It would have been funny … if it weren’t my body, I suppose.
If my body were a car, say, with an engine that was overheating or there was something amiss with the fuel injector, and they made me wait day after day for “Joe” to call me back and let me know what needed to be done. And then Joe never called back, and “Bo” was the supposed guy to talk to the next day, and he didn’t call me back either. And then I finally got to talk to the AAA guy, not the right guy, but someone who could tell me whether the problem was serious, and he chastised me for not bringing it in because it could blow up any minute. And that I could bring it in 13 hours from now, no sooner, and please just sit in it and think about things until then. And then I’d have to take it several places for the tests, because God forbid the same fix-it-shop be able to open the hood AND look under it AND check the oil AND fix it. Oh, no, that’s four different places, and yes, the engine is still overheating and yes, this is very serious, and why didn’t you bring it in on Monday?
That sounds ridiculous, right?
And yet … Saturday night I spiked a fever of 103.5′, tossing and turning terribly throughout the night, gasping in pain with every breath. I was apparently too drowsy to really realize it, but I woke in the morning feeling absolutely awful, and the pains in my chest reduced to sore muscles from the exertion (could it be that I’m not as fit as I think I am?). I was in and out of it all day Sunday and Monday, up to 104.4′, never below 102′, and I called the doctor at 9:00 Monday morning to speak to a nurse. I was pretty sure it was the flu (since, you know, it’s going around … the WORLD) but needed to know whether to stay home and away from other possible infections or come in and see if there was something to be done about it (and I’m totally against unnecessary antibiotics, so I didn’t jump unnecessarily).
So I called just after 9 a.m. Monday morning. The front desk receptionist at the doctor’s office put me on hold. For 8 minutes. When I realized that I’d been shunted nowhere, I called back, explained my symptoms, and asked for an appointment. No can do; all the same day appointments had been booked (before 10 a.m.) and they don’t schedule tomorrow’s until tomorrow morning. Well may I speak to a nurse? Click. Ring. To another phone that was never answered. After another 10 minutes, I hung up and called back (again). Explained again that it was rather urgent and I just needed to know whether to go to the hospital or not, since I had a history and all. She took a message and told me to wait for a return call.
I waited. And waited. And waited. I lay there lethargically, unable to make decisions, and with no interest in watching TV or reading (for once) as my fever climbed to 104.4′ despite Motrin and Tylenol. Just before midnight Monday, my fever broke violently, and my chills and shaking turned to sweat. I watched my temperature drop to 100′, and 100′ has never looked so good. Tuesday at 5 p.m. a nurse returned my Monday 10 a.m. call. The office was closed.
Tuesday night my fever returned, and the pain in my chest returned too, wracking the right side of my lungs and making me shudder with every breath, first on the right side and then in the center. It was awful, but really weird, and not something I thought deserving of the ER at midnight. (Everyone knows the morning nurses are much kinder and tests move more quickly.)
It was an awful night, but then I remembered a trick to dealing with our health care system that requires physician approval before going to the ER … if one wants insurance to pay for it … and I do. I called the after-hours answering service at 7 a.m, before the doctor’s office opened. The physician on call called me back (eventually) and was alarmed that my fever was so high and I hadn’t been seen. When I explained what had happened with his own office, he just sighed and said, “Unfortunately, I hear that all the time.”
Whaaaaaaaat? as my two year old would say.
Regardless, I followed his direction, called the office at 9 a.m., dropped his name, and told them that he had insisted that I be seen that day. (I’ll speed this up; I’m getting pretty tired too.)
When An hour after I arrived for my appointment, I was ushered into an exam room. By this time, my fever had gone back up and I was shaking with chills again. Very uncomfortable, nervous. Listening to the doctor chat with a 40-year patient next door and zoning in and out. After a quick exam and listen to my lungs, he folded his arms and said, “Tell me about your cancer history again.” “Mmmm-hmmm.” “Here’s the thing. I’m not hearing sufficient lung function in there. Whether or not it’s a tumor, it’s almost certainly pneumonia. I suspect it’s a tumor because of the way you describe the pain on the right side, in a line. When you try to breathe, the pain is breaking along the tumor and shooting up and down the right side.”
The what? Dude, I came in with the flu and you’re sending me out with a tumor?
“Here’s a referral to get an x-ray. Go. Go now. Do you have someone to drive you?” My dad came and picked me up, as I had been in no shape to drive, and we drove across town to the radiology center. I figured we’d have to cross back a different way to get blood drawn too, to check my white blood cells, so settled in for a long day.
There’s a whole nother post about waiting for hours in the doctor’s office (and then the radiology center) with the flu, and receptionists uncaring about contagion, but I’m exhausted tonight, so I’ll cut to the chase. I had an x-ray, I was told to wait, the right guy came back from lunch and read the x-ray, they called my doctor, and he sent a message back to me to go home and wait for further instructions.
Two hours later he says that the x-ray was pretty normal, nothing acute showing there, and that rules out pneumonia. “What about the tumor?” I said. Oh, they didn’t see one,” he said. But I knew what to ask as a followup: “If one had been there, would the x-ray have picked it up?” “No,” he said.
So he jerked me around about a tumor for several hours today without even ordering the test and the truth is that he doesn’t know and isn’t particularly interested in finding out. But if I’m still running a fever on Friday, I’m to call the office again.
That’s going to happen.
My husband went out to pick up the antibiotic, and I collapsed into a deep sleep for several hours.