barely breathing

Well, I can say one thing about this year: it has not been lacking in firsts.

Today, I got my very first CT scan (with contrast).

It was not a pleasant experience.

Let’s back this shit up a bit, yea?

______________________

Last Monday, I started getting some kind of mutant cold.  I almost mistook it for allergies, but then the cough kicked in.  I was pretty sure my roomie gave it to me, after I gave him a milder version of it (sans cough) because he was coughing like a looney the other day–and I told him to stay away from me with his Germans.

Of course, I got it anyway.

Now, having asthma, a chest cold is pretty much the most dreaded routine disease you can get.  I usually get some manner of bronchitis or sinus infection.  I wasn’t happy about it, but the little booger was sticking around.  And just getting worse.

I had a new patient appointment scheduled for today, so I figured I’d get it checked out.  My new PCP was highly recommended by my surgeon (who I adore), so I felt like I was in good hands.  When I woke up this morning, though, I was feeling pretty shitty.  I didn’t sleep at all last night because of the horrible coughing, and I was actually kind of dizzy/wheezing.  I had some stuff to do this morning, but I felt bad enough to reschedule everything and thought about ditching this appointment (which was a whole month in the making).  My roomie was having none of it, though, and convinced me to go.  Because if you’re too sick to go to the doctor, you probably really need to go to the doctor.  And since he told me that for months prior to the surgery, I decided I’d listen this time.  But I still didn’t trust myself to drive, so he drove me (which was extremely generous of him, and he gets nice things sometime soon).

As the day progressed, I felt way worse.  The cough was still bad, but didn’t seem to have much purpose.  What was really cramping my style was the whole wheezing thing that came with the dry hacking.  I could barely get air in and got winded going to the bathroom.  I knew at that point that something was up and needed to be checked out.  

We got to the doctor’s office about 15 minutes early, and from the get-go, there was something off with the staff.  From a poorly designed office space, to clerks who didn’t seem to get the concept of being a new patient, it was a big mess.  No one gave me paperwork to fill out, and I basically sat in the lobby for 20 minutes doing nothing before they realized I needed to fill out paperwork.  I chatted with an old lady in the lobby, so I didn’t mind, but it was really kind of awful…phones ringing off the hook, people getting automated calls about nonexistent issues.  And receptionists lying that the computers were down.

I’d read some things on Yelp, so I wasn’t entirely shocked.  That the office staff was a nightmare, but the doctors were good.  It seemed like the receptionists were brand new and had zero training.  One didn’t even know who the doctors were in the practice.  I was still filling out paperwork when the medical assistant brought me back.  She asked if I had been late, and I said I hadn’t.  She seemed to be the only one competent at this point.  So, despite the physical I had scheduled, we were probably just going to talk about my cold and not being able to breathe–because the doctor was now 20 minutes behind.

Okay.  Whatever.  My goal was to fix the not breathing thing anyway, so sure.

The doctor came in, did her thing–read my hospital notes, and then took looks.  My blood pressure was high…as high as it was the day I was admitted to the ER–which was high-normal, but super-high for me.  My breathing was half what it should be–similar to what it was when I was on 2 painkillers following surgery.  Which was enough for them to have a nurse monitoring me every 5 minutes after my surgery.  My heart rate, though, was double what it should be–making me…tada…a tachycardia poster girl.

Well, crap.

Oh, and I was wheezing and sweating profusely.  Now, it was 103 degree outside, but still: AC.

Given my Mama’s history with broken hearts: not good.

But the thing that took it over the edge, the doc listening to my lungs.  Holy Hell.  I sounded bad.

So, breathing treatment for me.  Yay, nebulizers.  Only it didn’t really work.  

Shit.

Given that I just had surgery and have a pretty sedentary job and haven’t been so active because of recovery…a blood clot was a real concern.  So, my doc decided it best to send me over to the friendly imaging center for a CT with contrast.  My first ever.  Joy.

I do not recommend that experience, though the imaging place was awesome–especially the tech who IV’d me.  (BTW, I’m so over the IVs this year).

If you haven’t had a CT ever, the nausea that hit after the contrast hits is a special little something.  Luckily, it goes away as quickly as it shows up.

The CT was fine.  (There’s $700 I’ll never see again).  No blood clots. No Alma dying.  And the nebulizing treatment finally worked its magic somewhere on that tunnel of laser love.

Most of my coughing went away. The sweating went away, and the gasping for air went away.  I feel a lot better, though.  Now that I’m home, in our allergen-full house of kitty love?  My lungs aren’t as happy.  

