I need to ask something...

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tags: story nutter captain google emily chang matt garvin

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At last, I had entered into the Belly of the Beast!  Unlike the waiting room, which is wide open, the interior of the ER at Mount Sinai is more like the floor of an office building.  It is mostly smaller rooms, with hallways in between.  While in the Belly of the Beast, I only saw inside a couple of these rooms, so I am not sure what they all do.  My guess is many of them are examination rooms, like the one to which I had just been taken.  Here I was told to wait, which is what I did.  

The room was small to medium-sized, with a big, firm "examination bed" (is that a thing?) in the middle.  There were a few chairs on the perimeter, some medical machines, with various small screens and lights and non-descript tubes and wires, plus there was at least one big LCD screen.  All of these things were within arm's length of (what I am calling) the "examination bed."  What I mean by "examination bed," is a small, padded, raised piece of furniture, like a narrow bed, but one not meant for sleeping. It was very firm and meant for short sits or lie downs.  Update: I just googled it, and the "examination bed" is actually called an "examination table."  Doh!  (I am considering petitioning to have that term changed; seems more like a hospital bed than a table to me.  What kind of table can fold in half and incline up to 45 degrees? It's a bed, gosh darn it!)

Speaking of Google, I should note something here.  I love Google.  Not the company, but rather the act of googling.  And I love the internet.  Plus, having "down time" is my favorite kind of time, besides time spent in coitus.  As long as I have access to the internet, I can look stuff up and go down a million rabbit holes.  And I do look stuff up, and I do go down a million rabbit holes.  So having to sit tight in an examination room, waiting for a doctor, or nurse or whomever, was just fine by me.  As long as I had my phone, which I did, and an internet connection, which I also did.  

During my hospital stay, which by the end of it all, lasted roughly 48 hours (or, "3 Days and 2 Nights," get it?), pretty well all I did between Big Events was use my phone.  I texted people, took notes on what I was seeing (I wasn't sure why, at the time), and more than anything, googled stuff and informed myself about stuff.  And that's pretty well it.  For the waking part of 48 hours.

In general, and in the real world, I do so much googling, and have such a quest for knowledge, I am sure I am a real pain in the ass for everyone around me.  *Especially*, in this case, for doctors and staff.  I am one of *those* people.  Furthermore, even though I can be shy, and reserved in the company of strangers, I am not like that when it comes to my own health or civil liberties I feel strongly about.  I am my own best advocate, and I speak up.  I do not care if I blush, or my voice gets shaky, or I come off as a lunatic.  (Which I know I sometimes do.) When it comes to my health, or something I believe in, I can't help myself.  And this combo -- know-it-all googler, combined with being a "squeaky wheel" -- makes me a doctor's worst nightmare.  

But I will say this: The staff at Mount Sinai, overall, were amazing, at every point, even when I was "squeaky wheeling."  I never felt patronized.  And if they resented me asking questions or even challenging them, I did not notice.  They were professionals, and always had my best interest at heart.  This is not me kissing ass: I am calling it like it was.  To put it in perspective, when I was at St. Joseph's Hospital two years ago, for a broken hand and torn hamstring (from a freak soccer incident. That is, I am a freak, and I was playing soccer), the care I received was poor.  Across the board.  There were a couple gems (that is, staff) in what was overall a pile of dog crap (that is, St. Joe's).  But these gems, which really amounted merely to amethyst or possibly cubic zirconia, at best -- certainly not real diamonds -- were not common.  What *was* common was feeling rushed by doctors, and not treated with sensitivity or even the interest, that I deserved.  At St. Joe's, I often felt the overworked staff there would bristle when I spoke up, or questioned them.  At least for the ER part of that whole episode.  (The hand surgery part of that ordeal, that came later, was a lot better.)  Here at Mount Sinai, the staff was... professional.  In my experience, Mount Sinai runs a tight ship, and deserves a ton of credit.  At every level.  That is how I see it, anyway.

So, I was now in a holding pattern, and holding tight is just what I did.  Phone in hand.  I was used to waiting.  It had been about 2-3 hours since I first entered the ER at this point.  Not too bad, to be honest.  But a wait, none-the-less.  My pain continued to bounce around 4 or 5.  But my nausea was decreasing. Ever since its peak, which was earlier in the waiting room, when I thought I might actually throw up.   

