I woke up with a pain in my left side, just around my breastbone, like a stitch from running, and an inability to take a complete deep breath. I'd been fine when I went to bed the night before. Weird!
I had no idea what caused it and it wasn't debilitating, so I went to work, expecting it to wear off as the day went on. It didn't.
My day ended with an appointment with someone over coffee, and I left from there to go home.There was a writers group meeting that evening and I still hoped to write something on the subject of "Culture Shock," our topic for the night. I'd been thinking about it for days without knowing quite which culture shock to write about--I've experienced a few culture shocks in my life.
But by the time I arrived home, the pain was more intense. Too intense to concentrate on writing. I Googled my symptoms and became worried that it might be a heart attack.
I called Telehealth for advice, punching in the number on the purple card I keep on my fridge, with the message on it, "How to get help after hours."
A pleasant sounding female voice with an Australian accent, said, "Hi I'm a registered nurse; how can I help you?"
"Well, I don't want to overeacte, or undereacte, so that's why I'm calling," I said, and step by step she began to walk me through the concerns that led me to call.
At the end, she said, "Well, you're definitely not overeacting. You should go to the emergency room right away. Do you have someone to drive you there?"
Paul was typing away on the computer in his office. Yes, I had someone.
So we prepared to go back to the small country hospital where I'd had my bowel resection in June. I made a few quick phone calls, and I grabbed my toiletry bag--just in case.
The pain was becoming even more disturbing as we drove. I couldn't concentrate on the conversation Paul was trying to have with me, but after half an hour, just as we crossed the boundary into the town of Alliston, I noticed that it was subsiding. Oh no! Going to a hospital emergency room; pain--good; no pain--bad.
Paul looked at me questioningly. What to do? I had called a few people to say that I was going to hospital with chest pains. If we turned around now I knew that my kids would say, "Mom!" so we continued. In my heart I knew that I needed to get this checked out. So we continued.
Every one was so nice at the hospital, and in spite of my fading pain, they didn't make me feel like the fraud I now felt like. I hardly ever go to the doctor, let alone a hospital emergency room, and here I was, for the second time in a couple of months. The nurses said it was up to me whether I stayed or not, but no one made me feel like I should leave and stop wasting their time.
We watched and listened with curiosity and empathy as more seriously ill patients came and went. The hours ticked by as I went from one waiting room to another.
Eventually, only three hours after arriving in Emerg, I was seen by a doctor who epitomized excellent medical care. He listened patiently, interjecting questions, and took everything I said seriously. When I lay down for him to examine where the pain had been, I winced as he touched the area--it felt like it was bruised.
He nodded knowingly. "The pain is on the outside of your ribs. That's a good thing," he said, "Your heart is inside." I was already feeling reassured.
After having me move my arms from side to side he pronounced, "Yes, it's your intercostal muscle. You described the pain well."
He ordered an E.C.G. to be done, "Just in case," and I had a shot in the buttocks of Toradol, a pain killer/anti inflammatory drug, and left with a prescription for a similar drug to take for the next 10 days.
Paul told me on the way home that I am becoming high maintenance. :) When we called Peter, our son, on the way home, he said, "Well, Dad's been high maintenance all his life. He's just paying now for all those years you've been low maintenance."
Now that I'm calmed down again, I'm hoping to stay away from hospitals for a while.