Monday, July 26, 2010

A Week With Jeesus!

My leg went away July 12th.

It started with an intense fiery pain across my shoulder blades shortly after I got out of bed. This was followed by me nearly going unconscious during my usual morning cough. Nothing else happened until I got outside.

As I was hopping in the car to go to work that morning, my entire leg simply went numb; it felt like the femoral artery went empty, clamped off without warning. Didn't last long, a few moments, about as long as it took for me to jump back out of the car. I put a foam cushion on my seat and got back in; it helped a lot, and by the time I got to work it was almost back to normal. Still twingy, uncomfortable. It's 8 a.m.

I made it across the parking lot, but by the time I found a computer terminal to clock in, I had to lean hard on the counter. My leg felt like I'd been running without rest for hours. In another few minutes it was numb again.

Montage: Call a friend, get a ride to a local clinic, sit and wait. It's 9:15 a.m. now.

Within 15 minutes, there was a solid, grinding bar of pain spreading from the middle of my back just above the kidneys and wrapping around to the front. It felt like everything in my abdomen was cramped up all at once, guts, kidneys and all.

It took more than an hour before I was called to an exam room. By then I was panting, unable to take a large breath.

Montage: Doc asks a few questions, calls in his boss, and they both tell me to go to the ER. Call friend back, get ride, hit ER. Sign in, sit and wait. It's 11:15 a.m.

Brief bits of activity: they call me to an exam room and take BP, temp, blood ox, send me back. I sit and pant. My sister calls for the third time, asking questions I can't answer because I can barely breathe, but this never occurs to her. I turn my phone off and wait and pant. They call me to another room, put me on a quickie heart monitor, draw some blood, and get a chest X-ray...then wheel me back out to the waiting room. It's almost 1 p.m.

Some guy is ranting about the hospital not helping the invalid woman sitting with him. I try to remember what breathing feels like.

They come get me and install me in an exam room, give me one of those backless gowns, and eventually start hooking me up to stuff--an automatic BP reader, heart monitor, pulse ox reader, a saline drip, and another IV thing that doses me from time to time and bitches at me if I bend my arm. Then they shoot me off for two CAT scans. Now it's almost 3 p.m.

And now we have a cause. The scans revealed a tear inside my aorta from diaphragm level down to the femoral arteries' branch. Over time, high blood pressure opens a tear in the inner lining of the aorta, gradually making it bigger, and then tears the lining away. My leg went numb because the tear ballooned out at the lower end and blocked that branch. All that pain was sympathetic: your innards don't have their own pain receptors, so my brain was interpreting the damage to my aorta as gas pain at the upper end, kidney pain a little lower.

The good news is that I don't need surgery. Just keep the BP low and controlled and the tear will heal itself.

So now it's 4-something and they won't let me move. I have to lie on my back, keep my arms still so the BP cuff and IV won't be obstructed, and I still can't breathe. The exam room is stifling and I lie there sweating, eyes wandering from place to place. There's a crucifix on one wall near the door. I couldn't think of anything snarky or ironic, let alone be amused at the depiction of a long, torturous death in a room full of healing technology.

Somewhere down the hall was a steady, low groan from what sounded like an older man in pain. All I could think was, "I'm with you, man."

Five hours later (nine-something), they sent me to the ICU, where the air conditioning was on and I finally met some friends named Lortab and Dilaudid who made the pain go far, far away. The Dilaudid kept me amused by making the room roll and spin slowly for a bit. A crucifix hung next to the door, but now I was too loopy to be amused by the torture/healing thing. They brought me the finest nectars--simple apple juice and a cup of ice cream, but it had been 24 hours since I'd had anything to eat.

Other than the new comfortable digs, it was all the same--heart monitor, BP, pulse ox, IV's, don't bend your arms. They kept me there from late Tuesday to Thursday morning, then put me in a regular room until I left on Tuesday the 20th. Yes, there was a crucifix. I was off the IV and BP machine (but someone came around every 4 hours to check), and they started in on the pills, looking for the right mixture of them to bring my pressure down and keep it steady.

The best thing was the very comfortable recliner, the only place I could get any real sleep. I kept the phone unplugged: it only rang when I was trying to sleep.

It's been almost a week since they let me out. At least one of the meds has me so dried out that my nose feels swollen shut, so I can't sleep deeply--I keep gasping awake and feeling like I'm suffocating. The only way I can sleep is sitting up, but I'm still stuck with cat-naps. My appetite is returning a bit at a time. My right leg still won't take much walking. Just going to a convenience store leaves me in pain and huffing like I've run a marathon. I feel worn-out, exhausted, lethargic.

This ain't any fun. Well, the vivid waking dreams (a side effect of one of the meds, or maybe sleep deprivation) are fascinating and sometimes interactive. I wish I could remember them all; some of them have been utterly cool, looking like animated Frank Miller artwork. There have been a few where I was trying to pick something up, only to wake up and find my hands still reaching for the item. I've had brilliant fireworks displays, glowing samurai doing battle, and a skeletal pirate ship.

It seems like there should be an ending here, but I can't really thing of anything.

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