OK, so big news here in Sarah Land. Yesterday morning I was driven to the E.R. Yes, that E.R. THE E.R. It was my first visit ever, in fact. It was not exciting like they show you through drama’s on the telly. I’m sure some probably are, but in po-dunk-ville early on a Saturday morning, I’m thinking very low-key rather makes sense.
Obviously I’m here writing to you… did I need to go to the emergency room? Yes and no. Yes, because I was in excruciating pain for seven hours before we went in and nobody else was open; no because I should have just gone to the local clinic months ago, but then that point is neither here nor there, because I never chose that option and it’s in the past.
Why am I writing a blog post about it? Because I found it all rather interesting.
So… starting two years ago I would get a circle of pain right about where my sternum is. The entire area through to my back would feel like it was on fire and was just the worst pain, and there were be dull, radiating pain out to the sides of that. At first I thought, well my stomach is upset, what does one take for upset stomach. I made a trip to Walgreens that first time at seven o’clock in the morning and purchased a bottle of Gaviscon, which is a liquid antacid. I took two cap fulls and voila pain was gone. But, then I was moving to four cap fulls, then four cap fulls with chewable Pepto Bismal tablets. Then just 4-6 chewable Pepto Bismal tablets, then Friday night happened and nothing would work.
Really, Friday night was only the sixth or eighth incident in a 34 month period. I could always get it to stop within an hour tops, so I really thought there wasn’t much need in seeing a doctor. I’d also formulated the opinion that it was all stomach acid. That the levels were rising and just sitting there at the opening of my esophagus into my stomach and that is what was causing all of the pain. I researched which foods aggravated stomach acids and tried to avoid them. I also tried to find a pattern to my theory.
I did half-assed research and tried to go from there. I would notice that on a particularly exciting day my one cup of coffee turned into five, but did not bring the onset of this horrible malady. And a day where I had no trigger foods (which the list was ridiculously laughable that I was following), this terrible thing would happen. I was frustrated because I could not figure out the pattern to avoid all of this.
So, by Saturday morning around eight am, six hours since this pain started, I pondered whether it was an emergency. Of course it is because this pain sucks, but was it really worth going to the E.R. about, perhaps it would go away soon? I decided to look online. I looked at five medical websites. All of them were like, it’s fine UNLESS you exhibit one or more of these symptoms, then seek medical attention immediately. I had two of the symptoms. Vomiting and pain at a level of 8 – 10 for more than three hours. “O.K.”, I thought “I should probably go then.”
I couldn’t drive, and an ambulance seemed too ridiculous to me. I tried knocking on the bathroom door, but my dad thought it was my mom and just said, “I’m busy, Rachel!” I didn’t have the words to tell him, so I shuffled back to my office, wrote ‘HOSPITAL” in capital letters with a red sharpie, shuffled back and slid it under the door. I shuffled back to my office and then you could hear my dad saying some things excitedly to my mother, and she kind of has a shrill voice because I heard her reply, “I was asleep!!” I hear him walking down the hall and I’m able to muster, “ME!” Told him the problem and we were going.
Both of my parents took me to the E.R. My mother verbally worried in front of the nurse, “What if it’s a heart attack?” I sighed and said, “I seriously doubt that.” “Why?” my mother responded. “Well, I don’t have the male or the female symptoms for that.” The male nurse blinked wide eyes, finished what he was doing and left.
Later my dad came in the E.R. room where we were. The two of them started asking if I had pain in my shoulders, because that’s internal bleeding, my mother should know because she was internally bleeding when she was pregnant with me, that’s why I was removed and not birthed. “No, no, it’s not internal bleeding.” I wanted to mention that my waste would have been black, besides actually apparently having shoulder pains, but I decided not to.
My dad chimes in with, “I really hope it’s not your gallbladder”, because that’s what he’d had trouble with. I responded with, “Probably not. Thought that’s a more logical course of thought than heart attack. I figured and hoped it was nothing major, but assumed that if it was, the likely cause was the pancreas, then the stomach, then the gallbladder. But I didn’t mention this to my parents, it would have only made them worry more.
