Back, Aching Blues

I’m back.  If you didn’t know I was gone then look to the spaces before this note and see where I’m not. By reverse process of elimination (eliminating that which isn’t there) you can see that this space is occupied and that I am that which occupies it. Ça va.

Illness has been rampant in the form of viral infections. My computer crashed five weeks ago and my computer tech friend discovered a malignant gardening issue in the form of a root kit which had stolen aboard and insinuated itself among the plantings of basic electronica directives, subverting and editing functions and opening access for other such malware. A bad virus. The thriving and harmoniously functioning society of programs that comprised my computer became full of weeds and choked with brambles (not unlike most television) such that it wouldn’t work.

Fortunately, my friend has great expertise in this regard and was able to apply virulent herbicides, judicious weeding, prudent pruning, and other such technical endeavors, and eventually cleanse the malefactors from the landscape. It took three weeks of running varieties of anti-malware programs, but I now have a functioning garden again, although there are, as my friend warned me, some cultivated programs that have been altered by the experience.

It seems a happy ending, yes? No. That nasty virus which had so disabled my computer somehow (I’m convinced) made the transitional leap from virtual being into an actual physical viral malignancy and fastened its terrible tentacles upon my own health and well-being, beginning eight days ago (as of this far in my relating things) on Friday, the 15th. Sore throat, cough, sneezing, and the usual panoply of such manifesterations, plied their afflictions upon my being. Not being content to just be sick, I had to add competition to the mix and I played in a volleyball tournament the next day, Saturday, not realizing at the time how ill I was to become. The team followed my lead and played with a great flair of mediocrity to come in 4th of 7, not so bad, but not that good. I hope I didn’t spread my germinations to the other players. Sunday I was ill, Monday I went to work and dealt with my deteriorating health (as well as the usual assortment of bruises and abrasions from the tournament. I play hard: I did have to stop play at one point to bandage up a bloodied forearm acquired in a fruitless dive for the ball. My reactions were just not up to par.) And I stayed at work for the entire day as one of the people I work with was on vacation (just for that Monday) and I am not one to leave others in the lurch in such situations. Another side note: I do not call in sick. I have called in maybe 4 times in the 21+ years I’ve been at this job, and the last time was about 16 years ago. However, I called in sick on Tuesday.

I called my doctor (even though my computer tech guy is adept at rooting out and terminating viral infections, he has his limits) and he said I should just go to the Emergency Room at the hospital (with which his practice is affiliated), so I did, spending five hours in rather hospitable (if you’ll pardon the expression) surroundings, all things considered. I was jotted in, photocopied, validated, set in a chair to wait and then brought to a private area for further questions, entered into a data base and then attached with the resultant print out in the form of the obligatory plastic wrist-band-of-pertinent-information bracelet. I was getting one of my cold spells (I had been getting them since the volleyball tournament and could hardly talk for the shivering) and the woman who was in charge of me at this time went out into the hall and came back with folded blankets fresh out of a warmer. Wow. Placing those across my legs and around my shoulders was the highlight of the day! After I warmed for a couple minutes, I was led to and seated in a small room, well stocked with overhead lights, a bed on wheels, a variety of cabinet, sinks and other hospital type things, and informed that someone would see me soon. The first activities which occurred during my time in this room were three successive sessions of the ‘Let’s Check Your Lungs…’ game, which is currently very popular at this ER.

After I relaxed for a few minutes, sitting on the end of the bed, a young, prim, uniformed woman doctor entered and introduced herself as a resident (trainee) doctor, asked how I felt and what my symptoms were. My answers must have inspired her, for she said, “Let’s check your lungs…” and stepped around behind me.

