I could barely walk up the sidewalk to the entrance when Alice and I arrived at the ER, my head was pounding so badly. Because I knew that emergency rooms didn’t take migraines all that seriously, I explained to the triage nurse that the Walk-In Clinic sent me there because I didn’t have a migraine. I had a worst headache ever that didn’t match the pattern of my one previous migraine.
She wrote down “migraine.”
We sat in the waiting room at least another hour, but at least the ER had wifi. I should have gone there first. I resisted the urge to tweet, “At the ER, probably have an aneurysm.” Or email my mom. No point worrying her when she probably wouldn’t be able to fly there before I had my CT scan. I watched all kinds of interesting cases get called ahead of me. A heavyset woman with a pink streak in her hair hobbled in and was offered a wheelchair because she was in so much pain after slipping in the shower. Another guy got rushed back when they discovered his pulse was 225 bpm.
I stopped thinking I was dying, and started getting pissed that this was wasting my whole day when I should be proofreading, and I’d promised to have the report finished by the next day. There was no way I could do that now. I should have brought the report with me, I could be proofreading right now.
I anticipated that the doctor would look at me and say, “Huh. I don’t know. You have a headache.” And give me something that might make it better for a short time, but wouldn’t really be a cure. That’s usually what happens to me.
I wished Alice and I had stopped for lunch on the way to the hospital. I considered asking her to get me something from the cafeteria, but there was a sign near the triage desk that said not to eat or drink until after a doctor has seen you. And if I did need brain surgery, better to do it on an empty stomach.
A strapping dude who resembled MMA ref Herb Dean got called and the nurse said the room was a little far away, could he make it? He said he was fine, but I worried that I wouldn’t be. When it was finally my turn and I stood up, I knew I couldn’t walk very far. The same nurse didn’t offer me a wheelchair, though, so I had to ask for one, feeling like a “difficult” patient.
I was put in a room with four beds, but was on the end, so I never saw any of my roommates. I heard them though. A nurse said they were bringing a guy in without going through triage because he was “pretty miserable.” He had kidney stones, he was pretty sure, because he’d had them before, twice, in the 90s. He hasn’t been to the doctor since, but last year he was in a lot of pain and then when he “took a leak” another stone came out. It looked pretty old, so he thought it might have been left over since the 90s. He brought it with him. (He told this story approximately 67 times.) When his son came in, he spoke highly of the EMTs, who didn’t want to over-treat him. “I don’t know what triage is,” he said. “But they decided not to give me that.”
My doctor, an older fellow, came in with a stylish young woman he introduced but who said nothing, just took notes on laptop she set on the foot of my bed. He asked who this was with me and I said “My mother-in-law equivalent,” which he found highly amusing and a sign I still had most of my faculties. He was pretty sure I didn’t have an aneurysm (or encephalitis or meningitis). Not all headaches are the same. No reason to think that just because this wasn’t the same as my last migraine that it wasn’t still a migraine. Had I had any head trauma? Any dental problems?
No and no. I also hadn’t had any caffeine or alcohol to speak of. And barely any chocolate, if you can believe that. But he didn’t ask me any of those things. Just if I smoke, which I do not.
Have I ever had a CT scan?
“I had one a few months ago of my jaw, as part of a TMJ study, because I have TMJ. Guess I probably should have mentioned that.”
“That’s why I asked you.”
“Yeah, I’ve had really bad TMJ for years,” I said, straining through the throbbing behind my eyes to think what other details he might find helpful. “Did you ask me that? I don’t remember you asking me that.”
“Yes, I asked you about dental problems.”
“Oh. I don’t think of it as a dental problem.”
Anyway. It sounded like he was going to give me the CT scan and some drugs and I’d be on my merry way. Typical. Once again, I was in serious, debilitating pain as a side effect of my TMJ, for which there is no cure. All I wanted was a prescription, why did this have to take all day?
It was about 3 o’clock, maybe I’d still be able to pick Rob up from work.
A nurse came in and started telling me about the combination of drugs they were going to give me. Narcotics and Ativan. Uh, pretty sure that’s not what I got last time for my migraine, but whatever. And fluids. Ohhhh, you mean in an IV. This is all happening right now? OK, then. I gave them some urine; they took some blood. They started the IV.
The quality of my headache changed from throbby to lightheaded. Was that the drugs? Yes it was. OK, then.
I heard a nurse tell kidney stone guy what drugs he was getting. Same as mine. Guess it’s their standard cocktail.
Some dude started to wheel my bed out to take me to CT, but then got a phone call he had to take. He came back, and I went for a little magic hospital bed ride, had the CT, and was wheeled on back.
The throbbing was mostly gone. I felt pretty groovy.
The results came in. I was dehydrated. No shit. I hadn’t had anything to drink since that cup of water after my craniosacral at 11 a.m.
I did not have an aneurysm. He gave me a prescription for Midrin, a migraine medicine that also works on regular headaches, and a Vicodin/Tylenol combo. (I really appreciated that one after my tonsillectomy.) And he sent me on my way.
The fun blissed out feeling from the drugs was gone, but so was the throbbing. Alice dropped off my prescription and drove me through Wendy’s because for many years I have considered root beer floats to be headache comfort food. Rob picked up my prescription a short while later. Turned out both medicines had acetaminophen (Tylenol) in them. Was I supposed to take them together? The Midrin said to take 1-2 pills at 8-hour intervals. I took one, just in case, put the Vicodin in the medicine cabinet, and went back to my proofreading chair.
A very light pulse danced behind my forehead. Was that the headache coming back? Better take the other pill. And go to sleep.
The next day, I finished proofreading the report from home. I felt a lightness in my heart. Isn’t life wonderful? If this were my last day on earth, I would be totally fine having spent it curled up on a chair with a red pen in hand and my doggies at my feet.
What the hell? Where did this zest for life come from? My brush with death? It wasn’t even a real brush with death. I only thought I was dying for maybe 10 minutes. Mostly I was just cranky that I wasted my day.
But since then, I can’t explain it, I have felt better than I have in YEARS. Better physically and emotionally. Energetic. The music in my car affects me deeply. Nothing bad will ever happen to me again.
I went to a restorative yoga class yesterday morning, which was exactly what my body needed, but I found myself wanting to move faster, do more. Usually in yoga, I start crapping out, skipping plank pose and going straight to downward dog. Or child’s pose. But yesterday, in a class where there was no plank pose, I was thinking, “Come on, bring on the vinyasa!”
I don’t want to oversell it. I don’t think I could have handled Zumba yesterday. But I came out of forward folds without any lightheadedness, which I consider a very good sign. I haven’t taken any more of the meds, but I sure am glad I have them. If only I’d had them Monday night, I could have knocked that headache off its tracks before it interfered with my schedule.
Oh, and my jaw still hurts, so I’m not, like, cured or anything. But damn, am I high on life.