Sunday, January 20, 2008

"Take off your trousers, but you can leave your pants on."

Over Christmas break I came down with an illness that can best described as Brandon Till's Disease . . . I probably should have seen it coming.

On Christmas day I awoke on the festively green leather couch in my uncle's basement to discover that my left foot hurt. "It's hell getting old," I thought to myself, and I carried on with a day full of Christmas miracles. One Jack Bauer crisis diversion later, I found myself on the same green couch, red-eyed and unable to sleep from crazy, throbbing, novacaneless-root-canal-style foot pain. The modern day wise men (or at least mid-nineties wise men) known as Will, Carlton, and Uncle Phil kept me company, and luckily I couldn't figure out how to turn down the volume on the TV so I eventually woke up my mom (say what you will, but at age 25 I was still glad to see my mommy when I wasn't feeling good on Christmas night) who gave me some Tylenol, an ice pack, and gently explained to me that I need to turn down the damn TV because not everyone is as interested in Fresh Prince of Belair reruns at 4:00am on Boxing Day as I am.

Two days later I still could not walk without looking like a pirate so I decide to go to see a doctor.

Gout. Now gout is a disease that I thought died out with port drinking kings in the 15th Century, at least that's what I thought until college when I discovered that my father actually has the disease. And based on webmd.com and my father's detailed descriptions, I went to the doctor ready for gout. When I got there, however, I was informed that I am probably too young for gout, and then I was asked uninsulting questions such as, "Was your sock bunched up in your shoe?" Finally, I suffered a long line of Colombo style questioning where the doc was trying to catch me into accidentally telling her how I broke my foot in my family's annual Christmas motocross race, but I think she was disappointed when x-rays confirmed that my family's card playing has yet to cause any injury outside of slow forming liver damage. $200 and a load of travelers insurance paperwork later, I get expert medical advice of, "Keep taking the pills you've been taking for 10 days and then see a better doctor."

Fantastic. Ten days later I find myself back in the UK but now with a painful swollen toe, a cankle (calf-ankle) where my ankle used to be, and a knee the size of a fat cantalope (bear in mind my legs are usually a bit on the thin side). I see a general practice doctor as soon as possible. She listens to my story, looks at my leg, and sends me back to the waiting room to see a better doctor. Thus far, aside from assuming that card playing broke my leg, this is the same treatment that I had in the US.

New doctor, unable to identify Brandon Till's Disease, wasn't quite sure what to diagnose so he puts me on two different sausage-sized antibiotics and leans toward the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis. DVT is a blood clot in your leg from when you don't move around enough. This happens to people who travel on long flights or who watch hour-after-hour of The Fresh Prince of Belair reruns on Nick at Night. He prescribes a third blood thinning DVT drug that came in two syringes to be administer by a nurse at my residence that night.

Now I had a decision to make. Night Nurses are coming to my house. Do I shave in case this nurse is cute and has a thing for guys who walk like pirates? And while every film I've ever heard of involving Night Nurses would suggest that I should shave my entire body, I decide not to. I figure the Night Nurses who work for the free British health care system probably make the same decisions that I do - should I shave my chin or not?

When the nurse arrives at 11:30pm, I hobble to the door and invite two nice, old, Irish women to my living room. I take off my jumper, roll up my sleeve, and the nurse instructs me to lay down. This sounds a bit like the movies I've heard of but fair enough, as long as she doesn't ask me to walk up stairs I should be fine. I am surprised when one of the Night Nurses (we'll call her the cute one, but only for the sake of the story) tells me to take off my shirt.
"What?" I say.
"I'm going to put it in your stomach," says the cute nurse.
"Shouldn't that be my line?" I wonder as the nurse preps the first of two syringes to enter my 70's style, hairy yet defined abs.

Well, a few unpleasant moments later I escort the Night Nurses out of my house feeling a little queasy to the stomach. I think the films got that part right.

The next day, I head to the real hospital. My doc has upped my condition from "wait and see" to "get thee a DVT scan." I'm on the road to recovery, and it comes with presents. My boss, apparently seeing the carnival show that is me getting in and out of a car, has found a cane for me to use. Now, this is not a cool looking cane per say. No one will look at me walking with my cane and think, "Watch out for that baddiwad droog, me thinks there's a sword in his cane." They might think, that 85-year-old man looks rather good for his age, but someone should update his cane. Very unstylish.

