Monday, 4 August 2014

For The Good Of My Health...

So there I was, returning from vanquishing the latest Xylak outbreak while also having to deal with a case of Argonian 'flu and plan an integration workshop for some Pcinian Security officers on an exchange program, when suddenly I lost all feeling in my left side.

No loss of strength or ability, just a general feeling of numbness. It passed after about twenty minutes, and I resolved to seek medical attention if it happened again.

Fast-forward a week: It happens again.

Sort of. I was having a stressful time in my day job, and on this particular Tuesday afternoon, things were out of control. Trying to deal with a half-dozen things at once, I suddenly developed a pain in my upper left arm, coupled with a sense of numbness in my left hand.

That did it for me so I excused myself from duty and, after a brief stop at my apartment to gather some essentials, headed for the nearest A&E department, fortunately only a short distance away.

Arrived at the Mater Hospital's Emergency Dept. I check in with Reception, noting that it isn't particularly busy, and I am seen by a triage nurse after a short time. I explain what I am experiencing, she takes an ECG and checks my blood pressure and other vitals, and I am sent back out to the waiting area while the results were processed. Having expected this, I had come prepared, so I take out my book and settle in for the inevitable wait. Since I'm not in immediate danger or distress, this is likely to be some time; however I am renowned for my patience.

My name is called, this time by a young woman who introduces herself as Roisín and who leads me to a treatment area for further testing.

As she does so, another patient, whose name is Gary, becomes impatient that his name isn't being called, but Roisin gently but firmly tells him they have to wait for his rest results to come back, so he'll be seen as soon as they are available. I don't think he hears - Gary is a little high.

In the treatment bay, Roisin goes through my details - the hospital is fastidious about records - and I describe what's going on with me. I explain that I had suffered no cognitive or other deficiencies as part of my symptoms, and she performs some reaction tests to see whether any have since developed.

I will admit to perhaps misunderstanding one or two of her instructions, albeit not at the time, which may have coloured her diagnosis somewhat, because she tells me she wants to confer with a colleague before deciding on a course of treatment. I joke that I'm not going anywhere, but I am the only one who smiles.

After a short time Roisín returns and says that she has ordered up a CT scan for me, which would happen as soon as they could get a radiographer on-site. For that, I'll need a line in my arm, through which a dye would be fed into my bloodstream to, ah, light me up. She hooks me up on the spot; I don't feel a thing.

Then it's back out to the waiting area and my book. Gary is wandering about, talking to people as if they were old friends. A World Cup match is playing on a TV, but I can't get interested in it, so I stick to the printed page. Thinking back on it now, I can't recall what the book was called nor the name of the author - it may come to me later...

I decide to phone my parents to let them know where I am; and, while I don't want them to drop everything and rush to my side (I am the Mightiest of Men, after all), that's more or less what they do, arriving about fifteen minutes after my friend and office colleague Gerry is brought in by ambulance, having been the victim of an assault on his way home from work an hour previously.

With his head bandaged, shirt stained with blood, he is surprised when I ask,

"What the hell happened to you?"

After a double-take, and a "What are you doing here?", we swap stories and sit in for the wait. Gerry has a bandage on his head from where his assailant had struck him, presumably with some sort of object in his hand. The EMTs, called by police on the scene, had patched him up before bringing him to A&E for treatment and possible stitching, but as he wasn't in immediate danger he went on the waiting list with everyone else, while life (but not death) went on around us.

My parents arrive - they remembered Gerry from a party we were all at the previous year, and we spend the next few hours in conversation. Gary continues to wander about the place talking to anyone who makes eye-contact. He offers my mum a can of Coke, which she politely declines, then wanders away.

No sign of my radiographer or Gerry's stitch-up artist (or Gary's test results, for that matter), so I suggest that my parents go home, that I'll be fine and that Gerry and I can probably share a taxi home, he living only a short distance away from me. My dad says he'd be back for us, and takes Mum home.

Ten minutes after he left, I am called for my CT scan; at almost the same moment, Gerry is called into the treatment area. Talk about timing...

I've had my head stitched before (many years ago: I was ten) so I won't talk about it here; however I've never had a CT scan before so this is new territory even for me. It isn't what I'd expected; I figured I'd be inserted into a machine similar to the one that turned Dr. Banner into The Hulk, but this is nothing like that.

The radiographer notes the line in my arm and hooks up a bag of clear fluid which he explains is dye. He also explains that it would produce in me a warm feeling that might make me think I had, ah, urinated, but that that would not be the case.

Easy for him to say - I've been holding it in for a half-hour and was about to go for a pee break when he came to get me.

The test is short and painless, and after about fifteen minutes I am back outside to wait for the scan results. Dry, I hasten to add.

Gerry has returned also; seemed that his wound won't take a stitch, so they're going to use glue instead. I had heard of soldiers in the field using superglue to close a wound, but am surprised it has become part of standard treatment. But you live and learn, I guess.

Back into treatment area again - this time where I speak with a doctor who introduces himself as Aongus and wears odd socks, something that I notice but don't comment upon.

He tells me that my CT scan is clear, and shows no signs of TIA, or Transient Ischaemic Attack, which the layman will interpret as a Stroke warning. We go through the same tests as Roisín had done earlier, and I suggest that I may have misunderstood one or two of her instructions.

We discuss my job and lifestyle; whether the job is stressful, etc, my diet, exercise and so on, and Aongus says he wants to send me for further tests as he feels the earlier incident (the numbness) points to something neurological, so he'd make some appointments and I'll be notified when and where to go.

In the meantime he is happy to release me; just needs to have the line taken out of my arm and give me a prescription for aspirin and I'd be all set. With that, he disappears, and I sit cooling my heels for a while until someone comes to remove the device and patch me up.

As I'm sitting there, trying (and failing) to get a phone signal, Gerry is ushered into the treatment bay next to mine, where he has his head glued by a pretty nurse and a fresh dressing applied.

We are both then released, whereupon leaving the treatment area we find the waiting area half-empty. It seems that one of Gary's friends (the amateur pharmacist) had brought along some contraband and was ejected by Security, followed by Gary, his other friends and the curious, wanting to see what transpired.

What transpired was a fight, resulting in several individuals not being allowed back inside and one or two arrested. Gary had sustained sufficient damage to warrant being patched up, so he was finally being seen to. We leave him to it and go outside, where my dad is waiting. He tells us about what had happened and then drivse us home, dropping Gerry off first before swinging back past my place.

I tell him about the tests, and how the doctor wants to schedule an appointment for an MRI and to speak with a neuro-vascular specialist, and we agree that I am a lucky man and should take things a bit easier. He also advises I take a day or two off, which I do not argue about.

He leaves me at my door; I go inside and collapse into bed.

It is 1:30AM...

What will happen next?

Tune in again for another exciting adventure!

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(Note: I had planned on posting this last year, but somehow couldn't bring myself to click on "Publish"). My dad passed in...