Saturday, October 17, 2009

She put the needles in and turned off the lights, put the heat lamp over my feet, and closed the door. Instantly, I felt my heart beating stronger. Not stronger in an I've-been-working-out-so-my-heart-is-pumping kind of a way, but in a pumping-good-strong-powerful-healthy-energy-through-my-entire-body kind of a way. And then I felt some twitching in my right foot, kind of between my first two toes. And then I met my very own green fairy. Such a beautiful shade of green, just kind of drifting in and out and dancing in front of me on the ceiling. She went away after a bit, and my stomach gurgled. Yellow smoke rings of bad energy left my body with each breath, floating up to the ceiling and disappearing into the distance. And everything went blue. A beautiful, vibrant, calming blue horizon stretched out before me, inviting me in and letting me know that everything was brilliant. I wanted to jump up and go conquer the world, smiling the whole way. And my lip started twitching, and my leg started to feel a bit odd. And all I saw was black. Something black and toxic taking over where the pretty pretty blue had been. I was a little bit afraid of it, but my little green fairy came back to dance a while longer. But my eye hurt and my left arm got really cold and the black came back, followed by an intense pain right under my ribcage on the right-hand side. Both the bone and the organs underneath hurt with every breath. I tried to breathe good energy into it and blow the bad energy out, but blowing the bad energy out just cleared my field of vision so that the pain was all I could focus on.

And then the acupuncturist came back to take out the needles. I told her some of my experiences and asked if it was normal to feel phantom needles. Apparently everything I experienced was pretty normal, and the pain in my ribs was the result of activating my Chinese liver. A little pressure and a few deep breaths, and it mostly dissipated.

I got up to put my shoes back on and I feel taller. I feel lighter. I feel acutely aware of everything. The outside of my left hand really hurts, but the rest of me feels absolutely fantastic. I think I have better posture. I'm relaxed and energized at the same time. I feel like I'm ready to take on anything, and like my body is one giant receiver, prepped to fully experience everything that might happen by. I'm kind of looking forward to going to class feeling like this and seeing what it does to my exercises. But I have to say, other than the pain in my hand, I have not felt this good in I don't even know how long. Physically and spiritually, I feel fantastic.

I just might have to go get acupuncture again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

I'm not a Cardinals fan. I'm not a Dodgers fan. But they both made it to the post season and given my love of Mark DeRosa, I cared how the games turned out. I wanted Mark DeRosa to have a good series, but ultimately, I could not bring myself to cheer for either team. And the Cardinals were swept in three games. DeRosa did have a good series - the commentators said in the third game that DeRo had been one of the best offensive producers for the Cardinals in the series, given that Pujols and Holliday did very little. So yay for Mark for having a good series. And yeah, I'm glad they got swept. Largely because now when Cardinal fans try to give Cub fans crap for getting knocked out of the post season by the Dodgers in three straight games...well, really we can only bring up the conversation between the pot and the kettle.

Now we just need the Dodgers to get swept in the championship series.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I honestly think that yesterday was one of the best days I have had in a very long time. I had a bit of a lazy morning, followed by breakfast with my mom. It's always great to see her. Then a leisurely lunch at home and a bit of a nap with my cat on my stomach. He melts me when he does that. I know he's just trying to be warm, but still. I love the time spent with him. Then off to class where the teacher said I was just "on." I had two good exercises, the first of which included some breakthrough type work, so that was good. Then a quick dinner and off to see They Might Be Giants.