No matter. I feel like Gregory House walking around that hospital with my cane. I wait in the DVT waiting room with all of my DVT peers who seem to admire that I use a cane vs. their wheelchairs, or perhaps I'm mistaking pity for admiration in the fact they may pity me for being in their condition 40-years before they've made it there. The DVT nurse sees how slowly I walk with my massively swollen leg, and quickly finds me a wheel chair, embarrassing me in front of my new cohort. No matter. The nurse takes me in for a DVT scan, measures the circumference my legs so she knows (1) exactly how swollen my left leg is and (2) exactly how skinny my legs usually are.

Apparently I pass the swelling and DVT symptoms test with flying colors, so I don't even get the scan. The nurse phones the Chief of Medicine or Gordon Brown or Queen Elizabeth or someone, and I am patched directly through to the second test. Out of my way pregnant mothers, time for my ultra sound.

"Take off your trousers, but you can leave your pants on," the ultra sound woman says to me.
"Umm . . ." I decide to start undressing until it appears that this nurse is uncomfortable and that will be far enough. Failed plan. I can't bend my left knee so me taking off my trousers or pants or whatever is uncomfortable for all parties involved. Luckily, when I get to my boxer shorts she asks me to lay on the table.

Now this is no Night Nurse, but I am in a dark, semi-private room so the next logical step would be, of course, warm jelly. The nurse puts this warm jelly all over my leg which isn't normally a problem in her field of bulbous, hairless, pregnant women, but my legs, aside from being skinny and awkwardly swollen at the same time, are Germanly hairy. With all the gel my leg looked like that guy with a bad comb-over who still uses too much hair gel. Sadly (or maybe happily), in all her ultra sonic searching, no blood clots were found. I took my cane and left the building.

The NHS down graded me from "Warning, might die soon" to "Meh, whatever" status and the amount of care I receive definitely slowed. I was told to wait three days to get blood tests, then wait five more days for the results. And in these eight days I learned two things (1) when you walk around in public with a cane people pretend not to notice you and (2) whenever you have to walk through a doorway you suddenly become very visible and everyone around you becomes very helpful.

When my blood tests came back I went back to my GP doctor and was sent to see a third physician at the clinic. The blood tests affirmed that what came out of my arm was, in fact, blood but that's about it. It was a little high in this, and a little low in that, and it only tested positively for Brandon Till's Disease. The good news: my knee's swelling is down and I can bend it now but not fully, I've stopped waking up at night in a dead sweat, and my ankle has returned from its cankle status. The bad news: the bones in my feet feel hollow, I no longer can justify the use of a cane, and my third physician (fourth overall) wants to take more blood tests, and this time, test for gout.

8 comments:

Jeff Bazarko said...

I was once diagnosed with gout for no other reason than they didn't know what could be wrong with me. I too woke up in the morning and couldn't walk due to some crazy "toe pain." The doctor also keep asking me questions to find out if I drank too much, blacked out, and somehow dropped a cinder block on my foot. Regardless, it was really embarrassing when I had to miss my flag football game because I had gout. Who gets gout? Honestly.

Eric Nelson said...

7 out of 10 doctors recommend Chesterfield's. Yes, Chesterfield's - the cure for what ails you.

Proven effective against the shakes, dropsy, Brandon Till's Disease, consumption, the vabors, lumbago, Smith's intestinal fountain, impetigo, marthambles, the Devil's Grip and impure desires.

Pick up some Chesterfield's, and smoke your way to health.

jess said...

While you tell the story with absolute hilarity, I'm sorry you had to suffer through the whole ordeal. Hopefully the mystery ailment leaves as quickly as it came. I especially love the silly questions doctors ask of you. At least you don't have to fight the pregnancy battle. No matter what my symptoms were, my old doctor has to ask about three times if I think I pregnant. He must have believed any 23 year old girl with discomfort MUST be pregnant. Head hurts- could you be pregnant? Trouble breathing - sure you aren't preggers? My arm has been chewed off by ravenous squirrels-maybe a little Jess is on the way? I think I only accepted the mind-numbing routine because he looked dead-on like the veternarian from Beethoven and that man scares me. I don't know how I got off on such a tanget.... bottom line, hope you feel better soon. :)

jess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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