In between blogging about Pedro’s trip to the trauma room and subsequent surgery to repair his shattered clavicle and writing about how to rock your hospital gown, I failed to share the story of how God protected me in the Emergency Department.
On Monday, June 15 I had laparoscopic surgery. It took me almost twenty hours after the surgery to urinate, but I chalked that up to having to deprive myself of water for 12 hours prior to the surgery. The surgery center staff would have kept me there if they saw a problem. I enjoyed good health and I had plans for end of the week—a quick follow-up doctor’s appointment and then a two-week road trip with my daughter.
I felt better on Tuesday, but then I started feeling icky. Food suddenly lost its appeal (and believe me, I should have called my doctor and insisted that something was wrong right then—because food ALWAYS appeals to me!). I ran low-grade fevers (although, since my normal temperature hovers around 97.6, I maintain that 99 is a decent fever for me) and I had to nap a lot.
After three days of not eating much, I figured I had probably lost a few pounds, so I stepped on the scales. Mysteriously, I had gained four pounds! By Thursday afternoon, my temperature reached 100.4—the magic number on my discharge papers. I called my surgeon and she told me to come in to the office for a quick check to make sure I didn’t have an infection.
Since I had driven Pedro to his doctor’s appointment that morning (a 180 mile round trip), I didn’t feel up to driving the same route again, so I called Pedro at work and asked him if he could take me to the doctor’s office. I took another pain pill (my fifth in four days—I had read all the scary warnings that came along with the pills and decided I would only resort to them if I felt really awful). We threw some stuff together and reserved a hotel room (he had an appointment to have our car serviced on Friday). We left with plenty of time to arrive at least 45 minutes before the office closed—but we failed to consider road construction.
We pulled in with just ten minutes to spare, and my surgeon did a quick exam and handed me orders for a CT scan with contrast and a blood draw to make sure that I hadn’t developed an infection. She explained that she had called the hospital walk-in clinic and they wouldn’t be able to see me there. Unfortunately, I’d have to have the CT scan done through the Emergency Department. “I’ve called ahead and explained exactly what you need done and why,” she assured me. “You should have no problems once you make it through triage.”
When I showed up to the Emergency Department, the lady sent me to the walk-in radiology clinic. The receptionist explained that I had to go back to the Emergency Department because they were short-staffed and no one could call my insurance to get pre-certification. “You can sign a paper saying you’ll pay everything if insurance refuses,” she told me. “Your doctor’s office didn’t want to call insurance either, that’s why you got sent to the Emergency Department.”
I felt a little grumpy that my doctor’s office wouldn’t take the time to call my insurance. If only they had done that, I wouldn’t have to wait around for who knew how long. I looked at Pedro and shrugged—ready to sign any paper necessary so I could get the scan over with and check into the hotel for a good night’s rest.
“No way!” he exclaimed. “Those things are expensive!”
“We can do the blood draw here,” the receptionist said. We waited five minutes to have my blood drawn and then headed back to the Emergency Department. Of course, it just happened to be the busiest day the Emergency Department had experienced all year long, and in the twenty minutes we’d spent getting shuffled around, more people had come in.
I felt like a fraud sitting in the waiting room whilst helicopters roared overhead, dropping off at least four real trauma cases. Almost every chair had an occupant—some waiting for triage and some waiting to hear a progress report of a friend or loved one. It seemed as if for every person who made it to triage, three more came to take their place in the waiting room. I just wanted to go to bed.
By a quarter to eleven, I had finally made it through triage and a doctor walked in to examine me. I explained my story for the third time. “I just need a CT scan with contrast,” I assured him. He rolled his eyes and looked at the orders my surgeon had sent over. According to the nurse, I had a normal temperature and I wasn’t in pain (other than slight pain from the surgery, of course).
“Well,” he sighed in a resigned manner. “If she wants a CT scan, we’ll do a CT scan. I don’t know why she didn’t order a blood test for kidney function first,” he said, and then added under his breath, “probably because you’re young and healthy.” (Bless him for plunking me in the ‘young’ category). “Ok, we’ll do a quick blood test and send you off to radiology. It might take an hour or so, though, to get you hooked up to an IV and order the contrast.”
I nodded in affirmation and laid back to wait—all the while feeling like I just wanted to go home, because feeling icky in the Emergency Department felt a lot less comfortable than feeling icky at home.
An hour later a tech came in and announced that she’d be taking me back for the CT scan. “What about the contrast?” I asked and pointed to the IV needle they’d stuck above my right elbow.
“They aren’t using contrast,” she said.
“I can’t tell you.”
I hate it when someone knows and they can’t tell you. Immediately, my mind filled with all of the worst-case scenarios. I had a tumor. I had cancer. I had appendicitis. I was probably dying. I chuckled to myself. There was probably nothing wrong with me and they just didn’t want to overcharge my insurance.
Shortly after midnight, the doctor came back in the room and announced that my kidney function numbers weren’t that great—the real reason they hadn’t used contrast—and that they would keep me for a few more hours to administer a bag of IV fluids.
When the bag of fluids finished and they had checked my blood again, the doc decided to keep me for another bag. I urged Pedro to go check in at the hotel. It didn’t make sense for two of us to have a miserable night.
When the shift changed on Friday morning and a new doctor came in and asked, “Is there a history of kidney failure in your family?” I thought she was joking. My ‘slight problem with kidney function’ had suddenly turned into something much scarier. “You have acute renal failure,” she said, “but in normal, healthy patients, it’s usually reversible.”
“What would have happened if I had had the contrast before the CT scan?” I asked.
“It could have done some serious damage to your kidneys,” she said, “the irreversible kind.”
Once again, God provided for me. The road construction, the office staff that wanted to go home instead of wrangling with my insurance, the Emergency Department doctor who ordered the CT AND a kidney function test—each of those roadblock to what I wanted turned out to have a purpose that I couldn’t see at the time.
The older I get and the more I see how his plan always works for the good, the less irritated and impatient I get when things don’t go my way. My reactions have downgraded from railing against what I consider an inconvenience to just feeling a little grumpy when things don’t go my way. I want to live my life where every inconvenience becomes a “Praise God!” After all, I know he has a reason.I want to see every roadblock in my life as a reason to praise God. Click To Tweet
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