Diagnosis: Over 40
[As regular readers of this column will recall, in the past, I've written about my residual water skiing injury to my back, and about Emergency Room visits, and about dizziness, and so really, there's nothing about yesterday that's new, so I'm tempted to ask you to all go reread those several essays and extrapolate and hope I can get away with calling that a new essay.
Unfortunately, the ethical part of me (defined as "that part that realizes that it takes column inches to fill up a second book, since the first one was so fabulously successful as measured in money lost publishing it") insists that if I'm going to use that topic, I write a whole NEW batch of stale, unfunny jokes about it, and so here we go. – Liam]
Yesterday started off as a day much like any other, in the sense that I woke up tired, achy and leaning slightly toward the left. It was different in the sense that it wasn’t so much a socio-political-philosophical leaning as an actual, physical, "the human body isn’t supposed to be quite that shape" sort of lean. Yes, my old nemesis the sacral vertebrae had mounted yet another attack on me in the night, so that when I stood up, I looked like a poor photo-shopping of myself, as when someone attempts to put their head on the body of a bodybuilder, but with a whole lot more sag. It was as though someone had replaced my lower spine with a boomerang to my left.
That's all well and good, I've dealt with that before. It generally means that I'm going to move slower than the lines at the bathroom stalls(*) at a cheese eating convention but with more ambient grunting and straining. A few Advil to completely fail to dull the pain and a predominantly seated day in the office, and I'm good to go, and that's pretty much how I proceeded with the day.
When I'd been at work for an hour or more, I decided to make the long, arduous walk to the water cooler, and that was when I discovered that I'd also developed some serious dizziness, and combined with my center of gravity being currently located somewhere in the air just outside of my left hip, this meant that every other step I would nearly stumble into the wall, something I've not experienced since my wild days in college, when I'd spring for that second beer (I was a cheap date in college).
So I made it carefully back to my office and had pretty well had decided that I was going to sit in my office and not move from my chair again, and that I’d deal with the dangerous prospect of driving home when the time came, when my lovely wife Janet called. She had taken one of the children to a dental appointment which was now over, and as she sometimes does, had decided to stop by and give me a hug before heading back home. And since she doesn't have a security badge, that meant I had to go let her in.
I opened the door and promptly fell into the door jamb. I must have looked drunk, because clearly in the time she's known me, she's familiar with my habit of the three-martini lunch starting at 9:30 in the morning, but after three steps back into the office, she said "We need to get you to the emergency room." Apparently I looked less "drunk" and more "stroke victim, but less dexterous". I argued. I lost. We went.
And so we spent the day at the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center chapter of the Marquis de Sade Appreciation Society (DHMC-MSAS), and we carefully divided up the tasks as follows:
Janet: Walking back and forth between my room and the waiting room, where our daughter Darby was playing, occasionally running out of the building to where there was cell coverage in order to update one person or another on my status, and also occasionally running here or there to buy lunch or fetch a magazine.
Me: Lying down, moaning, dressed in a piece of cloth about the size of Malibu Barbie's bikini, with an IV in the back of my hand, an oxygen sensor on my finger, a blood pressure cuff on my arm and about seven different medications in my system. Oh, and let me say, by the way, if you've never had a shot in your stomach, you're missing a rare treat.
I’m not sure I trust the medical establishment, because I was examined by several nurses and at least two different doctors, all of whom did exactly the same tests. I'm not kidding. They all looked in my eyes. They all listened to my heart. They all did the standard neurological tests (reflex tests and left/right sensory and strength tests). And (and this was, I think, completely unnecessary) they all did a DRE(**). What a pain in th… nah, that's just too easy.
In the end, in one of those "no sh** Sherlock" moments which seem surprisingly common in modern medical treatment, I was diagnosed with "vertigo". Really. What was their first clue? I never would have guessed that I had "vertigo" from the fact that when we first walked into the ER, my wife told the admitting nurse that I was experiencing (among other things) vertigo. Vertigo is a symptom, not a diagnosis. It would be as if I took my car in for service and the mechanic returned the car and charged me $1500 to tell me "you have a funny noise that goes 'wrrrrrrrZING' " and didn't even fix it.
And so eventually I was discharged and sent upon my merry way with a prescription for an anti-nausea medication that they said "should help the dizziness if it gets too bad" and a beet red, painfully hot flush I hadn't had when I went in caused by one of the medications, but this leads me to the only part of the experience that actually made me laugh while I was going through it:
On the discharge instructions is the following quote, verbatim:
I had considered following up my medication with a pint of beer or perhaps a shot of whiskey, but damn, the PCP really does help me forget about the pain, and the bend at the waist is hardly troubling at all, what with my fingers stretching out like rubber bands and my head being made of play-doh.
I wonder why PCP has never been prescribed for me by my primary care physician.
(* Speaking of bathroom stalls and WAY too much information, let me just delicately say that if you’re right handed and bent painfully to the left, it makes for some… trouble in this department.)
(** For those unfamiliar with this test, I'll simply say that the "R" stands for "Rectal" and it involves Vaseline and a finger. Unfortunately, I'm not kidding. Fortunately, I AM kidding about anyone having performed that particular test on me.)
Copyright © June 26, 2007 by Liam Johnson. http://liam-humor.blogspot.com