Adventures in Human Medicine, A Hypochondriac’s Tale

So, I’m a big believer in preventative care, personally and professionally.  I get my checkups, I get my shots (for the most part, I’m overdue for Tetanus, but it hurts, so I’m putting it off), get annual bloodwork, etc.  This, combined with the fact that I love my doctors, and the fact that I know just enough to be dangerous, and am an avid Googler… results in me going to visit said Docs at what my husband considers to be:  “the drop of a hat”. 

Last summer, I caught a bad upper respiratory infection from my kids that they caught from this kid on the plane on the way to San Diego that was hacking her lungs out.  I hate airplane air.  It totally grosses me out to sit there in this confined space breathing the same air that everybody else has been breathing for the last 3 hours.  I always wish I had that oxygen mask thing on my face for the flight to breathe my own air, or some kind of little space suit bubble.  Why is it so hard to get fresh air on a plane?  Can’t they open a window or something?   (I mean, sure it would cause a sudden drop in cabin pressure that would then make the O2 masks drop down, but, therein lies the solution to my problem).  Anyhow, this stupid kid got us all sick. 

The resultant bronchitis really brought me down. I was sick for a week, and tired for another week.  Usually I can shake a cold in a week or less, but since this one lingered, I had convinced myself I had cancer (quite the logical conclusion eh?)  So I marched myself to the doctor, and they said, it’s just the bronchitis, and I said “are you sure it isn’t cancer? How about organ failure you human docs over look this stuff all the time” (remember me mentioning that I know just enough to be dangerous).   The nurse practitioners eyes widened at this point (I’m sure she was thinking oh God- crazy lawsuit lady) and she hesitated…well, we could run bloodwork and X-rays if you want.  Yup, said I (thank God for health insurance).  Everything was perfectly normal and I got better the next week. 

I KNOW that worrying about this stuff is totally useless.  It’s the stuff that blindsides you, that you aren’t expecting at all is what brings you down.  There’s a great speech called “Wear Sunscreen” where the author describes worrying to be as effective of trying to solve an algebra problem by chewing gum.  I totally get that: but, maybe it’s the Cuban in me,I worry, I want to catch the dreaded disease before it takes me out/brings me down, so I continue to be vigilant. 

Anyhow, it happened again week before last:  I got this weird pain in my belly.  Specifically at my belly button.  I ignored it initially, but it didn’t go away.  Coupla hours later, I noticed it was still there, so I commenced obsessing about it.  I’ve had painful gas before (hubby says I’m an expert), it wasn’t that, it wasn’t cramps (expert there too), I’ve had kids, wasn’t that bad, but it was different.  After awhile, despite trying to resist:  the call of Google was too strong.  Thus, the real worrying began.  First thing that came up as with belly button pain as a symptom:  appendicitis. 

OK, I thought, if it’s that, I’ve caught it early before it ruptures so things will be A-OK.  As I descended into the vortex of worry, I remembered that I had my MD’s number in my cell phone.  I resisted, but the vortex won and I called her while she was on vacation.   She told me to jump on one foot, appendicitis hurts worse when you do that…it didn’t…whew!  I did make an appointment to see her nurse practitioner the next day though.

The best thing to do for nagging worry is to pass it on to somebody else.  Thus, I decided to call my mom.  She is the queen mother of worry, nobody does it better.  For her worry=love.  So, I figured I’d tell her, then she could take over worry duty for me, say some prayers, light some candles, and I could go to sleep.  

Once mom was on the worry bandwagon,  I went to bed, noticing that the pain was still there when I slept on my belly (fave sleeping position)…let mom worry about it.  Got up the next morning, hopped on one foot…pain was worse…oh crap!  The appendicitis theory is back!

Went to the nurse at 9AM, tried not to breathe so I wouldn’t catch the flu from the people in the lobby (I did get a flu shot though).  Pulled my hands into my jacket sleeves before touching any doorknobs, etc and washed my hands multiple times while there.  She poked and prodded and maneuvered my legs around and proclaimed that I did not, actually have appendicitis.  She sent me for an ultrasound and drew some blood to check things out though.

Here’s something I learned (The good thing about having medical issues occur is that I try to learn things to correlate with how I do them on the vet side, I love comparing vet med to human med). ..anyhow:  If a dog comes to me with acute abdominal pain, if the client is willing, I can usually figure out what is going on within 12-24 hours.  I can draw the blood, run it, get the results, get the sonogram done and have it interpreted pretty darn quickly (usually).  Human medicine doesn’t run on quite the same schedule. 

