Monday, November 25, 2013

Are They Hypochondriacal ER Visits?

As much as I joke around about my crazy hypochondriacal life, a lot of frustration is involved with the anxiety which is the "probably" the root of the problem. We all fear death. We all fear illnesses and pain, but when does it come to the point of losing your marbles over every single ache and pain?  My mind says (and so does WebMD) that the chest pain I'm having is linked to a possible heart attack. When in doubt, check it out, right? Who wants to mess with a possible heart attack? Some people, like myself who have GERD or some underlining bogus diagnosis of costochondritis live with periodic intense pain that comes from the chest, sometimes radiating into an arm (usually the left for me). So, how am I to know this isn't the big ticket into heaven? (I'm assuming heaven.) For instance, the other night I'm about to go to bed. I slip into my comfy PJs and cuddle up to my wife and our little chihuahua. We were about to watch a movie when all of the sudden, the gnawing pain in my stomach worsened. Ok, no big deal, just a stomach ache from something I probably ate. But then, the familiar symptoms (which I've read over the internet) of belly button pain that travels down to the lower right side had me scared. The pain continued to worsen and worsen. Madelene was even scared and said, "We should go to the ER, that's not good." She doesn't enable my hypochondria all the time, but this is one symptom I never experienced. Immediately, we both thought, "appendicitis" due to how much pain I was experiencing with each minute passing by.

We jumped out of bed, scooted into the nearest jeans available, slipped on some shoes, kissed our chihuahua goodbye as she looked at us like, "What's going on? Why aren't we sleeping," and headed off into zero degree weather with snow squalls swarming around our car while we drove on the highway. Luckily, the staffers that were working the night shift in the ER didn't recognize me, until I gave my name out and of course, it's like "The Diary Of Deb's ER Visits" rolls out onto their screen. Don't think they don't note the frequency of your ER visits. I also know that whenever they ask what medications you are on, it's a sure sign of judgment.

"Any medications at the time?"
"Ativan when needed."
"And you take that for…?"
"Anxiety."

JUDGED.

Their notes probably read something like this:

"This patient frequents the ER usually around this time of night with chest pain. Sometimes in an ambulance or sometimes with her 'friend'.  Please note she is on Ativan for anxiety attacks and Prilosec for her GERD, which is usually the diagnosis for her 'fake' heart attacks. Administer an IV and set her up as if her visit is real. Check her vitals, give her an EKG and take blood (not to the lab, just throw it into the hazard basket because we're not checking this time) and tell her it's GERD. If she comes in for any other ailment, such as blood clot in her leg like she did this past summer, administer an ultrasound and reassure her that it's edema as usual. Do not argue with the patient. A patient with anxiety disorder may become defensive and/or combative out of fear that they are losing their mind. Thank you."

When we arrived at the hospital, there were a few people waiting, but they took me in immediately because I was curled up and hunched over crying in pain. When I got into the ER room, the nurse said, "Wow you look uncomfortable," seeing me cry and not being able to even lay down on the bed. I had to lean on a chair. They finally got me on the bed, injected Demerol in me so I can finally speak…or slur my words at least. They poked and prodded my stomach and when they got to my right side, I screamed as they pressed down.

"OK! Get her an ultrasound and a cat scan right away!"

The Demerol was taking a toll on me where I couldn't even pronounce anything at all. The nurse asked, "Do you want another injection? I gave you a small dose." Immediately, I shook my head and managed to say, "Noooo!" I couldn't handle this drug at all. "She's not here for pain meds that's for sure but wow, she is in such distress!" I was glad they knew I wasn't schmoozing for some pharma-fun. After all the tests, the doctor comes in and said to me, "It looks suspicious for appendicitis. Your appendix seems to be inflamed, so we're probably going to admit you and do an emergency operation laparoscopically."

"Is it painful?" I asked.
"Isn't this painful? You can lose your life by neglecting this." she said.

Hypochondriac enabler? 

After 5am, one shift ends and another one enters the situation. The doctor that was now on duty looked like he was 12 years old wearing skinny jeans and a lab coat. He looked like a bleached blonde Doogie Howser. His voice and tone sounded very teenager-sih -- the only thing missing out of his vocabulary was, "dude". I can just picture him skateboarding up to the emergency room, throwing on his lab coat on and winking at all the cuties over by the nurse's station. It was if he just waltzed into my examination room, flings through a few x-rays and files and says, "Eh, it's not appendicitis and your gallbladder is fine. You have a cyst on your liver." In my head, I hear "tumor", when it's actually just a goddamn zit sitting on the one thing that soaks up my vodka.


"Is it dangerous?" I asked.
"You just have to follow up with your primary."
"Should I be concerned?"
"You just need to keep checking if it gets larger."

As if I can do that myself! So do I have to keep getting cat scans to see if this huge pimple on my liver gets bigger? Here's what gets me: why are there so many ailments that mimic large and valid concerns? Right side pain on your abdomen could be anything from constipation, muscle cramping or even just good ol' agita. If you have a chest pain, it could be anything --- muscle pain, heartburn, nerve pain and of course, good ol' agita. Unfortunately, people with anxiety disorder like myself are full of hot air, so their symptoms mimic every fatal ailment known to man. So what are we to do when we feel these threaten things and in our anxiety-ridden minds, we of course go to the worse case scenario? So now I wait…for the next "big concern". Anyone willing to donate money toward my medical bills?

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!