“Lift your shirt and lean forward,” so I followed her instructions, leaned forward and learned how to play, with her holding the fingers of one hand against the upper right side of my back. She then said, “Breathe in,” and tapped twice on her hand with the fingers of her other hand. The she said, “Breathe out,” and  moved the hand touching my back to the lower right side, said, “Breathe in,” tapped a couple times, said, “Breathe out,” moved her hand to the left side, “Breathe in,” tap-tap, “Breathe out.”  And one more time, as she moved her hand to the upper left of my back, “Breathe in, “ tap-tap, “Breathe out.” She said, “Okay. Good. Put your shirt back,”

So I pulled my shirt down, sat upright on the bed and waited for the next activity. She wrote on a chart, seemingly pleased with the results of our efforts, and then thanked me. She said that someone would be in soon to see me and then left. And so I learned the game. Easy.

About 5 minutes later, a slightly older masked (giving me no cause for alarm at my potential condition) female, but no less prim or efficient in doctor-apparel appearance, entered and introduced herself as the Head Resident. She asked how I felt and what my symptoms were. Then, when she heard my answers, she said, “Let’s check your lungs…” I dutifully leaned forward (catching on fast) and pulled up the back of my shirt.  She stepped around and, with the fingers of one hand on the upper right side of my back, said, “Breathe in,” did the tap-tap bit, said, “Breathe out,” moved her hand down to the lower right side, said, “Breathe in,” and so on through the four step process, word for word, action for action that the (regular) resident had done. She was as satisfied with the outcome as the first doctor. (I get better with practice.) She said, “Okay, Good, You can put your shirt back,” and made some notes on her clipboard. Then, with a smile, said that someone would be in soon to see me and left.

Not more than 2 minutes later, a tall mid-thirtyish, masked (I’m beginning to get a complex) male came in, introduced himself as The ER Doctor, asked me how I felt and what my symptoms were. (I’ve got this down pat now). He then (surprise!) said, “Let’s check your lungs…” and I obediently raised my shirt as I leaned forward and he made the game scene a tap-tap dancing hat trick (I tip it thus to these three vigilant players for the confidence they gave me in my knowing that my lungs sound good.), word for word, action for action that the other two did.  

“Okay. Good. You can put your shirt back,” The Doctor varied from the story line here and, clipboadlessly told me he wanted to get some x-rays in a photo finish just to make sure that the game was won with proper decorum, because then he could look at what he was listening to. He left (“Someone will be in soon to see you.”) I was flattered at all this fun attention, but I’m glad that there were no more players as my throat was beginning to get parched with all the heavy in-and-out breathing. The nurse (who I guess wasn’t far enough up the totem pole of physicianship to warrant playing the game) returned and fished a gown out of a cupboard, tried unsuccessfully to undo the string ties, got another gown (with strings already untied), handed it to me and told me to change into it. She left, “someone would be…” etc. I managed to disrobe to my underwear and socks, and put my arms through the proper places. I didn’t even try to tie the back stays and just lay down on the bed with the (still warming) blankets over me. Sure enough, a female nurse of sorts came in and proceeded to draw (with needle sharp precision) some vials of blood right out of my arm. Then, she hooked me up to an overhead IV drip of “…fluids and some anti-nausea solution,” covered me with some more fresh, warm blankets (“…aaahhhh…”) and then left with the usual “someone-will-be-in-soon-to-see-you” admonishment. A few minutes later a friendly Hispanic orderly came in, unlocked the wheels of my bed, placed my IV bag on a high hook, wheeled the bed (and thus me) out into the suddenly narrowed hall, swung around to face the double doors, (quick tuck my protruding feet in!), through the automatic swinging portal into another moderately busy hall (nothing like being dressed in an open-backed gown, wheeled around a hospital corridor, past all sorts of curious folks, to make you feel relaxed and at ease) then through another automatic swinging set of double-doors down more hallways and finally into x-ray Room 8 (“Three of our rooms are down, so we have to go to the last one….”) The bed was parked and charge of my presence was given over to the young, prim, uniformed female technician waiting inside. I was asked to get up and stand in front of the image reception box at the side of the room. I don’t recall how it was initiated, but the technician kindly tied the back of my gown, which I appreciated. I got up and shuffled over to face the rectangular, white plastic-faced box, which was suspended from the ceiling along with all sorts of other pertinent machinery. The technician raised the box to my chest height, then came around  and hung the IV drip easily from a convenient metal arm (designed for just such needs) and handed me a protective lead-lined skirt to hold waist high (I was glad the girl had tied the back of my gown shut before I got up to pose) . She stepped into the ‘camera booth’, instructed me to take a deep breath (I was lucky to have had so much recent practice) and stand still. I was shot right through the heart. The girl returned to my side and re-turned me to profile against the box, then did a repeat shoot out (in and through) and I was done and offered my bed back to wait for the results.

