I have made no bones about talking on this blog the extents to which I love our hospital. I do. I love it. It (and by it I mean the people who work there) saved my husband’s life. Of course I love it. But on Tuesday night, the shine wore off…hard.
Let me back up a little bit. Sometime back in January, I started to get this niggly little pain in my left foot. Behind my heel. At first I chalked it up to pulling some sort of muscle on the treadmill. I mostly ignored it but every so often it would really bother me and I would comment on it. Shawn kept on forgetting it was a “thing” because even commenting on it I didn’t do often.
Then, about sometime last month, I noticed that it was starting to be accompanied by a sharp-ish pain in the side of my foot. My foot hurt to put weight on some days and I noticed that if I was off my feet for any length of time, it would hurt more to get up on it for the first few minutes. Once I was moving around it was usually okay though. I talked to a few people about it and looked up online (okay – I KNOW you should NEVER google symptoms, but I do it anyway) and concluded that it was plantar fasciitis. It all matched. So, I bought some insoles for my shoes and just…made do. After all, kind of like sciatica, it “can” eventually go away. I steeled myself for another months long battle of discomfort like I had with the sciatica and just, got on with it.
Then. Last weekend.
Getting out of bed at night started to become very painful. And I started to wonder if I had sprained my foot, or maybe even broken it, and was walking around with that injury. I started to look for bruises which is when I noticed the swelling. My left foot was swelling. Not grossly, but enough. I also noticed that my wrists were starting to hurt by morning by I didn’t think anything of it at the time.
I mentioned it on Monday night to Shawn. I might have been very emotional about it as it was a particularly painful night. He rightly said that I needed to get it looked at. Which meant, for me, a visit to the ER.
We still don’t have a family doctor out here. Going on three years on the list this July. The clinic won’t deal with anything that needs testing and results. So, it was the emergency room or nothing.
Tuesdays (and Thursdays) I work until 8pm. So, I told my friend at work, I was just going to go to the ER after work. A Tuesday night probably wasn’t that bad.
Man, was I wrong.
I got there at 8:15 and there were a fair number of people in the waiting room. Maybe twenty five or so. I saw the triage nurse and because I had just spent the whole day moving on it, the pain at that point in time wasn’t so bad, but, I explained to her the long set of problems and took my seat. Within two hours, the swelling had started again and, likely due to sitting and not moving around much, the pain was much worse. So, I told the nurse of the changes. I don’t think she made a note of it, just kind of said okay. I hobbled back to my seat where the guy near me promptly told me that he had been there since 4:55pm. Greaaaat. At that rate I likely wouldn’t be seen until after midnight. I texted Shawn and removed my left shoe, since my foot was now swollen to uncomfortable in it.
I waited. And waited. At two am there were about six patients left in the ER. I was one of them. I went back to the triage nurse, a new nurse who had come on at about 11 or so. I asked her where I was in the lineup. She didn’t really want to say numbers, just that a lot of people had been triaged higher than me. A lot. Well, there weren’t many people left. A few people had actually just walked out due to the waits. I asked her, more than four? And she said yes. So…logic follows that I was last. Fuuuuuuck…
My foot was really painful. Like, really painful. And my legs were starting to get shooting pains in them from not moving. I wanted to get up and walk around to relieve the pain in my legs, but it just made my foot pain worse so I was stuck between a rock and a very hard place. What I did do was pull the only loose chair closer to me, pile my coat on it and put my foot up. And cry. I also cried. Quietly.
Five o’clock. There was myself, and two ladies who had come in at midnight and now there were some new patients starting to trickle in. I watched two of the new patients get called before me and I got very upset. I went back to the triage nurse. I told her I had been there for nine hours and please, please tell me I was next. She said I was.
I went back to my seat and the nurse came over a few minutes later. She said the doctor wanted her to see my swelling. I showed her and she pressed on the swollen parts of my ankle hard. Then she asked me if I wanted any advil. YES PLEASE. JEEZ!
At six thirty, a woman who had been in the ER with me when I first came in came back in. She saw me sitting, rocking in the corner with tears and loudly said, YOU’RE STILL HERE! She came over after checking in. Apparently she had been seen and told to come back in the morning for a CT scan. She was incredulous that no one had seen me yet. A woman near me who had heard the exclamation asked me what time I came in. I told her, and people around us got visibly upset and uncomfortable. No one had come to the emergency room expecting a wait that long.
7am. 11 hours of waiting and my name was called. I got up, gingerly, and started to hobble and then I asked for a chair. The nurse who had come out for me was like, “oh, yeah” it having only just occurred to her that the girl with the limp, the bad ankle and her shoes off might find it difficult to walk into the back and to wherever the room was they were going to put me. She got me a chair and wheeled me to a room where, she gave me a hospital shirt and told me to take off my clothes and get into it.
You know, because you need to be naked to have your ankle inspected.
Whatever, I know that hospitals have good reason to put you in those shirts so I took off everything except my bra and undies and put it on. It was the first time I was somewhat comfortable all night, on that bed, with a blanket and my feet up off that concrete floor. I texted Shawn.
