FAIR WARNING: Medical procedures are going to be talked about here. If you are squeamish about blood and the process of drawing it, you might want to stop right here.
I don't remember what I was dreaming about, I only knew that I was suddenly in horrible pain. I straightened my leg out as best I could and took shallow breaths trying to control the pain. Little did I know that the leg cramp that woke me up first this morning was just a taste of what the rest of the day would bring...
I did manage to fall asleep again. The second time I woke, it wasn't my leg that was hurting - it was my chest. Nothing big, nothing awful, just a little twinge like someone had reached inside and given my heart a quick squeeze. I sat up and it went away. Heartburn. Acid reflux. Gas. Something normal. No big deal.
I got up, got dressed, got ZBoy up and ready to go. Today was Friday - my day to volunteer at the "Mistletoe Mall" at ZBoy's school. We drove to school and went our separate ways.
Volunteering was fun! There was a roomful of inexpensive, non-crappy gifts, and the kids could come with money or vouchers and a list of people they wanted to buy presents for. My job was to go around with the kids and help them pick stuff out and keep them to whatever cash amount they brought with them. One kid showed up with $20 and a list of 7 people. I got down to his level and told him that it would be a real challenge - he was going to have to be an EXCELLENT shopper to pull this off. He nodded solemnly and we started looking at stuff. On the $2 table, there was a really nice little cosmetics bag which could also be used as a clutch. I suggested this to him, but he had zeroed in on the bathtime body paint (for little kids). He just KNEW his mom would love it. He would not be dissuaded. Each child that I helped had a similar amount, and we made the most of it. I stayed a half hour longer than I'd signed up for, then went out to my car to get my purse because I wanted to do a little shopping there of my own.
As I walked back in the school, I suddenly found it difficult to breathe. That squeezing thing was happening in my chest again, only it hurt more this time. I went, did my shopping, checked out of the school and sat in my car for a few minutes. The KenPo gym was just down the street, and I needed to pay them for Darling Man and ZBoy, so I stopped there to give Master Jerry a check. While I was talking to him, another chest pain hit. I must have gone pale, because he asked me if I was okay. I told him what was going on, and told him I was calling the doctor. I got back in my car and did just that. After hearing my symptoms, they asked if I could come straight away - and I did.
I only had to wait about 5 minutes before being whisked to the back and hooked up to an EKG. Not a heart attack.
I was moved to a regular examining room, where the Doctor and a medical student came in. Doc started asking me questions. Symptoms, how were my legs? He listened to my chest and my lungs, then asked me to show him where it hurt. I pressed the area just to the left of my sternum. He pressed there and on the other side and both sides felt tender, but the left side was more so. I told him about the shortness of breath and he speculated about a possible blood clot.
I laughed. That would be just too ironic, I told him. My brother just got out of the hospital in Atlanta with a blood clot in his lung (pneumonia). That set off all kinds of alarm bells with the doctor. He asked about my legs, and you know I plum forgot about the cramp that woke me first today. I said my legs were fine. He started asking if there was any other family history, but other than the fact that we seem to drop dead of heart attacks and strokes, I couldn't think of any.
He filled out paper work and sent me over to the lab for bloodwork and a CTPE scan.
I love this lab. I go there every three months for blood work because of my cholesterol issues and my other issues regarding the drug side effects for controlling my cholesterol. The nurses there are the gentlest needle pushers ever. My veins aren't always cooperative, and it usually takes them a couple of tries to get a good one - even when I am able to prepare (drink lots of water) beforehand. Still, when I saw this sign, I was happy:
At least, that's how it should work in theory. They had a special IV nurse come in. She tried in the crook of my elbow. Nada. She tried in my wrist - found one - and then it blew out. Rather than keep stabbing me, she suggested that the regular nurses go ahead and get my blood for the tests (10 TUBES WORTH!), and she'd install the IV back in the CT room.
Except that they couldn't find one either. I have holes in both wrists, forearms, the back of my hand. Finally, one on an inside wrist worked and I managed to fill all 10 tubes.
A minute or so later, a young man came in. I asked him if he was Sean, Sticker Supreme. He laughed and said yeah, he guessed he was. He then came around, took my arm and started thumping and feeling and waving his own Dr. McCoy magic wand up and down. As he shifted his grip to get a better hold, he stopped and said, okay, found one and it's a ROPE! The backside of my forearm is apparently the motherlode. They easily inserted the IV line, tested it with saline and then ran down the "What they're going to do and what I can expect" list. It didn't sound too awful. I laid there on the gurney in my hospital gown with a nice warm sheet on top, IV line in my arm and was told to put my hands over my head. This position almost always puts me to sleep - I don't know why. They shot me up with the contrasting iodine solution, which spread through me like wildfire - literally! My arms got hot, my ears, my neck, my chest - and then it moved downward. For a moment I wasn't sure I hadn't wet myself, but it was just the iodine heating up everything, right down to my toes.
All this time, my chest was hurting with the occasional squeeze for good measure.
After the CT people released me, they told me to wait. But I still wasn't done - I had to go back over to the blood lab for a blotter-timed test. Apparently the idea behind this test was to see how long it would take me to stop bleeding after a "superficial" injury. They put a blood pressure cuff on me and kept the pressure at 40. Then a small incision was made on my arm and I was allowed to bleed for 30 seconds before a nurse held a blotter wheel to my arm to soak up the extra blood. For six minutes they would let me bleed for 30 seconds, then blot. It was a strange test. Then when that arm was done, they cut my other arm and did it all over again. When we were done, we had two round blotters with a scalloped design in blood. They looked like some kind of twisted homemade Christmas tree ornaments.
By the time we finished, the CT results were back. No clots. The IV line was removed and I was sent on my way.
It seems like such an anticlimatic ending to such an adventure. Lots of pain and blood and time to find out that there was no imminent danger. A good result, but at the same time a little disappointing. While I was glad that I wasn't going to die today, my chest was still hurting and no one seemed to know why. It seems to have backed off a little now, with only the occasional squeeze. And it will be early next week before the blood tests come back. So this weekend, I get to lick my wounds, take it easy and watch the bruises form.