I remember my first exposure to They Might Be Giants - it was an episode of "Tiny Toons" wherein they did some music videos. Two of the songs were TMBG. I thought they were fake, or made up for the show. But sitting in math class a couple of days later, I found out that the cute boy I had had a crush on forever knew that they were real songs by this band called They Might Be Giants and shortly thereafter, I went out and bought "Flood" on cassette tape. When people talk about desert island albums, I always forget about "Flood," but I think it might have to be on my list. It's one of those albums where you automatically think of "Birdhouse in Your Soul" and "Istanbul (Not Constantinople,)" but when you actually get listening to it, you remember that out of the 18 tracks on the album, you love probably 16 of them. LOVE them. Can't stop listening to them, love to sing along with them love them. When I was in San Francisco earlier this year, I picked up a copy of "Flood" on CD at Amoeba Records and have recently re-fallen in love with it. Almost twenty years later and it still holds up. So there I am at the Vic in Chicago (which has to be one of my favorite concert venues anyway because it's big enough to hold a rowdy crowd, but small enough to feel like you're really part of the show with the performer), right up in the front leaning on the stage, and first these two adorable little Irish guys come out and sing a few songs. They started and finished with ukulele songs. They were funny and sweet and their music was really good. But then They Might Be Giants came out. So funny. Just a couple of dorky guys who somehow manage to write Grammy winning songs. And they don't look at all like they've let the success go to their heads. They're goofy. They're charming. When one John would screw up lyrics, he would give this kind of embarrassed smile and the other John would look at him like, "Really, dude?" They had sock puppets (the Avatars) singing "Shoehorn with Teeth." They fired off confetti canons three times in their set. They rocked the accordion. There were clarinets involved. They gave away free bumper stickers after the show. It was just...I can't describe it. It was a concert I needed to see, but I didn't know how badly until I saw it and I enjoyed every single second of that show. Every second. So much so that I was surprised when it was over. How could the album be over already? It just started.

On the way out, I picked up a CD by the opening band - Gugenheim Grotto - and had them sign it. Very nice men. One of them pulled a piece of confetti out of my hair for me.

Thank you to They Might Be Giants for giving me exactly what I needed last night. And thank you to everyone else involved in my yesterday for making it one of the best all-around days I have had in a long time. My heart feels very good and very full. Thank you.

Friday, October 09, 2009

My pants are too big. I like it that my pants are too big, but I don't like the idea of having to buy all new pants. I like some of the pants that I have. I could probably tailor them. That would also take some work.

Oh, and the reason they are too big is that I have lost 13 pounds. That I like very much.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

My Trip to the Emergency Room, A Story in G-flat Minor (A Study in Run-On Sentences), by Kitty Mortland

On the insistence of my doctor, I went to the emergency room last night to get checked out because I had passed out/blacked out/fainted on Friday night and very possibly hit my head on the way down. See, I come from hearty stock - we don't pass out. I don't know if you have ever passed out, but it's really disconcerting. Especially if you live by yourself. We live in such a technological era - I wanted to be able to watch a replay of the fainting to see what happened, but I had, of course, neglected to set up a video camera to capture the fall. And I don't know if you've ever passed out from being tired or being drunk, but it's totally different. Usually, in that case, if you think hard enough, you can piece together how you got home and who took your shoes off for you. But when you pass out/black out/faint for unknown reasons, you can't think hard enough to piece it back together. There is no memory. No recollection. Absolutely no way to figure out what happened. And since I still had (have) a headache a few days later, I called my doctor to see if she could tell me what was up, or what action I should take. The triage nurse was mortified that I hadn't instantly called 9-1-1. In my defense, they don't teach "post-fainting protocol" in high school health classes - it's not something that a person automatically knows how to handle. Especially when said person might have just hit his/her head on who knows what while free-falling to the floor. She talked to my doctor for all of three minutes, and my doctor insisted I get to the emergency room as soon as possible to get checked out. When I told them I would have to go after work, they told me to talk to my boss and try to get away early. This was URGENT. I needed to be CHECKED to make sure I was OKAY and hadn't suffered an ANEURYSM.

I waited until after work to go to the emergency room. Got there at 5pm. Signed in. Told them my doctor was insistent that I go. They told me to have a seat. A minute or so later, the triage nurse called me over so I could tell her my story. She kind of listened, kind of asked questions that I was already in the middle of answering. And she told me there would be "a bit of a wait," but that I should hang out and a doctor would see me soon.