Unfortunately, after telling the imaging place to release me, my doc never followed up with me to address the tachycardia and remaining symptoms–as she said she would.  And, upon calling them back, I got answering service Hell–which sent me to the wrong practice’s on-call doctor: twice.  On the third try, they told me to just call in the morning.  Or call 911 if it was really bad.  (Really).  And who closes at 4 pm?  Oh, wait…they actually don’t.  They just stop answering the phones for the last hour of the day, so had I gone there–she probably would have still be there.  (Whut?)

I’ll be calling tomorrow–hopefully, just to get a rescue inhaler (fingers crossed that’s all I really need and that getting what I need isn’t an epic battle).  I’m prepared to get a few hundred second opinions, though.  My gut tells me it’s just asthma, but I’ve learned to not self-diagnose.  I’ve been wrong: with my mother and then myself.  One ended in death, the other–almost.  So, no more Alma knows best.

But my quest to find a decent PCP in this city continues.  I’m on #5.  I’m finding that there are many, many technically competent physicians out there.  They’re analysts, really.  They can take buzzwords and turn them into treatments.  And most of the time, they’re right. When they miss the boat, though, people might die.  Or suffer a lot, for no good reason.  And they’ll probably keep right on practicing.

That’s not good enough.  I need a physician that a) tells it to me straight and follows-through (ensuring my health isn’t dangling in the wind because the office closed at 4); b) listens to me and gets me to tell them the right info…(able to see who I am and what I need…my surgeon does that like no other); c) explains things and sugarcoats the shit that needs sugarcoating (don’t tell me I need to go halfway across Englewood to get a CT for a possible blood clot while I’m still tachycardic, lightheaded, and not able to breathe…especially when we’re right next door to a perfectly good HOSPITAL with all those types of technological happy things…especially when my Mama’s tachycardic event–a mere “cold”–put her in CHF and led to her eventual demise); d) has professional staff that do their jobs well/don’t lie to patients (especially in front of other patients); and e) don’t force me to wait a month to see a doctor for a new patient appointment.

Is it really that hard?  Apparently, it is.  Because GOOD GOD, Denver.

###

As frustrating as it all undoubtedly is, I do feel better–though I feel worried.  If the asthma’s the main culprit behind my more scary symptoms, then the nebulizer treatment plus cold meds should help for a few days until I can get to another doctor if this one continues to disappoint.  Still, I’d feel a lot better with a rescue inhaler right about now.  

This whole thing actually reminded me of something: how important it is to have advocates–even if you’re the person who needs to listen to some advocates.  I never would have bothered with a doctor today if I lived alone.  That whole philosophy I’ve lived with my whole life of getting through the shitty times, not saying a word–until it’s so bad I’m on my death bed–welp…it’s so ingrained in me.  Asthma symptoms–not being able to breathe–well, I’m used to it.  My asthma’s been uncontrolled for far too long–mostly because I didn’t stand up for myself and didn’t follow-through when I knew I needed to.  It’s been getting worse, and I knew that–and intended to get it righted when I had more money or time or whatever.  Feeling shitty today was just another whatever that got in the way of me taking care of me.  So, my roommate’s advocating to me that–huh, you really need to stop this shit…his determination that it was worth something to him–enough that he’d drive me over there himself–made me realize I should really value it too.

And it was nice, when I was so defeated–walking out of the doctor’s office…being told I might have a clot that could literally kill me…another near death bullshit thing AGAIN…to have someone there to take me to that place and sit with me.

The whole thing made me realize what a gift it was that I gave my mother.  While my roommate couldn’t take care of the bullshit I dealt with today–because that’s on me–I couldn’t help but feel envious of people who have people (family) who fight their battles…who wade through the paperwork, who take the bad news and deliver it in soft tones, who simply absorb some of the BS that is modern medicine.

I never realized what I did.

I mean, I kinda did because it took its toll.  It was hard.  It sucked.  And the lingering grief I have, many days, comes from those sacrifices I made because I loved her.

But I’ve never really taken credit for it…absorbed what it must have meant to her.

I’ve felt only tiny bits of it, myself.  To know that someone has your back–is fighting for you, every day, and will never ever let anything bad happen to you….well, that is something.

(Even if the bad happened anyway).

It never occurred to me to be proud of that.  Or to take credit for that.  Or to think of that as anything except what it was: love.

But I know she did.  I know she appreciated it.  And I know she believed I was capable of it.  And she trusted it.  Even if I didn’t.

And I guess that means something.

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