Wednesday, April 21, 2010

"Holy $#*%!!!"

Those were the two words I exclaimed in the middle of a normal conversation with Neko. This reaction was a mix of anger and concern, as I had looked down and saw dried blood on top of my left sock. My first thought was, Great...That latest ulcer has decided to "unheal" itself and is bleeding again. Upset and anxious, I told Neko to hang on a minute. Then I took off my sock to inspect what I figured would be the usual amount of damage.

I was wrong. I was VERY wrong. Not only was this a brand spanking new ulcer on the top of my foot, but the wound, general surrounding area, and outer ankle were swollen, as though I'd managed to break a bone.

It was far too large to be considered my typical problem. So I was back on the phone with Neko, telling her that I needed to get to a hospital immediately. I said I would call to keep her posted, and rushed...

...to take a shower. Let's face it, kids. I have no one I need to impress on a daily basis, so it had been a couple of days since my last shower. I was instantly self-conscious about smelling like one of the literally unwashed masses, so showering would be first, followed by rushing to the hospital. I was so concerned about getting things done swiftly so we could be on our way that I accidentally ripped the towel rod from the bathroom wall. (Recent repairs to the already decrpit rod could only last so long, and I made sure of that!)

My next concern was that I pack a bag. The look of this thing had me believing I'd end up admitted to the hospital, so I threw some clothes and toiletries into my backpack, along with a book. In addition, I had Ray stop along the way so I could get some cash from my bank. It would be irritating should I suddenly need something in the hospital, only to discover no one had cash to buy anything. With money on hand, I could tell them to come get money, go buy me things, and return swiftly...or I will cry or something.

With everything set, we went to the ER...where I was baffled by how it was set up. There are two registration stations, but the woman at each seemed busy doing other things. The desk right by the ER door was vacant, so I was left to wonder how anyone receives any aid whatsoever there. When I asked one of the women how patients register, she said that I'd have to see the triage nurse first. Well, that's great. How do I see the triage nurse behind the big, locked doors if there's no one to go tell her I need help? I wandered around a bit, then decided to ask the other woman working registration. She agreed that I'd need to see the triage nurse, and went back to doing other things...

...until she realized NO ONE was actually helping me, and led me to see the nurse herself. There, they took all kinds of information from me, including my vitals. My blood pressure, which is normally 110 over 70, was 146 over 85. I mention this detail to show that I had physiological proof of how scared I was over this wound. What's more, I was sweating in a relatively cool emergency room. Definitely not normal for me.

With all this done, I went back to registration to sign paperwork. My nervousness immediately led to me making some rather strange jokes during the process. When asked who my primary care physician was, I replied, "Some guy name Lou who stands on a street corner." (No idea where that one came from, but it earned me a laugh from the woman helping me.)

All registered and triaged, it was time to wait. And the first thing I did was call Neko. (Hmmm...These "cell phone" things are pretty handy!) I let her know that I was at the hospital, that I wasn't being rushed into the back, which was a good sign, and that I would keep her apprised of the situation. Then it was back to the waiting room...

...where I entered the Twilight Zone. Of all the people to sit next to Ray and I, it had to be the woman who had little control of her two kids. My guess would be that one boy was a year and half, and the other boy was around three. Now you have to understand, I like kids. They can be quite cute, and I'd love to have some one day. So I was ultimately amused by the older child after I'd made an inquisitive face at him. I did so by raising just one eyebrow. My actions baffled him. He sat there for a few minutes, trying to get only one of HIS eyebrows to rise, and finally resorted to using his fingers. Insert a chuckle from yours truly.

My chuckling spurred him to flat out ask for my name. I said what the mother should have said. Thankfully, she was right there, so I didn't feel strange with saying, "'What's my name?' You know you're not supposed to talk to strangers, right?" (The mother smiled her approval.) And here's where it got weird.

Me: You know you're not supposed to talk to strangers, right?
Kid: Are you a stranger?
Me: Well, yes...I can be pretty strange. (Chuckle from mom.) But, yes...I am a stranger.
Kid: Strangers don't have knives. (Of course, he said "knifes," but we'll go with proper English, okay?)
Me: Wait...What?!?
Kid: Strangers don't have knives.
Me: Where did that come from?
Kid: You're not a stranger.
Me: Yes, I am.
Kid: Do strangers have knives?
Me: What, pray tell, are they showing for Saturday morning cartoons these days? Where is this coming from?
Kid's Mother: (Addresses son by name), what are you talking about? (To me): I have no idea what he's talking about.

