On May 4, 2013, I shall walk in my fifteenth consecutive 500 Festival MiniMarathon®. This is the part four of a series about MS and my vehemence about the Mini.®
I want to note that, each year as we gather in our "stalls" near (or not so near) the start line, I glance up at the rooftop lines. Always the 500 Festival has personnel lined up and alert. As an American, in the "land of the free," I have mixed emotions about those folks on station. I feel safer than if they were not there. I am sorry our country has reached the point at which an endurance race would need security.I wonder if there will be drones over the course this year?
Back to the hospital...
Breakfast of my first full day on the neuro ward was not bad. As soon as the meal was rolled away, an orderly appeared with a wheelchair. Sarah had been there, but had left for work. She is an accountant and January is when tax season ramps up. She popped between our home, the hospital, and her office in record low temperatures. The second or third day of my stay, Indianapolis set the all-time record low of 25 below.
One "regular" to visit my room was a phlebotomist. They worked in shifts. The first one pushed an IV into my left hand and took blood (what phlebotomists do). He left the IV in, with a little cap on the end. A phlebotomist would uncap the insert several times each day, to tap samples of my bodily fluid, like Stroh’s beer from a keg back at DePauw, but not in as much quantity, and certainly not accompanied by the same merriment.
They wheeled me into rooms for more tests. I had difficulty moving my legs over and off the edge of the bed. My left leg was completely unresponsive to both the little rubber mallet that is supposed to make one’s knee kick a bit, and to my own conscious directions. My right almost was as bad. I was able to move it, but not much. Going to tests was better than staying in the room. I had a black-and-white TV that only picked up 12 channels. (I was not in St. Vinnie’s.)
There still was no diagnosis. The neuro’s initial statement about what I could have only was speculation. This was to be a day of tests. There was another MRI. They did a CT scan (I really wanted to listen to Pink Floyd by now). For one "test" I sat in front of a television. If you remember the opening of "The Outer Limits" TV series from the 1960s, they announcer says something like, "There is nothing wrong with your television set." The screen they show is all parallel static. That was one of the diagnostics. Wires were placed on my head and I was told to stare at a television screen of static for about half-an-hour as an orderly sat behind a desk and read a car magazine.
Sarah came over at lunch. I was on more drugs and exhausted. She was going through hell, but the pharmaceutical fog into which I had been rendered made me mostly oblivious. I was half-way through lunch when a physician, other than my neuro, came into the room. He wore a serious expression. He said they had found an irregularity on one of my kidneys. One could have looked at this in many ways. One was: what a gyp; I’m in the place for one condition and they nail me with another. Another was: I was getting more bang for the buck, treatment for two conditions at the same time; how lucky. He said the irregularity might be a tumor----Man! That "tumor" thing again!—and they only would know by doing an ultrasound. I was wheeled out of the room again to another room in the basement.
The hospital personnel could be categorized in many ways. One was the manner in which they addressed me as a patient. Some talked to me in a normal voice and as one adult to another. Some barely talked, either pissed off at their job or the world or their significant other from a morning argument before work. The worst ones used a voice slightly raised—as though I were deaf—and with deliberate pronunciation of one-syllable words, like amongst the tests they’d run had been one or more for IQ and I was in single digits.
Another aspect I found annoying was the deference the other hospital showed to medical doctors. My SAT scores were a match for or superior to those of any of the docs, I was confident. And I have a J.D. Then I recognized the nature of the deference. It was the same as that to which I was accustomed at court from court staff, with whom I get along great. After all, I was a library clerical assistant at Northwestern University School of Law for two years. I know, first-hand, what assholes lawyers can be with clerical personnel in general. I always have treated court staff with respect. In the midst of this catastrophic medical event I found myself pissy about doctors being treated better than me.
Maybe this sounds like I was a bad patient, but I always was cheerful and polite, especially the more they pumped me up with drugs. I graduated from college in the 1970s. And I know I was a good patient because, later, after I had received copies of all of my charts, each physician began her or his report by referring to me as a "pleasant gentleman." I think that’s a euphemism for "he’s not a jerk."
Within a minute of the ultrasound commencing, the techie did a "tut-tut" kind of sound and told me, "You have an irregularly-shaped kidney. There’s no tumor here." I thanked her and I was wheeled out and back upstairs. A concern about cancer had been resolved.
Another doc came into the room and asked me when I last had urinated. I hesitated as I tried to remember. That particular act of release of bodily fluids had been something of a problem of late, I told him, and added I thought "day before yesterday."
The next thing I knew, a nurse entered the room, lubed up a tube, and told me they were going to insert a catheter.
Early afternoon, the partner of my neuro (I knew that because he told me plus I knew the name of their practice from a couple of personal injury suits on which I had worked and recognized his name) came into my room. He asked so sit up and swing my legs over the side of my bed. I told him I needed help on the latter since not only had I lost the ability to move both legs, there now was this nasty line for the catheter in the way. Once I was positioned, we began to chat. He undid the back of my hospital gown, seemed simply to pat me on the back, redid the cap on a syringe I had not seen, and told me we were through. As he helped me back into my reclining position, I asked him what he had done.
"That was an LP."
One loveable trait of docs is their use of a term they figure other people do not know.
"Lumbar puncture?" I asked. He was mildly surprised, but nodded. "They were called spinal taps at one time." He nodded, wished me a good day, and left.
Suddenly I did not feel so good. I remembered my brother’s—eventually successful—efforts to dodge the draft during the Vietnam War. The night before he was to be inducted, he was found at the bottom of two flights of stairs at IU-Kokomo. He claimed he had fallen when a tread had separated from one of the concrete steps. (There were no treads on that stairway; didn’t matter—half-a-dozen neurologists certified he was too sick for the war and he stayed home.) His plan to beat the Selective Service System required at least one spinal tap. He had been in pain from that for several days. My headaches began shortly after the LP was administered.
Sarah got off of work and came back. Dinner was wheeled into my room. The hospital’s food was pretty good. The cart had been wheeled away. I found that I could sit up only for a few minutes, after which I had a pounding headache, thanks to the LP.
There was a mild knock at the door and a hand pulled the curtain open wider. The neuro had arrived. I figured it was time for the big news.
I was right. They had a diagnosis.