attending a weekly leadership meeting.  At one point in the middle of the meeting, I turned my head to the right to look out the window and the room began to spin.  It was quite a sudden and jarring action.  When I turned my head back to face the room, the spinning continued.

I shook my head quickly and hard-blinked several times in a futile attempt to realign whatever had been messed up.  But that only served to make the room spin even more.  I'm not diabetic, but I wondered if my glucose levels were off and my sugar was dropping.  So I stood from my chair in an attempt to walk to the corner of the conference room where we always have a ridiculous arrangement of treats and candy, and I immediately thought I was going to fall over.  I grabbed a few pieces of chocolates and woofed them down but nothing seemed to change.  Whether, I sat, stood, or walked, I felt like I was on a shaky merry-go-round, like I was being pushed back and forth and side to side at the same time.

I walked past the candy and excused myself from the room to go to the men's room, which happens to be, of course, down the other end of the hall.  I looked like a pinball bouncing off both walls as I stumbled down.  I looked in the mirror and from what I could tell I looked completely normal.  I could speak, I had used of my appendages, I was cognitive so I figured I wasn't having a stroke.  But no matter what I did, my world seemed to be spinning and shaking uncontrollably.

I managed to walk back to my office and sit down, and as word spread that I was walking like I was still celebrating St. Patrick's Day, my co-workers quickly deduced that I had been stricken with vertigo - something I have never before experienced in my life.  I sat paralyzed, unable to function in any capacity.  My boss, who actually suffers from occasional vertigo, walked me to the local CVS Minute Clinic for diagnosis and treatment.  The diagnosis:  vertigo.  The treatment: meclizine.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record

Turns out I can't take meclizine because it negatively interacts with a drug I already take.  Alternative treatment?  A rub on the shoulder and the advice to see my regular doctor, who squeezed me into his schedule the following day.  I've been with my doctor for 13 years now, ever since moving to Chicago in 2005.  He was recommended by a friend and it was the best advice I've ever taken.  He put me on an antibiotic, a steroid, and told me to visit my ENT - the good one who successfully fixed my sinuses last year, not the bad one who said all my problems were dental.  Ugh, don't get me started.

So I made an appointment with my ENT for the following week.  But by Saturday afternoon (two days of being on the antibiotic), I was feeling worse, not better.  I couldn't raise my head to look up because it made me nauseous.  I had to hold on to every surface in order to move anywhere.  I had to lean against walls to walk.  I felt best when I was laying flat on the bed, just still.  But even with my eyes closed, if I moved my head even ever-so-slightly I could still feel the world spinning.  So on Saturday I posted on Facebook that I wasn't feeling any better and my doctor (who is Friends with me) ordered me to the ER for imaging.

So I had Kevin drop me off at the ER.  I knew I would probably be awhile and didn't want him just sitting and looking at me, so I sent him home and told him I'd call him later with an update.  I was put through triage pretty quickly and then I sat in a wheelchair while I waited for an exam room to open.  I sat in the wheelchair for 4 hours.

Sound cue:  needle scratching across a record

That's right, 4 hours of just sitting and waiting to be put someplace.  No tests were done, no blood was drawn, no one offered me water or anything.  I just sat in a waiting room alone.  Occasionally someone would pop her head in to apologize and tell me it would just be a little bit longer, but that was all the "care" I got for that amount of time.  I played 86 games of solitaire on my phone.

So like my heart surgery and my sinus surgery, I will be writing about my vertigo in installments.  Perhaps I should rename this blog, "View from my Hospital Bed".

Next up:  A CT scan and an MRI for my birthday

Monday, April 02, 2018

My Month Away From Facebook

On February 25th, I logged on to Facebook and posted the following:
Dear Friends - I just can't take it anymore. I'm staying off of Facebook for the entire month of March. It's doing nothing but infuriating me on a daily basis and causing me to rethink connections with some friends and certain family members. 
Facebook has become too polarizing for me and I don't like how i feel when I am on it. You can still reach me through Messenger (sending a message to me through Facebook), but I won't be posting or reading your posts for a while.

I actually started my month hiatus early.  The posting on the 25th of February was the last time I logged in to Facebook (except for a hot second on March 16th to promote a blog I had written for work) until Sunday, April 1st, when I posted the following:  

I'm ba-aack, but not for long. This is the first time in 5 weeks I have logged in to Facebook and I can tell you I haven't missed it one bit. I actually feel less stress. Over the course of the next week or so, I will be whittling my Friends List down to about 50 people. Those not on the list will still be able to send me messages through the Messenger App, email or of course by text. 
So for most of you, this is the last you'll be seeing of me on FB. Out of sight will not mean out of mind, quite the opposite. Now that I won't be seeing where you're going, what you're doing or even what you are about to eat, I hope it will spur me to reach out and actually speak to you. And vice versa. 
I am now reminded of a song about friendship: 
I guess this is good-bye old pal, you've been a perfect friend,
Don't want to see us part old pal, someday I'll buy you back
I'll see you soon again
I hope that when I do.
It won't be on a plate.

That last part is from the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Into The Woods".  It's sung by Jack, from the beanstalk fame.  He's singing it to his best friend whom he just sold for some magic beans.  The best friend was a cow.

To say that 34 days off of Facebook allowed me to be more productive would be a half-truth.  I am certain there is truth in that statement, but I have nothing to measure it against.  I was able to get a lot done both at home and at work, but I didn't have anything to compare it to.  So even through I say I was MORE productive, I have no proof of that.

I also can't say that I felt less stress in that month because both work and home life had their fair share of stressful situations.  Between being still new in my job and Kevin and I selling our old loft condo, not to mention the normal day-to-day demands on our time and energy, I have not necessarily felt less stressed out.  However I can say that I have felt less stress when it comes to our president and the current state of our Union - mostly because I am ignorant to what is going on in the world beyond my front door.  

In past days, I would wonder why someone would choose to be ignorant and irresponsible by not knowing what was going on in the world.  But today, I completely understand the NEED or DESIRE to be less in-the-know.

That all said, I still find Facebook a valuable way for me to stay in touch with a few close friends and my immediate family.  So while I have not missed spending hours on the site, I have missed being updated on what they are doing, as well as being unable to be contacted by them. So I will remain on Facebook, for now, but with a much-limited list of friends or contacts.  It will be less about who I like most, and more about who I share memories and pictures with most often.  THOSE folks will be the ones who remain.

And fortunately because I am staying on Facebook, even in a limited capacity, I am still accessible through Facebook Messenger (through the site directly and the app), so everyone else can still reach me that way too.  Again - nothing personal folks.  My decision will be based on who I share with regularly.