Posts Tagged ‘asthma’
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
This is the jewelry you get when you are admitted in the Emergency Room. A pretty yellow bracelet. One I wore on my wrist for almost five hours Tuesday as I reclined on a lumpy bed, wearing a blue backless robe and a nervous smile.
“At least you have your sense of humor,” said Fatima, the respiratory therapist who hooked me up to jumper cables to get my EKG.
My resting pulse? Forty-seven. “You have the heart of an athlete,” she said, pushing up her glasses.
But I haven’t felt like an athlete in months. I arrived at my doctor’s office late Tuesday morning, expecting to get my Advair inhalers and a pat on the back to send me on my way. Because my labs had come back normal as, I assumed, had my chest x-rays.
The results left me shrugging; you never want something to be wrong, but at the same time, you want answers.
That’s when the doctor realized he’d never seen my chest x-rays. After they were retrieved, he pulled me into his office.
“They’re not normal,” he said. The bottom of my left lung was not fully inflating. “I need to send you for a CT scan immediately. We have to rule out a pulmonary embolism. It could kill you.”
It could kill me.
And that is when I cried.
Because you really do not want anything to be wrong. And when there is? I couldn’t think.
Scared. I was scared.
As I drove to the ER, ignoring my GPS and getting on the 22 in the wrong direction, I thought about how alone I was. Not just that David was picking up kids from various camps and couldn’t come be with me. I pondered the existential alone, how what happens to us, within our body, whether we are alive or in pain or dying, we do alone.
And then I thought about what advice I’d give to a friend, if she were driving toward possible Really Bad News. I would tell her just to take one step at a time, to not let her mind go to Dark Places until she sees the test results. This is when I realized I give terrible advice and I needed to shut it.
I went into survival mode and checked into the ER.
I texted David.
I wished I’d brought a book to distract me.
Or a charger for my phone that slowly ran out of juice.
Four vials of blood were sucked out of my arm and a catheter inserted, for the iodine needed for the scan. I had the EKG. I peed in a cup to confirm I wasn’t pregnant (the opposite result of that test, quite frankly, would’ve hurled me into cardiac arrest).
I texted my friend Kathleen. She made me giggle about Oreos. And the purse candy I found: one lone orange Skittle. Ate it.
Almost four hours after I arrived, a wheelchair took me into a room for my scan. I lay on my back, about ready to be moved into the donut shaped machine. (I told you I was hungry.)
“The iodine will make you feel warm,” the tech said as he injected it into the catheter.
Also, the surface of the sun is warm.
People? My body was on fire. From the inside. The iodine coursing through my veins should’ve brought steam rising from my pores.
Then it was done.
Almost another hour would pass before I could leave.
I drove home in the late-afternoon sun without any more answers than I had when I talked to my doctor that morning.
But my athlete’s heart still pumped and my lungs expanded and I would see my kids 30 minutes later. And that was more than good enough for me.
Friday, June 22nd, 2012
“You’re not crazy,” the doctor said, trying to be helpful. “There is something wrong with you.”
Something wrong. Of course something was wrong.
For the past five months, I’ve struggled. A regular runner, I suddenly found my already slow pace had turned glacial, and if I pushed it just a little, I would become winded. And then it would take me twice as long to get my breath back.
Every. Single. Time.
So I took a break. Running was no longer something that cleared my mind and energized me. Instead, I became frustrated. And sad. But after a few weeks, I went back. I figured after a week or two, I’d be back to normal.
But it never happened.
I ran a half-marathon. At my slowest pace ever.
I ran a 10K. And walked the uphill.
My friends finally convinced me to go to the doctor.
He listened. To my words. To my heart.
The black pulse oximeter he clipped onto my fingertip showed my resting heart rate was 56. He told me to run down the hall – what? really? – and I did. My heart rate leapt to 132.
His eyes widened in surprise.
The jump? Fine for someone who never exercises. Not so much for a runner.
He ruled out a pulmonary embolism (I’d be dead by now). He didn’t think it was cancer. Most likely? Asthma. Even though I didn’t wheeze and I haven’t been coughing.
I rushed home with my new inhaler and scheduled a chest x-ray and blood draw for that day.
The doctor said he’d call me the next day with results.
I’m still waiting. I learned this morning, when I finally called, that results come electronically into my chart and the doctor doesn’t know unless I call the office to tell them I’ve had the tests. Which he prescribed.
Monday. He’ll call me Monday.
And so I wait.
Trying to pretend I’m not freaked out. Trying to pretend my mind hasn’t gone to the dark places that mothers go when they think about their own mortality.
I’m not crazy.
But no relief comes from this confirmation of my sanity.
Something’s wrong with me.