September 18, 2011 by rebelwithalabelmaker
Those of you who read regularly will remember Kathleen, who irons napkins. I mentioned her in this post, in which I branched out into travel blogging–reviewing the snoofy restaurant where they served us very expensive alcohol and fois gras (french for "liver fat") and oysters (which, out of respect for the classiness of the establishment I did not refer to as "troll boogers"–out loud) on exquisitely folded ironed napkins. Well, at Kathleen's party-with-ironed-napkins, she said to me that she'd been reading my blog and thought it was neat how I had the kind of life with so much to blog about. I believe her exact words were "i wouldn't mind writing about my life. Except, when I make pie, the result is, you know, pie." All my life I've wanted to be able to make things and have them be, you know, the thing they were supposed to be. Interesting how my talent for trouble could be turned into a good thing. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But please do not sell it at a lemonade stand, according to Saskatoon Public Health. But I am getting ahead of myself.
My friend who has the most bloggable and dramatic life is Evan, who very much wishes he didn't. Shortly before writing the post in which we travel to Troll Boogers R Us for dinner, I dropped in on Evan, who was sick in the hospital because his heart had stopped. Evan has a heart history complex enough that in order to write a medic alert bracelet that would fit on his arm, they would have to figure out how to write things on metal using individual atoms. When I checked with Evan about blogging the details of his medical life, he read the post and said "That's all fine, but my heart didn't so much stop as forget to beat.". His heart also tends to decide to jiggle instead of beat–and since this is the third incident serious heart malfunction since he got his new heart, the cardiologist said he had to stay in the hospital until they could put in a little machine.
"How are you?" I asked Evan when I dropped in to visit (referring to the drama and imminent peril of having Sudden Death Syndrome–yes, that's it's real name).
"Oh, I feel great." said Evan. "Being in the hospital is so much better now than it used to be. Better technology." (He illustrates his point not by pointing to the gazillions of dollars of medical machinery, but by holding up his iPad). "There is free WiFi here. They asked if I wanted to transfer to the big heart centre in Edmonton for my surgery. I don't think so–no WiFi there. On the other hand, I have tickets to a concert there next Friday–my chances are better of making it if I'm already in the city."
"I'm surprised you're not more, you know, emotional about this." I said. Evan waved a hand dismissively, as if to say "Well, getting all worked up would be a lot of effort, and I'd rather play on my iPad." Evan has thwarted death as many times as James Bond. But with a very different attitude.
"He looked so well," I remarked to Gary, later that day.
"Of course." Gary said, "Because he's fine."
"Then why are they keeping him in the hospital?" I wanted to know.
"Because his heart could stop at any moment," said Gary, stirring the spaghetti sauce casually, "But other than that, there's nothing wrong with him. In between his heart stopping, he's in great health."
Gary and I have what could be considered different attitudes towards medicine. He spends all day every day treating people with serious health issues. I, by contrast, have no health issues. What I have, though, is a love of fussing about. Since most people I know are healthy as horses (including Evan, according to Gary), I spend most of my time asking Gary about worst case scenarios and trying to prescribe random drugs to Kathleen to cure her migraines.
So, about a week after visiting Evan, I started getting really tired, and then throwing up (no connection between these two events–I'm just narrating). Gary, ever keen with the medical diagnoses said what he usually says when I throw up. "Gee, you throw up a lot." It runs in my family. After much pushing on my part for a diagnosis, he has told me that I have supertentorial hyperemesis. Which is Latin for "Gee, you throw up a lot." He made it up.
Normally, I don't complain about throwing up too much (well, I don't blog about it, anyways, since the blogging expert people have strongly implied that this is not the kind of gripping narrative that draws in readers). But in this case, I was very put out about the throwing up, because I am grieving our toilet being replaced. I loved our old toilet, which was all beautiful and old fashioned. Gary wanted us to replace it because it doesn't, you know, flush. Hasn't really in years. This didn't bother me. I simply got out my labeller and labelled it "Toilet has poor work ethic. Hold down handle and coax." This is what I do instead of fixing stuff–make funny labels. It was a talking point–people always commented on how cute the label on our toilet was. Which was nice because it replaced peoples' previous usual comment, which was "So, um, does that thing flush?".
Anyways, a few weeks ago, I relented and agreed to replace the toilet with a boring functional one. After a few days of waiting for the plumber–a time during which an extra label was added that read "Last chance, toilet, shape up or ship out." I said good-bye to our toilet. I feel sad when we replace things just because they don't work very hard. I feel it doesn't bode well for me.
So, I did not like throwing up because the toilet wasn't right. Also because the throwing up wasn't right–it really hurt. And I was getting very sick. Gary says "it was like your personality was gone from your body". Which also wasn't right. My personality is normally very hard to extinguish. Even when I am trying to.
Interestingly, from my perspective, I have never inhabited my body so fully. In the last 36 hours before I went in, it was like the whole world shrunk down down around me, and the walls of reality only extended to my skin. The only thing I cared about was whether I could lie down, and the rest of the world played around me like a movie screen on all sides. Thursday morning, after putting it off way too long, I called my friend Mary Jane, who came over, took one look at me, threw me into the van, and then pitched fits at the hospital to get me seen by a doctor. I didn't care about being seen or not (remember the movie screen effect) but I very much cared that they wouldn't let me lie on the ground in the waiting room. They cited that it was germy. I beg to differ. Those floors are mopped regularly, and people don't touch them with their hands. The arms of the chairs are germy. But hospital people are not known for their logic, or they wouldn't insist you use those stupid sanitizers that kill all the bacteria but none of the viruses. I want to get my labeller and label them with "place hands under nozzle and press button to dispense false sense of security".