It was Friday, so they said that my ultrasound and blood results would come in on Monday. Well, thought I, if my appendix ruptures before then (I wasn’t totally convinced..I just thought I had caught things super early, before any normal clinical signs occurred) the blood test/ultrasound were a total waste of money and time. They were kind enough to tell me that if they thought my death was imminent based on the ultrasound, they would call sooner than Monday.  What a relief. 

Apparently I wasn’t dying because I didn’t hear from anyone til Monday (and of course, the pain was totally gone by Saturday, so much for my keen early self disease detection skills).  The nurse informed me that I had a small mass on my spleen that is “probably just a hemangioma” (frankly, anything that ends in “oma” shouldn’t begin with “just”) and an ovarian cyst (normal was 1cm, this was 1.8cm so goto my OB/Gyn).   But at least the bloodwork was fine.

You clients of mine have it so easy, you actually get to talk to the DOCTOR when you get news.  Apparently that’s not exactly in the human med spectrum of things (granted she was on vacation so I’m not specifically referring to this incident, but I get waaaay more calls from nurses than docs overall). 

So now I got to worry about this spleen mass and ovarian cyst.  Of course, I march myself back to Google (I just can’t can’t resist!) and find out that they don’t worry about ovarian cysts ’til they are over 5cm, so that was good.  (My Ob confirmed that but checked my hormone levels just to make sure they were ok, still waiting for results a week later on that one).  

The spleen Google revealed that hemangiomas aren’t a big deal til they rupture…great!  I go to work the next day and Dr. Sharp keeps expounding on all the random dogs he’s diagnosed with cancer lately…the latent Cuban worrier in me voices:  maybe you’ll be next…it’s a trend! Yippee!

That Friday I met my date with destiny and a big ol’ CT machine.  I got to sit in the lobby with this little old lady sharing two big pints of Barium.  It was a little barium party.  I couldn’t help but think of my college days of “shooting” bad alcohol as fast as possible without breathing to avoid the taste, the stuff was pretty bad.

Then I got walked to “the back” and they placed my IV catheter (all this for a little spot on my spleen..I wondered).  Let me tell you:  dogs are really, really good sports about having IV’s put in and taken out.  They hurt!  Plus, this is where my “too much knowledge” comes in…I know they’re threading this little plastic tube into my vein and it totally grosses me out. 

After that, they took me to the CT room.  I signed my life away on this little waiver prior to the event, but of course I barely skimmed it (does anybody read those).  I knew if I looked at the possible side effects I would fret and that would naturally make said events occur, I’m better off not knowing.  So they hook me up to this machine that does the Iodine injection (what if the IV isn’t in right, I bent my arm before the lady told me not to, and that little machine just keeps pumping it in, what if the machine goes haywire and OD’s me on iodine…what then? Can you die from too much iodine? Oh crap, there is iodine in shrimp and I’m allergic to shrimp…I’m gonna die…the little worry voice shouted!)

Well, apparently the cath was in properly because a few minutes later, I got warm all over (was this what an Iodine reaction feels like or is this normal?  Am I dying? It feels a little nice…except…oh. my. God…I think I peed my pants!)  It was the weirdest feeling, the extra warmth,..that spreading warm feeling… that usually happens when the babies diapers would leak on me.  That’s just great, I survived, but how am I going to casually get off this table without letting on that I’d just peed all over it. 

I also wondered how they do ultrasounds and CT’s on dogs and cats who don’t hold their breath on command….hmmmm. Guess the vet folks are just more talented. 

Anyhow, much to my surprise, I didn’t actually pee on myself, it’s just a side effect of the iodine injection.  Also, the CT was totally normal, my guts are A-OK. 

I’m apparently just a bit neurotic. 

Healthy, but neurotic.


3 thoughts on “Adventures in Human Medicine, A Hypochondriac’s Tale

  1. Oh silly Viv, they should’ve told you about the weird warming/peeing sensation so as not to feed the anxieties. I do thank you for the stories though they help keep mine in check.

  2. This is why we love you at AMCOP Dr Carroll!
    You make us feel ‘ok’ to be human, and personally I think a being a little neurotic is a good thing.

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