(During that earlier incident, when I thought I might toss my cookies, I hoisted myself out of my chair, and made my way, slowly and methodically, to the only bathroom in the ER waiting room.  Inside my head I was frantic -- I didn't want to puke out in the open, but outwardly I was measured; I mean, my body was too impaired to move fast, even if I tried.  I steeled myself when I reached for the cold, metal door knob of the bathroom. What if someone is in there? Then what?  I tried to turn the knob. No joy; it was locked. Fack. Someone *was* in there. I casually turned around and went back to my seat.  Truth be told, I did have a "Plan B," for throwing up.  When I had packed my things at home, the first item I put in my small backpack was the empty pretzel container, which I mentioned earlier.  Worst-case scenario, if my stomach was acting up, and felt the need to empty its contents, I could pull out this handy-dandy, makeshift puke bucket, and toss my cookies into it while still seated.  Without drama, nor further incident, I would upchuck resolutely, like a perfect English gentleman.  Then I'd continue to wait patiently, dignity intact.  It could be done, damn it!  Fortunately it never came to that.)

In any case, at this point, I was in an examination room, and left to my own devices,  waiting to be examined.  I felt encouraged, at that moment.  I had made it into the Belly of the Beast; many do not.  Plus, I had a room to myself, for the moment.  I was no longer among the unwashed masses, and nutters, in the waiting room. (Or, so I thought!) My case had been deemed important and legitimate, so at this moment, I was not in danger of falling through the cracks.

Falling through the cracks was a big concern of mine.  As my journey unfolded, I would vacillate between feeling "in" and "out."  "In" meant I felt I was being looked after, and was a "known patient."  "Out" meant I was feeling alone, and felt in danger of being forgotten; lost at sea.  Earlier, in the big waiting room, I felt a bit out.  There were so many of us!  But then I would hear my number, or interact with a security guard, or have blood drawn, and feel a little bit more "in."  Hurray!  They see me!  It was reassuring; for a little while.  Getting into the hospital interior was a big boost to feeling "in," and being into an examination room was even better.  Of course the peak of feeling connected was when I was actually interacting with doctors and staff. I mean, they couldn't ignore something right in front of their face, with whom they were talking.  It is the epitome of being "in."  Well, at St. Joe's they could still ignore me right in front of them, but that never happened here.  (Shots fired again, at St. Joe's.  Heck, maybe I just caught them on a bad day?)

In a little while, a doctor came in.  She was young, petit, and I believe of Chinese descent, though she had a Canadian accent.  She had big, empathetic eyes.  Her real name is Dr. Emily Chang.  She asked me for my symptoms, and to do the pain scale thing.  She asked about how many alcoholic drinks I have per week, am I a smoker, etc.  I do not think she laid hands on me.  That was done by an older doctor that she fetched, several minutes later.  I only saw this other doctor, one time. She was also female.  My gut feeling is most of the staff, that I interacted with, anyway, were female.  I am not sure if this was just my experience, which admittedly was a small sample size, or if it actually *is* like this, across the board, at Mount Sinai.  But as I said in an earlier chapter, I like that; having so many women on staff.  And I like that there are so many different ethnicities staffing Mount Sinai, too.  To me, it feels like... Canada.

As I mentioned, this other female doctor *does* lay her hands on me.  She asks me to expose my abdomen, and to relax, as she pushes on different spots.  All the while, having me report back what I am feeling.  By this point, I don't really have any pain anywhere in my belly, except for my right hand side, in a spot 4 or 5 inches from my belly button.  When the doctor touches it, I wince slightly, and say, robotically "that hurts," causing the two doctors to exchange knowing glances.  I would come to find out this tender spot, what I will call my Panic Button, was in fact, directly above my appendix.  But at this point, this information was not shared; there were just these knowing glances, between women in white coats.

It was determined, based on blood work, my symptoms as described, and the hands on examination, that I would need... still further testing.  Oddly, my pain and nausea were less, now. Probably a 3 or a 4.  This might be because I felt more like I was "in," and under direct observation, so my overall stress was less, which in turn lowered my pain and nausea thresholds? (But what do I know? I am no doctor.)  In any case, I am told I will need to give a urine sample, and that I will soon have a CAT scan done, too, of my abdomen.