They took blood, and hooked me up to an IV so that I could produce a urine sample. They put in four litres of saline before I had to pee, and I remember thinking "where is that all going?" When I did produce the requisite sample, it was so dark and weird looking that I actually snapped a photo with my iPhone. There I am, brink of death in the hospital bed, thinking "oh, the people who read my blog will definitely want to see a picture of my urine sample". Again, the blogging experts do not agree with my judgement. In this case, you will be happy to know that I am deferring to their expertise.
Then they sent me for an ultrasound, on account of Gary's delusions about my gallbladder. Gary thinks I have gallstones. I think I get indigestion. I have been procrastinating about getting an ultrasound, on account of being busy. Gary said it wasn't urgent.
"Well," said the ER doc, "I think it might be urgent now."
Which made me really unhappy because it seemed like I would have to stand up, but no–they have a MAGIC BED that they can wheel you around in. I was so happy in my magic bed. I want one for my house. Gary doesn't think it is such a good idea because we have a lot of stairs and someone might try to ride the bed down the stairs. I assume he means the children.
So, they took an ultrasound picture of my gallbladder. Or they tried to take an ultrasound picture of my gallbladder. My liver was gynormous, and it took three ultrasound technicians to find my gallbladder, which was curled up in the corner of my abdomen all contracted and shaking and wailing "giant liver going to eaaat meeeee…" They kept saying "are you sure you haven't eaten a big fatty meal recently?" and I kept saying "In four days I have eaten a grand total of three popsicles. And I only kept one of them down."
So, when I got back from ultrasound, everything changed suddenly. The last piece of blood work had returned, and it wasn't good. Apparently my liver enzymes (which are supposed to be at less than a hundred) were over ten thousand–indicating that my liver was grossly under functioning. The doctor got very quiet, closed the door, and sat down beside me. Which I could tell immediately was not a good sign.
"I have to ask you some personal questions." she said. "I know you're married. Is there any chance that you've had an affair?"
"I have four kids." I answered, "Who has the time for that? I would have to get a babysitter."
"How about intravenous drug use?" she asked.
"I think I would need a babysitter for that too." I said. (Okay, I didn't say that. But I wish I did).
"Are you absolutely certain?" she said. "You've never done intravenous drugs?" And there was a long pause as I sat silently considering what to say. Long time readers will remember that sometimes I forget things.
"No," I said slowly, after a long pause, "I am very sure I would remember using intravenous drugs."
"And, how much alcohol do you drink?" she asked.
"Ten days ago I had half a glass of wine," I said, "and Gary said it wouldn't effect me but I really felt like it did."
"Um, that's not a significant amount of alcohol." said the doctor. Which was easy for her to say, she wasn't the one drinking it. I thought it was good when I ordered it, but then it wasn't…
"You don't understand," I said, "I have the most poorly exercised liver in the universe. It would have come as a great shock."
"Have you done any international travel recently?"
"Not since March."
"Eaten raw seafood?"
"Nope, I hate seafood and never touch it." then, a pause, while I recall the oyster. "Well, I had one raw oyster, but it was the only one I've ever had in my life. And I only ate it to be polite, and because it was free."
Apparently, your liver doesn't care why you ate the oyster.
"Was it at kind of a shady place?" asked the doctor. (What, your liver cares about that?).
"Oh no," I said, "they ironed their napkins." (Which apparently settled the issue, because she dropped the oyster investigation).
In any case, it was definitely not the Troll Booger that did it–I got sick too quickly afterwards, so please do not hesitate to eat at Eden restaurant if you are so inclined. They have a full clean bill of health. I recommend the Fois Gras menu. Perhaps I am biased, though, since my Fois is a little Gras at the moment.
"So, no international travel, no seafood, nobody sick around you recently…" the doctor was beginning to look nervous. "We're hoping for Hepatitis A…"
"I'm sorry, hoping?" I asked, looking at Gary (at this point, he was back in the room).
"You're very sick." Gary said. Which made me nervous because, as we mentioned before, Gary has a very high threshold for thinking people are very sick. Remember Evan whose heart kept stopping who was "fine"?
"I don't think it's hep A," I said, "Because I had all my vaccinations last fall before going to Meadville in the States." At which point the room got very quiet, and all the doctors looked at one another–which is never good.
"Should we ask Dr. House?" I asked, but only inside my head–not out loud.
At this point, I did something very smart. I pulled out my iPhone, googled Meadville (my mostly distance education school), and pulled up the medical form stating which vaccines are mandatory. I felt all technological and James Bond. Except for the part where after the great exertion of holding up my hand to see the iPhone screen I had to nap for three hours.
"Wait!" I said. "I haven't been vaccinated for Hep A!"
At which point, the room nearly erupted into cheers. Which I must say is hypocritical, because MDs are always going on and on about how vaccinations are such a good thing. They must be hiding something.
"So, shall we fix me up, then?" I said. And they all looked kind of awkward.
Turns out that no, not so much with the fixing me up. In almost all cases (including mine, thankfully) your immune system takes care of it (although I can expect it to take a few months). All they could do was admit me for the worst of it, provide drugs to control some of the discomfort, and keep me hydrated. In essence, my treatment plan was: