A Sudden Jab Of Terror

, , , , , | Healthy | April 29, 2021

When I was around five or six, I was at the doctor’s office for a checkup. I knew I would be receiving an injection, and I was terrified of needles. My mother stepped outside of the room with the doctor while we waited for the nurse to come by with the shot.

There was a slight knock on the door and a nurse popped her head in.

Nurse: “Hi! I just need to grab something real quick.”

And she proceeded to pull out the biggest needle I’d ever seen in my short life! I screamed bloody murder.

My mother and the doctor came running back into the room to find the nurse frantically trying to calm me down, but I refused to even let her touch me. The nurse showed the doctor the needle.

Nurse: “I didn’t mean to scare anyone! I feel horrible.”

After the nurse left, my doctor sat down with me.

Doctor: “That needle is meant for more difficult patients and it does hurt, but you are getting the regular-sized needle that hurts much less.”

I later learned the nurse’s needle was for bone marrow aspiration. I received my injection with no complaint.

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Childish Mistakes

, , , | Healthy | April 11, 2021

A few weeks ago, I had to have a hysterectomy. I have no children, never wanted children, and am almost too old to have them. Also, if I can now live my life free of period pains, I’m all for it. But I know that it is a sensitive issue for many women.

While wheeling me along to the operation, the male nurse asks:

Nurse #1: “Do you have kids?”

Me: “No.”

Nurse #1: “Me, neither. It is really sad. A life without children isn’t really worthwhile.”

Dude, don’t tell this to a woman about to have her womb taken out.

Later, when they take me for a scan, a nurse says:

Nurse #2: “So, you’ve just given birth, right?”

Me: “No. No, I haven’t.”

When I talked to my gynecologist, she was flabbergasted. And rightly so. I mean, it wasn’t a big deal for me. But really, maybe be more sensitive next time.

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Chaos, Panic, Relief

, , , , , | Healthy | March 20, 2021

I’m a student nurse out for a three-week practicum on a high-acuity hospital ward. Through sheer bad luck, during the first week us students are there, there are a lot of medical emergencies: cardiac arrests, patients found unconscious, comas, and vital sign measurements dangerously out of normal range. On one particular day, the emergency alarm goes off four different times, sending the whole staff running to help and sometimes taking hours to resolve with a whole team present.

Come 2:00 pm, we’re all frazzled and exhausted. Just as we sit down to write the notes for the shift of chaos, from behind the nurses’ station we hear a desperate cry: “Oh, my God, help me! Somebody help! [Nurse], help me!”

Once again, we all go running. A couple of the staff get there before me, and as they arrive on the scene I hear a crowd start laughing, as if someone has fallen for a prank, and the staff who ran to help look relieved and then disperse. I vaguely recall a passing comment I overheard at 7:00 this morning: there was going to be a CPR training happening that day that we had forgotten about because we knew we’d be too busy.

Mystery solved! All was well, everyone was safe! They’re just running a scenario!

Except the CPR training is being run by and for experienced hospital clinicians, and they are all extremely familiar with what a realistic medical emergency sounds like and aren’t afraid to show it.

They somehow manage to last for ten minutes with loud, dramatic, distressed hyperventilating, with the occasional, “Help me!” and, “Oh, no, she’s unconscious! What are you going to do?!” and, “Get help!” 

All the while, the rest of us are huddled down in the nursing station trying to write our notes and failing to tune out the sound of very realistic respiratory distress happening a few meters away.

For some reason, we don’t find that particularly calming after our adrenaline-filled day.

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Medical Work Can Make You A Little Nutty

, , , | Healthy | March 8, 2021

I’m at my orthopedist’s office to treat an inflammatory injury to my hand. They assess the damage and decide to give me an anti-inflammatory injection to treat it. I do extremely poorly with shots and realize at the last second that I’ve forgotten to eat breakfast, which makes it worse. Shortly after the injection, I have one coherent moment where I look at my nurse and tell her I think I’m going to puke before I go mostly incoherent and nearly black out.

When I’m feeling a little more lucid, I notice there’s a different nurse than my original nurse, who I find out got freaked out when she realized I might faint and got another nurse to take care of me.

Nurse #2: “Yeah, she was freaking out. Halfway through, she says, ‘Her lips are blue! They’re blue! They’re blue!’ I had to tell her, ‘Yeah, she’s passing out. They’re gonna do that. She’ll be okay.'”

Me: “Ha, I don’t even remember that… Um, am I able to get some water?”

[Nurse #2] calls out the door to [Nurse #1].

Nurse #2: “Can you get her some ice chips, please?”

After a few minutes, the original nurse comes back in and starts to hand me a cup of ice, but she yanks it back from me at the last second. 

Nurse #1: “Wait! Are you allergic to peanuts?”

Me: “Uh… no?”

Nurse #1: “Oh, good. That’s the last thing we need! I went to get the ice as quick as I could but I realized none of it was crushed so I grabbed a jar of peanuts to crush it with but I broke the jar and got some peanuts on the ice.”

Me: “Oh… thanks.”

[Nurse #2] and I stare at her as she leaves the room and I turn to look at my ice, which isn’t crushed and is in giant pieces. I feebly scoop out a giant ice cube with my hand since she didn’t bring me a spoon. [Nurse #2] looks exhausted as she sighs.

Nurse #2: “Let me find you a spoon.”

Me: “Thanks. Oh! There’re— She wasn’t kidding. There are peanuts in this ice.”

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Lazy Medical Work Is Infectious

, , , , | Healthy | March 2, 2021

I have a lump under my chin that has been swollen to the size of a blueberry for three months. I finally go see my doctor, who refers me to a specialist.

Specialist: “Oh, that’s no good at all. Three months, you say? We should remove it as soon as possible. It could be cancerous.”

Scared, I agree and am set up to have the surgery two weeks hence. I go in for pre-surgery bloodwork one week after the specialist appointment.

The very young nurse assigned to take my blood does not clean the skin, use a tourniquet, put on gloves, or even feel around for a vein. She looks, stabs, and fails to get blood.

Then, she walks out of the room, leaving the needle stuck in my arm. The very professional older nurse who comes in next is able to draw blood easily, but I am left with a bruise taking up my entire forearm from the first nurse’s attempt. I suspect she was a very nervous student.

One week later, I come in for my surgery. I’m missing both a college exam and a few days of work for this. They start the IV and give me the first level of anesthesia, sending me to sleep.

I wake up. I yawn and find it immediately suspicious that there is no discomfort when I do so.

Nurse: “I’m sorry, but your doctor is actually out of town. She is teaching a seminar. This was her usual surgery day, but it was blocked. I don’t know how you got put on the schedule, but we can fit you in again in two weeks.”

I agree. Three days later, I cut the back of my thumb fairly deeply on a plastic notebook divider in class. I immediately leave to wash my hands and use my first aid kit to put antiseptic and a bandaid on it.

The following morning, I notice a red line creeping up from my thumb. In the next two hours, it has gotten all the way to my wrist. My first class of the day is with the same professor whose class I was in when I cut myself, and my second class of the day is three hours later with the same professor.

Me: “Hey, Professor, remember how I cut myself in class yesterday and then washed it? Yeah, I think it got infected anyway.”

Professor: “Oh, my gosh. Yeah, go to the student clinic right now. I won’t count it against you if you miss class later. I’ll email you any relevant information if you’re not there. Be safe.”

At the student clinic, they give me two different antibiotic injections, two oral antibiotic prescriptions, and instructions to go to the emergency room if the red line keeps progressing.

A few days later, it is now a week after I was supposed to have surgery. Not only has my thumb infection been defeated, but the suspicious lump is also gone. I call the specialist’s office to tell them this. Surprisingly, I get to talk to the doctor herself, not just one of the nurses.

Me: “So, I got a badly infected cut and the lump went away. What does that mean regarding my surgery?”

Specialist: “Oh, yeah, I’m reviewing your bloodwork, and based on that, it looks like you just had a low-level infection that had isolated itself in a minor lymph node, causing the swelling. If you had gotten an ultrasound, we would have been able to tell that.”

Me: “You didn’t offer me an ultrasound, though! You told me it was probably cancer and should come out immediately!”

Specialist: “Based upon the shape and size of it and what I have in my notes here, it was more likely to have been a benign tumor, not a cancerous one. If you had gotten an ultrasound, I would’ve been able to tell it was neither of those things.”

Me: “You didn’t offer me an ultrasound! I didn’t even know that was an option!”

Specialist: “Well, would you still like to have it removed?”

Me: “No! It’s totally gone and you’re telling me it was just a swollen lymph node! Please cancel my surgery. I’ll call the hospital tomorrow to make sure I’m off the schedule.”

A month later, I get a bill from the hospital for the surgery I never had as well as for the anesthesia I did have. My father works at that hospital. Armed with my lab results, which he is qualified to interpret, and my bill, he stays late after his shift to talk to the billing department for me.

They inform him that they can take off the surgical fees, but that the anesthesia will not be covered by the insurance.

Father: “Any doctor could look at these lab results and tell you that cancer is unlikely. The white blood cell types are all wrong for that. In addition, the only reason the surgery wasn’t performed at that time was because the doctor was literally out of the country. If this bill doesn’t get written off, my daughter will be suing both the hospital and the specialist for everything she possibly can.”

They saw reason, and I never had to pay anything for that fiasco. Over a decade later, that same lymph node still gets swollen every time I’m fighting off an illness. Multiple doctors have assured me it is fine and can even act as an early-warning system that I am getting sick. 

I never went back to that specialist, or that hospital, ever again.

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