After everyone was satisfied that the pictures took, I was once again settled in my moving bed, protective side-rail up, and then wheeled out into the hall. My Hispanic friend was waiting, took over my locomotion and jolted, swerved, and whooshed me back to my room, parked me and left. I dozed, read, stared up at the ceiling and bided my time until all three of the game players had (separately) stopped by, made sure I was okay and said the results of the blood test would be back soon.

After a few hours (all this doesn’t happen as readily as it sounds… except when the Let’s Check Your Lungs game was being played) sitting half-reclined was beginning to strain my lower back and I contemplated pushing the call-button which had been attached to rail of my bed, but I refrained. I finally sat up in the bed and swung my legs over the edge to try to alleviate the growing ache in my back. It was then that Dr. Head Resident finally came back in. She asked about my pained expression and I told her that my back hurt from lying in the bed. She appeared to take this into consideration, then carried on with her original intentions. To further edify my erstwhile care-givers as to my ailments, she produced a long, thin wire brush that she twirled up my right nostril (“Checking the flue,” I think she said) and grossly understated that the sensation would make me feel like sneezing. Maybe she won the Lung Check Game and being able to do the Flue Check Game was her reward (or perhaps it was punishment for losing). She placed this utensil in a container, took it with and her thanked me as she left with the usual admonishment about future visitors.

The Doctor finally returned and informed me that my ailment was not the flu (my flue was fine), but rather a virus. I was to get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids. He queried as to my pained expression (“…my back hurts from this bed,”). He also said my white blood count was low enough to be worrisome. This (he informed me) was due to the suppression of these anti-bodies by the rheumatoid arthritis medicine I regularly took and the natural depletion of white blood cells by the virus. He had spoken with my rheumatologist on the phone and I was not to take the medicine this week, so that I could get that blood count higher. I was to return for another art drawing class (look sharp with that needle) the following Tuesday (today actually, as I write about it… and the reason I didn’t go back to face the pointed truth is a real snow job, but that’s now, in the future, as I write what you are reading well beyond my time here at the keyboard, and hasn’t happened yet in the past of my narration) to see if I could up my ante in defensive parlay. He wrote out an order for this endeavor and handed it to me.

With these admonishments and a “Hope you feel better,” he made his final exit and Head Resident Doctor returned. She queried me about my pained expression and subsequent grimacing, as I laboriously stood up. “…my back hurts from this bed,” I reminded her.  She again took this with great aplomb, then went on to make sure I would return the following Tuesday (I still haven’t been, but I’m planning on going tomorrow, when the snow has stopped and travel is easier.) I was disengaged from the IV (I had emptied the bag) and told to get dressed and I was free to go.

Left to my own devises I had to shuck myself out of the back-tied gown, pulling it over my head, got dressed, feeling chilled again, and then shuffled my pained and queasy-weary was down the halls (“Which way? Oh… thanks,”) and out the door into the cold of the afternoon. As I drove home I called in sick for the next two days and promised my boss I would do my best to get better.

My aching back bothered me almost as much as my feeling of general malaise over the next few miserable days. It wasn’t until the following Monday that I went back to work, and it was a long, tiring affair, but I survived.

Tuesday again, was a snow storm, so I didn’t make it to the hospital. And now, after taking over a week to write this, fighting lethargy, continued illness and poor memory of the events while in the ER (I was too sick to pay close attention), I find myself fighting another viral-like attack in the next Great Adventures of my (why me?) Life. So stay tuned for the incredibly (WTF?!) itchy adventures of The Great Bed-Bug Menace!

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