I woke up in agonizing pain. A stabbing. Right in my stomach. Beside me, Ant was still snoring peacefully. The sky outside our windows was still black, but I knew that going back to sleep was not an option. All I could do was writhe. There was such a strong pressure. A firm, debilitating pressure on the lower part of my abdomen, trying to push its way out of my flesh.
After what felt like an hour, the pain finally subsided to the point where I was able to slowly crawl out of bed. I tried to walk around the apartment, but it was too painful to remain upright. I tried to lay flat on my front on the couch, but it hurt too much. I flipped over onto my back. Red, my sweet angel of a cat, tried to crawl on top of me to help me feel better, but he was too heavy to be on my belly.
I spent the next several hellish hours in and out of sleep. I was sweating, then shaking from coolness created by the unwelcome moisture. The pain was unbelievable. It was to a degree I had never experienced before. I was screaming out from agony into the couch pillows, until Ant finally awoke. By then, I was so short on sleep and so high on pain.
I was starting to panic. What if something was really wrong? What if all those years of ignoring my lactose intolerance were finally catching up to me? What if my appendix exploded? Kidney stones? A tumor?!
I pushed those worries out of my mind and managed to get dressed for work. The pain was coming in waves. Sometimes it was so intense, pressing on my upper legs even, that I could do nothing but wince and bear it. At others times, it was still strong, but I was able to move more freely.
Ant wanted me to go to the hospital. He didn’t think I would be able to get through a day of work, and wanted me to get checked out. I didn’t want to go to the hospital. You could lose an entire day of your life in a hospital here. I was hoping the pain would just go away on its own.
So I decided to go to work. We started walking, and I made it about a block east of my house before the pain started up in full force again. I had to stop walking. Sweat. Panic. That was it. Ant called an Uber and sent me to the closest hospital downtown.
The Uber dropped me off in front of the hospital. I hobbled from the car to the front desk, knowing instinctively I was in the wrong spot. The hospital worker informed me kindly that the emergency check in was actually down the road, around the corner and across a huge parking lot. Tears burned my eyes, but I smiled politely and slowly made my way to the emergency entrance.
Somehow I finally managed to get to the emergency section of the hospital. As I reached for the front door entrance, a homeless woman shoved her shopping cart in front of me and cut me off. I held my stomach close. I followed her into the hospital where she yelled about her bloody nose. The receptionist informed her that someone would gladly help her, if she would just fill out a patient check-in form on a clipboard on the desk. The lady refused and disappeared into the bathrooms.
I filled out the patient form and handed it in. As soon as I took a seat, like a damn, unreliable car that stops making that noise the second you get to the mechanic, something shifted in my gut, and I felt much better than I had all morning. Damnit. But at least, if it started up again, I was already in the hospital. I decided to go through the tests too, just to ensure it wasn’t a much worse, deeper problem.
As I started doing my screenings and tests, the question of the day seemed to be if I was pregnant. I ensured nurse after nurse that I was absolutely certain that I could not be pregnant.
Then it was time to do my blood tests. That nurse was bizarre. She searched my left arm to find a vein to take blood from. I’m no nurse, but do know my own left arm well enough to know it is not a great arm to take blood from. I’ve had several nurses tell me since childhood, that it’s hard to locate a proper vein on that side. This always confused me because I do have a super thick blue green vein running up my arm, but nurses have always avoided it for some reason. I was about to find out why.
This nurse chose to use that big, juicy vein. With a forceful thrust, she jammed the needle into it. Blood spewed from my arm in all different directions. I suppressed a gag. Everything went white. I had to look away to regulate my breathing. Meanwhile, the nurse sang cheerfully as she wiped the trails of blood running down my arm, “you’re leeeaking!”
At least she was nice. Bizarre, but nice. My next nurse, unfortunately, was not as nice. She called me into the room and asked me to lye on the bed. She confirmed from my blood and urine tests that I was not pregnant. Then she asked, “and you’re getting your period soon?”
“Yes,” I confirmed. She raised her eyebrows knowingly. My credibility was slipping away. I felt the need to defend myself. “But these aren’t just cramps. I could barely walk!”
“And yet somehow you did,” she murmured. I had no credibility left by this point. I felt like a child faking sick to get out of school. But I never actually did that as a child, so I was totally out of my element. She asked, “did you take anything for the pain? Any medicine? Pills?”
“Well, no,” I admitted. Now I just felt like an idiot. I tried to explain, “it didn’t occur to me. It was just so intense. I thought it would go away by itself, but after like 5 hours of this terrible pain, I –”
She cut me off with a shrewd smile. “It’s only 9am now. It couldn’t have been hurting you for five hours.”
I just stared at her in shock. I wasn’t aware I was on trial. With a perfect Judge Judy imitation, she explained, “You wrote on your sheet that the pain started at 4am. You arrived at the hospital at 8:00am. So it had only been hurting for four hours when you got here. And you just confirmed that you’re feeling better.”
Healthy until proven sick. That’s how this hospital seemed to work. My cheeks flushed pink. I tried to explain, “well, I didn’t check the exact time I woke up this morn–”
She cut me off again. “Anyways, the tests show you’re okay. I’m gonna send you home, and I recommend that you take some Tylenol. Here, I’ll write that down for you,” she stopped to stress every syllable as she wrote, “Ty-le-nol.”
She handed me the paper and encouraged me to please return, if I continued to feel sick. I hung my head and exited the hospital feeling much better about my stomach, but much worse about visiting the hospital.