At about quarter after seven, in the middle of the waiting room, a nurse shouted at me, asking if they had gotten my urine sample yet. I replied no, she gave me a cup, and sent me off to the ladies' room. This wouldn't have been a big deal except that (other than suffering the embarrassment of being told in front of a room full of strangers that you need to go pee in a cup) at about ten after seven, I made my own trip to the ladies' room, partially out of a desperate need to go, and partially to stave off the boredom of sitting in the waiting room for two hours with crying babies, annoying cell phones, and small children ungraciously kicking me until I relinquished my seat because god knows, it's easier for me to move across the room than for them to find empty two empty seats next to each other in the first place (from amongst the array of two-and-three seat groupings sitting unoccupied at the other end of the room). I know that emergency room wait times are notoriously bad. I know this. And please, please, please help the guy with a neck brace and a half-pound of bloody gauze stuck to his face before you help me. He needs help. I might (but probably don't) have a burst aneurysm, but I've been okay (aside from feeling disconnected from my body) for a couple of days. I understand triage. I get it. And they did help him first. But to wait two hours to be told five minutes after a trip to the bathroom that they need a sample...well, I thought to myself, "This is off to a rousing start." I went and tried to go. Got about a teaspoon out. Apparently, it was enough. And I was instructed to wait some more.

At quarter to eight, they took me back and stuck me in room 2, rather unceremoniously telling me to get "fully undressed," an interesting oxymoron when you think about it. I disrobed and re-robed in the lovely hospital gown provided. A minute or so later, a male nurse (very nice, very friendly) came in to put about twenty stickers of various sorts on various parts of my body, most of which required the removal (or partial removal) of the lovely hospital gown I had just been fighting with a minute earlier, trying to figure out how to tie it on. But I got hooked up to all kinds of lovely fun wires and things while they did an EKG to rule out possible cardiovascular causes for my fainting. The doctor came in a minute later and asked me all the same questions that the triage nurse had, except she asked them two or three times. I don't mean to be rude - I liked this doctor. She was friendly and informative and helpful. And I know she was doing her job and being thorough by asking so many questions, but it kind of felt like she either wasn't listening all that well, or she was trying to catch me in a lie. Like the third time she asks if I had blurry vision, all of a sudden, a new symptom would appear. Anyway. With my almost complete lack of symptoms, other than passing out followed by the most god-awful headache I have ever experienced, she decides to go with "headaches" as the symptom she's going to figure out where they're coming from. She orders a CT scan.

In the meantime, the nurse has hooked me up to a pulse monitor (sticky thing on my finger), respiratory monitor (sticky things on my chest), and some other random monitor (more sticky things on my chest and abdomen). He has put a blood pressure cuff on my arm that takes my blood pressure automatically every 15 minutes. He has taken blood from my right arm and when he determined that the vein was not really a good IV candidate, he puts the IV thingy in my left arm on the off chance I might need an IV at some later point in the evening. It is now about 8:30 pm, I have holes in both arms, a needle in my left arm, sticky stuff all over my body, I know my heart is okay, and my gown is now providing a bit of modesty, though anyone who looks at me can tell I'm not wearing a bra.

And then the cute transport guy comes in. Can't tell if he's thinking, "Cute girl, I wish the gown would slip," or "Cute girl, but potentially really sick so nevermind." He asks my name and hears it as "Kate Cortland," which is how he introduces me to the CT people, who look a little confused. The CT tech was also really cute. I mean, really cute. And probably all of about 19 years old. I think he snuck a peak at my wristband so he could make sure he was working on the right patient. He told me that the CT takes about 5 minutes and I should make sure to keep my head very still. I do. I remember the last time I had a CT here - it took about a half an hour and I had to wait a week for the results. I guess when you're in the emergency room, they do things faster. The test took about five minutes, they told me we'd have results in 30-45 minutes, and the cute transport guy takes me back to my own private sick-bay, room 2 in the ER. He kind of flirted on the way back up, or at least I think he wanted to, though he may have been freaked out by flirting with some chick with the potential for SERIOUS HEAD TRAUMA. In fact, I think he was so flustered by the whole thing that when he hooked me back up to the pretty beeping monitors and told me I'd have results in 30-45 minutes, that he forgot to give me the remote control for the TV.

