Herbs

So, yesterday turned into a complete clusterfuck.

After having woken up at 04.30, and dismissed the pain in my abdomen as “period cramps”, things kind of deteriorated.

By 3.30, I was in so much pain that I could barely keep my composure on the phone as I rang the GP to ask for an emergency appointment. I was actually in so much pain that I took a taxi to travel the less-than-a-hundred-yards to the surgery. I was piled into a transport chair at the surgery, and seen immediately by a Dr W, whom I’d never met before, who quickly palpated my stomach, rang an emergency ambulance (“here in ten minutes”) and told them to take me to gynaecology at StJ.

The ambulance arrived, I was shovelled into it, and handed the nozzle of entonox. The pain lessened, and I started being able to explain the problem, doing the standard in-ambulance checks (Blood pressure, heart rate, preexisting conditions), and phoning Best Friend and Dearest to tell them where I’d gone. Then the canister ran out, and I was back in acute abdomen hell. I fully expected the paramedic (A nice Australian who got a good balance between being genuinely worried for me, professionalism, and keeping me calm) to say that an empty canister meant that I’d had enough, but instead he just got up, installed a new can mid-transit, and handed the mask back to me with a cheeerful “Fire in the hole!”

At this point, I inhaled enough that I bascially only regained consciousness upon arriving in Ward 26, who immediately sent me along to Medical Assessment, where I was put in a chair in a waiting room with several other patients and the snooker on the TV. Every now and then the pain broke through to “Uncontrollable” levels, and I curled up and howled for a bit. An incredibly sympathetic nurse (Nurse H) came and took my blood pressure, then eventually took me off to a private consultation room to get my bloods (Checking for systemic infection) and generally confirm what the problem was. She had literally no idea what hypermobility was (“Oh, I just thought it was shorthand for having mobility problems”) so I proceeded to fascinate and horrify her by dropping a shoulder out of the socket and letting her put it back, and we generally had a really nice conversation about basically everything – She’d trained where I used to be a technician, we used to frequent the same bars, she asked the traditional leading question “So, do you live with your girlfriend?”, and was generally very, very friendly. After about three hours in total in Assessment, where I’d had a single dose of morphine for pain relief and nothing more, we said our fond farewells and I was transferred off to Gynaecology, where I should have apparently been in the first place.

I was put in another transport chair, and portered over to Gynaecology, which had moved, so which took a few more detours than I’d expected. At this point, I was texting Dearest as to where I’d gone, and had to update him about five times.

Gynae was a very modern, labyrinthine series of private treatment rooms, one of which I was immediately installed in, my stats taken again by another nurse, and I was left alone. After having read the contents of the instrument drawers a dozen times, and thus gone thoroughly out of my mind with terror and taken a single diazepam to clear my head and loose the  tension from my whole body (Now frankly tortured by the four hours in uncomfortable chairs), lay down on the examination bench, and continued reading (The flight to the Walpurgisnacht ball, Margarita’s remarkably affectionate scene with Woland and his retinue as they prepare for the guests).

(Relatedly, at some point I have to do a cripple’s-eye-view analysis of Woland. His accepting of guests and still being a commanding presence whilst sitting in a mess of old bedlinen, wearing only a badly-darned nightshirt and slippers, and having his rheumatism-slash-witch-related-injury attended to by Hella, is increasingly an inspiration on how to conduct business. It was actually only in that scene where I noticed that he’s always portrayed as sedentary, as leaving everything early, and as not only walking with a stick but actually being lame)

It took a further five hours to see a doctor. I was periodically checked up on by a nurse, who very much fell into the category of “Absolute solidarity with anyone else stuck in this godforsaken buildding so late at night” and was periodically told “You’re next on the list, won’t be long now.” She gave me a dose of morphine, which was no help (I later found out that I’d been prescribed 2.5 mililitres of Oramorphy, or 5mg of actual morphine. Considering that my starting dose is 14, this explains why for much of the rest of the night I alternated between screaming and sobbing, pacing like a caged polar bear, trying to distract myself with my book, and creating gynaecology-specific lyrics to Chris Cafferey’s “Pisses Me Off”.)

At eleven, I went for a leg-stretch around the corridors and saw a sobbing, frightened-looking woman in a hospital bed being wheeled through the department. A few minutes later I was told that the doctor had gone into theatre, and would be a little bit longer. I was mostly just glad that I wasn’t the woman in the bed.

By 12.30, when I was lurking near the break room in the hopes of scavenging a cup of tea, more morphine, or a biscuit (Hadn’t eaten for over twenty-four hours, since having about half a Chinese takeaway on Thursday evening) I saw the same woman being wheeled back, unconscious.

