Medical treatment and therapy is nothing more than a waiting game. Actually, it's a racket, as well as a waiting game. You know, it's also a communications train wreck along with a racket and a waiting game.
Last July, I hurt my leg when I inadvertently stepped through a steel grating and pulled my calf muscle. Expecting nothing more than a little swelling and stiffness the next morning, I woke up to find my leg had turned tomato-red and blew up to twice the size. I wasn't really alarmed, except for the fact I couldn't move my leg, as it was bloated and radiated heat and deep pain. It tingled. It throbbed. My brain was cloudy--more cloudy than normal. I really couldn't think straight, but I still went to work, the good soldier I was--I had no idea. I really should've took into account the fact I couldn't fit this leg is not my already-loose pant leg. I had lost a good 50 pounds or so, I was working out like a pro, and I had my eyes focused on tipping the scales at a mighty sub-200 pound number. So, the idea that I had suddenly gained weight in my legs was inconceivable. Maybe it was the DingDongs I had a day before--a modest guilty pleasure for the sudden healthy training I have been chasing for most of my life!
Now, my workplace is not necessarily a shining sort of positivity. Whether it be working retail at a car lot, or working full-time at a busy multimedia studio, or plugging along as a middle-aged character actor, the general consensus states: if you can't perform a job, they can find someone who will. Superiority, attendance, loyalty, or excellence in your craft be dashed! Knowing this full well, I went into work. There are two brilliant technicians I work with, and I've known them for many years, I'm proud to say. Together, we're a three-man orchestra. That said, comfort didn't come from them.
"Put some ice on it."
"Put some heat on it."
"Drink some tea."
"Have a shot."
"Rest your leg."
"Walk on your leg."
"Shake it out and flex it."
Even though they're multitalented, they don't seem to know about these kinds of issues. By noon, my leg started to turn dark. I told my compatriots I needed to go in and have it checked out, and they seemed to agree, with the funny rejoinder, "Oh, don't worry about it, it's probably blood clots. They might even settle in your chest. Nothing to worry about. See you at in a bit......"
The general practitioner (aptly titled the GP, thrown around arrogantly in the medical biz), started to get irritated when I told her it hurts, but I couldn't pinpoint exactly where. She glibly tossed her stethoscope onto the table and said, "I guess we'll have to check you for.....blood clots."
Knowing she mentioned the punchline from a work-gag mentioned earlier in the day, I started to giggle. She glared with condescension and piety, "This is not a laughing matter, Mr. Vigil. Your life could be at stake."
Now, I had no idea what blood clots were. Over the next few minutes--as my leg continued to swell--I was briefed on the dangers of having some of these nasty invaders in my body. Apparently, they cause havoc--from heart attacks, to strokes, suffocation, and amputation. It turned to 7pm as I was told to rush to get an ultrasound. It's a surreal feeling, rushing to an emergency diagnosis in my own car. What if I didn't want to go in? Will this pass, if I didn't get a confirmation? Who will pay for these procedures? When do I call the wife? Will I be home soon? What if I blackout right now? Should I travel in the slow lane, in case I crash? Will the car flip? Will the crash jumble the clots loose? Can I operate on myself? My heart raced, and I felt sadly mortal.
The ultrasound was completed, and there were clots in my leg. The technician mentioned my voice sounded weak, and suggested I go to the emergency room in the hospital next door! Clots may be in my chest. Go now!!!
Off I went to the hospital. They let me in, as they knew I was coming, and I found a quiet room with three nurses waiting. Apparently, blood clots get you VIP treatment! They stabilized me, put tubes in me, and rushed me into a cat scan. Long story short, I had a couple clots in my lungs. I needed to stay. In all this chaos and rushing me around--all of which took a good five hours or so--I forgot to call my loving wife. It was 1am in the morning. I politely asked for a phone to reach her. Two in the morning rolls around, and still, no phone. At precisely 2:30am, I receive a phone from one of the receptionists, claiming there's an irate female on the phone. My wife was searching for me, and called a few hospitals around the area, with no one helping her. You'd think with all the technology, everyone would be interconnected with their inpatient data. We finally spoke, and I got in a terrible mood. Ron started wandering the halls of the ICU, waiting for a room to be prepared for me, in the other part of the hospital. I really couldn't believe all this needed to take so long. As I passed by a few patients--waiting patients, mind you--one thing burned in my mind: what a mess of a system. No one was checking on patients, no one checked on me, but there was a TV. It didn't work, but there was a TV.