An hour later, the doctor came in and told me that my CT scan showed "no change from a previous CT." Meaning they saw that I still have a tumor on my head and were probably a little weirded out by it until they realized it's been there a while, it's not doing anything, it's benign, and I already know about it. But they do think it would be a good idea to x-ray my knees because if you have an osteochondroma on your head, chances are you have similar calcium deposits on your knees. But that's another conversation all together. She says that since my CT was (essentially) clear, that the next step is to do a lumbar puncture to make sure that I didn't have an aneurysm so small that it didn't show up on the CT, but is, instead, bleeding into my spinal fluid, which could be life threatening. She then leaves the room so I can...discuss this with the wall? I'm there by myself! How is the doctor leaving going to help me decide if I think this procedure is medically necessary? She's the one with the info and she leaves the room so I can make up my mind. She comes back a few minutes later, asking, "Did I give you sufficient time?" I tell her I feel silly for being there in the first place, so the thought of a lumbar puncture seems...excessive? She echoes my regular doctor's concern that I waited two days to come get checked out. She tells me that lumbar punctures aren't as bad as they are made out to be on shows like "House" and "Grey's Anatomy." She explains the whole thing and tells me it is to rule out the existence of blood in my spinal fluid which would be bad. She tells me that it should be pretty easy because I'm so skinny. (It's odd the remarks you remember the doctors and nurses making about you while you're in the ER - "And you're so skinny, it should go pretty smoothly." "Your legs look pretty straight to me." "It looked like a good vein...") Not knowing what else to do, I say, "Sure, why not?" In retrospect, she seemed really happy with my decision. Really happy. Like maybe it was a dull night, but if she could get a lumbar puncture in before she left, she'd feel like she accomplished something. She bounded out of my room to ask the nurse to get all of the necessary sterile supplies for the procedure. I sat in my room feeling a bit like a tool.

Enter the very nice x-ray technician who informs me that she's here to take me to x-ray. What? X-rays? I thought I was getting a lumbar puncture. Like, now. Exasperated, she goes off to check with the doctor. She comes back and says the doctor would prefer we x-ray my knees now, due to the recovery period needed following the lumber puncture and she wheels me off. Now, I'm trying to figure out why it matters whether or not I have calcium deposits in my knees - is that what made me pass out? The one in my head is not problematic, other than it makes headbands and glasses annoying sometimes. So who cares what's going on in my knees? I remember that my great grandmother had her kneecaps removed later in life and start to wonder if I'm headed down the path of my namesake. The x-ray tech is bribing her friend with French fries to stay and help. They take about eight pictures of my "pretty straight" legs and wheel me back to my own private sick-bay, room 2 in the ER. On the whole, while it was probably completely unnecessary, I liked the x-ray tech. I told her to encourage her daughter to stick with the acoustic guitar a little longer before switching to electric. It'll make her a better player in the long run.

So it's now about quarter after ten, and the doctor comes bouncing back in to do the lumbar puncture. Have you ever had a lumbar puncture? No? Well, let me tell you what happens. The doctor has you sit kind of hunched over, back exposed. She then realizes that the nurse brought all the wrong equipment in and she has to track someone down to get her a sterile gown, mask, and hair net. In lieu of a nurse, she goes to get one herself. She comes back with hair net and mask, and the cute transport guy comes back a minute later with the gown. You can tell he wants to look at your almost completely exposed backside, but he's trying to be professional, so he stares at the doctor's gown very intently as he ties it on her. He then leaves, and she sterilizes your back not once, not twice, but thrice to make sure nothing icky follows the needle into your spine. She puts a sticky sterile drape cloth on your back and measures out her spot. Two shots of Novocain (or something similar) to numb the layers of skin separating her from your lovely, lovely spinal fluid. That is, she says, probably the worst part because you can feel the needles. It's like being at the dentist - you can feel pressure like there's something going on down there, but it doesn't really hurt. And then the actual needle goes in and she has to adjust a bit to find the right spot to get fluid and sometimes she hits bone which is a very strange sort of pressure-pain right in your lower back (at the lumbar curve - hence the name). And she asks you to adjust a bit, and curve your back a bit more (like a cat!) to encourage the fluid to flow more freely. And after about five minutes, when she's filled up four little vials, it's all over. Rip off the sterile drape cloth (read: giant band-aid), wash off the sterilizing iodine type stuff, and put a band-aid over the hole. Now, here's an interesting side note: when the nurse decided that my blood-giving vein was not a good IV vein, he took out the needle, put a bit of gauze there, and covered it with what is, essentially, a strange hybrid of cellophane, band-aids, and super-sticky Post-It Notes. Stickier than a band-aid, about the size of a Post-It, but clear like cellophane. And let me tell you, for the record, if you don't like ripping off normal band-aids, pray you never come into contact with one of these puppies - they hurt like a bitch. But the interesting bit is that for my blood-giving vein, I got gauze and Super Awesome Sticky Clear Bandage, whereas for the lumbar puncture, I got your standard every-day run of the mill band-aid. I'd think you might want a bit more protection around a hole leading into your spine, wouldn't you? Anyway. Let's not pick nits here.

