We arrived at the Emergency Room around 5:30 p.m. Hubby went inside for a wheel chair for me. He wheeled me in while I was still leaning forward with my elbows on my knees. It was awkward but still the only position that felt sort of okay.
He parked the van while I talked to the check-in lady. She could tell that I was still really panting and told me that the shortness of breathe plus bending over is called tripoding and often happens to people during asthma attacks, etc. I felt a little reassured by that. At least it took my mind off of appendicitis.
They took me back to a room immediately.
The nurse got me up onto a bed, where I promptly sat on the side of the bed and had Hubby scoot the chair close enough for me to put my feet on it and lean forward toward my knees. We checked my oxygen saturation and all the things needed for someone who seems to be struggling to breathe. The nurse pronounced, "You're not moving much air, girl." He then went to get the ball rolling to get me some help.
It didn't talk long for the doctor to come in, and it wasn't long after that until I knew this was the doctor that God had sent to me. The next couple of hours or so were just like a scene from that old television show, ER. Dr. L was amazing. She was extremely focused, giving orders quickly, and asking lots of questions – all at the same time. You could tell that she was filled with urgency, but she was also very obviously compassionate. During my other experiences at the ER, the doc tried to fit all of my symptoms into one possible diagnosis and then begin to treat with that in mind. Dr. L didn't do that. She addressed each symptom on its own and treated them in order of urgency. I truly believe that Dr. L and her approach saved my life.
But I digress…
The first thing that Dr. L had me do was try to lie down on the bed rather than perching on the side. It wasn't easy, but I managed it. After some wiggling and adjusting, I found a position that felt okay. I wasn't going to be moving again unless I had to.
The nausea was gone by now, so Dr. L addressed my breathing first. My oxygen saturation was very good, but I obviously wasn't moving air very well so a respiratory therapist came down and gave me a breathing treatment. While I was breathing away in my mask, the blood pressure cuff was set to take my BP every 5 minutes and a nurse came in to draw blood for various tests.
Once I was breathing better, the next item on the list was the pain around my waistline. Dr. L felt and pushed all around my belly. With the exception of one spot in the center of my waistline, the pain was still isolated to my right side. Dr. L asked all sorts of questions, including whether I still had my appendix and gall bladder. She looked puzzled. She ordered a CT scan with contrast so they could see what was happening in my belly.
It didn't seem like it took too long before they came to get me. Hubby had to wait in the room. The nurse wheeled me down the hall and around a couple corners toward the CT room, but just before going through the doors to the radiology section of the ER, we were stopped by another hospital staff person.
"Did you see her come this way?"
"What? Did she bolt?"
Then another nurse came to join the chaos. "I love a good chase!" Then she giggled as she plunged through the door… you know, the door my nurse was about to take me through.
My only thought was, "No! Can't we go back and wait until you catch this crazy fugitive? As soon as you take me through that door, she's going to dart out and land right on me. And that's gonna hurt!" But I said nothing and hoped my nurse would move quickly.
Fortunately, we made it into the CT room without incident. They moved me over to the table that goes into the CT machine. It was not a fun ride. Every little shift and slide made me keenly aware of the pain in my belly and back.
During the CT, I had to put my hands above my head. When I did so, I had a pain in my right collar bone area. It reminded me of the time when I was twelve years old and had fallen out of a tree. I has ruptured my spleen and was bleedng internally, but we didn't know it yet. The only pain I had was in my left shoulder blade. We discovered later that the pain was radiating from the left side of my belly to the left collar bone.
I guess I should have known then…
Once the scan was completed, I took another bumpy ride back to my bed and down the hallways to the room where Hubby was waiting.
While we waited for the results from the CT scan, Dr. L started looking at my blood pressure. I had started medication for my blood pressure almost a month before, and I have a blood pressure machine at home that I had been using to monitor my BP. It had been high but not sky rocket high – somewhere around 150/100 or lower.
But not this day.
When I got to the ER, my BP was very high – around 200/130. (If you don't know much about blood pressure, that's very bad. That's high enough to have a stroke.) By now, my BP was fluctuating – it was ranging low 200's over 120-140's. Dr. L started a blood pressure medication. Then we waited to see how my BP responded.
It didn't seem like we had waited very long before Dr. L was back to tell us what they found on the CT scan.
I didn't realize it at the time, but this moment would change my life forever.
Dr. L came very close to me. She looked at me with an intense seriousness interlaced with an equal amount of intense compassion.
"There is a mass in your abdomen. It's a tumor on your adrenal gland. We think it's a pheochromocytoma – a very rare type of tumor."
The next chapter of My Pheochromocytoma Survival Story should be up in the next day or two. Come back to find out what God does… It truly is incredible! (or subscribe so that it comes straight to your inbox.)
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