It really was a surreal scene--all of us were waiting around, groaning, walking ourselves into the restroom (I even helped this older Mexican grandmother into the restrooms, prepping her for doing a deuce). I was ready to fill out my paperwork and collect a check for my services! Five in the morning rolls around, and a couple big bruisers show up at my door, ready to WHEEL me to my room! To say I didn't rest is such an understatement. I mentioned I left my invoice on the bed, but that didn't receive any reaction. Don't know why, I thought my delivery was on point.
The room in the larger part of the hospital was okay--my "roommate" was this dude who asked for EVERYTHING. He wanted a glass of ice. Shaved ice. Separate from a tall glass of plain water with NO ICE. He wanted breakfast well done. I don't know what PART of breakfast he wanted well done, but he just wanted WELL DONE. He wanted lotion. He wanted someone to show him how the TV worked. He wanted aspirin. He wanted an extra dose of morphine. He wanted to call his cousin. He wanted to call his brother. He wanted lunch early. He wanted to see the menu NOW. He wanted a burrito for lunch. Bodily noises frequently punctuated his requests. I was in Gross-out Heaven.
The doctors visited me at a regular pace of once. Strike that, twice. The second time was getting my info for insurance. The other communications consisted of a nurse relaying facts from the doctor, basically telling me I was going to be discharged by the afternoon. Thank goodness--I didn't want to be around when my bunk buddy had a burrito.
Toward the end of my stay, my dorm partner crossed over to my side and struck up a conversation:
"Hey Mark, I'm Ron."
"What are you here for?"
"I guess I have blood clots all over me. You?"
"I have a blood condition I have to keep coming back for....I keep fainting for the last few years, so the doctors want me in here a lot, for my health."
"Do they know what's happening with you?"
"Not really. I just keep getting infected."
"That sounds terrible. I hope you get to feeling better soon."
"I don't. I just want to go away. That's why I call my cuz--so he can bring me something to fuck me up."
"You should watch out for those clots, man. My Aunt got one in her lung, and it traveled to her brain. Killed her quick. Don't mess around with those, man."
"Anyway, I heard you were going soon. You be careful."
"You too. I'll be praying for ya."
"You don't have to. I got it. I'm always careful, man. I order everything in my life the way I want it. I'm tired of being not in control, you know?"
"I hear ya. I hope you make it."
"I hope I don't. Peace."
I was released at a prompt 2:48pm. I guess I was stabilized. I don't know, nobody really told me. I was wheeled to the car (where my phone and iPad™ were). I called my wife and told her I was coming home, and I NEEDED a shower. I told my job the same.
I stared through the windshield all the way home, listening to the in-between station static, as I couldn't concentrate on anything during the car ride. Whatever problems interfered with my life, I felt for the many people that system let hang on to it, clinging like dead skin on a whale. The old grandmother's humility, the burned-out receptionist, the obviously-overrun Doctor, the irritated nurses, and Mark.
I really don't know what's to come of all this, and I'm realistically pessimistic about the future. But I'm not nearly as bad off as I have selfishly led myself to believe. I make my weekly appointments to the blood specialists to get my finger pricked (I'm a moving target of being almost-therapeutic--whatever that means), I watch my intake of EVERYTHING, and I move a little slower to avoid extreme bruising. I won't lie, the little pill I take for my blood kicks my ass, though. I'm tired ALL THE TIME, even though I try to muster a workout every once in a while.
I feel like such a jerk. You know, I wasn't looking for a stay at the Hilton, but I left more stressed than I did when I came in. Something was intrinsically wrong with this picture, yes? Overall, what a dreadful ordeal. There has to be a better way to do all this.
As much as I hate this systemic, joyless mincing, I am fully aware other people hate their situations more. I am blessed to get out when I did, and I think about those people in the hospital bowels who shared the horror. I get the uneasy feeling I'm the alert deer who sought higher ground before the tsunami hit the shore. The only difference is, I had no idea there was a tsunami. I escaped an administrative haunted house. I do know one thing, though--I'm taking lots of supplements. And I'm praying for those souls.