Sunday, July 11, 2010

Passing time with health-care professionals (by Suzie)

In my post this Friday about breast-cancer awareness, I mentioned that time passed while I pondered the issue. I didn’t have space to explain how I passed the time, but since Anthony is absent, let me tell you:

A woman in scrubs lead me to a back door of the medical office. We went up an automatic lift -- "hold on!!" -- to what looked like a bank-vault door. We entered a room where I had to get up on a narrow table and lie face down, but I had to do it with one hand because I had an IV in my finger because an RN couldn’t find a fitting vein elsewhere. (Video at 11.) The table had two holes that allowed my breasts to dangle in mid-air.

Welcome to the breast MRI.

I had the MRI because someone had found something on a routine mammogram that gave them pause. I had to get a diagnostic mammogram, and a health-care professional warned me that this one would sort of squish my right breast. I wanted to say, "I just had my breasts flattened like roadkill by the regular mammogram. This is worse?!" SQUISH.

I then had a sonogram of the suspicious breast. Not a good day to wear silk. My MRI showed something in my left breast, and so, I then had a sonogram of my left breast. The Powers That Be decided that I probably just had cysts, but I have to go back in six months.

In the midst of all of this, I had to reschedule my MRI because the night before I had abdominal pain. I called nearby friends. The husband, a semi-retired neurosurgeon, asked me my symptoms and then said, “I don’t think it would be inappropriate to go to the ER.” His wife, who drives as if she was behind the wheel of an ambulance because she’s from the Boston area, picked me up. I faced a wait of about 20 minutes in the ER before I could even see a triage nurse. No, this wasn’t Saturday night after a gang shooting. This was a Monday night. Apparently, people had toughed out the weekend hoping to see a doctor Monday, only to find that they couldn’t get an appointment for two months. Btw, an AP article says ER wait times may worsen under the new health-care law.

So, we called the cancer center to weasel our way into their after-hours clinic. There, a nurse asked what number my pain was on the scale with the smiley-to-frowny faces. “Give me morphine or kill me,” I said.

Then, the projectile vomiting began. My friend, a retired school nurse practitioner, spent years in middle schools. She knows her way around vomit. She peered into the pink plastic tub the way that others have looked at animal entrails.

I was very dehydrated, and the nurse couldn’t start an IV. He called for backup, which resulted in a nurse on each arm, poking away. The one who successfully stuck me was the night nursing supervisor, a slim blonde in pink with pink sapphires who was probably Vajazzled in pink. It was Barbie with a butterfly needle. And this was before I got the morphine.