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A Breath Of Death Air

, , , | Healthy | December 14, 2017

(I recently got home from an overseas trip. On the flight back I caught a fever and started having stomach issues. A few days later, I had to switch out with my father when driving because I didn’t feel like I could both drive and focus on breathing. I’ve always had asthma, but usually only have had issues when exercising and breathing very cold air. However, this is the second event in around a month where I couldn’t identify a trigger and the breathing problems lasted for a long time. The first time I went to the emergency room, was told it was a panic attack, and was sent home. When things didn’t clear up, I went to the school clinic where they said it was my asthma — not a spasm like I was used to, but inflammation — and gave me medication. Things cleared up. Because it is only a little after New Year’s, my mom doesn’t think our GP can fit us in quickly enough, so we head to an emergency clinic. Our new insurance only allows us to go to one chain in the area, and it’s 30 minutes away. There isn’t a doctor available, so we confirm we are fine with seeing the head nurse. I’m used to journalling some aspects of my health due to things like adult onset allergies, and have written specifics of the start and stop of the symptoms in a notebook, along with details from the other attack. Sometimes I also have difficulty speaking because of my focusing on my breathing.)

Mom: “She’s been having trouble breathing. We were here a couple days ago because she had a stomach bug.”

Nurse: “Can you describe when this started?”

Me: “Um, I noticed I had to focus to breathe. I was really aware of my breathing. It started last night, I guess? Um— I wrote it down, if it’s easier.”

(I hand her the notebook. She looks through it, but she looks skeptical.)

Nurse: “Okay, I know what’s going on here. Honey, you’re having a panic attack.”

Me: “I don’t think it’s a panic attack! It happened before around a month ago. I have asthma—”

Nurse: “The emergency guys thought that was a panic attack, too. Listen, I know you don’t want to hear this, but this is in your brain.”

(This sets me off for multiple reasons, one of which being that I DO have anxiety, but it is controlled and not the kind that results in panic attacks. Another being that I’ve been misdiagnosed with “stress pains” by my father’s urologist, who was checking for kidney stones, when we later found out I had some muscle issues in that area that were easily taken care of with physical therapy. I should also note my mother has been making some comments, but I can’t exactly remember them. She’s mostly worried.)

Me: “But the other doctor said it was asthma! I’ve had people dismiss things like this before! But when it was checked out by someone else they found something! I have anxiety, but I get those! I don’t have this problem!”

Nurse: “So you just keep going to doctors till they say what you want to hear. But I’m telling you, this is a panic attack. You said in your notes that talking is difficult, but you’re talking fine now. You seem fine. You just need to accept this. Maybe call your therapist or psychiatrist.”

(She ended the appointment. I was pretty hysterical once we returned home. I have been well functioning for years and even though I didn’t believe the nurse, she put the idea in my head that I was as well off as I thought. I should also note my mom is of the generation that often writes things off as stress, and seemed to be taking the nurse’s side, or at least playing devil’s advocate, adding to my stress. I blubbered to my mom and eventually my psychiatrist’s hotline. [Psychiatrist] quickly wrote a prescription for anxiety, but was very firm in telling me most of her patients didn’t end up using it and that often having it in their possession helped. She also said that if I felt I needed it to only take half and assess how I felt. Honestly, I didn’t feel any different. Later, my mom apologized that she helped upset me and called our GP. )

Mom: “[Doctor] made an opening for you tomorrow.  Guess what she said, though, when I told her everything that happened?”

Me: “…what?”

Mom: “In her experience asthmatics usually have panic attacks because they can’t f****** breathe.”

(My GP gave me a steroid inhaler and I started breathing better in a few days. I later went to my asthma and allergy doctor and found out I have a new severe allergy to dust mites, something that aggravates asthma. F*** you, nurse.)

Symptoms May Include Death And Sarcasm

, , , | Healthy | November 29, 2017

(Back in college I spent a summer living in Russia. Midway through my stay I came down with strep throat. This is the first time I’ve had it since I was a kid, when I got it yearly. My program director takes me to a clinic that specializes in treating foreigners. After diagnosing me, the doctor comes back into my room with a pile of medication, none of which I recognize. Since I take other medications, I ask him if there are drug interactions I should be aware of. He proceeds to take the paper inserts out of every box he has and read them. After a few minutes he looks up and says:)

Doctor: “I don’t know; if the reaction is bad, stop taking them?”