At one, I met the doctor – Impossibly young, impossibly cheerful for someone who had just done abdominal surgery in the middle of the night, and I immediately wished we were friends. She checked over my abdomen again, working out that the pain was all basically in a quadrant between my navel, the top of my left iliac fossa, and the centre-line of my pubic bone. She, again, asked if I was generally fit and well, and I told her about the hypermobility syndrome, to which, instead of getting a blank look, she said “Oh, join the club”, and soon after launched into an anecdote about a shoulder sublux whilst performing a caesarian section, which she cracked back into place without even needing to rescrub, or the patient suffering at all. I was moved to describe this as “badass”, which she agreed with wholeheartedly, and immediately started taking the piss out of rugby players with their “Oh, I dislocated a shoulder on-pitch and my coach just punched it back in and sent me back onto the field” stories. So, of course, I had to tell her about the time I’d been manually examining a cow’s cervix and ended up getting my forearm back, but not my hand.

It was decided that she’d have a look at my cervix, to see if the coil was still in place, take swabs for pelvic inflammatory disease, gonhorrea and chlamydia, treat for them all anyway, and then see what happened next. As such, I stripped below the waist, was handed a speculum (Both her and the attending nurse were surprised, impressed, and thoroughly supportive of me having control of what was going on, since as she put it “It wasn’t in anyone’s best interests to traumatise me so much that I never came back”) and played the feindishly-difficult joystick game of “Where the fuck is Percy’s cervix?”

Cervix eventually found, I got some good news – Nope, there was no plastic sticking through it, so the coil hadn’t slipped down. The bad news was that there were no visible threads anyway, so it could have gone up, and be basically anywhere in my abdomen.

…So, at some point within the next two to six weeks I’ll be having an ultrasound to find out where my coil has gone. If it’s not the thing hiding in my left iliac fossa and causing all the pain, I’ll be amazed.

At 2am, with a letter for my GP, a couple of boxes of antibiotics, and a promise of an ultrasound coming up, I went home. I’d been in the hospital for ten hours, and most of that was the nine-hour wait to see a doctor. That’s pretty amazing, considering that the GP who originally phoned me in said that I needed to be seen immediately.

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8 thoughts on “Herbs

  1. Good grief Percy. What a day!!!!

    I had IBS and listened to a BBC documentary about medieval childbirth, railing against the use of anachronistic background music. It’s about Tudor queens in labour folks, play some Tudor music!!!

    Then I read your blog. I can’t imagine what reserves of humour and courage you have to draw on to get through these regular ordeals.

    Lots of love and gentle hugs, Cathy ♥

    • Gah, sorry about the IBS, but I bet the documentary was interesting (Is the mental image of “Pallid young lady in fancy bed, swearing at handmaidens, being brought endless rags and hot water” anywhere near accurate?)

      Funnily enough, the major adjective I’d use for yesterday was “Boring” rather than anything else, and it’s a testament to how good the staff were that it managed to be dull rather than harrowing. Five hours of staring at a box marked “Large speculum, cervix clamp, sutures” would normally have sent me into apoplexy.

  2. Hmm. Firstly childbirth was the most dangerous thing most women would face…and secondly it was a women-only affair. A woman was basically sequestered in her private chamber, in near darkness, with only women allowed in, until it was all over. No pain relief, no antibiotics of course. And a primitive understanding of female anatomy – women’s bits were regarded as the same as men’s bits, only wrongly developed so they were inside the body instead of outside.

    I’m not making this up.

    • I’d definitely heard that before (And that they were almost right on the embryonic origins of a lot of bits of tissue, apart from that labia are scrotal (or scrotal are labial) rather than actually testicular. The progress of understanding how anatomy works has always fascinated me (especially the wandering uterus theory – Would you not see an orange-sized lump sticking to your neck if it had wandered up to the brain?), plus the way that butchers/gravediggers/body-related professions up to about the 1300s were regarded as knowing Dark Arts which they were forbidden to tell anyone about since they knew, basically, what human/vertebrate innards looked like long before public dissection and public knowledge of how people are put together was a thing.

      Why in the dark? Surely, you want to be able to see what you’re doing?

  3. Yup inky is right about the light. Apparently (this is for queens in labour mind) the walls were hung with tapestries of calming subject-matters, and layers of carpet put upon the floor. So the whole room was womb-like.

    The belief in the “wandering womb” was part of the teachings of Hippocrates. A description of the theory of a “wandering womb” is from Aretaeus, a physician from Cappadocia, who was a contemporary of Galen in the 2nd century. He wrote that the uterus could move out of place, and float within the body:

    “In the middle of the flanks of women lies the womb, a female viscus, closely resembling an animal; for it is moved of itself hither and thither in the flanks, also upwards in a direct line to below the cartilage of the thorax, and also obliquely to the right or to the left, either to the liver or the spleen, and it likewise is subject to prolapsus downwards, and in a word, it is altogether erratic. It delights also in fragrant smells, and advances towards them; and it has an aversion to fetid smells, and flees from them; and, on the whole, the womb is like an animal within an animal.”

    • It’s amazing that people believed this sort of thing – I mean, I can see *why* if you don’t have a better model of the human body, and if you’ve ever talked to someone having (or had) horrific cramps it does feel like the uterus is thrashing around the abdomen like it wants to get out… Hmm…

      • The documentary on Medieval marriage was excellent too – need to re-listen to that.

        Death is coming up next and indeed last (for all of us I suppose). Death is the one I am really looking forward to. It’s proper history too – original documents, no stupid re-enactments, and real experts talking. 🙂

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