His texts back were priceless and just what I needed to make me smile after that long wait. He said to me “Your face is still on a huge poster in the lobby. You helped them raise a million dollars. You mean they don’t have a special private room just for you?? With a King sized bed and plush linens? And a pet Ocelot?” He was quite concerned though. He had an early meeting with his boss and I asked him to come to me after. I just really needed the support. He said he would text when he was on his way.
Finally my doctor came in. He apologised for the long wait right away. I said, well, I understand it’s busy. He gave a small laugh and said, actually, it wasn’t really a busy night. But, they only have so many beds and once they’re full….
I was incredulous. They weren’t that busy???
And I get it about the beds situation but I watched people come and go all night. Some went in and were out again in under a half hour. Some were even dealt with on the small bed behind the triage stations. And no one could even take a look at me for 11 hours??? But I just said thank you for the apology. Because I’m a Canadian.
In my mind though, I was fuming. I bring this staff a gift and a card every Christmas. And all I get was “sorry” and “it wasn’t that busy, but, you know, beds”? Grrrr..
The doctor took a look and informed me that both my ankles were actually swollen. I looked, and they were! But, I had been so concentrated on the left one, I had assumed the right was from favouring and it was nothing. He then proceeded to tell me the reasons why I might get like this: heart problems, kidney problems, diabetic issues. No, no, doc. Don’t worry about scaring me with HEART and KIDNEY failure. It’s fine. I’m only exhausted, emotional and drained (and in pain). He said that to rule these out, he was ordering me some blood work. Then he said sorry about the wait again and left my room.
Finally, I could rest a bit. I pulled up my blanket, lowered the back of my bed and went to sleep. Within twenty minutes I was awoken by the blood work nurse. She was nice, even if she did come in by flipping on every single light and then say ooops when she realized I was asleep.
She was good too, and I told her so. I’ve had my blood taken enough times to really appreciate when someone is good at it.
Then. The kicker. She told me that they were still short of beds and that I would need to wait for my results, which could take up to an hour, in the waiting room.
Are you fucking kidding me.
So she left, I dressed and, after asking again for a chair, went back to the waiting room.
There were only three other people there.
At a little after nine I was called. Not to go back inside but to that little room with the little bed behind triage. A new doctor and a student doctor were waiting for me. And let me just say, I’m not racist, but that student doctor couldn’t have been more of a cliche if she tried. She was very young, very asian, very tiny and she wore a white coat (my other doctor was wearing scrubs) and had a freaking barrette in her hair. She was clutching a clipboard and didn’t say one word the whole time. She only nodded.
I was asked to pull up my jeans, remove my socks and show my ankles. This doc put his ham hands on them and kind of squeezed while he tole me my results. He said: we’re pretty sure you have rheumatoid arthritis. He kept kind of lifting his hands and then cupping my ankles as he spoke. Which did not feel good. I let out an ouch and he stopped. You need to see a Rheumatologist and take anti inflammatories. And follow up with your family doctor. I said, if I had a family doctor, do you think I would have come here?? Oh. he said.
I gave him my cell number for the referral. Then he left. I thought, is that it? Am I done? All that waiting and I got one doctor who slightly insulted and then scared me and another who couldn’t really be bothered to tell me what they looked at and how he could come to this conclusion? I was mad. I wheeled myself back to the waiting room and stopped at the triage nurse (now another new nurse) desk. I asked her if I needed anything from the doctor for the referral or if he was giving me a prescription for anti inflammatories. She looked slightly annoyed (or maybe it was just me and at this point everyone looked that way) and got up and said, I’ll ask him. She came back a few minutes later and told me no, he had already signed off on my chart and I was good to go.
I texted Shawn not to come to the hospital but to meet me at home. I made myself get up out of the wheelchair, left it there, and walked (hobbled) out as best I could. It was pouring rain.
I made it home and went right to bed.
I got a call with an appointment at the Rheumatologist an hour later. My appointment is this Friday. That in itself kind of freaked me out because specialists have notoriously long wait times in Canada. Getting me in this fast is a sign of seriousness. Or at least has been in my experience.
Shawn had called my work for me that morning but I called back and left a message with my boss. I needed the sleep and I was supposed to stay off my feet and try to get the swelling down.
So. Turns out, I have my Nana’s feet. And most likely, her affliction.
Shawn, ever the voice of reason and logic, tells me not to worry about it until Friday when I have it confirmed. He’s smart. And right. But, I’m me and so I’m already worried. And I’ve already googled RA a billion times. And I keep thinking about my Nana in her wheelchair with her gnarled hands. So I’m also a little scared. And still in pain, of course, but, I can work around pain. At least now I can.
So that was how the shine fell off my hospital. It’s sad too, because experiences like that make you not want to go in at all, ever, which, can be a bad choice if there are serious issues. But, for all that my American friends sometimes lament that we have free (tax paid) healthcare here, it’s not always sunshine and roses.
I go back to work today and I am looking forward to being back among people I really like, doing work that I can control. It’s a great job, and I already miss it after one day.
Take care of yourselves.