Me: “Great. So, if I die, I’ll stop taking them.”

(Thankfully I never had a reaction but I still have no idea what it was that he gave me. Bonus? My host mother was convinced I got sick from drinking cold beverages in the hot weather.)

You Suck(tion)!

, , | Healthy | November 28, 2017

(I have a rare disease for which I have to have blood work done every few months. I always get it done at the local health department because I don’t have insurance and labs are too expensive elsewhere. They used to have a phlebotomist on staff who was quite good at her job, but she retired around a year before this incident. After she retired, for a while, my tests were done by whichever nurse happened to be available. On this day, one of the nurses who has drawn my blood a few times before is training a different nurse on lab procedures, so the trainee nurse is actually the one doing the draw. I’m often a problematic draw because my veins are small, and sometimes my blood doesn’t come out. This happens after several other mishaps, including the trainee nurse not noticing all of the tests I need to have done, having to remind both of them that one of my samples has to be frozen, and the trainee nurse failing to draw from my left arm and having to try my right arm instead. As the trainee nurse is drawing my blood, she’s pulling up on the needle in a way that makes it hurt like h***, but I’m kind of used to it, so I’m just responding to the talkative trainer nurse and not looking at my arm. Finally the trainee nurse finishes filling the last vial and removes the needle. Something feels a little odd, so I look down to see blood POURING from my arm. I’ve been getting labs done regularly for about 13 years at this point, and I’ve never seen anything like that, so I’m a bit alarmed.)

Me: “What the h***?!

Trainee Nurse: “…”

Trainer Nurse: “Oh! *to trainee nurse* “Looks like you broke the suction…” *to me* “Uh, she broke the suction… But that’s okay! It’s perfectly fine, just looks bad. Don’t worry!”

Me: “Uh…”

Trainee Nurse: “It happens sometimes.”

Me: “That has NEVER happened to me before. But okay, sure.”

(That’s not something that just “happens sometimes”; that’s something you DO.)

County The Ways

, , | Healthy | November 24, 2017

(I work for a non-profit medical clinic. Because the county we operate in provides a pretty broad range of services, we have a lot of patients who labor under the belief that we are associated with the county. We are not and never have been. I overhear my colleague who is working the front desk engaging with a patient.)

Patient: “So you’re part of the county, right?”

Colleague: “No, we are in no way associated with the county.”

Patient: “Oh, so you contract with them?”

Colleague: “No. We are not contracted by, subcontract with, or in any way work for or answer to the county.”

Patient: “So, you’re subcontracted with the county.”

Colleague: “No, we are not. We are in no way, shape, or form any part of the county services.”

Patient: *sounding confused* “Oh.”

(A moment later.)

Patient: “So can you send [paperwork] through this fax machine?” *gestures at printer*

Colleague: “That isn’t a fax machine.”

Patient: “Can you fax it from here?”

Colleague: “No, we do not have a fax machine here.”

Patient: *confused* “Oh.”

(After the patient has been called in to see the provider.)

Me: *to Colleague, teasing* “So hey, [Colleague], aren’t we part of the county?”

Colleague: *throws hands in the air* “Apparently!”

Me: “Someone should tell [Boss]. He won’t have to worry about that [specific] grant anymore!”

Maybe Dying Doesn’t Seem So Bad

, | Healthy | November 2, 2017

(I live in a small town in the middle of nowhere. There is a small hospital, as well as a holistic health clinic. The answering machine for the holistic health clinic says:)

Clinic: “You have reached [Clinic]. We are open from [time] to [time]. If it’s an emergency, go to the hospital in [City a little over an hour away]. If you cannot make it to that hospital, go to the hospital in [Smaller City around 40 minutes away]. ONLY IF YOU WILL NOT LIVE to get to that hospital should you go to the local hospital. In that case, good luck… Please leave a message after the beep.”

(The unfortunate thing is they are quite right. While the staff seem nice enough, they have so little practice that they really aren’t any good. I got a small gash in my knee once, and needed stitches. Somehow the remaining scar is now double the size of the original gash. Since then I’ve always made a point to go to a different hospital if I need medical care.)