And just like that, the lumbar puncture is over. I found myself hoping that on an upcoming episode of "House" or "Grey's Anatomy," someone has to get one and the scene ends with the patient howling in pain as the needle enters their spine so I can yell, "Vicious, vicious liar!" at the screen. It really didn't hurt that bad. The doctor kept asking me how I was doing - I did fine. I asked how things were going on her end. She chuckled. She asked if there was pain. I told her it was "an interesting pressure." She chuckled again and remarked that I have an interesting way of describing things. Kitty Mortland's Super Vocabulary strikes again.

She had me lie down flat on my back in an attempt to ward off potential headaches caused by the lumbar puncture. That is when I decided that I really don't like lumbar punctures. My entire lower back was sore, yet I was forced to lie on it. There is no comfortable position in which to lie while one has a needle hole in one's lower back, an IV needle (now hooked up to saline solution, in an attempt to ward of potential headaches caused by the lumbar puncture) in one arm, a pulse monitor and blood pressure cuff on the other arm. You just can't get comfortable. But I was told the results would be back in about an hour and if everything came back negative, they'd give me something for the pain an send me on my merry way. This time, they remembered to give me the remote for the TV. It was 10:30pm.

At about quarter after eleven, the doctor came in to tell me that I could sit up a bit, and she said my results should be back soon, but that she was leaving now. She was leaving me in the very capable hands of some other doctor I'd not yet met. It felt a little like a waitress cashing out for the night and asking me to settle up and give her a tip before she left. Fortunately for me, I was hooked up to so much crap and in enough general discomfort that I couldn't reach my wallet. She went home for the night.

At 12:30am, having not heard anything from anyone in over an hour, I buzzed the nurse. At which point, I heard him pick up the phone and call down to see about my lab results. Then he came in and said they would be done in five minutes - I should just be patient.

At 1:15, I buzzed the nurse again, at which point I heard him pick up the phone and call down to see about my lab results. He came in and I'm sorry, but I got all kinds of cranky on his ass. I expressed my displeasure with the fact that I was told results would be available around 11:30pm, and here it was two hours later with no word. I expressed my displeasure with having been there since 5pm, with waiting for almost three hours before being seen, with all of my test results taking longer than they were supposed to, with the IV needle in my arm which was really hurting by now, with the discomfort in my back and my inability to find any sort of comfortable position in which to sit or recline on the bed, with the fact that I'd not eaten or had anything to drink since 3pm, and with the fact that despite my inability to fill the cup earlier, I really really had to pee. He unhooked me so I could go to the bathroom, but told me he didn't want to take the IV needle out yet, just in case they needed to give me antibiotics. I apologized for being cranky. He said he understood the frustration. I called him a liar in my head.

At 1:45am, the new mystery doctor came in to tell me that everything came back negative and I could go home. They let me pull all the sticky crap off of me by myself. They told me that I should check in with my doctor in a few days and maybe come back for a neuro consult at some point. If I have more symptoms, I should come back. I can take Tylenol or ibuprofen, not Aspirin. They had me sign something saying they treated my headaches and syncope and sent me on my way (sans the pain meds they promised earlier).

On the way out, I had to stop again at the registration desk to make sure they have the correct insurance information for me. The registration woman had come into my room at about 9pm with forms for my old insurance provider (oh, how I miss my old insurance provider). I told her I had new info. She never came back for it. So I had to stop at the desk and give them my new info. There was a guy checking in, using the phone at the desk to explain (I believe) to his friend (or loved one) that he was checking himself into rehab because his alcoholism was completely out of control. And the lady asked me for my social security number. I felt like pointing out that this was probably a pretty severe HIPPA violation, but I was tired and hungry and cranky and my back hurt and my elbows hurt and I just wanted to go home because I had already been there for NINE FRIGGING HOURS, so I gave it to her and left. On the way out of the parking garage, I had to pay $8.00, even with validation, because I had been there longer than six hours.