This bizarre chat was interrupted by the fact that the younger one was wandering about and spilling mysterious fluids from his "sippy" cup. While the mother collected the toddler, Ray got some paper towels to help clean up the mess.

Hoping the odd conversation was over, I talked to Ray a bit, did a little reading, only to have Bizzaro Child say to me out of the blue, "Strangers don't hit kids." Right. Whatever you say, miniature mutant boy. I have a sinking feeling that there's already too much violence in your life, but I'm in no position to counsel you.

Relating this story to Steve and Cody received a lot a laughter, as well as the following reactions.

Steve: When he said "Strangers don't hit kids," I would've said, "Oh yeah?"...and hit him.
Cody: I would have turned to the mother and asked, "Do you actually interact with your kids, or do you just feed them and hope for the best?"

Back in the real world, it was approximately two hours before they called me in. My wait time was lengthened by an unconscious girl being brought in by her family, (announced as a "code green" over the public address system), one of whom was carrying a pill bottle. The speculation in the waiting room was that the girl had attempted suicide. If that was the case, I would have played the role so many have come to expect from me..."Bor the Barbarian Monk to the rescue!" But she was already in the hands of professionals, so I didn't need to do a thing.

The ER doctor comes in and begins his examination. Honestly, I'd never seen a doctor pay such close attention to detail, nor take as many notes as he did on what he observed. He was pleasantly astonished to discover I still had an excellent pedal pulse, despite 35+ years of diabetes and obvious severe swelling. His course of action was not immediately clear to him, and he actually debated what to do with me before making his decision.

But let's back up a moment. Some of the best jokes are old jokes. I've been to enough ERs and seen enough doctors to know which ones fly, and so I went with a reliable one.

Doc: So, what's going on?
Me: I came to see a vet.
Doc: Excuse me?
Me: A vet. You know...Veterinarian? I figured it would just be easier to put me down, and animal disposal fees are cheaper than a funeral.

This is the part where they usually laugh, and we get down to business. But not this time...

Doc: Then you're in luck, because I also have a degree as a vet.
Me: (After confirming that he was NOT joking.) Y'know, I don't know if I'm impressed or disturbed by this fact.

It was further confirmed when the nurse walked in. The doc shared what was supposed to be MY joke, only to have the nurse laugh by the strange turn in conversation.

(Upon hearing this, Steve pretended to be the doctor..."I couldn't make it as a vet. All of my patients kept dying. So I took on human medicine instead.")

The verdict was to TRY and treat this at home. I told them how I usually treat such wounds, which was approved by the doc. He wrote a couple of prescriptions, one of which is a MASSIVE dose of antibiotics. (When I say "massive," I'm talking about a double-dose of what appear to be horse pills.) Then he had the nurse return, give me the first massive doses of the antibiotics, SCRUBBED the wound, measure it, outline the red area with a felt pen (that they gave me to continue monitoring the size of the infection), plaster it with antibiotic cream, and put so much gauze padding on it that I could drop a 50 lbs. weight on it and feel nothing.

Tomorrow, I am to make a call to a wound care specialist and make an appointment for as soon as possible. Should there be any significant negative changes, such as the size of the swelling, redness, and/or pain, I should return to the ER immediately.

Thus, Ray and I headed home to order Chinese food. We'd been a total of four hours without even a few snacks. The money I'd gotten from the bank now went to dinner. While Cody did nothing in this adventure, other than to look at my foot after I first noticed it, and exclaim, "Holy $#*%! What'd you do?", I included him in the dinner arrangements anyway.

Heh...Steve was here at that time too, and he asked if I had any idea as to what caused the wound. "Of course I do," I replied. "Once upon a time, when I was seven years old, I became a diabetic. The end."

With food on its way, I get comfortable and immediately called Neko. That poor woman. She was startled by my initial exclamation, and continued to worry about me, even after I'd called her from the ER. She really is very sweet. (Which means I probably shouldn't be pursuing her, what with me being a diabetic and all.) There was a part of me that wanted to stay on the phone and chat a while, but doing nothing can be exhausting.

So I am fed. I am bandaged. And, as I told Neko I would, I have blogged.

The reality is that I'm still concerned over this foot. Even though I've had it treated, and will continue to treat it, it's terrifying when the only explanation you can give such a serious-looking wound is "because you're a diabetic." And so much swelling! I've never had such a severe reaction to a diabetic ulcer before. My immediate fear is that this wound is the result of the other that appears to be healed, but is now osteomyelitis. G-d, how I fear ever having to endure that damned infection again!

I'm going to medicate my way to being more relaxed, and I will keep my few faithful readers posted.

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