When the doctor showed up, he had a super gorgeous Indian intern with him. I was only 5% embarrassed and it would have been more if I had cared about anything else in that moment other than the pain, which was all I could really allot my thoughts to. I was dressed in super holy pants, was wearing nothing up top but one of those medical gowns. My hair was a mess. Oh, and the kicker here is that the vomiting episode was so violent that capillaries burst all over my face, primarily all around my eyes. I look liked I’d had a fight with a Chimera and obviously lost. And he was so happy and smiley, looking all gorgeous, then he went around the back of me where the gown isn’t covering (which I realize is just my back, but still!) and he’s touching me all over with his stethoscope and I could have just died. Part of me wanted to ask for his number, in front of my parents, when I don’t even own a phone. I quickly decided I was out of my mind and retracted on that thought. Probably wise.
But so, yes. They gave me something for the pain, which also numbed everything, but worked REALLY well. Then, they ran various tests from my blood and urine, checking I suppose on enzyme levels in various organs. They didn’t really tell me specifics, but I think I’m pretty accurate. They told me that my pancreas, which they were most worried about looked really good, as did the gallbladder, which they had also decided to check to be sure. Also that if this happens again I should see a GI specialist to check out the stomach, which logically one would assume was probably the second thought of inquiry and also that they can’t really check the stomach with the tests that they did. Makes sense, but also it was not something they actually explained or said. But I was also thrilled, when I remembered this scene later, that how epic was it that I was correct on that?
The prognosis was Gastritis. The information that followed was this; I should get the prescription filled and if that wasn’t enough I could couple that with Pepto-Bismal or Maalox. If the prescription didn’t work, I should let them know right away. That was it. But from logical conclusion and my discharge papers I could conclude that my gastritis was caused by high acid levels (out of the various reasons for it), the prescription was generic Prilosec for 14 days. Treatment for high acid level gastritis is an antacid for two weeks.
Since I have come home, I’ve seen my parents probably ten times and every time they have a huge smile on their faces and ask me how I’m doing in dulcet tones. The way they are acting you would think I had been dying. My father mentioned “my condition” once today and my mother referenced my “delicate condition.” The first, I quite literally made this face o_0 as best as humans can do. The second I had to respond with, “Mom, I’m not pregnant.” to which she ignored that and skipped over to how the hospital staff thought I was pregnant because they kept asking me. To note, they did not assume, and only asked once with their series of normal routine questions. I was also asked about my last menstrual cycle, any past surgeries, any medications I was taking, and what I had to eat prior to the incident. She waved that away also.
The conclusion is that they stopped the pain, which was all I cared about in that moment in time. I had a new experience, which was not really unpleasant. I was right about the possible major things and their position on the serious to less serious scale. I was correct about the prognosis. I have researched, far better than previously, any and all steps I need to take to keep the acid levels normal. I also cost my parents a small fortune for this incident. They are weird, but it’s obvious they were really worried and their trying to show love the best way that they can by mollycoddling me.
Lesson? When something is bothering me, I should make an appointment at the clinic. When my gut is, quite literally, telling me something I should listen and not half-ass research these things. But I’m trying not to beat myself up too much about this, because I can’t change the past, I have a game plan, things are better, and hopefully I won’t make a costly mistake in the future for something that is not very serious.
Fun Fact: Apparently my fathers parents were here visiting once, when I was really young, and they had to rush my grandmother to hospital. She had described my same symptoms, but she thought she was having a heart attack. She was diagnosed with the exact same thing. That story would have been a whole hell of a lot more helpful prior to Saturday morning, but after my dad’s heart surgery a little over a year ago, I can’t really blame him, he’s a little slow on things now. He probably hadn’t thought of that story in years and probably didn’t think about it until this morning when he told me.