So what did we learn from all of this?
1) My heart is fine.
2) My brain is fine.
3) I do not have calcium deposits in my knees.
4) Nobody knows why I passed out.
5) Lumbar punctures are more painful in the recovery period.
6) Emergency room visits SUCK.

I know there is a lot of discussion in the media at the moment regarding the state of health care in America. It needs to change. The way things are is not okay. I wasted nine hours of my life to find out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and I can't wait to get the bill to find out what it cost to find out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. Granted, it's nice to know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, though it still does make it a little odd that I passed out on Friday night, and I can't help but wonder if there isn't a more time-efficient way of figuring out that there is absolutely nothing wrong with me. For example, taking the random knee x-rays out of the equation and focusing on the actual problem. Or actually getting test results in the amount of time you tell the patient its going to take. I left that place last night feeling worse than I did when I went in, both physically and mentally. It was a mind-numbing, spirit-crushing experience. I can imagine people healing themselves through sheer will-power as they sit in the waiting room, waiting for someone to deem their ailment severe enough to merit treatment. And I hope to never ever ever ever ever have to go to the emergency room again. Unless I am bleeding out of every orifice or I have suddenly become separated from one of my limbs, I don't want to go. And I'm not going to. I will adopt the "walk it off" curative method, or seek out medical caregivers who...I All of the people who worked with me were very nice and friendly, but I did kind of feel like I was just a body, and the more they could do to me, the more money they would get out of me. I thought about asking if the delay in getting my test results was because if I stayed past midnight, they could bill it as a two-day thing.

And as a lovely added bonus to this delightful story, I called my insurance provider today. See, when I had an MRI done in April, I was covered by my old insurance provider (oh, how I miss my old insurance provider). I have paid my out-of-pocket expense from that MRI - a nice chunk of change. And I would like my new insurance provider to recognize that I have already paid over half of my ginormous deductible out of pocket this year, so I called my old provider to get documentation and called the new provider to find out where to send it and the new provider told me they don't think I can do that. Or, if it can be done, it has to be done by someone who is not me. I asked our HR contact at work - she doesn't know who that person could be or how the process works, so she has to ask someone else if it's possible. So I may end up paying what amounts to 1.5 times what my deductible should be because my employer decided to switch carriers in the middle of the year. No wonder people are going bankrupt left and right. We pay through the nose for insurance that doesn't cover anything until you're already in the gutter.

Sorry. A bit dramatic, but I think you get the point. Healthcare in America needs help. Now. I'm a ridiculously healthy person and it's screwing me over. Imagine the boat you would be in if you were actually sick.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Oh, and just in case you were wondering, post-fainting protocol, particularly in the case of a headache that feels like your brain is on fire, is to call 911 and/or go to the Emergency Room. Just in case you were wondering.
So the Cubs season is over. Not as good a year as anyone hoped, but we still finished in second place. Which, considering the year we had, isn't too shabby.

Thank you, boys, for going out there every day and playing hard. Thank you for entertaining us. Thank you for the great moments. Let's try to limit the crappy ones for next season, yes?

And to the Rickets family, my suggestions for next year are to get Mark DeRosa back, and to let me bring my cat to a game. He'll hate it, but we'll do it in the name of breaking the curse if that's what it will take. Just an idea.

Thank you, Cubbies, and Pat and Ron and Len and Bob and everyone who makes watching/attending Cubs games the highlight of my summer. I'll see you guys in February!

Thursday, October 01, 2009

So I wrote some pretty heavy stuff after class last night in my acting blog, and to sort of counteract a lot of that (the negative feelings, anyway), I feel like I need to list a few positive things about me over here today.

I am a kind person.
I am a generous person.
I am extraordinarily intelligent.
I make people laugh.
I have (as my mother says) one of the all-time great heads of hair.
I have amazing eyes that have the power to heal other people's wounds.
I listen to other people's wounds and try to comfort them.
I give really great hugs.
I am a good dancer.
I am fun to be around.
I am unique.
I have an amazing body that is really turning out to be a lovely shape.
I am a good friend.
I am strong.
I am independent.

And I am feeling silly about this post, but I think I need to post it anyway. A little positive reinforcement is a good thing.