Having these further tests assigned was a big relief.  I was really "in" now.  Things were just humming!  I wasn't exactly sure how I was going to pee in a bottle, though.  I had eaten nothing, and had drank only a small amount of water, since I had woken up.  The only "food" that was in my system that day, and I am calling it "food" for lack of a better word, was that Tim Horton's Dark Roast coffee.  To be honest, though, I had never felt hungry, even hours after downing the (tainted?) Tim's.  This lack of appetite is another symptom of appendicitis.

That term, "appendicitis," had not been used by anyone so far, when discussing my case.  Anyone, that is, besides me.  I used it all the time.  Likely to the irritation of the real doctors and nurses that were actually qualified to make a real diagnosis.  I couldn't help myself.  I found it was the quickest way to get to the heart of the matter.  That "appendicitis" card got played over and over and over.  When asked my symptoms, which happened many times, naturally, I would always start with "A friend of mine, *who is a NURSE*, she said I have appendicitis."  Only then would I list off my symptoms.  I bet it was annoying as hell, looking back on it now.  But I felt empowered by using the term, knowing it really did have the seal of approval from my Nurse Friend Heather.  Sure, they could ignore *my opinion*, but I had a legit, medical professional on my side.  And *she*, not me, had made the diagnosis! (Fact check: Not 100% true.  Nurse Friend Heather did not make a diagnosis.  Nurse Friend Heather said it *sounded like appendicitis*, and I needed to go to ER and get a real diagnosis in person.  But whatevs.  That is what I felt I had, and I loved playing that card.)
Truth be told, as the day progressed, and with me googling on the matter, I came to realize my symptoms really were proving to be telltale signs of appendicitis.  The pain in my belly, starting in the middle, that finally settles on the right-side.  The nausea.  The lack of appetite.  Slight fever.  It is textbook, baby!  Google it yourself. You'll see.

After my examination, I am told where the bathrooms are, and instructed after peeing in a plastic vial, to wait in the hall.  I am shown a small patch of chairs, that run along the wall, not far from the examination room I was just in.  Right in the thick of everything.  Trouble is, I am dehydrated, so peeing takes a long time, and produces very little, and when I finally exit the washroom, with my pathetically small splash of urine, there are no spots available to sit, where I was instructed.  The only available seat I can see is in a clump of chairs, really far from where I wanted to sit, at the end of the hall. (Not far from where they would do my CAT scan, I came to realize later.)  With resignation, I made my way to one of these chairs and plopped myself down.  

Now, just sitting in the hallway, is bad enough.  Nobody pays attention to you, they just walk on by.  But sitting in a hallway waaaay far away, out of the fray, well that can make you feel very much "out."  And the longer I waited, the more that nagging feeling of slipping through the cracks settled in.  So I paid attention to when I could make a move back to the seats they told me to sit in originally, which were more in the thick of things.  Eventually a seat opened up and I made a break for it, with success.  Now, in my new location, closer to where the action was, I felt a little less "out."  But I needed more.  And without even meaning to do so, I hatched a plan and started to implement it.

As staff would pass me by, in this busy hall, I often made eye contact, and tried to make sure they would take notice of me.  Even though I didn't know who most of them were, or what they did, exactly.  This was my master plan to feel more "in."  To my neurotic mind, I figured 100 micro interactions, like eye contact or better yet, a nod, was equal to at least one "real" interaction with a doctor that was actually on my case and knew my name.  In hindsight, I realize my hyper-vigilant attempts at connecting with anyone and everyone was ridiculous, and desperate.  I was making a nuisance of myself.  Even at that moment, this feeling crept in a little, bit by bit.  ("Hey," I imagined one doctor saying to the other, behind closed doors.  "Who is that big, hairy dude in the hall, staring everybody down, like some kind of owl hopped up on crack?"  "Oh, *that* guy," eye roll. "Yeah, that guy is a real..."  Oh my God.  Here it comes... "That guy is a real NUTTER!  We call him Captain Google. Total fruitcake.") Fack.  I came to realize I was becoming the very thing I hated most.  Hey, Matt, want to see biggest nutjob in the joint?  The Nutter of the Day, as it were, that everyone is talking about? Look in the mirror, son.  There he is, staring back at you. Granny Munchausen? Heck, she is normal by comparison. You facking nutter. 

This writing above is one chapter from the long form article "3 Days and 2 Nights".
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